based on "The Pope and Pluralism", an editorial in the International Herald Tribune
John Paul II conveys many images to many different people. Some are ambivalent toward him, whilst others admire him without reserve, like USA president George W. Bush.
Indeed, he is a complex character, not susceptible to classification by any of our labels - liberal or conservative, democratic or dictatorial. He was, simply put, a man who led by conviction.
In terms of being democratic, he did so by endorsing the concept of religious freedom and stressing the importance of inter-faith dialogue. He also actively campaigned for workers' rights and the rights of the oppressed eg. the prisoners at Abu Ghraib. He was active in his opposition to the Death Penalty, usually associated with a liberal stance. Possibly his most famous participation is in his support for the Solidarity Movement which overthrew Communism in Poland, and sped up the process which led to the Collapse of the Berlin Wall in 1989.
On the other hand, he was also extremely conservative in social outlook. He opposed abortion and euthanasia. He was extremely strict in holding on to papal power such as the Doctrine of Papal Infailability, and the patriarchal structure of the Roman Catholic Church. This stalled improvement of relations with the concilliatory Anglican Church which just happened to have endorsed the ordination of women. He was strongly anti-homosexual and against all forms of contraception. His promotion of religious freedom was also usually quite limited. In his alter years, he tried to force a Europe that had believed in the Separation of Church from State since 1789 to accept the notion of the primacy of Church teaching over all other teaching. That had succeeded in Poland, where it had helped overthrow Communism, but it caused hostility among the Western Europeans who saw it as form of theocratic imposition upon their lives. It definitely ired the Muslims though, although they were quite reconcilliatory when he denounced the War against Iraq in 2003.
Henceforth, we cannot make a blanket statement about the character of the Pope, except that he was a man with utmost determination.