President Mark Gearan and Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Richard Salter are two of the many Finger Lakes residents who respected the late Pope John Paul II. Both were featured in the Sunday, April 3, Geneva Finger Lakes Times story “Area residents reflect on legacy.”
Gearan, who was introduced to the pope both during President Bill Clinton's visit to the Vatican and the Pope's visit to the Northeast about a decade ago, was as dynamic in person as he appeared on television.
“As a political leader, one could readily see the kind of charisma and resonance that he would have both … with people and with crowds,” said Gearan. “I think he was quite candid, when he would go to countries, [in speaking] about the importance of economic justice. He made that an important part of his ministry and his papacy. He was not afraid to point out the inequities.”
Many religious and political leaders, including other Catholic leaders, have influenced Gearan's global view, but he said this pope helped strengthen alliances among Catholic relief agencies, schools, hospitals and the world.
“I admire his work and writings on social justice and poverty, in particular,” Gearan said. “His papacy [was] quite unique in many ways.”
Salter said when people remember John Paul II, they're going to think “long,” as John Paul was elected pope in October 1978.
“That's a very long time and because events in the world have changed so much, this pope has been very much a part of those changes,” said Salter, who described the pontiff as unusually politically active. “This has been a very public pope who has made his views known on the death penalty, which he strongly opposed, and the right to life. He was a real critic of not only communism but also of rampant capitalism. I find it admirable that he has realized that he is dying and in the time he had left, he chose to be home where he can go to the window to wave to people, even though he couldn't speak.”