On Wednesday of this week, we will remember Pope John Paul II and the third anniversary of his returning “To the house of the Father” as phrased by then dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger. In the three years since the death of John Paul there has been a constant and growing movement from the time of his death until the present to raise him to the dignity of the altars and proclaim him, ”Blessed.” Additionally with this movement the application of the term, “Great” is applied to John Paul II and the use of this title is has only been granted twice before in the history of the Church: Pope Saint Leo I and Pope Saint Gregory I both have had the title applied to their names.

Father William Saunders, of the Diocese of Arlington in an article published for the Catholic Educational Resource Center authored John Paul the Great (2005). In this article, Fr. Saunders (a fellow Saint Charles Borromeo Seminary graduate) illustrates the unique accomplishments of the first papal holders of this title. He also expands on the accomplishments of John Paul II during his papacy that warrant the bestowal of “Great” on this remarkably prolific and well-journeyed pope.

Three years after his death the Church is still trying to come into a fuller understanding of the writings of John Paul II. At the same time, the cause for his beatification is moving towards the goal and at the time of this article, there are speculations that the tomb of the late Pope may even be moved into Saint Peter’s Basilica after his declaration of ”Blessed.” All of these collective events are indicative of the great leadership and inspiration John Paul gave to his role of successor to Saint Peter, and his influence continues in the Church today.

The Holy Father, Benedict XVI already has referred to his immediate predecessor with the term, “Great.” In light of the vast achievements during his reign, the term does not need an official approbation. The legacy of the saints (482) and blessed (1342) that  proclaimed by John Paul, his encyclicals, the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Revised Code of Canon Law, his apostolic travels, and the continued growth of the global Church is record enough to firmly call him, John Paul the Great. While we are still within recent memory of the papacy of John Paul II his actions and preaching led to the restoration of religious freedom in the Soviet block, the demise and death of hardliner Communism and the increased evangelization of the Gospel in the Middle east and Asian spheres of influence can all directly be associated with the late Pope.

Without a doubt, the term, “Great!” is applied not only by the faithful sentiments of the Catholic world, but also the global community which was liberated by John Paul’s strong resistance to Marxism and Liberation theology during his reign. The Church we have today is the result of the inspired global vision and frequent pastoral trips of this “Pope, without borders!”

“Great” is a term that should be applied sparingly. However, as our understanding and appreciation of the achievements and legacy of John-Paul towards the renewal of the Catholic Church as a universal call to social and religious freedom clearly emerges, the term, “Great” will apply to his name and papacy without any doubt among faithful believers. The banners and signs during the funeral Mass of John-Paul II proclaimed…”Sancto subito!” Prayerfully the Church and the world can call him, “Great” without any further delay!

Hugh McNichol is a Catholic author that writes on Catholic interests and topics. He writes daily at http://catholicnewsagency.com . His daily column is called, “Nothing Left Unsaid!”

Additonally his writngs can be found at http://verbumcarofactumest.blogspot.com

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