read more: Boston Herald

Two historic things happened on Sunday. Pope John Paul II moved one step closer to sainthood and Osama bin Laden was killed. The face of good, and the face of evil, now linked together by a strange coincidence of history.

Interestingly, May 1, 2011, was not the only time that fate brought these two men together.

Early in 1995, bin Laden associates Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef plotted to assassinate John Paul II as he traveled to the Philippines for World Youth Day. The planned assassination was part of “Operation Bojinka,” an elaborate scheme to commit numerous terrorist acts, including the bombing of airplanes en route from Asia to the United States.

Fortunately, Philippine authorities learned of the plot after a fire broke out in the al-Qaeda operatives’ apartment building one week before the pope’s scheduled visit.

Sixteen years later, the coincidence that bin Laden’s death and John Paul’s beatification occurred on the same day has led some people to attribute the events to cosmic forces.

In a Monday press conference, Peruvian President Alan Garcia claimed that bin Laden’s death is a miracle attributable to the late pontiff. An exaggeration, perhaps. But the twist of fate that saw bin Laden killed hours after John Paul II was exalted speaks volumes about the universal struggle of good vs. evil and the ability of people to choose one path over the other.

For decades, moral relativists have argued that terrorists (indeed all criminals) are created by societal cruelty. Since the 1960s, schools have taught that poverty, repression and injustice are the seeds of terrorism.

Yet, bin Laden grew up elite and privileged, afflicted by none of the aforementioned social ills. For bin Laden, terrorism was not a response to deprivation or oppression. It was the fulfillment of his religious fundamentalism and of an ideology of hate.

Compare Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, who chose instead to embrace the ideology of Christian love.

He championed the poor, advocated the universality of human rights and worked for the freedom of people everywhere. (As a young man he resisted the Nazi occupation of Poland. As pope, he supported the Solidarity movement and provided the spiritual inspiration for the demise of communism.)

To be sure, John Paul II was not without fault — few saints are.

But as theologian Michael Novak has pointed out, canonization “is not a false claim of human perfection, but a recognition of daily heroism in ordinary habits and deeds.”

John Paul II was, in habit and in deed, a man whose love for humankind changed the world for the better.

Ironically, Osama bin Laden and John Paul II were both men who acted upon deeply held religious convictions.

Yet, political correctness dictates that we must not call bin Laden a “Muslim terrorist” or suggest that religious zealotry had anything to do with his hatred of the West or his brand of terror. At the same time, we are expected to tolerate ridicule of the pope and of the Catholic Church (an institution that has done more to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, educate the ignorant and heal the sick than any other on earth).

The lesson of May 1 is that, despite philosophical arguments to the contrary, the world is, indeed, filled with good and evil.

Human beings, who have been endowed with free will, must (on an almost daily basis) make choices between the two. One need only look to Karol Wojtyla and Osama bin Laden to understand this universal truth.

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