The World Watches and Waits

AFP has a world-wide roundup of press coverage of the dying Pope John Paul II. Some of the coverage focuses on the Pope’s importance, especially during the 1980’s, as an international political figure who played an important role in the defeat of Communism. I’m a little surprised, however, at how much more emphasis even the most secular newspapers are giving to the Pope’s status as a beloved spiritual leader, who advanced an uncompromisingly Biblical version of Christianity that was at odds, not just with socialism, but with much of modern life.
Much coverage, too, has focused on the Pope’s attitude toward his own declining health and impending death, and his apparent effort to teach the lesson that suffering is a necessary, and not entirely negative, part of life.
The back-to-back dramas of Terry Schiavo’s and the Pope’s final days have focused public attention on death in a way that hasn’t happened in a long time. What effects this may have, if any, I don’t know. But I wonder whether, in this country anyway, the aging of our population, and especially the baby boom generation, will put death, and issues associated with dying, on the public agenda in a way that they haven’t been before.

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