TODAY

TODAY   |  February 28, 2013

Legacy of John Paul II lives on among Catholics

Almost eight years after the death of John Paul II, it’s clear Catholics still feel a special affection for the man often called “the people’s pope,” who was renowned for his compassion and support of human rights. NBC’s Savannah Guthrie reports.

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>> pope benedict officially steps down today and people reflect on his legacy, many people are still talking about the man he replaced eight years ago. it's no secret that catholics love their pope. and almost eight years after the death of john paul ii , it's clear people still feel a special affection of the man sometimes called the people's pope. take a walk down the cobblestone streets surrounding the vatican, you will notice shop of shop the out-going pontiff shares the spotlight with his predecessor.

>> i miss him a lot.

>> comparisons between the two popes are inevitable.

>> people relate more to pope john paul ii . he was funny and young and cool.

>> the future pope loved to ski and as an actor he found his footing before large crowds.

>> he was trained in theater. he knew how to take the public stage in a dramatic way.

>> as pope, john paul brought that rock star appeal to more than 120 countries, electrifying the faithful during visits with the queen and u.s. presidents .

>> god bless america .

>> his real gift seemed to be with ordinary people with members of his flock running just to catch a glimpse of his holy presence. he presided over the fall of communism and rise of the global church. john paul healed ties with leaders of other faiths and used his pulpit to become an ardent supporter of human rights . renowned for his compassion, john paul forgave the man who tried to assassinate him in 1981 . he could be tough and tender using his tingly smile and eyes. and marred by the sex abuse scandal, critics say he waited too long to respond and others questioned his stance on same sex rights and ordination of women . as john paul aged he seemed to bear the weight of the church on his slumped shoulders. upon his death in 2005 , the church found itself mired in turmoil. john paul 's funeral drew millions around the world. in 2007 , pope benedict bypassed the normal rules to the march to sainthood. now looking for a new pope, they're looking for a leader with the intelligence of pope benedict but charm of john paul .

>> may god give you his grease.

>> before pope john paul ii can be cannonized, church officials need to certify he performed a miracle. one pontiff said he could reach sainthood as early as this year. some folks still waiting for that.

>> savannah guthrie in vatican city .