Francis has the potential to be a very important pope, as John Paul II was and as John XXIII was. Pope John Paul II was one of the truly great men of the 20th century. I was deeply involved in two matters close to John Paul's heart: freedom for Poland, and peace and democracy in Latin America, and I know very well the enormous historic role that the Catholic Church and John Paul played on both matters.

While I was too young to appreciate John XXIII during his papacy, he was known as the pope for the people and the poor, and was a humanitarian and ecumenical voice that history will long remember. 

The fact that Francis would include him as cleared for sainthood, and in fact is waiving the requirement for a second miracle, is a profound signal about the great noble intentions of Francis. 

Francis has spoken passionately about the needs of the poor. His taking the name "Francis" was profound; his condemnation of greed is powerful; his reforms of the long- troubled Vatican Bank are historic. 

A personal note: After I left the Congressional leadership and entered the private sector, because of a project I was working on I was honored to receive an audience with John Paul II. It was not an audience alone with the pope, nor was it the mass audience outside. It was an audience with approximately 60 or 70 other people in a Vatican auditorium designated for this purpose.

Words cannot describe the honor, the experience or the thrill of being in the presence of John Paul II. I thought at the time it was closest I would ever get to God on earth. He appeared almost angelic, and his words were moving and inspiring. His historical contribution was extraordinary, his legacy will be timeless, his greatness was profound and his goodness provides a model for good people of all faiths.