Pope John Paul II a man of conviction
Karol Joseph Wojtyla beat the odds when he became pope in 1978 as a non-Italian. He was the first to do so in 455 years.
He beat them again when he became the third longest serving head of the Catholic Church.
But the pontiff never tried or expected to beat the odds of dying. He did, though, through will power and a belief that the church needed him, remain active almost to the end, Saturday, the day he died at age 84.
Popes are extraordinary men but this one rose to a higher level. He survived and even thrived in Communist Poland as a church leader. He survived an attempt on his life, and later would not surrender to a debilitating disease that should have sidelined him.
It is difficult to assess the full impact his crusade to bring revival to a sinful world had on the latter years of the 20th century and the dawning of a new one as leader of a billion Roman Catholics. Perhaps it was that he gave Catholics and people of other faiths a direction for their lives with his uncompromising belief that the human condition wasn't negotiable.
Pope John Paul attacked social and religious issues of his time with steadfast determination.
He made Protestant friends with his conservative theology, while he alienated many Catholics. Still, he pointed the way with a clarity that wasn't misunderstood.