A blog dedicated to law, economics, technology and markets does not often find room to turn to religious matters, but the passing of John Paul II occassions a turn to weightier matters than the law and economics of open access.
One of John Paul II's last apostolic letters was addressed "to those responsible for communications." The whole letter is worth reading for its optimism about technology. He embraces the Internet and its meaning for the Church: "New technologies, in particular, create further opportunities for communication understood as a service to the pastoral government and organization of the different tasks of the Christian community. One clear example today is how the Internet not only provides resources for more information, but habituates persons to interactive communication."
His concluding paragraphs urge believers to embrace technology:
To those working in communication, especially to believers involved in this important field of society, I extend the invitation which, from the beginning of my ministry as Pastor of the Universal Church, I have wished to express to the entire world "Do not be afraid!"
Do not be afraid of new technologies! These rank "among the marvelous things" -- inter mirifica -- which God has placed at our disposal to discover, to use and to make known the truth, also the truth about our dignity and about our destiny as his children, heirs of his eternal Kingdom.
Do not be afraid of being opposed by the world! Jesus has assured us, "I have conquered the world!" (Jn 16:33)
Do not be afraid even of your own weakness and inadequacy! The Divine Master has said, "I am with you always, until the end of the world" (Mt 28:20). Communicate the message of Christ's hope, grace and love, keeping always alive, in this passing world, the eternal perspective of heaven, a perspective which no communications medium can ever directly communicate, "What eye has not seen, and ear has not heard, and what has not entered the human heart, what God has prepared for those who love him" (1Cor 2:9).
Elsewhere in the letter, Adam Thierer and Randy May may take pause at what appears to be a call for media ownership rules: "If the communications media are a good destined for all humanity, then ever-new means must be found -- including recourse to opportune legislative measures -- to make possible a true participation in their management by all. The culture of co-responsibility must be nurtured." That said, it is a rousing endorsement of digital technology and what it can bring to the world.
The media often wrongly portray JPII as a reactionary and a traditionalist. To the contrary, he was among the most modern of men. Less a Thomist than a Hegelian phenomenologist and existentialist, JPII understood modernity, but also saw intemporal things as paramount.
As a Lutheran, I do not fully internalize the grief of the world's Roman Catholics. At the same time, I think all in the world, regardless of faith, can recognize the passing of one of the great figures of history.