ROME -- As historical figures, saints are complex people. Their legacies, however, often can be expressed in a fairly simple idea: St. Francis of Assisi as a lover of the earth and all its creatures; Mother Teresa as the servant of the poor; St. John Vianney as the patron of priests and parish life.
tNow that Pope Benedict XVI has beatified John Paul II, and canonization seems a foregone conclusion, the question becomes: What will be the simple idea, or ideas, associated with John Paul II, which define how he’s recalled by future generations?
That’s more than idle curiosity, since in Catholicism memory packs a punch. Nor should it be taken for granted that the dominant images of John Paul II in his own time will be what history recalls, just as perspectives on earlier popes, not to mention ecumenical councils and other milestones, have shifted over the years.