On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II, spiritual leader of one billion Catholics, died. He served for twenty-six years, making his the third longest papacy in history. John Paul was energetic, hard-working, and greatly loved. He will certainly be a hard act to follow.
In addition to breaking news, BBC News has a collection of interesting background pieces. Popes Through History is an interactive time line highlighting a dozen "celebrated figures in papal history" from St. Peter (the first pope) to John Paul II (the Polish pope.) Choosing a Pope is an illustrated guide to the process of electing a papal successor. Life in Pictures is a biographical slide show.
CNN divides its Pope John Paul II coverage into four sections: Biography, Papacy, Farewell and Succession. John Paul II is renown for his world travels. An alphabetic listing of the more than 120 countries and territories he visited can found in Papal Travels. The illustrated biography is excellent, as are the articles on potential successors, and the photo and audio galleries. Video clips, however, are reserved for paid pass holders.
This one-page encyclopedia article is an excellent starting point for school reports, even though many of the hyperlinked keywords lead to subscriber-only pages. Best reads are the last three sections: John Paul's Message, Controversy During John Paul's Papacy, and John Paul's Achievements. For example, in 2000, John Paul asked for forgiveness for sins committed by Roman Catholics. Those close to him explained that this was reference to the Crusades, the Inquisition, and inaction during the Holocaust. "The apology preceded a papal pilgrimage to the Holy Land and a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust memorial in Israel."
NPR's tribute to Pope John Paul II is a audio collection of recent news coverage, four of the pope's speeches, and an interactive biographical time line. Each clip is annotated with a brief summary, so you'll know what the audio is about before committing to downloading and listening. For those who want a daily NPR fix from their computers (instead of their radios) all their shows are available as RSS feeds. If you are new to RSS technology, their RSS page also includes a selection of software (RSS readers.)
The Millennial Pope is a companion website to a PBS biographical television special that first aired in 1999: "a journey through the 20th century to the sources of John Paul II's character and beliefs, and the passionate reaction to him." With four video stories from both believers and non-believers, the site explores the concept of faith. Other reasons to visit include an in-depth biography, samples of John Paul's poetry, his role in the fall of communism, and a teacher's guide.