By Senior producer
msnbc.com
updated 4/4/2005 10:35:03 AM ET 2005-04-04T14:35:03

Pope John Paul II is a rock star.  He is bigger than a rock star, really.  He's like a rock constellation.  Born in Krakow in 1920, he had lost both of his parents and his only brother before the age of 21.  Just that much alone could break most people, but add a Nazi invasion and Joseph Stalin to the list and the odds would seem stacked against Superman.  Instead, his determination and enormous personal faith propelled him through the enormous bureaucracy and archaic hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church until in 1978 he was named Pope.  It's inspirational, even if you aren't Catholic.

As we continue to monitor the Pope's health, we will begin to celebrate and discuss this man's life and impact on the world.  He hit like a meteor, affecting change in every corner of the world.

Today, a general look at his political impact.  No moment in recent history seems more appropriate for a discussion of the influence of religion on politics than right now.  Islam and democracy seem at odds in the Middle East.  The Israelis and Palestinians are trying to forge an understanding, a chance for peace or at least mutual tolerance in that region.  And here in our own country, Americans seem to be experiencing a kind of growing pain as Christian Evangelicals are asserting influence and changing the dialogue on major issues.

The melding of politics and religion can lead to humanitarian change, as in the Philippines and the Eastern block, but these forces like atmospheric elements can collide into a storm of hatred and bigotry among extremists.  The Pope seems to have well navigated those waters.  We'll go in depth at noon.

We are on the brink of historic moments for the religious world, and we intend to keep you Connected.

Connected@MSNBC.com

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