Through his own commitment to a life of spirituality and faith, Pope John Paul II captured the imagination of our time in an extraordinary way.
He was a powerful, persuasive yet often disarming advocate for a vision broadly shared by an entire generation of church leaders and thinkers from many Christian traditions. His papacy sounded strong themes of unity among Christians. And in a world torn by war that all too often turns on religious differences, he advanced the cause of interfaith understanding. He engaged in a passionate quest to end hostilities in all the hotspots of the globe and to advance human rights everywhere. He spoke forthrightly on the scandal of want and need among the global family, calling to task the wealthy and secure, urging them to invest in economic systems that support human dignity and well-being. And always, he spoke to the youth, strongly connecting with them in faith and hope.
With people of faith around the world, we at the National Council of Churches USA (NCC) mourn the passing of this great and tireless servant of Christ. We treasure John Paul II¡¯s legacy and our memories of this extraordinary man. Our relationship with him was developed during his visits to the United States in 1987 and 1995, by three major NCC delegations to the Vatican in 1989, 1993 and 2003, and by on-going contacts with other Vatican officials.
As an organization dedicated to Christian unity, we hailed the Pope's 1995 ecumenical encyclical, Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One), and his emphasis on the importance of praying together and of committing ourselves to the long road of continuing engagement that leads to greater unity. In response to the invitation of the Pope in Ut Unum Sint, the NCC Faith and Order Commission had been in a continuing dialogue with him about his desire to carry out his ministry as Bishop of Rome in a way that all could experience as a work of love and a service to unity.
John Paul II's persistence in pursuing peace, justice and unity - despite many illnesses, an assassination attempt and the growing difficulty of living with Parkinson's Disease - gave his ministry an urgent edge and a prophetic emphasis. Now he is at rest. Yet his legacy is very much alive in the hearts and minds of millions. May his memory be eternal!