ROME — Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, who died Aug. 30 in Moscow after a long illness, met several times with St. John Paul II, and the two often exchanged words of appreciation for each other.
The two leaders met in 1989 and again in 1990, when Gorbachev was still president of the Soviet Union and was introducing political and economic reforms in his country, as well as on other occasions. Both men were key in the collapse of the Soviet Union, and Gorbachev won the 1990 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Joaquin Navarro-Valls, who served as papal spokesman for St. John Paul II and often reported on their meetings, later called Gorbachev the most important figure in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Commemorating the 20th anniversary of the collapse of the wall in an article published Nov. 5, 2009, in the Rome newspaper La Repubblica, Navarro-Valls cited Pope John Paul’s support for the Polish labor union Solidarity as a key development in the…