What stands out above all about Pope John Paul II is his holiness and personal integrity.

In his long reign he has been unfailingly true to his God, to his church, to his ministry, his principles, his understanding of the Gospel and to his prayer. There can be no greater tribute.

On the world stage he has been an apostle for peace throughout his pontificate. Most recently, he has condemned not only the 9/11 attacks but also the war in Iraq, saying that war never, ever makes for peace.

Likewise, he has been unfailing in his call to help the world's poor, for forgiveness of debt and just access to world economies.

He has reached out to the Jewish people and supported them in their struggle, but equally has pleaded with them to reach a lasting and peaceful settlement with the Palestinian people. He has called for Jerusalem to be kept sacred to Jewish, Christian and Muslim peoples. He stunned many by praying with members of non-Christian religions.

In terms of the Christian churches, he has been a proponent of frank and open dialogue. He sought to engage with the Orthodox churches and find ways towards reconciliation, even in the difficult post-communist era. Relationships with the Reformation churches have been perhaps more difficult, as when he deplored the decisions of those who chose to ordain women.

In his own church, he presided over a strongly conservative interpretation of the Second Vatican Council, with a focus on unity in doctrine and discipline, on centralising power in the Roman Curia and a correspondingly lesser focus on the collegial exercise of the episcopacy.

He appointed nearly all the current bishops and cardinals of the church, ensuring his influence for decades to come. He has produced a huge body of teaching, beautifully written with deep faith, and with a unique personalist flavour.

I believe, however, that little if any of this will remain in popular consciousness in the coming decades. What marks Pope John Paul II out is that he has made use of modern means of communication to bring the church to the world rather than the other way round. He has travelled to almost every country, including New Zealand, and addressed more people probably than all other Popes before him. He has been the first global Pope, as the Catholic Church seeks to become truly a world church. I think history will see him in this transitional role.

He will be remembered for three things. He is the first Polish Pope. The Polish people, along with all other Eastern European Christians, will never forget his role in the collapse of communism.

A truly holy man, he will no doubt be a saint of the church one day.

Thirdly, his spirituality will endure. He added the luminous mysteries to the rosary, a prayer prayed daily by millions. These simple prayers, focusing on events and themes in the life of Christ in the Gospels, will perhaps ensure he is remembered for centuries to come.

* Dr John Dunn is principal of the Catholic Institute of Theology in Auckland.