Karol Jozef Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, one of the most beloved spiritual leaders of our time and a true giant of a man in terms of his accomplishments and Christian faith, is slowly slipping away from us.
Earlier reports this week indicated that the Pope was having difficulty breathing, and that he was receiving nutrition through a feeding tube. Today the Vatican reported that the Pope was suffering from a high fever due to a urinary tract infection. They also reported that he had been given Last Rites. (I'm not Catholic, and so I wonder who gives a sacrament to the Pope? Just curious ... )
Of course this is not the first time that the Pope has been given Last Rites. They were administered in 1981 after an assassination attempt left him seriously wounded.
I'm adding the Pope to my prayer list tonight, with pleas for his health and thanks for his courage and leadership that, in part, led to the crumbling of the Iron Curtain and the fall of the Soviet Union.
In related news, research done in the archives of the former East German secret police headquarters has uncovered evidence that the 1981 papal assassination attempt was in fact masterminded by the Soviet KGB and carried out by Bulgarian operatives, with the East German Stasi covering the trail. Apparently the strong-willed Pope, who openly supported the outlawed Solidarity movement in Communist Poland, was considered a serious enough threat by the Soviets to warrant his extermination. As with Viktor Yushchenko, it's nice to see that they failed.
While we're rounding up the prayer list, remember Jerry Fallwell, who is currently being hospitalized with complications from pneumonia. Certainly not a man loved like the Pope, but nonetheless a man who unswervingly stood by his convictions and almost singlehandedly led devout Southern Christians through the spiritually trying 1970's.