...most Poles can tell you that’s when Pope John Paul II finally succumbed to his long, and very public, illness.
A man of immense influence on world events, of course. But how influential?
One year ago, the day after he died, poor old John Paul was getting the blame by liberals for just about everything. He was even responsible for the spread of the AIDS virus in Africa, apparently.
Polly Tonybee, in the UK Guardian, predictably, described the Pope as 'a man whose edict killed millions'. Human rights activist Peter Tatchell, of OutRage!, said, 'Millions of people in developing countries are orphans, having lost their parents to AIDS because of the Pope's anti-condom dogma.'
I’m no Catholic – far from it - but I never went for this theory. John Paul might have played a major role in the demise of communism in Poland, for instance, but he wasn’t all powerful.
If it is correct that the Polish Pope helped spread AIDS in Africa by ordering the faithful to not wear condoms, then you would expect that the countries with the most Catholics in them would be the ones with the highest rate of HIV infection, right?
Well, no, not really.
In a very good article in Spiked last year, Brendan O'Neill pointed out what should have been obvious:
‘The two worst-hit countries (not only in Africa, but the world) are Swaziland, where the [infection]rate is 38.8 per cent, and Botswana, where it is 37.3 per cent. Yet these countries have low numbers of practicing Catholics: in Swaziland, between 10 and 20 per cent of the population is Catholic, while 40 per cent are Zionist (a blend of Christianity and indigenous ancestral worship) and 10 per cent are Muslim; in Botswana fewer than 5 per cent are Catholic, with 85 per cent of the population subscribing to ancient indigenous beliefs.’
And anyway, African Catholics are like Catholics all over the world. O’Neill goes on:
‘No doubt the Catholic Church has a malign influence in some areas, and religion is often more prevalent in poverty-stricken parts. But millions of Catholics around the world ignore Catholic doctrine every day, on contraception, abortion, sex before marriage, sex outside of marriage - and not only in Western Europe and the USA. A recent survey found that 90 per cent of the populations in Mexico and Brazil - two devout Catholic countries - support sex education for children under 14 (much to the fury of the Vatican). Why should Africans be any different?’
Liberals see Africans differently, I would argue, because they see them like they see themselves, as weak victims of all powerful forces beyond their control – in this case, the words of John Paul II.
Or maybe it's just a touchy-feely version of racial prejudice?
It can be argued that John Paul’s constant reminders that homosexuality is a heinous sin emboldened homophobes in Poland in recent years and contributed to making sexuality a political issue here. But pinning responsibility for AIDS in Africa on the old man is just patronizing nonsense.