Defender of the Faith

But if there be truth in me, it should explode. I cannot reject it; I would be rejecting myself. --Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope, in 1961

JOCKEL FINCK / AP

And the truth, as that poet understood it, did indeed explode. Not in a sudden detonation but in a sustained blast that lasted more than a quarter-century. The reverberations of Pope John Paul II's life and pontificate, the third longest in history, resounded through every nation on earth. They did their part to topple a superpower, helping free hundreds of millions of people. They reaffirmed the Roman Catholic message of salvation to millions more and may even have introduced it in some few parts of the world where it had not yet penetrated. And they boomed through the poet's own church....

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