In his recent post The Three Musketeers Wretchard of Belmont Club calls attention to the accomplishments of Margaret Thatcher, John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan. I’ve always suspected that the Cardinals elected John Paul II because he had demonstrated a shrewd ability to keep the Church alive within a Communist system while archbishop of Krakow.
If you cast your mind back to what the world looked like when John Paul II was elected to the Papacy in 1978, he was a prudent choice. America was in “malaise”. Communism had retained its hold on Russia, China, Cuba, North Korea, North Viet Nam, and Eastern Europe. During the 70’s it had spread in south-east Asia to all of Viet Nam, Laos, and Cambodia and had taken control of Chile for a time. There were strong and agressive Communist parties in many countries and communism was continuing to gain strength and spread in the world. There were new communist regimes in Asia (Afghanistan) and Latin America (Nicaragua). The triumph of Communism appeared inevitable.
Today’s world is not quite the world I suspect the cardinals envisioned. And, as Wretchard points out, Thatcher, John Paul II, and Ronald Reagan along with others such as Lek Walesa, Vaclav Havel, and Corazon Aquino were instrumental in effecting that change.