Knights of Columbus and John Paul II

Supreme Knight Anderson visits Pope John Paul II.

Few popes in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church have had so momentous an impact on the Church and the world at large as the man we can now properly call John Paul the Great. The 1.7 million members of the Knights of Columbus, who have had the privilege of supporting him in so many ways over the past 27 years, mourn his passing even as we recall the contribution of this extraordinary and holy man.

John Paul, the successor of Peter as head of the universal church, made it into a truly global church, traveling to nearly every nation on earth, and reaching out to the world's five billion people in ways that were unprecedented. We are proud to have been at his side, in his travels around the world and as the organization that made possible his use of modern communications technology to reach literally billions of people.

John Paul's courage -- as a young man suffering under Nazi occupation, as priest and bishop standing up to communist tyranny, as victim of an assassination attempt, and finally as one who taught us the importance of enduring pain and suffering in union with Christ's suffering -- is an inspiration to all of us.

His tremendous effort to reach out to people of every religious faith embraced one of the most important teachings of Vatican II and made it live. And his teachings on the dignity of the human person and on the sanctity of human life are immeasurable contributions to the modern world, as we contemplate the ways in which we must leave the carnage and destruction of the 20th century behind us forever. He was truly the Pope of Peace, whose commitment to the cause of peace is unmatched in our time.

We will miss him greatly. But the Catholic Church -- and the world -- will benefit from his legacy for generations to come.