John Paul II at 100 by J. Daryl Charles

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John Paul II at 100

A Protestant Appreciation of His Teaching

It is fitting in this year, which marks the 100th anniversary of his birth, that Karol Wojtyla—Pope John Paul II—be the focus of gratitude and meditation in many corners of the Christian Church. More than any pontiff in recent memory, John Paul offered a penetrating and faithfully Christian critique of contemporary culture, and he did so on a continual basis. His pen, like his mind, was extremely active.

Trained as a theologian with a philosophical bent and gifted with remarkable clarity of thought, this pope (1978–2005) published every several years either a major encyclical or an apostolic letter that addressed both the current cultural climate and the Church's need to confront that climate in ways faithful and discerning yet creative and compassionate. Whether reflecting on the redemptive value of suffering (Salvifici doloris, 1984), the dignity of work and the worker (Laborem exercens, 1981, and Centesimus annus, 1991), the character of truth (Veritatis splendor, 1993), the imperative of Christian unity (Ut unum sint, 1995), the emerging "culture of death" (Evangelium vitae, 1995), or the symbiotic relationship between faith and reason (Fides et ratio, 1998), John Paul addressed matters of faith and society in a manner that was timeless yet timely.

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J. Daryl Charles is the Acton Institute Affiliated Scholar in Theology & Ethics. He is the author or editor of twenty books, including Retrieving the Natural Law (2008), Natural Law and Religious Freedom (2018), and, most recently, Just War and Christian Traditions (forthcoming). He is also co-editor of Abraham Kuyper, Common Grace: God's Gifts for a Fallen World, Volume 3 (2020). He is a contributing editor to Touchstone.

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