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Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, the devoutly religious and even staunch unbelievers responded to our stories on Pope John Paul II, sharing sadness, praise and some sharp criticism.

From the archives of TIME’s Letters To The Editors

Your commemorative issue on Pope John Paul II was very well done and reflected the feelings of people who loved him and followed his life as a world leader [April 11]. Thank you for echoing so many of my thoughts in outlining the good he did for the people of the world, regardless of their race or religion. He will be greatly missed and deeply appreciated for his teachings of peace.

Mary Vanderhyde
Oldsmar, Florida, U.S.

Kudos to Pope John Paul II for showing how to reconcile oneself to death and die with dignity. He chose to accept death and seek mercy while awaiting his entrance into another life. In a society that does not readily accept death as part of the continuum, the Pope gave a final lesson in faith by the way he faced his own death.
Jo Anne Ostrowski
Whately, Massachusetts, U.S.

I am an ex-Catholic, ex-seminarian who walked the slums of South America, teeming with devout Roman Catholics, after Pope John Paul II’s visit in the 1980s. I know he saw the same poverty I saw. I was appalled and wished I could help. The Pope had the power to mitigate the worldwide overpopulation problem, yet he chose to continue the policy banning contraception, which, like the foolish rule of celibacy for priests, has no convincing basis in Scripture. I hold John Paul II accountable for millions of children who roam the earth unloved and unwanted, leading lives of abject poverty, hunger and persistent misery.
Gerry Chaplin
Sherborn, Massachusetts, U.S.

Imagine: the realpolitik savvy of a Henry Kissinger combined with the moral code of a Mother Teresa. John Paul II’s worldliness combined with his faith in the other world made him a remarkably effective global leader.
John Anderson
Elkmont, Alabama, U.S.

When a good man dies, his relatives and friends rightly mourn him. When a great man dies, the whole world mourns. So it is with Pope John Paul II. I have been a Jew for more than 80 years, yet I wept when I heard the news that this great man had died.
David I. Epstein
Albuquerque, New Mexico, U.S.

It is impossible to judge the Pope’s work in its entirety. From any perspective, the world lost a great person. As the saying goes: let’s not be sad because we lost him, let’s be thankful because we had him.
Riccardo Lampariello

Pope John Paul II is best remembered as a peacemaker and defender of the underprivileged. His experience of deprivation and tyranny during the Nazi and Communist eras allowed him to understand the importance of his role. He cherished dialogue with people from different religions, and that helped promote understanding among nations and religious groups. He was a Pope who never hesitated to visit and reach out to Third World countries.
Emmanuel Chuasoto
San Juan, the Philippines

How did the Pope touch so many lives, regardless of religion or political leaning? It’s certain that his work and legacy have transcended all physical borders and ideological barriers. Through his message of hope and peace, Pope John Paul II showed us that one person acting with conviction can change the world, even at the worst of times. He set an example. Now we are all obliged to follow his lead.
Oscar Islas
Mexico City

It was amazing how the Polish people showed appreciation for what John Paul II did for our country. The night after he died, I lit a candle as a tribute to his 26 years of service. When I put it in the window of my flat, I saw hundreds of other candles in neighboring buildings. The Pope was instrumental in ending Communism in the 1980s, and thanks to him Poland became a much better nation. That is only one of many reasons we loved him.
Witold Pluta
Bilgoraj, Poland

Policies Unchanged
Author James Carroll’s evaluation of the legacy of Pope John Paul II, praising the Pontiff’s “renunciation of coercive force” and his effort to heal the “ancient breach with Judaism,” would have been more valid had it been wider [April 11]. The Pope was a compassionate and pious disciple and a strong and charismatic leader. Yet he did nothing to alleviate the inequality that exists between Roman Catholic women and men. I support the full inclusion of women in all aspects of prayer and ministry, including ordination. The failure of John Paul II to extend his compassion to Catholic women who have experienced a God-given call to priestly ministry is a forever lost opportunity of an otherwise stellar pontificate.
Maria Marlowe
Southeastern Pennsylvania Women’s Ordination Conference
West Chester, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Return to Living
Re your report on the slow pace of rebuilding efforts after the Indian Ocean tsunami [April 4]: It’s sad that in the hour of need, government agencies often fail to translate their good intentions into reality. Clearly, relief materials aren’t reaching many people who need them. But the generosity of corporations and relief agencies in offering assistance shows that kindness still fills our hearts. What the poor countries lack today is a systematic approach to disaster preparation. Had a tsunami-warning system been in place, many lives would have been saved. Let’s heed the lessons of the tsunami tragedy.
Arvind K. Pandey
Allahabad, India

Trauma Therapy
“Healing Hands” described the efforts by trauma counselors to confront the shock and grief caused by the tsunami [April 4]. It was wonderful to see in the photo of people from the Thai village where Jane Lopacka is providing trauma therapy that they are returning to the beach and overcoming their fear of the ocean. Lopacka is part of an international team of volunteer trauma specialists working for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing�Humanitarian Assistance Programs (EMDR�HAP), which use therapeutic methods to treat post-traumatic stress. Our organization has trained 60 Thai clinicians to carry on this work and will soon train 50 more. We are doing the same thing in Sri Lanka and will soon have a project in India. The aim is not just to treat but also to leave behind skilled local practitioners who can use the most highly validated methods of trauma treatment. More information about our work is available on our website at emdrhap.org.
Robert A. Gelbach
Executive Director, EMDR�HAP
Hamden, Connecticut, U.S.

Mistakes Were Made
The headline “No Holds Barred” on your brief summary of the U.S. presidential commission’s intelligence report was absurd [April 11]. The commission came nowhere near “assigning blame for the flawed conclusion that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.” Where are the names of operatives and senior intelligence analysts who either covered up faulty conclusions or deliberately lied to conform to President George W. Bush’s plan to invade Iraq? More than 1,500 American soldiers have died in Iraq because someone blundered, yet no heads have rolled as a result. Until blame is placed on actual operatives, clerks, bureaucrats and elected officials, the commission’s report means nothing.
Holmes Brannon
Woodland Park, Colorado, U.S.

Fonda Regrets
Your Verbatim item quoted Jane Fonda as saying her 1972 visit to a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun site was a “lapse of judgment” [April 11]. That statement is hollow, self-serving and 33 years too late. To many Vietnam-era vets, she is a traitor.
Scott Horner
Howard, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Cochran as Activist
Attorney Johnnie Cochran, who headed O.J. Simpson’s dream team of legal defenders [MILESTONES, April 11], was already prominent when he took on the case in 1994. TIME described Cochran’s background and his activism against police abuse in a Jan. 30, 1995, report:

“Johnnie Cochran has built a reputation defending African Americans�only a few of them rich and famous�against the system … He graduated in 1962 from Loyola University School of Law. He then worked as a deputy L.A. city attorney, representing minority victims of alleged police brutality in the wake of the 1965 Watts riots … [In private practice] in 1981, he represented the family of Cal State-Long Beach football star Ron Settles, who had been arrested for speeding and was found hanged in his jail cell. Though authorities said Settles had committed suicide, Cochran forced an exhumation and new autopsy … The jury decided that Settles had probably died from a choke hold. ‘IT WAS THE MOST REMARKABLE CIVICS LESSON YOU COULD LEARN,’ [Cochran] says. ‘When I started trying cases 31 years ago, you would be almost held in contempt of court if you said a police officer was lying.’ The Settles family was awarded $760,000.”

Setting the Record Straight
Wrong Identification
Our story “When Push Comes to Shove” on troubled relations between Japan and China [April 25] incorrectly identified Qin Gang as China’s Foreign Minister. Qin is a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry.