John Paul II and Osama bin Laden

The past weekend was a busy one. Aside from the royal wedding, the news was flooded with news of one man’s elevation to the status of blessedness, as well as another’s violent death.

I learned of the death of Osama bin Laden when I awoke this morning and glanced at Facebook. There, I saw a slew of status updates rejoicing that bin Laden had been killed, and I even saw a few who had changed their profile pictures to images of eagles superimposed on American flags. A quick search on Google led to some assorted news stories about the death, as well as a collection of “tweets” on the subject. One said something like, “I’m so happy that the last thing bin Laden heard was the shot of an American soldier’s rifle.” In the midst of such comments, it is difficult to lose sight of the fact that the object of celebration and joy is the taking of a human life.

I am by no means a fan of Osama bin Laden, and I’m not here pleading for people to somehow realize that he was actually a person of respect whose ideology had simply been distorted by the media. He was a criminal whose capacity to inspire individuals to “go and do likewise” has made the world a more dangerous place. In this respect, perhaps he did deserve to die.

Now, what of the title of this post? What has bin Laden to do with John Paul II?

Earlier today, my wife sent me a link to an article that was originally published in 2006 (republished yesterday), following the release of Mehmet Ali Agca from prison. Mehmet Ali Agca is a name that, for most, doesn’t ring any bells. He is, in fact, the man who attempted to assassinate Pope John Paul II in 1981. The article tells of John Paul II’s visit to Agca while he was in prison, how he talked with him and prayed for him in his cell. The article sums up the issue better than I ever could, so I quote here:

As a follower of Jesus, the Pope gave us a memorable event that mirrored the actions of our savior on the cross. If God could forgive those who pounded the nails into his flesh then no human being is too hard to love. When John Paul II forgave Mehmet Ali Agca he set in motion a mission for all of us to radically rethink what Christian love is all about.

Take from that what you will.

Other bloggers have written on the topic of bin Laden’s death in the past 24 hours or so. Here are a few links for those who are interested:

J. R. Daniel Kirk on “The Economy of Death”

Br. Dan Horen, a Franciscan Prayer for Peace

Michael Gorman, various thoughts

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