by JOHN GIZZI
Two of the most important figures in ending the Cold War with the defeat of the Soviet Empire were remembered, examined, and hailed at a daylong conference Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C.
“Ronald Reagan and John Paul II: The Partnership That Changed the World” brought together authors, historians, and associates of the 40th president, as well as people who knew and worked closely with the first non-Italian Pope in 400 years.
“Ronald Reagan greatly admired Pope John Paul II,” recalled Ed Meese, who served as counselor in the Reagan White House and as attorney general.
Even before he became a presidential candidate in 1980, Reagan did several radio commentaries highlighting John Paul’s visit to his homeland of Poland in 1979 and how the Communist dictatorship’s “entire civil government ceased to function,” according to former National Security Council staffer Paula Dobriansky.
After Reagan became president in 1981, he immediately asked national security adviser William P. Clark and CIA Director William Casey (both devout Roman Catholics) to arrange a meeting with the Pope.
When that meeting took place in Vatican City in June of 1982, Stephen Hayward, author of "The Age of Reagan," noted that at one point, Reagan asked the Pope how long he felt it would be before Communism was defeated.
“In our lifetimes,” the Pope replied without hesitation.
At that point, said Hayward, the president smiled, reached out to shake John Paul’s hand and told him: “Then we can work together.”
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