Catholic and other schools across the nation are remembering the legacy of Pope John Paul II, whose 26-year tenure as the leader of the world’s 1 billion Roman Catholics was characterized by a special connection with young people. The pontiff died April 2 at the age of 84.
As the school week opened April 4, Catholic school leaders were taking time to hold memorial masses and discuss the life of the Polish-born Karol Wojtyla and his role in world affairs, including the fall of Communism in Europe. They were also explaining to students, who have known no other pope, the process of how the College of Cardinals will elect a new pope in the coming weeks.
Some Jewish and Muslim schools also observed moments of silence to honor the first pope to both visit a synagogue and a mosque.
“Catholic schools, historically and as a matter of duty, have made a substantial contribution to society by giving special attention to economically disadvantaged segments of society,” the pope said during a 1995 visit to Baltimore at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.
In a statement on its Web site, the National Catholic Education Association said: “Pope John Paul II was a great educator. In the coming days, his legacy will be honored in Catholic schools and religious education programs throughout the nation.”