A good obituary, written by someone who knows nothing whatsoever about Catholism.
I do not know if Karol Wojtyła was a good Pope; I don't even understand what the criteria are for making that judgment. I know that the Catholic Church has come a long way towards the modern age during his time; that he has sought peace with the Orthodox and the Jews, and that under his leadership the church has atoned for both its treatment of Galileo and its shameful behavior in fascist states. I also know that the church under his leadership has remained socially conservative, closed off to much of western modernity. I do not know from a theological perspective how to judge that; for Catholic Theology is, to me, as incomprehensible as the rites of voodoo, and it is not fair for me to judge Pope John Paul II's performace as prelate by my religious beliefs.
Yet I know that Karol Wojtyła was a great man, one of the towering figures of his age. Mikhail Gorbachev, Lech Wałęsa, and Vaclav Havel - three of the people most qualified to judge - have all said, with much reason, that without this man, and what he did in Poland in the 1970s, the tremendous changes of 1989 would not have been possible. He did not stand alone, but he stood in front, and his footsteps brought the first cracks in the facade of the Iron Curtain, and opened the door for freedom and peace in Europe.
May he rest in peace.