A champion of life—that title expertly captures the work and legacy of Pope John Paul II. More than a decade after his death, the author of Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life) remains one of the greatest heroes of the pro-life movement, respected by people of all faiths and all walks of life.
The story of Pope John Paul II’s life is filled with suspense, heroism, and intrigue. What is particularly striking is the number of times during the course of his long life, he escaped death. His life hung in the balance when he was hit by a vehicle in his youth. His life was certainly at risk when the Nazis invaded Poland. In 1981, after assuming the Papacy, he nearly died from an assassin’s bullet.
In the new book The Pope and the President, author Paul Kengor paints an intriguing portrait of the lives of pro-life stalwarts Pope John Paul II and President Ronald Reagan. The two have been credited with playing key roles in the breaking down of the Berlin Wall, a long-standing symbol of Communism. The two also shared a passion for defending innocent human life and played hugely instrumental roles in combating what the Pope memorably described as a “culture of death.”
The Pope and the President notes that the future Pope’s life was at risk even before he was born. Kengor points to a report that the Pope’s mother “was in such precarious health that her doctor advised her not to continue her pregnancy.”
According to Kengor’s account, the doctor told Emilia Wojtyla, “You have to have an abortion.” The physician’s rationale was that Emilia’s life was at stake and that she should abort her child to preserve it. The Vatican Insider said of the incident, “John Paul II was in danger of not being born.”
But Emilia proved the doctor wrong. She came through the pregnancy and childbirth and delivered a baby Kengor described as “healthy and strong as an ox.” Emilia predicted that Karol Józef Wojtyła, who would become John Paul, would be “a great man someday.” A great man who could have easily lost his life to abortion.Ponder for a minute how different the world might be had this champion of life never entered into it. His absence would have created a vacuum that no one else could fill—because no one else was quite like him. And therein lies one of the great tragedies of abortion. It creates a dark abyss where our heroes might have stood.
With the birth of Karol Wojtyla, history changed—so very, very much for the better. May all of us, of all faith traditions, live out his legacy by defending mothers and their children from the scourge of abortion.
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