April 3 2005, 9:59 AM
One of my favorite places to ride my bike is Cherry Creek State Park, which means that I regularly go by the spot where on August 15, 1993 Pope John Paul II conducted the final mass of World Youth Day. Nearly 12 years later, the great field has gone back to natural prairie, so when I ride by it's almost impossible to imagine those gently rolling hills covered with as many as 500,000 people. It's even harder to imagine them all focused on just one man. The pope's death yesterday reminds us of the impact a single man or woman can have on all of us. Whatever your faith, and even if you didn't agree with him on every issue, it's hard to deny that John Paul II left the world a far better place than he found it. Only last summer, America was remembering Ronald Reagan as the man who defeated Communism. The truth, of course, is that no one individual won that fight; many played critical roles (including John Kennedy, Lech Walesa, and many of those same Muslims that are now trying to kill us). But if you really were forced to pick just one man, you'd be hard pressed to come up with a better name than Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the priest from Krakow who would go on to become the first Polish Pope. For 26 years, in a world where opportunism routinely shapes political positions, his was a consistent voice for life and peace. To our Catholic readers, 5280 extends its heartfelt condolences and solidarity.