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Pelosi: ‘Pope John Paul II Was One of the Greatest Spiritual and Humanitarian Leaders of Our Time'

Location: Washington, DC

Pelosi: 'Pope John Paul II Was One of the Greatest Spiritual and Humanitarian Leaders of Our Time'

April 6, 2005

Washington, D.C. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke today on the House floor in support of a resolution honoring the life and achievements of Pope John Paul II and expressing profound sorrow on his death. Below are her remarks:

Mr. Speaker, my mother used to say of Pope John Paul II: 'He is a saint walking the earth.' And indeed he was. It is in that spirit, and with deep sadness on his passing, but with great thanks and joy for his life of good works, that I rise today to join my colleagues in paying tribute to Pope John Paul II.

Pope John Paul II was one of the great spiritual and humanitarian leaders of our time. His deeds, his words, and his indomitable spirit of love were a blessing to this world. And the entire world mourns his passing.

It is my honor to be a part of the congressional delegation to the Pope's funeral on Friday. I hope that our delegation can help convey the thoughts, prayers, and deep sympathies of the American people on his passing. I am pleased to join our President in doing that.

Pope John Paul II was a man of God, and he was a man of the people. He was passionate in his commitment to doing God's work here on earth.

St. Francis of Assisi, who is the patron saint of my city of San Francisco, said: 'Preach often, and sometimes use words.' The life of Pope John Paul II was a sermon he preached every day by example.

His ministry fed the hungry, cared for the sick, and invited in the stranger. He was a champion for the poor, promoting justice and economic development around the world.

His work built on the legacy of Pope Paul VI, who believed, 'If you want peace, work for justice.' Pope John Paul II helped to bring justice and healing to the relationship between Catholics and Jews. His commitment to nonviolence and to peace on earth was heartfelt and steadfast.

With a concern and caring for all of God's children, John Paul II reached out to people of all ages, nationalities, and faiths. As we all know, he traveled to nearly 130 countries in his service as Pope, and he spent more than two years of his papacy outside of Rome. I like to say he was aptly named, John Paul: after John, the apostle of love, and Paul, who preached the Gospel to such a wide range of people in the earliest days of Christendom.

In doing so himself, Pope John Paul II brought the redemptive message of the Catholic Church to places it had never been, and he inspired millions of individuals who saw in his convictions and in his example the light of God.

He had a special bond with the youth of the world. I remember when I met him in San Francisco when he came there in 1987. It was so exciting for us to welcome the Holy Father. And when he landed at Crissy Field in a helicopter, it was so dramatic. When I met him, our archbishop, Archbishop Quinn, said as we were chatting: 'Your Holiness, I have confirmed the Congresswoman's children. And he said, 'Oh, that's good, that's good.' And he said, 'I have confirmed the Congresswoman's five children.' And he said, 'Oh, that's very good.'

He had a special bond with the youth of the world. He spoke with them as a spiritual leader but also as a teacher, and as a friend. The guidance he offered to today's youth will benefit the world for years to come.

Likewise, his influence on world events will be felt for generations.

John Paul II played an enormous role in the fall of communism and ending the Cold War. He was a man of peace. As a priest in Poland, he waged a persistent struggle for nearly three decades against the communist government, over the building of churches and the right of his people to worship as they chose. He continued that work as Pope, inspiring the Polish people and the Solidarity movement, and offering spiritual strength to others working to free themselves from communist regimes.

In his later years, the Pope offered the world a very different but significant form of inspiration. Suffering from Parkinson's disease and with failing health, he struggled until the end to share God's word. He taught us about the dignity of every individual and showed us that we must always seek to make a difference on this earth.

It is written in the book of Genesis, 'Thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.' Pope John Paul II is with our Father now.

We were blessed that he preached peace in this world for so long. As we honor his memory, as we sing his praises, we must also heed his message.

The Catholic Church recently gave us a guide, a compendium of Catholic social justice for how we can address the needs of the poor, the vulnerable, and the weak. President Bush mentioned that when he gave his Holiness the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He mentioned that the Pope had championed the work for the poor, the vulnerable, and the needy.

We must do that in our work here. It would be an appropriate honor and remembrance for the life, leadership, service, and holiness of Pope John Paul II. Everyone who was ever in his presence knew they were in the presence of a holy man. Because he lived and we observed him, we have a responsibility to follow his lead.


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