"Pope John Paul II was not just a religious leader, but a world leader. He had a deep and abiding love for people - and encouraged them to live together in harmony and peace. But the Pope was not silent in the face of oppression. He fought for religious freedom and social justice, inspiring a solidarity movement in his native Poland that led to the first crack in the Iron Curtain and the ultimate fall of communism in Eastern Europe.
Alaska has a special place in the great history of this great man. He visited Anchorage in 1981. Then in May of 1984, he and President Reagan held an historic meeting in Fairbanks - a visit I remember well. The President arrived a few days earlier than the Pope and stayed in my family home.
Looking back at that event, I am struck by the Pope's humility and his emphasis of the bonds we hold in common - those of friendship, faith, and love. He encouraged us to recognize the wonderful diversity of Alaska and to live in harmony and accord together.
Pope John Paul II reminded us to fight for the oppressed, be thankful for our religious freedom and seek peace. That is the legacy of this great man."
Flags in the state, as all over the nation, will be flown on half staff until sunset on Friday, the day of the Pope's funeral.