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Columbus – The New World Ambassador

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain across the Atlantic Ocean seeking a westward trade route to Asia, a land of gold, silk and exotic spices. He failed. Instead, he discovered lands and peoples previously unknown to Europeans — a New World.

October marks 525 years since Columbus’ three ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, made landfall in the present-day Bahamas Islands. His discovery has long been celebrated in the United States, where Columbus Day is a federal holiday.

Yet not everyone is a fan of Columbus. Some question whether the explorer is worthy of public honor, claiming he didn’t actually “discover” anything or that he abused, enslaved and exploited the native peoples he encountered. Some boldly blame him for injustices that occurred even centuries after his death.

In recent months, the anti-Columbus movement has made new headlines:

• In late August, the Los Angeles City Council changed the city calendar by replacing Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day. The city thus joined a few dozen municipalities that have suppressed the observance, including Seattle, Portland (OR), Minneapolis and Phoenix.

• That same month, New York City officials provoked controversy by suggesting that Columbus statues in Central Park and Columbus Circle could be among monuments to be evaluated for removal as “symbols of hate on city property.” Meanwhile, in several other cities, Columbus memorials were the object of vandalism or protests, some of which associated the explorer with “white supremacy” — likely in reaction to a violent clash earlier in August involving white nationalists in Charlottesville, VA, over the city’s plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

A Courageous Journey

A native of Genoa (part of modern Italy), Columbus was a skilled navigator who held that the Indies were a few thousand miles west of Spain. By harnessing the right winds and currents, he believed he could get there and back safely and more quickly than by the long, perilous overland eastbound route. He persuaded the monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, to bankroll his excursion with promises he would acquire wealth and territories for them.

Columbus surely desired to find that trade route and share in the gold and glory that would result. However, he was motivated by something deeper: he wanted to evangelize the people of Asia.

When he made landfall, Columbus thought he was on the outskirts of the Indies.

He befriended the natives he encountered, who would come to be known as “Indians.” Impressed by their meekness, generosity and intelligence, he believed they would be receptive to the Christian faith.

What’s more, he hoped the Spanish monarchs would use the gold they would reap to finance a crusade to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims. It was part of an apocalyptic vision shared by many in Columbus’ day. That crusade “was the first step in the series of events that would make possible the return of Christ before the Last Judgment at the end of the world,” anthropologist Carol Delaney wrote in her 2011 book Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem.

Over four voyages, Columbus explored the Caribbean, surveyed the South and Central American coasts, and established the first permanent European settlements in the New World. His voyages initiated the “Columbian Exchange,” a transfer of plants, animals, technology and ideas between the Old and New Worlds that brought immense benefits to both.

Why the hate?

Still, some people seem to detest Columbus.

“Today, Columbus is not a flesh-and-blood person, but a symbol,” said Delaney. “The dominant picture holds him responsible for everything that went wrong in the New World.”

Some things did go wrong. Wherever Europeans encountered Indians, native populations diminished. Some Indians died at the hands of settlers or Spanish conquistadors. However, the majority — 90 percent, according to researcher Jared Diamond — died from communicable diseases inadvertently transmitted by the Europeans for which the Indians had no immunity, such as smallpox.

Columbus was no conquistador. While some mistreatment took place in lands Columbus governed, much of it was perpetrated by his men against his orders or during his absences. “Columbus strictly told the crew not to do things like maraud, or rape, and instead to treat the native people with respect,” Delaney said in a 2014 interview. “There are many examples in his writings where he gave instructions to this effect…. A lot of the crewmembers didn’t like all of the restrictions and rebelled.” Under duress, Columbus — a weak, indecisive governor — acceded to the rebels’ demands and allowed them to force natives to work and, in some instances, to take slaves.

On his second voyage, after finding his first settlers were massacred, Columbus and his men enslaved several hundred hostile Caribs as prisoners-ofwar, then an accepted practice in both European and Indian cultures. Believing they were cannibals, he shipped them to Spain hoping they could become “civilized” and accept Christianity. The Spanish monarchs refused to accept the Caribs as slaves because they considered them subjects of the crown.

While governing the Indies, Columbus attempted harsh punitive measures to control unruly Spaniards and defend the Indians. For this he was arrested and returned to Spain in chains, later to be acquitted. His successors as governor allowed abuses against Indians to multiply.

Faced with extraordinary, difficult situations, Columbus made some poor judgments. Some of his ideas seem unenlightened through 21st-century eyes. Critics, however, blame Columbus “for consequences he did not intend, expect, or endorse,” Delaney wrote. “Judging Columbus from a contemporary perspective rather than from the values and practices of his own time misjudges his motivations and his accomplishment.”

Columbus and Bigotry

Columbus became an icon for America early in U.S. history, and his discovery was first celebrated in New York in 1792. As waves of immigrants entered America from predominantly Catholic countries, Italian Catholic immigrants began celebrating Columbus in the latter 19th century. Unsurprisingly, anti-Catholic and anti-immigrant bigotry among the Protestant majority likewise increased. Many viewed Catholics suspiciously, believing obedience to the Pope compromised allegiance to the flag. It was amid such bigotry that Father Michael McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882, designating Columbus — a model of both American patriotism and Catholicism — as patron.

In 1892, President Benjamin Harrison called for a holiday to mark the 400thanniversary of Columbus’ arrival. In 1907, Colorado established an annual state holiday. Other states followed.

Although some protesters equate Columbus with white supremacy, the whitesupremacist Ku Klux Klan actually led the anti-Columbus movement in the 1920s and 1930s, disrupting celebrations and opposing all state or local efforts to honor Columbus.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt finally proclaimed a Columbus federal holiday, designating Oct. 12, 1937 for its first observance. “Each recurrence of Columbus Day brings to all of us a greater appreciation of the heritage we have received as a result of the faith and courage and fortitude of the Genoese navigator and his brave companions,” Roosevelt said in 1938.

New Challenges

Protests and criticisms increased around the 1992 quincentenary. NativeAmerican activists staged demonstrations and vandalized statues; in 1990, South Dakota changed Columbus Day to Native Americans Day. Such dissent continues.

But Columbus Day is not about Columbus so much as his positive achievements.

“The holiday marks the event, not the person,” wrote William J. Connell, history professor at Seton Hall University, in a 2012 essay. His landing in the Bahamas “was a momentous, world-changing occasion such as has rarely happened in human history.”

Columbus “was the first in a continuous tradition of transatlantic navigation which has continued to our time,” wrote historian Felipe Fernandez-Armesto in his 1991 biography. “He is therefore our discoverer of America.”

Despite his flaws, Columbus exemplifies the kind of courage, faith, and spirit of adventure that led to American independence and our nation’s founding. That’s something worth remembering — and celebrating.

Honoring Columbus in America: A Brief History

1697: Chief Justice Samuel Sewall of the Massachusetts Bay Colony writes a poem suggesting American colonies be called “Columbina,” a feminine form of Columbus’ name.

1775: Former slave Phillis Wheatley sends George Washington a poem heralding “Miss Columbia.” The figure soon becomes a symbol for America.

1790: The nation’s capital is founded as the District of Columbia.

1792: In New York, the Tammany Society political organization marks the 300th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival. The city of Baltimore dedicates a 44-foot brick obelisk in his honor.

1798: “Hail, Columbia” is composed and becomes the unofficial national anthem for more than a century.

1828: Washington Irving writes a fictionalized biography of Columbus that hails his accomplishments but perpetuates the “flat earth” myth.

1866: Italian-Americans in New York begin an annual public Columbus Day observance. Other cities soon follow.

1882: Father Michael McGinley founds The Knights of Columbus, adopting Columbus as patron symbolizing both Catholicism and American patriotism.

1882: President Benjamin Harrison issues a proclamation marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery. The World’s Columbian Exhibition is held in Chicago. Pope Leo XIII issues an encyclical extolling Columbus’ achievements.

1892: Colorado becomes the first state to establish a Columbus Day holiday. New York does likewise two years later; other states follow.

1934: With congressional approval, President Franklin D. Roosevelt establishes Columbus Day as a federal holiday, setting the first annual observance for Oct. 12, 1937.

1968: Congress moves Columbus Day to the second Monday in October, effective 1970. By then, 45 states have already designated it a state holiday.

1990: South Dakota changes Columbus Day to Native Americans Day.

1992: Americans across the nation celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ discovery of America.

2014: Minneapolis and Seattle switch the holiday to Indigenous Peoples Day. Some two dozen U.S. cities do likewise over the next three years.

2017: Activists in several cities stage anti-Columbus protests, demanding the removal of Columbus monuments and committing acts of vandalism. Los Angeles eliminates Columbus Day from its city calendar

GERALD KORSON is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Taking America by storm

Pope Francis’ historic first visit to the United States transcends politics

Pope Francis’ first visit to the United States was historic on many fronts: the first pope to address congress, the first world meeting of families in America, and the first canonization on U.S. soil.

cover-nov15The Sept. 22-27 visit was also the first time that secular cable news networks aired non-stop live Catholic content for six days straight – which, in our day and age, is nothing short of miraculous.

In New York, Philadelphia and Washington, people lined up patiently for hours just to see Pope Francis pass by.

“There is still something unique about the papacy and the church,” said Matthew Pinto, president of Ascension Press and a member of Legatus’ Philadelphia Chapter. “I actually think humanity is hard-wired for the church, whether they know it or not. What other religious figure would draw the kind of crowds we saw, waiting in some cases for six or seven hours?”


For many observers, the Pope’s Sept. 24 address to Congress stands out as the most important speech of his visit.

Pope Francis discussed the sacredness of human life and the need to respect immigrants. In unison with his predecessors — Pope St. John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI — he called for the abolition of the death penalty and the arms trade.

And Legatus members worldwide were happy to hear the Holy Father laud business and the free market.


Pope Francis at Ground Zero

“Business is a noble vocation, directed to producing wealth and improving the world,” he told members of Congress. “It can be a fruitful source of prosperity for the area in which it operates, especially if it sees the creation of jobs as an essential part of its service to the common good.”

In the speech, Pope Francis recalled four Americans who stood out for their contributions to the nation: Martin Luther King Jr., Dorothy Day, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Merton — two Catholics and two non-Catholics.

The Pope also alluded to the redefinition of marriage as a major challenge.

“Fundamental relationships are being called into question — as is the very basis of marriage and the family,” he said. “I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life.”

United Nations

Pope Francis addressed the 193-member United Nations in a wideranging 48-minute speech in Spanish on Sept. 25. His talk touched on the environment, the sanctity of human life, the unborn, human trafficking, slave labor, the drug trade and nuclear proliferation.

With regard to the environment, the pontiff carefully connected the reasons for safeguarding the earth’s natural resources to safeguarding human dignity.

“First, it must be stated that a true ‘right of the environment’ does exist, for two reasons,” he explained. “First, because we human beings are part of the environment. We live in communion with it, since the environment itself entails ethical limits which human activity must acknowledge and respect. Second, because every creature, particularly a living creature, has an intrinsic value — in its existence, its life, its beauty and its interdependence with other creatures.”

Pope Francis also spoke about the difference between men and women, and parents’ primary right to their children.


John Garvey

John Garvey

Another historic first was Pope Francis’ canonization of Junípero Serra — the first Hispanic saint for the U.S. and the first canonization on American soil. Serra evangelized Native Americans over 200 years ago, founding the first nine missions in California. The Sept. 23 canonization Mass took place at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.

While there had been some controversy, with certain Native American groups claiming that Serra had mistreated Indians, Pope Francis set the record straight.

“Junípero sought to defend the dignity of the native community, to protect it from those who had mistreated and abused it,” he said.

Pope Francis used his homily to explain what the nature of mission is — not just for missionaries and priests, but for all baptized Catholics. “Mission is always the fruit of a life which knows what it is to be found and healed, encountered and forgiven. Mission is born of a constant experience of God’s merciful anointing.”

Matthew Pinto

Matthew Pinto

For John Garvey, president of The Catholic University of America and a member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C., Chapter, the canonization was a high point.

“It was a beautiful day,” Garvey told Legatus magazine. “I agreed with the Holy Father that he thinks of Serra as one of the ‘founding fathers’ of America. The Catholic part of America in the West and South is much older than most people realize.”

World meeting of families

The World Meeting of Families brought tens of thousands to Philadelphia for an Adult Congress, a Youth Congress and a family film festival from Sept. 22-25.

The Adult Congress, which featured renowned speakers like Bishop Robert Barron, Helen Alvaré and Pastor Rick Warren, consisted of 20 speakers and 12 panel discussions. Many of these speeches were standing room only.

The Youth Congress featured 17 talks and 10 musical performances, organized by Legate Matthew Pinto’s Ascension Press.

Curtis Martin

Curtis Martin

“It was like a mini-World Youth Day,” said Pinto, who presented a talk on balancing family life at the Adult Congress. “It was an extraordinary event, probably life-changing for my family. We brought five of our six kids. I was deeply moved by Pope Francis’ love for broken humanity, which at the end of the day, is all of us.”

Curtis Martin — founder of the Fellowship of Catholic University Students, member of the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization and a member of Legatus’ Denver Chapter — spoke to a crowd about the New Evangelization.

“Pope Francis is a remarkably engaging person,” Martin explained. “Everyone sees his radiance and his hunger to see the world transformed from consumerism to being Christ-centered.”

Toward the end of the World Meeting of Families on Saturday evening, Pope Francis put down his notes and spoke from his heart about the family.

“This was the high point for me, when the Pope spoke extemporaneously,” Martin said. “My wife turned to me and said, ‘This is spectacular!’ When you put down your notes, you get a sense of the man. He shared his heart — which is the heart of a father — when speaking to us.”

Politics and the church

Timothy O'Donnell

Timothy O’Donnell

The vast majority of people who encountered Pope Francis either in person — or simply by watching on TV — felt elated and energized by his visit.

Still, there were naysayers on the political Left and Right.

Timothy O’Donnell, president of Christendom College and presenter of two talks at the World Meeting of Families, noted the tension for Pope Francis’ critics.

“You have people on the Left who were really upset that he didn’t say ‘yes’ to same-sex unions,” explained O’Donnell, a member of Legatus’ Northern Virginia Chapter. “One theologian from Fordham University was incensed by the comment Pope Francis made about mothers-in-law. Then you have traditional Catholics who don’t trust the media. He did speak about abortion to the U.S. bishops. Some wanted him to speak about it more.”

Ultimately, O’Donnell said, those who learned something from the papal visit were those who truly listened and read the Holy Father’s speeches thoughtfully and with an open heart.

“Some conservatives feel that Pope Francis should have said specific things, but this is arrogant,” said O’Donnell. “Every time he spoke about the family, he was speaking about the normal understanding of men, women and their children.”

Michael Warsaw

Michael Warsaw

O’Donnell underscored the fact that while the secular media tends to paint the Catholic Church as always saying “no,” Pope Francis underscored that Catholicism is a “yes” to Jesus. Michael Warsaw, president of EWTN, concurs.

“The problem in America is that we tend to impose political constructs of the Left and Right on the Church and the Pope,” said Warsaw, a member of Legatus’ Washington, D.C., Chapter. “It doesn’t work and leads to incorrect conclusions.

“Pope Francis is a Pope of gestures more than words. He has a different style than the past two popes, but that doesn’t mean he is less Catholic or less committed to the Gospel.”

In fact, people will remember Pope Francis’ gestures on this trip more often than his words — blessing handicapped children, visiting the homeless and prisoners, visiting the Little Sisters of the Poor and meeting with Kim Davis.

“As someone on the front-lines of the HHS battle,” Warsaw continued, “these gestures were very meaningful to me and encouraging. He told journalists on the plane back to Rome that conscientious objection is a human right — and we have a right to live out our faith in the public square.”

Living out the Catholic faith in the public square during this papal visit became a “super reality.” The Catholic pride that came through was, perhaps, the biggest miracle of all.

“Our young students at Catholic University are taken by Pope Francis,” said Garvey. “He is an unlikely media celebrity. He wears clunky shoes, speaks bad English and uses a small Fiat. But he speaks volumes through his gestures. And our young people are just drawn to him.”

SABRINA ARENA FERRISI is Legatus magazine’s senior staff writer.

Legatus writer’s joy-Filled papal experience

I had a surreal moment on Sept. 27 at New York’s LaGuardia Airport on my way home from covering the papal visit.

First, the TV screen at my gate was showing the World Meeting of Families closing Mass, uninterrupted by commercials. At one point, my daughter was thirsty and I walked around the airport to find her a bottle of juice. At every restaurant, there were multiple TV screens on — all airing the Holy Father’s homily. At every newsstand, every newspaper and magazine cover featured Pope Francis.

pope-2Everyone at the airport was listening intently to the Holy Father.

“They can’t all be Catholic,” I thought. “What’s going on?”

Something was going on because I saw Pope Francis capture people’s hearts on this trip.

I saw it everywhere: When I had to catch a cab and tell the driver I was going to cover a papal event, the driver would wish me well. When I had to pass through police barricades to get to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one policeman gushed about how lucky I was. The doormen at my parents’ apartment could not wait to hear what it was like for me to have seen the Pope. My friends waited six hours in Central Park to see the Pope drive by for five seconds.

Everyone said it was worth it.

Security had us journalists go to St. Patrick’s Cathedral seven hours ahead of time. We waited patiently for the Pope to arrive. The hours flew by and nobody complained. Not even me!

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

Sabrina Arena Ferrisi

When Pope Francis finally did walk into the Cathedral, it was as though an electric force had suddenly permeated the atmosphere. Something was different and everyone could feel it in the air.

Some of the journalists near me were practicing Catholics. But not everyone. One woman in particular who wrote for a business magazine started weeping openly when the Holy Father walked in. When I looked at her, she said, “I’m supposed to be a jaded journalist, so why am I crying?”

Perhaps it was the way Pope Francis sweetly waved at everyone — or the way he went to bless every person bound in a wheelchair. Perhaps it was the simple words he spoke during the vespers service, telling us the importance of counting our blessings.

“There is something unique about the papacy,” Matthew Pinto, president of Ascension Press, told me. “There is something going on beneath the surface when people encounter the Pope. It’s a movement of theSpirit and a deep resonance, whether people know it or not.”

That’s why even jaded journalists, tired policemen and Indian taxi drivers felt something when Pope Francis came to town. New York City became an extremely difficult place to get around — and people could not have been more pleased.


Learn more:

USCCB: Papal Visit

Is America ready for its real Golden Age?

I’m a big fan of the Golden Age of Hollywood — particularly movies made in the 1940s and ’50s. I could spend a whole day watching Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando and Jimmy Stewart.

Patrick Novecosky

Patrick Novecosky

With the exception of gangster and war flicks, Hollywood reflected an idyllic America in those days. I doubt that this really was our country’s golden age. I suspect these films just glossed over society’s troubles. But one thing is certain: The troubles of the 1950s or even the turbulent ’60s pale in comparison to those of the 21st century.

In the pages of this magazine we try to bring a Catholic perspective to our day’s challenges—everything from Islamic terrorism to the U.S. Supreme Court’s wrong-headed attempt to redefine marriage. We are making progress in the culture war when it comes to abortion, but losing on religious freedom.

I don’t think America — or the world, for that matter — ever had a “golden age” where most people were able to prosper and live in peace. While that’s a noble goal, it’s not reality. We live in a fallen world where there will always be a struggle for justice, peace, success and happiness.

As faithful Catholics, we know where to start in building such a culture of life — a culture based on the teachings of Jesus Christ. And Legatus members are doing so at Wyoming Catholic College, Ave Maria School of Law, by providing opportunities for Hispanic children, and by coming to the aid of young girls in Africa.

Our strength and passion to build a culture of life flow from our relationship with Christ — something backed up by our own experiences and by science. A recent study proves that people of faith have more “sustained happiness” than those who seek other forms of social participation such as volunteering, playing sports or taking a class.

A new study in the American Journal of Epidemiology by researchers at the London School of Economics and Erasmus University Medical Center found that the secret to sustained happiness lies in participation in religion. “The church appears to play a very important social role in keeping depression at bay and also as a coping mechanism during periods of illness in later life,” an author of the study said.

The answers to our society’s ills can only be found in Jesus Christ. Since we know the answers that most do not, it’s incumbent upon us to share Jesus with others. We cannot fail. Our world depends upon it. So does our eternal destiny.

PATRICK NOVECOSKY is Legatus magazine’s editor-in-chief.


Filmmaker and author Dinesh D’Souza delivers another phenomenal documentary . . .

Dinesh D’Souza
In theaters July 2
Rated PG-13

A follow-up to 2016: Obama’s America,  Dinesh D’Souza’s revealing documentary explores a novel idea: What if America didn’t exist? What would the world look like? The founding fathers warned us that our freedoms could easily be lost. America stands at a crossroads, and the way we understand our past will determine our future. The film takes 21st-century Americans into the future by first visiting the past.

D’Souza and Gerald Molen, the Oscar- winning producer of Schindler’s List, bring viewers face-to-face with the heroes who built America and their present-day critics. Through their stories, moviegoers are asked which America they believe in.

Official website


John Paul II and America

Ambassador Ray Flynn writes that John Paul challenged America to be a moral leader . . .

Ambassador Raymond Flynn

I recently participated in a special and memorable discussion to commemorate the fifth anniversary Pope John Paul II’s death. In fact, the moderator acknowledged that it was the best program that he had ever participated in — quite a comment given his many years of media experience.

One of the panelists was Fr. Andrew Grelak of Chelsea, Mass. As a young man, he studied for the priesthood in Poland during Pope John Paul II’s historic 1979 visit. Poland’s Communist government at first strongly opposed the trip, but public opinion was so overwhelming that they reluctantly agreed. The emotion was overwhelming as Fr. Grelak relived the Pope’s visit with tears in his eyes.

Poland and Eastern Europe were never the same after John Paul said, “Be not afraid.” The Communist leader and head of the Polish government at the time, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, and Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev later told me the very same thing. Tanks and weapons couldn’t stand up to the truth of the Holy Father’s message.

I witnessed the same phenomenon while speaking with the striking union workers in Gdansk shipyard as armed troops surrounded us. In introducing me to the thousands of Solidarity workers, Lech Walesa said, “World opinion and truth are on our side, and the Mayor of Boston is here with us today to bring support from the freedom-loving people of the United States.”

Walesa presented me with a badge with the picture of Our Lady of Czestochowa. On the picture were two names: Solidarno (labor movement) and John Paul II. Nearly all of the striking workers wore this button. The faith these courageous workers had in Our Lady — and their confidence in the Pope — was remarkable. They not only stood up to the communist troops, but they defeated them without firing a gun. I have met and worked with many world leaders, but no one could inspire a nation like Karol Wojtyla did in 1978.

I was with the Pope many times over the years, but I always felt it wasn’t the big headline things that he did and said that made him great. It was his simple gestures of kindness and the attention he paid to ordinary people. On the TV special I mentioned in the opening paragraph, Sr. Florine Licavoli told us that she once brought a group of handicapped pilgrims to Rome, hoping to get a glimpse of John Paul at his weekly audience. But when the Pope learned of their presence, he arranged to meet them even though he was gravely ill. I personally saw his kindness with so many people, some of them troubled and sick. But that only motivated him to reach out even more.

I was in Rome reporting for national television on April 2, 2005, the day he died. I saw the outpouring of love and affection for the man I truly loved and admired. People drove all night on buses to be present at his funeral. Thousands of people — old and young — came from Austria, Poland, Slovenia, Croatia and other parts of the world. It was a truly remarkable show of love and respect for the man they called Holy Father. People lined up all night and day waiting for the opportunity to walk past his casket and say a prayer.

The day of his funeral was one of the most memorable days of my life. I spoke to three United States presidents, the future pope (Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger), a king, prime ministers and several world religious leaders. The genuine affection they had for Pope John Paul II was apparent. Bill Clinton and George Bush both told me the same thing. The United States had lost a great friend. Pope John Paul II loved America and its people. He knew the U.S. and its goodness.

He constantly challenged our political leaders to be a force for good. He sometimes criticized them on issues of war and peace — and certainly on the critical issue of the respect for all human life. But I can still remember Oct. 1, 1979, as if it were yesterday. While standing on the runway at Logan Airport in Boston, the Pope said, “America has opened her heart to me. And on my part I come to you — America — with sentiments of friendship, reverence and esteem. I come as one who already knows you and loves you, as one who wishes you to fulfill completely your noble destiny of service to the world.

“Permit me to express my sentiments in the lyrics of your own song, ‘America, God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.’

“May the peace of the Lord be with you always, America.”

Pope John Paul II challenged America to be a moral leader. I’m happy to report that millions of Americans wake up every morning and try to live up to that challenge. Pope John Paul II will always be part of America.

Raymond L. Flynn is the former United States Ambassador to the Holy See, Mayor of Boston, and bestselling author of “The Accidental Pope” and “Pope John Paul II: A Personal Portrait of the Pope and the Man.”