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Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II, Polish: Jan Paweł II) born Karol Józef Wojtyła (May 18, 1920, Wadowice, Poland – April 2, 2005, Vatican City) reigned as the 264th Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City from October 16, 1978, until his death more than 26 years later, making his the second-longest pontificate in modern times after Pius IX's 31-year reign. He is the only Polish pope, and was the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Adrian VI in the 1520s. He is one of only four people to have been named to the Time 100 for both the 20th century and for a year in the 21st.


The Wisdom of John Paul II: The Pope on Life's Most Vital Questions

"A must for every Catholic bookshelf, this fresh and inspiring book distils the essential thoughts of Pope John Paul II on matters of belief and conscience into one volume"

Credo - John Paul II [DVD] [2006]

"This dvd is a remarkable tribute to a man who dedicated his whole life to the promotion of peace and the proclamation of faith"



Video>> John Paul II <<Video

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His early reign was marked by his opposition to communism, and he is often credited as one of the forces which contributed to its collapse in Eastern Europe.[1] In the later part of his pontificate, he was notable for speaking against war, fascism, dictatorship, materialism, abortion, contraception, relativism, unrestrained capitalism, and what he deemed the "culture of death".

John Paul II was Pope during a period in which Catholicism's influence declined in developed countries but expanded in the Third World. During his reign, the pope travelled extensively, visiting over 100 countries, more than any of his predecessors. He remains one of the most-travelled world leaders in history. He was fluent in numerous languages: his native Polish and also Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Croatian, Portuguese, Russian and Latin.[2] As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he canonized a great number of people.

In 1992, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. On April 2, 2005 at 9:37 p.m. local time, Pope John Paul II died in the Papal Apartments while a vast crowd kept vigil in Saint Peter's Square below. Millions of people flocked to Rome to pay their respects to the body and for his funeral. The last years of his reign had been marked by his fight against the various diseases ailing him, provoking some concerns as to leadership should he become severely incapacitated/vegetative, and speculation as to whether he should abdicate. On May 9, 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II's successor, waived the five year waiting period for a cause for beatification to be opened.[3]


John Paul II emphasized what he called the "universal call to holiness" and attempted to define the Catholic Church's role in the modern world. He spoke out against ideologies and politics of communism, Marxism, Socialism, imperialism, hedonism, relativism, materialism, fascism (including Nazism), racism and unrestrained capitalism. In many ways, he fought against oppression, secularism and poverty. Although he was on friendly terms with many Western heads of state and leading citizens, he reserved a special opprobrium for what he believed to be the corrosive spiritual effects of modern Western consumerism and the concomitant widespread secular and hedonistic orientation of Western populations.

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John Paul II affirmed traditional Catholic teachings against abortion, contraception, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, euthanasia, in vitro fertilisation (IVF), and unjust wars. He also defended traditional teachings on marriage and gender roles by opposing divorce, same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. His conservative views were sometimes criticized as regressive. John Paul II called upon followers to vote according to Catholic teachings. John Paul II became known as the "Pilgrim Pope" for traveling greater distances than had all his predecessors combined. According to John Paul II, the trips symbolized bridge-building efforts (in keeping with his title as Pontifex Maximus, literally Master Bridge-Builder) between nations and religions, attempting to remove divisions created through history.

He beatified 1,340 people, more people than any previous pope. The Vatican asserts he canonized more people than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries, and from a far greater variety of cultures.[4] Whether he had canonized more saints than all previous popes put together, as is sometimes also claimed, is difficult to prove, as the records of many early canonizations are incomplete, missing, or inaccurate. However, it is known that his abolition of the office of Promotor Fidei ("Promoter of the Faith" and the origin of the term Devil's advocate) streamlined the process.

In February 2004 Pope John Paul II was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize honoring his life's work in opposing Communist oppression and helping to reshape the world.[5]

Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005 (buried April 8, 2005) after a long fight against Parkinson's disease and other illnesses. Immediately after his death, many of his followers demanded that he be elevated to sainthood as soon as possible, shouting "Santo Subito" (meaning "Saint immediately" in Italian). Both L'Osservatore Romano and Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II's successor, referred to John Paul II " The Great" (Ioannes Paulus PP. II Magnus).

John Paul II was succeeded by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who had led the Funeral Mass for John Paul II.

Coat of Arms of John Paul II


Coat of Arms of John Paul II


Early life

Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on 18 May 1920 in Wadowice in southern Poland and was the youngest of three children of Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska.[6] His mother died in 1929 when he was just nine years old, and his father supported him so that he could study. His brother, who worked as a doctor, died when Karol was twelve. His youth was marked by extensive contacts with the then thriving Jewish community of Wadowice. He practiced sports during his youth, and was particularly interested in football (soccer).[7]

After completing his studies at the Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, in 1938 Karol enrolled at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and in a school for drama.[8] He worked as a volunteer librarian and did compulsory military training in the Academic Legion, but refused to hold or fire a weapon. In his youth he was an athlete, actor and playwright and he learned as many as eighteen languages during his lifetime, including Latin, Ukrainian, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, English, Chinese, Japanese, Croatian, Arabic, Persian, Romanian, Turkish, Korean other than his native Polish. He also had some facility with Russian.

In 1939, Nazi occupation forces closed the Jagiellonian University; its academics were arrested and the university was suppressed throughout the Second World War. All able-bodied males had to have a job. From 1940 to 1944 Karol variously worked as a messenger for a restaurant and a manual labourer in a limestone quarry, and then as a salesman for the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.[9]

His father also died in 1941, when Karol was 20.

Church career

In 1942 he entered the underground seminary run by the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Sapieha. Karol Wojtyła was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946, by the same bishop who confirmed him. Not long after, he was sent to study theology at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, commonly known as the Angelicum, where he earned a licentiate and later a doctorate in sacred theology. This doctorate, the first of two, was based on the Latin dissertation Doctrina de fide apud S. Ioannem a Cruce (The Doctrine of Faith According to Saint John of the Cross). Even though his doctoral work was unanimously approved in June 1948, he was denied the degree because he could not afford to print the text of his dissertation (an Angelicum rule). In December of that year, a revised text of his dissertation was approved by the theological faculty of Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and Wojtyła was finally awarded the degree. He earned a second doctorate, based on an evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of phenomenologist Max Scheler (An Evaluation of the Possibility of Constructing a Christian Ethics on the Basis of the System of Max Scheler), in 1954. As was the case with the first degree, he was not granted the degree upon earning it. This time, the faculty at Jagiellonian University was forbidden by communist authorities from granting the degree. In conjunction with his habilitation at Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, he finally obtained the doctorate of philosophy in 1957 from that institution, where he had assumed the Chair of Ethics in 1956.

On July 4, 1958 Pope Pius XII named him titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary to Archbishop Baziak, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of Kraków. Karol Wojtyła found himself at 38 the youngest bishop in Poland.

In 1962 Bishop Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council, and in December 1963 Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Kraków. On June 26, 1967, Paul VI announced Archbishop Wojtyła's promotion to the Sacred College of Cardinals with the title of Cardinal Priest of San Cesareo in Palatio.

A Pope from Poland

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In August 1978 following Paul's death, he voted in the Papal Conclave that elected Pope John Paul I, who at 65 was considered young by papal standards. However, John Paul I was in poor health and he died after only 33 days as pope, thereby precipitating another conclave.

Voting in the second conclave was divided between two particularly strong candidates: Giuseppe Siri, the Archbishop of Genoa; and Giovanni Benelli, the Archbishop of Florence and a close associate of Pope John Paul I. In early ballots, Benelli came within nine votes of victory. However, Wojtyła secured election as a compromise candidate, in part through the support of Franz Cardinal König and others who had previously supported Cardinal Siri.

He became the 264th Pope according to the chronological List of popes. At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest pope elected since Pope Pius IX in 1846. Like his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II dispensed with the traditional Papal coronation and instead received ecclesiastical investiture with the simplified Papal inauguration on October 22, 1978. During his inauguration, when the cardinals kneel before him, take their vows and kiss his ring, he stood up as the Polish primate Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski knelt down, stopped him from kissing the ring and hugged him (SABC2 "The Greatest souls" documentary 2005). As Bishop of Rome he took possession of his Cathedral Church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on November 12, 1978.

Karol Wojtyła as a priest in Niegowić, Poland, 1948


Karol Wojtyła as a priest in Niegowić, Poland, 1948

Assassination attempts

On May 13, 1981 John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish gunman, as he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience. He was rushed into the Vatican complex, then to hospital. En route to the hospital, he lost consciousness. Ağca was caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days after Christmas 1983, John Paul II visited the prison where his would-be assassin was being held. The two spoke privately for 20 minutes. John Paul II said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust." The pope also stated that Our Lady of Fatima helped keep him alive throughout his ordeal.

"Could I forget that the event [Ali Ağca's assassination attempt] in St. Peter’s Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over sixty years at Fátima, Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet."

—Pope John Paul II -Memory & Identity, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005, p.184

On March 2, 2006, an Italian parliamentary commission concluded that the Soviet Union was behind the attempt, in retaliation for John Paul II's support of Solidarity, the Catholic, pro-democratic Polish workers' movement, a thesis which had already been supported by Michael Ledeen and the CIA at the time. The report stated that certain Communist Bulgarian security departments were utilized to prevent the Soviet Union's role from being uncovered.[10] Although the Pope declared during a May 2002 visit to Bulgaria that this country had nothing to do with the assassination attempt, his secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, alleges in his book A Life with Karol that the pope was convinced privately that the KGB was behind the assassination attempt.[11] Bulgaria and Russia disputed the Italian commission's conclusions, pointing out that the Pope denied the Bulgarian connection. This thesis was also central to Tom Clancy's novel Red Rabbit, published in 2002.

Another assassination attempt took place on May 12, 1982, just a day before the anniversary of the last attempt on his life, in Fatima, Portugal when a man tried to stab John Paul II with a bayonet, but was stopped by security guards. The psychopathic assailant, an ultraconservative and right wing Spanish ex-priest named Juan María Fernández y Krohn, a former priest of the Diocese of Madrid, reportedly opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and called the pope an agent of Communist Moscow. Fernández y Krohn subsequently left the Roman Catholic priesthood and the Church and served a six-year sentence, was treated for mental illness and was expelled from Portugal afterwards, only to become a lawyer in Belgium, where he would try to assassinate King Juan Carlos of Spain.

Pope John Paul II was also one of the targets of the Al Qaeda-funded Operation Bojinka during a visit to the Philippines in 1995.


When he became pope in 1978, John Paul II was an avid sportsman, enjoying hiking and swimming. In addition, John Paul II traveled extensively after becoming pope; at the time, the 58-year old was extremely healthy and active, jogging in the Vatican gardens (to the horror of Vatican staff, who informed him that his jogging could be seen by tourists climbing to the summit of dome of St. Peter's Basilica. The pope's response, according to media reports, was "so what?"), weightlifting, swimming and hiking in mountains.

John Paul's obvious physical fitness and looks earned much comment in the media following his election, which compared his health and trim figure to the poor health of John Paul I and Paul VI, the portliness of John XXIII and the constant claims of ailments of Pius XII. The only modern pope with a keep-fit regime had been Pope Pius XI (1922–1939) who was an avid mountain climber. An Irish Independent article in the 1980s labeled John Paul the "the keep-fit pope."

In 1981, though, John Paul II's health suffered a major blow after the first failed assassination attempt. After being shot, John Paul II was rushed to the Agostino Gemelli University Polyclinic in Rome, where he received extensive emergency surgery. The bullet-wound caused severe bleeding, and the Pope's blood pressure dropped. Due to intestinal damage, a colostomy was also performed. He nevertheless managed to recover, and in his speeches from the hospital window, which would always attract large crowds, he defined "the Gemelli" as "the third Vatican" (the first being St Peter, and the second the papal summer residence). He went on to a full recovery, and sported an impressive physical condition throughout the 1980s.

Starting about 1992, John Paul II's health slowly declined. He began to suffer from an increasingly slurred speech and difficulty in hearing. In addition, the Pope rarely walked in public. Though not officially confirmed by the Vatican until 2003, most experts agreed that the frail pontiff suffered from Parkinson's disease. The contrast between the athletic John Paul of the 1970s and the declining John Paul of later years was striking. From being strikingly fitter than his predecessors, he had declined physically to far more ill health than was the norm among more elderly popes.

In February 2005 John Paul II was taken to the Gemelli hospital with inflammation and spasm of the larynx, the result of influenza. Though later released from the hospital, he was taken back after a few days because of difficulty breathing. A tracheotomy was performed, which improved the Pope's breathing but limited his speaking abilities, to his visible frustration. In March 2005, speculation was high that the Pope was near death; this was confirmed by the Vatican a few days before John Paul II died.


On March 31, 2005 the Pope developed a very high fever and profoundly low blood pressure, but was neither rushed to the hospital nor offered life support. Instead, he was offered medical monitoring by a team of consultants at his private residence. This was taken as an indication that the pope and those close to him believed that he was nearing death; it would have been in accordance with his wishes to die in the Vatican.[12] Later that day Vatican sources announced that John Paul II had been given the Anointing of the Sick by his friend and secretary Stanisław Dziwisz. During the final days of the Pope's life, the lights were kept burning through the night where he lay in the Papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace.

Thousands of people rushed to the Vatican, filling St. Peter's Square and beyond, and held vigil for two days. Upon hearing of this, the dying pope was said to have stated: "I have searched for you, and now you have come to me, and I thank you."

On Saturday 2 April, at about 15:30 CEST, John Paul II spoke his final words, "Let me go to the house of the Father", to his aides in his native Polish and fell into a coma about four hours later.[13] He died in his private apartment, at 21:37 CEST (19:37 UTC), 46 days short of his 85th birthday. The mass of the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter, that is, Divine Mercy Sunday which was put into the Church's calendar by him on the occasion of the canonization of St. Faustina on April 30, 2000,[14] had just been celebrated at his bedside. Several aides were present, along with several Polish nuns of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, who ran the papal household.

A crowd of over two million within Vatican City, over one billion Catholics world-wide, and many non-Catholics mourned John Paul II. The Poles were particularly devastated by his death. The public viewing of his body in St. Peter's Basilica drew over four million people to Vatican City and was one of the largest pilgrimages in the history of Christianity. Many world leaders expressed their condolences and ordered flags in their countries lowered to half-mast. Numerous countries with a Catholic majority, and even some with only a small Catholic population, declared mourning for John Paul II.

On his death certificate, (refractory) septic shock was listed as a primary cause of death along with profound arterial hypotension leading to complete circulatory collapse. In cases of fatal sepsis, the normal cause of death is complete circulatory collapse.

Millions cheer Pope John Paul II during his first visit to Poland as pontiff in 1979


Millions cheer Pope John Paul II during his first visit to Poland as pontiff in 1979


The death of Pope John Paul II set into motion rituals and traditions dating back to medieval times. The Rite of Visitation took place from 4 April through 22:00 CET (20:00 UTC) on 7 April at St. Peter's Basilica. On 8 April the Mass of Requiem was conducted by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Joseph Ratzinger, who would become the next pope under the name of Benedict XVI. It has been estimated to have been the largest attended funeral of all time.

John Paul II was interred in the grottoes under the basilica, the Tomb of the Popes. He was lowered into a tomb that had been created in the same alcove that had been occupied by the remains of Blessed Pope John XXIII. The alcove had been empty since Pope John's remains had been moved into the main body of the basilica after his beatification by John Paul II in 2000.

The funeral of Pope John Paul II saw the single largest gathering of heads of state in history who had come together to pay their respects. In his memory, a number of Catholic schools have named their houses after him.


His title was: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of Saint Peter, Head of the College of Bishops, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West (this title was recently removed from the papal list of titles by the reigning pope, Benedict XVI), Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the City State of the Vatican, Servant of the Servants of God Pope John Paul II.

Posthumous recognition and cause for canonization

Since the death of John Paul II, a number of clergy at the Vatican and laymen throughout the world have been referring to the late pontiff as "John Paul the Great"—only the fourth pope to be so acclaimed, and the first since the first millennium.

His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, referred to him as "the great Pope John Paul II" in his first address from the loggia of St Peter's Church. Pope Benedict XVI, then Cardinal Ratzinger, stirred excitement by some devotees of the pope when in his published written homily for the Mass of Repose, he referred to Pope John Paul II as "the Great."

Since giving his homily at the funeral of Pope John Paul, Pope Benedict XVI has continued to refer to John Paul II as "the Great." At the 2005 World Youth Day in Germany, Pope Benedict XVI, speaking in Polish, John Paul's native language, said, "As the great Pope John Paul II would say: keep the flame of faith alive in your lives and your people." In May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI visited John Paul's native Poland. During that visit he repeatedly made references to "the great John Paul" and "my great predecessor."

In addition to the Vatican calling him "the great," numerous newspapers have also done so. For example the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera called him "the Greatest" and the South African Catholic newspaper, The Southern Cross, has called him "John Paul II The Great."

Scholars of Canon Law say that there is no official process for declaring a pope "Great"; the title establishes itself through popular, and continued, usage. The three popes who today commonly are known as "Great" are Leo I, who reigned from 440–461 and persuaded Attila the Hun to withdraw from Rome, thus saving Christianity and Catholicism in Europe from destruction; Gregory I, 590–604, after whom the Gregorian Chant is named; and Nicholas I, 858–867, who also withstood a siege of Rome (in this case from Carolingian Christians, over a dispute regarding marriage annulment).

On May 9, 2005 Benedict XVI began the beatification process for his predecessor, John Paul II. Normally five years must pass after a person's death before the beatification process can begin. However, in an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome and the one responsible for promoting the cause for canonization of any person who dies within that diocese, cited "exceptional circumstances" which suggested that the waiting period could be waived.

The "exceptional circumstances" presumably refer to the people's cries of "Santo Subito!" ("Saint now!") during the late pontiff's funeral. Therefore the new Pope waived the five year rule "so that the cause of Beatification and Canonization of the same Servant of God can begin immediately."[15] The decision was announced on May 13, 2005, the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima and the 24th anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II at St. Peter's Square.[16] John Paul II often credited Our Lady of Fatima for preserving him on that day. Cardinal Ruini inaugurated the diocesan phase of the cause for beatification in the Lateran Basilica on 28 June 2005.[17]

In early 2006, it was reported that the Vatican was investigating a possible miracle associated with John Paul II. A French nun, confined to her bed by Parkinson's Disease, is reported to have experienced a "complete and lasting cure after members of her community prayed for the intercession of Pope John Paul II".[18][19] The nun was later identified as Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, a member of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards from Puyricard, near Aix-en-Provence.[20]

On May 28, 2006, Pope Benedict XVI said Mass before an estimated 900,000 people in John Paul II's native Poland. During his homily he encouraged prayers for the early canonization of John Paul II and stated that he hoped canonization would happen "in the near future."

In January 2007, it was announced by Stanislaw Cardinal Dziwisz of Krakow, his former secretary, that the key interviewing phase in Italy and Poland of the beatification process was nearing completion. Cardinal Dziwisz had been giving an interview that featured the introduction of his new book in Polish and Italian, Living With Karol, when he made the announcement. In February 2007, the website of the late pope's sainthood cause has stated that relics of Pope John Paul II — pieces of white papal cassocks he used to wear — were being freely distributed with prayer cards for the cause to interested parties; this distribution and prayerful use of relics is a typical praiseworthy pious practice after a saintly Catholic's death.

On 8 March 2007 it was announced that the Vicariate of Rome announced that the diocesan phase of John Paul's cause for beatification is at an end. Following a ceremony on 2 April 2007 — the second anniversary of the Pontiff's death — the cause proceeded to the scrutiny of the committee of lay, clerical, and episcopal members of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, who will conduct an investigation of their own.

Not all Catholic theologians agree with the call for beatification. Eleven dissident theologians, including Jesuit professor Jose Maria Castillo and Italian theologian Giovanni Franzoni raised seven points, including his stance on contraception, the role of women, and Church scandals that presented "facts which according to their consciences and convictions should be an obstacle to beatification."[21]

The ailing Pope John Paul II riding in the Popemobile on September 22, 2004


The ailing Pope John Paul II riding in the Popemobile on September 22, 2004

Life's work


As pope, one of John Paul II's most important roles was to teach people about Christianity. He wrote 14 papal encyclicals (List of Encyclicals of Pope John Paul II) that many observers believe will have long-lasting influence on the church.

In his Apostolic Letter At the beginning of the third millennium (Novo Millennio Ineunte), he emphasized the importance of "starting afresh from Christ": "No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person." In what he calls a "program for all times," he placed "sanctity" as the single most important priority of all pastoral activities in the entire Catholic Church. He canonized many saints around the world as exemplars for his vision and he supported the prelature of Opus Dei, whose aim is to spread the message of the universal call to holiness and the sanctification of secular activities, which he said is a "great ideal" and a "characteristic mark" of the Second Vatican Council.

In The Splendour of the Truth (Veritatis Splendor) he emphasized the dependence of man on God and his law ("Without the Creator, the creature disappears") and the "dependence of freedom on the truth". He warned that man "giving himself over to relativism and scepticism, goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself".

In Fides et Ratio (On the Relationship between Faith and Reason) John Paul promotes a renewed interest in philosophy and an autonomous pursuit for Truth in theological matters. Drawing on many different sources (such as Thomism), he describes the mutually supporting relationship between faith and reason, and emphasizes why it is important that theologians should focus on the relationship. John Paul proposes that philosophy has lost its meaning (e.g., the pursuit for objective truth), and that restoring it will ultimately help cure the nihilistic condition of our current age; and, moreover, lead to the Truth of sacred scripture.

John Paul II also wrote extensively about workers and the social doctrine of the Church, which he discussed in three encyclicals. Through his encyclicals, John Paul also talked about the dignity of women and the importance of the family for the future of mankind, and many Apostolic Letters and Exhortations.

Other encyclicals include The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) and Orientale Lumen (Light of the East). Often accused of inflexibility through misunderstanding of the office of the papacy in asserting Church Teaching, he explicitly reiterated and asserted unchanged 2,000-year old Catholic teaching on moral matters like murder, euthanasia and abortion. These, like all statements on faith and morals, according to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, when asserted in the official papal capacity possess the quality referred to as infallibility.

John Paul II, who was present and very influential at the Vatican II (1962–65), affirmed the teachings of that Council and did much to implement them. Nevertheless, his critics often wished aloud that he would embrace the so-called "progressive" agenda that some hoped would evolve as a result of the Council. In fact, the Council did not advocate "progressive" changes in these areas, e.g., still condemning the taking of unborn human life through abortion as an "unspeakable crime". John Paul II continued to declare that contraception, abortion, and homosexual acts were gravely sinful, and, with Cardinal Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI), opposed Liberation theology.

He believed in the Church's exaltation of the marital act of sexual intercourse between a baptized man and woman within sacramental marriage as proper and exclusive to the sacrament of marriage that was, in every instance, profaned by contraception, abortion, divorce followed by a 'second' marriage, and by homosexual acts. Often mistakenly assumed to be a rejection against women, he definitively explained and asserted in 1994 for all time the Church's lack of authority to ordain women to the priesthood, without such authority such ordination is not legitimately compatible with fidelity to Christ. This was also deemed a repudiation of calls to break with the constant tradition of the Church by ordaining women to the priesthood. (Apostolic Letter 'Ordinatio Sacerdotalis') In addition, John Paul II chose not to end the discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy, although in a small number of unusual circumstances, he did allow certain married clergymen of other Christian traditions who later became Catholic to be ordained as Catholic priests.

John Paul II, as a writer of philosophical and theological thought, was characterized by his explorations in phenomenology and personalism. He is also known for his development of the Theology of the Body.

Role in the fall of Communism

John Paul II has been credited with helping to bring down communism in eastern Europe by sparking what amounted to a peaceful revolution in his Polish homeland. Lech Walesa, the founder of the Solidarity worker movement that ultimately toppled communism, credited John Paul II with giving Poles the courage to rise up. "The pope started this chain of events that led to the end of communism," Walesa said. "Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of communism. "He simply said, 'Don't be afraid, change the image of this land.'"

John Paul II's 1979 trip was the fulcrum of revolution which led to the collapse of Communism. Timothy Garton Ash put it this way, "Without the Pope, no Solidarity. Without Solidarity, no Gorbachev. Without Gorbachev, no fall of Communism." (In fact, Gorbachev himself gave the Kremlin's long-term enemy his due, "It would have been impossible without the Pope.")

By restoring to the Polish people their authentic history and culture, John Paul II created a revolution of conscience that, fourteen months later, produced the nonviolent Solidarity resistance movement, a unique hybrid of workers and intellectuals. And by restoring to his people a form of freedom and a fearlessness that communism could not reach, John Paul II set in motion the human dynamics that eventually led, over a decade, to what we know as the Revolution of 1989. It took the time, support and presence of the Pope, but the flame was lit, and it would smolder and flicker before it burned from one end of Poland to the other. Millions of people spread the revolution, but it began with the Pope's trip home in 1979. General Wojciech Jaruzelski was reported to have said, "That was the detonator."

In 1979, John Paul II received in audience the Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko. In 1989, the Pontiff arranged the first meeting ever between a Pope and a Kremlin chief. He met with Mikhail Gorbachev in the Vatican. They announced that the Vatican and Moscow would establish diplomatic ties.

Gorbachev himself acknowledged publicly the role of John Paul II in the fall of Communism. "What has happened in Eastern Europe in recent years would not have been possible without the presence of this Pope, without the great role even political that he has played on the world scene" (quoted in La Stampa, March 3, 1992).

Perhaps the most significant statement the pope made after the fall of Communism throughout his entire pontificate was that "the claim to build a world without God has been shown to be an illusion" (Prague, April 21, 1990). For John Paul II it was only a matter of when and how Communism would fall. Communism as a system, in John Paul II's opinion, fell not only by the hand of divine Providence, but as a consequence of its own mistakes and abuses. John Paul II repeated the content of Christianity, its religious and moral message, its defense of the human person, insisting that this is a principle to be followed. Thus, in his estimation, Christianity itself became the determining factor in the fall of Communism.

While celebrating the fall of Communism, however, John Paul warned against the dangers of capitalism. "Unfortunately, not everything the West proposes as a theoretical vision or as a concrete lifestyle reflects Gospel values." He saw in capitalism certain "viruses": secularism, indifferentism, hedonistic consumerism, practical materialism, and also formal atheism.

President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, former Presidents Bush and Clinton pay their respects to John Paul II as he lies in state in St. Peter's Basilica, April 6, 2005.


President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, former Presidents Bush and Clinton pay their respects to John Paul II as he lies in state in St. Peter's Basilica, April 6, 2005.

Pastoral trips

During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II made trips to 117 countries.[22] In total he logged more than 1.1 million km (725,000 miles). He consistently attracted large crowds on his travels, some amongst the largest ever assembled in human history. While some of his trips (such as to the United States and the Holy Land) were to places previously visited by Pope Paul VI (the first pope to travel widely), many others were to places that no pope had ever visited before. All these travels were paid by the money of the countries he visited and not by the Vatican.

One of John Paul II's earliest official visits was to Poland, in June 1979.[23] In 1979, he also visited the City of New York. He preached at Yankee Stadium, Shea Stadium and Madison Square Garden. In 1981, Pope John Paul II was the first Pope to visit Japan. In 1982 he became the first reigning pope to travel to the United Kingdom, where he met Queen Elizabeth II, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England.

Throughout his trips, he stressed his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary through visits to various shrines to the Virgin Mary, notably Knock in Ireland, Licheń Stary in Poland, Fátima in Portugal, Guadalupe in Mexico and Lourdes in France.

In 1984 John Paul II became the first Pope to visit South Korea and Puerto Rico. In 1985 he visited Peru and in 1988 he made a trip to Lesotho to beatify Joseph Gerrad.[24] On January 15, 1995 he offered Mass to an estimated crowd of between four and eight million in Luneta Park, Manila, Philippines, the largest ever papal crowd, and considered the largest single event in human history. On January 20, 1998, Pope John Paul II became the first pontiff to visit Cuba. During his visit, John Paul sharply criticized Cuba's stance on religious expression, as well as US sanctions against Cuba. In 1995 he took a trip to South Africa, on which he met the former President Nelson Mandela. On March 22, 1998 he paid a second visit to Nigeria. Also in 1999 John Paul II made another of his multiple trips to the United States. In 2000 he became the first modern Catholic pope to visit Egypt, where he met with the Coptic pope and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria. In May 2001 the Pontiff took a pilgrimage that would trace the steps of his co-namesake, Saint Paul, across the Mediterranean, from Greece to Syria to Malta.

Pope John Paul II was greeted by U.S. President Clinton and then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, for his Papal visit to St. Louis, Missouri in 1999.

He was the first Catholic Pope to visit and pray in an Islamic mosque, in Damascus, Syria. He visited Umayyad Mosque, where John the Baptist is believed to be interred.

In September 2001 amid post-September 11 concerns, he traveled to Kazakhstan, with an audience of largely Muslims, as well as Armenia, to participate in the celebration of the 1700 years of Christianity in that nation.

He visited Kenya, in 1995 and fluently said Mass in Nairobi in Kiswahili, Kenya's national language and East Timor where, also fluently, he said Mass in Indonesian.

Relations with other religions

Pope John Paul II traveled extensively and came into contact with believers from many divergent faiths. He constantly attempted to find common ground, both doctrinal and dogmatic. At the World Day of Prayer for Peace, held in Assisi on October 27, 1986, more than 120 representatives of different religions and Christian denominations spent a day together with fasting and praying.[25]


Pope John Paul II had good relations with the Anglican Church, referred to by Paul VI as "our beloved Sister Church". He preached in Canterbury Cathedral during his visit to Britain, and received Archbishops of Canterbury with friendship and courtesy. However, John Paul II was greatly disappointed by the Anglican Church's decision to offer the sacrament of priestly ordination to women and saw it as a step in the opposite direction from unity between the Anglican Church and Roman Catholicism.


Relations between Catholicism and Judaism improved during the pontificate of John Paul II. He spoke frequently about the Church's relationship with Jews.

As a child, Karol Wojtyła had played sports with his many Jewish neighbors. In 1979 he became the first Pope to visit the Nazi Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where many of his countrymen (mostly Polish Jews) had perished during the German Nazi occupation. He also became the first pope known to have made an official papal visit to a synagogue, when he visited the Synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986.

In 1994, in honor of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, Pope John Paul II hosted "The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust." This concert, which was conceived and conducted by American Maestro Gilbert Levine, was attended by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the President of Italy, and survivors of the Holocaust from around the world.

In March 2000, John Paul II visited Yad Vashem, (the Israeli national Holocaust memorial) in Israel and later made history by touching the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, placing a letter inside it (in which he prayed for forgiveness for the actions against Jews in the past).[26] In October 2003 the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement congratulating John Paul II on entering the 25th year of his papacy.

Immediately after the pope's death, the ADL issued a statement that Pope John Paul II had revolutionized Catholic-Jewish relations, saying that "more change for the better took place in his 27 year Papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before." (Pope John Paul II: An Appreciation: A Visionary Remembered).

 Eastern Orthodox Church

In May 1999, John Paul II visited Romania on the invitation from Patriarch Teoctist of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was the first time a pope had visited a predominantly Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism in 1054. On his arrival, the Patriarch and the President of Romania, Emil Constantinescu, greeted the Pope. The Patriarch stated, "The second millennium of Christian history began with a painful wounding of the unity of the Church; the end of this millennium has seen a real commitment to restoring Christian unity."

John Paul II visited other heavily Orthodox areas such as Ukraine, despite lack of welcome at times, and he said that an end to the Schism was one of his fondest wishes.

The Pope had also said throughout his pontificate that one of his greatest dreams was to visit Russia, but this never occurred. He had made several attempts to solve the problems which arose over a period of centuries between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, such as giving back the icon of Our Lady of Kazan in August 2004. However, the Russian Orthodox Church never expressed much enthusiasm, making statements to the effect of: "The question of the visit of the Pope in Russia is not connected by the journalists with the problems between the Churches, which are now unreal to solve, but with giving back one of many sacred things, which were illegally stolen from Russia." (Vsevolod Chaplin).


Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama and the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism, visited Pope John Paul II eight times, more than any other single dignitary. The Pope and the Dalai Lama often shared similar views and understood similar plights, both coming from peoples affected by communism and both being heads of religious bodies.


On May 6, 2001, Pope John Paul II became the first Catholic pope to enter and pray in an Islamic mosque. He visited Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria, where John the Baptist is believed to be interred, and gave a speech including the statement: "For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and to offer each other forgiveness." [12] He also famously kissed the Quran in Syria [13], an act which made him popular amongst Muslims.

In 2005, Pope John Paul II hosted the "Papal Concert of Reconciliation," which brought together leaders of Islam with leaders of the Jewish community and of the Catholic Church at the Vatican for a concert by choirs from Poland, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Turkey with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. The event was conceived and conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine, KCSG and was broadcast throughout the world.

The tomb of John Paul II


The tomb of John Paul II

The Pope for youth

John Paul II had a special relationship also with Catholic youth and is known by some as The Pope for Youth. Before he was pope he used to camp and mountain hike with the youth. He still went mountain hiking when he was pope. He was a hero to many of them. Indeed, at gatherings, young Catholics, and conceivably non-Catholics, were often fond of chanting the phrase "JP Two, We Love You", and occasionally John Paul would reply "JP Two, He Loves YOU!" He was particularly concerned with the education of young future Priests, and made many early visits to Roman seminaries, including to the Venerable English College in 1979.

He established World Youth Day in 1984 with the intention of bringing young Catholics from all parts of the world together to celebrate their faith. These week-long meetings of youth occur every two or three years, attracting hundreds of thousands of young people, who go there to sing, party, have a good time and deepen their faith. Some of his most faithful youths gathered themselves in two organizations: "papaboys" and "papagirls."


Over the later parts of his reign, John Paul II made several apologies to various peoples that had been wronged by the Catholic Church through the years. Even before he became the Pope, he was a prominent supporter of initiatives like the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops from 1965. During his reign as a Pope, he publicly made apologies for over 100 of these wrongdoings, including:

  • The persecution of the Italian scientist and philosopher Galileo Galilei in the trial in 1633 (October 31, 1992).
  • Catholic involvement with the African slave trade (August 9, 1993).
  • The Church Hierarchy's role in burnings at the stake and the religious wars that followed the Protestant Reformation (May 1995, in the Czech Republic).
  • The injustices committed against women in the name of Christ, the violation of women's rights and for the historical denigration of women (July 10, 1995, in a letter to "every woman").
  • Inactivity and silence of some Catholics during the Holocaust (March 16, 1998).
  • For the execution of Jan Hus in 1415 (December 18, 1999 in Prague). When John Paul II visited Prague in 1990s, he requested experts in this matter "to define with greater clarity the position held by Jan Hus among the Church's reformers, and acknowledged that "independently of the theological convictions he defended, Hus cannot be denied integrity in his personal life and commitment to the nation's moral education." It was another step in building a bridge between Catholics and Protestants.
  • For the sins of Catholics throughout the ages for violating "the rights of ethnic groups and peoples, and [for showing] contempt for their cultures and religious traditions". (March 12, 2000, during a public Mass of Pardons).
  • For the sins of the Crusader attack on Constantinople in 1204. (4 May 2001, to the Patriarch of Constantinople).
  • For missionary abuses in the past against indigenous peoples of the South Pacific (November 22, 2001, via the Internet).
  • For the massacre of Aztecs and other Mesoamericans by the Spanish in the name of the Church.

Social and political stances

John Paul II was considered a conservative on doctrine and issues relating to reproduction and the ordination of women. No pope, however, has strayed from the Catholic Church's unbroken moral teachings on artificial contraception and the ordination of women.

A series of 129 lectures given by John Paul during his Wednesday audiences in Rome between September 1979 and November 1984 were later compiled and published as a single work entitled "Theology of the Body," an extended meditation on the nature of human sexuality. He also extended it to condemnation of abortion, euthanasia and virtually all uses of capital punishment, calling them all a part of the "culture of death" that is pervasive in the modern world. He campaigned for world debt forgiveness and social justice.

Relations with dictatorships

In 1984 and 1986, through the voice of Cardinal Ratzinger, leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, John Paul II officially condemned the Liberation theology which had many followers in South America. Oscar Romero's attempt, during his visit to Europe, to obtain a Vatican condemnation of El Salvador's regime, denounced for violations of human rights and its support of death squads, was a failure. In his travel to Managua, Nicaragua in 1983, John Paul II harshly condemned what he dubbed the "popular Church" (i.e. "ecclesial base communities" (CEBs) supported by the CELAM), and the Nicaraguan clergy's tendencies to support the leftist Sandinistas, insisting instead on the Vatican's sole and only authority.

John Paul II was criticized for visiting Augusto Pinochet in Chile. He invited him to restore democracy, but, critics claim, not in as firm terms as the ones he used against communist countries. John Paul also allegedly endorsed Pío Cardinal Laghi, who critics say supported the "Dirty War" in Argentina and was on friendly terms with the Argentinean generals of the military dictatorship, allegedly playing regular tennis matches with general Jorge Rafael Videla. However, the Pope has been linked to the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier's dictatorship in Haiti. He was also critical of the Chinese government and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association running the church and appointing bishops without the consent of the Holy See, and maintained strong ties with underground Catholic groups.

The pope, who began his papacy when the Soviets controlled his native country of Poland, as well as the rest of Eastern Europe, was a harsh critic of communism, and supported the Polish Solidarity movement. Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev once said the collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II.[27]

In later years, after having harshly condemned Liberation theology, John Paul II criticized some of the more extreme versions of capitalism.

Jubilee 2000 campaign

In 2000 he publicly endorsed the Jubilee 2000 campaign on African debt relief fronted by Irish rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono. It was reported that during this period, U2's recording sessions were repeatedly interrupted by phone calls from the pope, wanting to discuss the campaign with Bono.

Iraq war

In 2003 John Paul II also became a prominent critic of the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq. In his 2003 State of the World address the Pope declared his opposition to the invasion by stating, "No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity."[28] He sent former Apostolic Pro-Nuncio to the United States Pío Cardinal Laghi to talk with American President George W. Bush to express opposition to the war. John Paul II said that it was up to the United Nations to solve the international conflict through diplomacy and that a unilateral aggression is a crime against peace and a violation of international law.

European Constitutional Treaty

In European Union negotiations for a new European Constitutional Treaty in 2003 and 2004, the Vatican's representatives failed to secure any mention of Europe's "Christian heritage"—one of the Pope's cherished goals.


The pope asserted that persons with homosexual inclinations possess the same inherent dignity as everybody else, while taking a traditional position on sexuality, defending the Church's moral opposition to homosexual marriage. In his last book, Memory and Identity, he referred to the "pressures" on the European Parliament to permit homosexual "marriage". In the book, as quoted by Reuters, he wrote: "It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man."

The Pope also reaffirmed the Church's existing teaching on gender in relation to transsexuals, as the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which he supervised, made clear that transsexuals could not serve in church positions.

Theory of evolution and the interpretation of Genesis

See also: Evolution and the Roman Catholic Church.

In an October 22, 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed the Church's openness to the theory of evolution:

"In his encyclical Humani Generis (1950), my predecessor Pius XII has already affirmed that there is no conflict between evolution and the doctrine of the faith regarding man and his vocation, provided that we do not lose sight of certain fixed points....Today, more than a half-century after the appearance of that encyclical, some new findings lead us toward the recognition of evolution as more than an hypothesis. In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies -- which was neither planned nor sought -- constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory." (John Paul II, Message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on Evolution)

In the same address, the Pope rejected any theory of evolution that provides a materialistic explanation for the human soul:

"Theories of evolution which, because of the philosophies which inspire them, regard the spirit either as emerging from the forces of living matter, or as a simple epiphenomenon of that matter, are incompatible with the truth about man."

John Paul II also wrote to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences on the subject of cosmology and how to interpret Genesis:

"Cosmogony and cosmology have always aroused great interest among peoples and religions. The Bible itself speaks to us of the origin of the universe and its make-up, not in order to provide us with a scientific treatise, but in order to state the correct relationships of man with God and with the universe. Sacred Scripture wishes simply to declare that the world was created by God, and in order to teach this truth it expresses itself in the terms of the cosmology in use at the time of the writer. The Sacred Book likewise wishes to tell men that the world was not created as the seat of the gods, as was taught by other cosmogonies and cosmologies, but was rather created for the service of man and the glory of God. Any other teaching about the origin and make-up of the universe is alien to the intentions of the Bible, which does not wish to teach how heaven was made but how one goes to heaven." (Pope John Paul II, October 3, 1981 to the Pontifical Academy of Science, "Cosmology and Fundamental Physics")

Statue of Pope John Paul II, Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid


Statue of Pope John Paul II, Catedral de la Almudena, Madrid


John Paul II was criticized from the left for his support of the Opus Dei prelature and the canonization of its founder, Jose María Escrivá, whose detractors call him an admirer of Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. Other prelatures and congregations went decidedly under his wing (Legion of Christ, Catecumenos, Schoenstatt, Carismáticos, etc.) and he was accused repeatedly of waving a soft hand on them, especially in the case of Rev. Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legion of Christ.[29]

John Paul II's steadfast defence of traditional moral teachings of the Catholic Church regarding gender roles, sexuality and artificial contraception came under attack, often from the left. Some feminists criticized his traditional positions on the roles of women, which included rejecting women priests. Many gay-rights activists criticized him for upholding the Church's unbroken moral opposition to homosexual acts and its modern-day application to the concept of same-sex marriage. Claims were made that John Paul II's papacy spread an unproven belief that condoms do not block the spread of HIV; many critics have blamed this for contributing to AIDS epidemics in Africa and elsewhere in which millions have died.[30] Critics have also claimed that large families are caused by lack of contraception and exacerbate Third World poverty and problems such as street children in South America.

In addition to all the criticism from those demanding modernization, traditional Catholics sometimes denounced him from the right, demanding a return to the Tridentine Mass and repudiation of the reforms instituted after the Second Vatican Council, such as the use of the vernacular language in the formerly Latin rite Mass, ecumenism, and the principle of religious liberty. He was also accused by these critics as allowing and appointing liberal bishops in their sees and thus silently promoting Modernism, which was firmly condemned as the "synthesis of all heresies" by his predecessor Pope St. Pius X. In 1988, the controversial traditionalist Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre, founder of the Society of St. Pius X (1970), was excommunicated by the Pope after the unapproved ordination of four bishops, which was called by the Holy See a "schismatic act". The International Peace Prayer Conference John Paul II held in Assisi, Italy, in 1986 was heavily criticized as giving the impression that syncretism and/or indifferentism were openly embraced by the papal magisterium. When the second instance the Conference was held, in 2002, it was condemned as confusing the laity and compromising to "false religions". Likewise criticized were his kissing of the Quran in Damascus, Syria, on one of his travels on May 6, 2001 - (a thorough analysis). His call for religious freedom was not always supported; bishops like Antônio de Castro Mayer promoted religious tolerance, but at the same time rejected the Vatican II principle of religious liberty as being liberalist and already condemned by Pope Pius IX in his Syllabus errorum (1864) and at the First Vatican Council.

John Paul II was also criticized for failing to respond quickly enough to the sex abuse crisis, and for recentralizing power back to the Vatican following what some viewed as a decentralization by Pope John XXIII. As such he was regarded by some as a strict authoritarian. Conversely, he was also criticized for spending far too much time preparing for and undertaking foreign travel. The frequency of his trips, it was said, not only undermined the "specialness" of papal visits, but took him away from important business at the Vatican and allowed the Church, administratively speaking, to drift.

There was some criticism of the pope for the controversy surrounding the alleged use of charitable social programs as a means of converting people in the Third World to Catholicism.[31][32] The Pope created an uproar in the Indian subcontinent when he suggested that a great harvest of faith would be witnessed on the subcontinent in the third Christian millennium.[33]

Because of the many criticisms he received during this lifetime, including many assassination attempts, and due to the downfall of many of his detractors in contrast with his posthumous fame and respect, John Paul II has been called by some theologians a sign of contradiction (a sign that is spoken against), a term which John Paul II suggests in his book of the same title as "a distinctive definition of Christ and of his Church."


  • John Paul II's apostolic motto was Totus Tuus ("totally yours"); he borrowed the motto from the Marian consecrating prayer of Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort.
  • John Paul II was the first Pope to have a letter (the letter 'M' for Mary) in his coat of arms.
  • According to a New York Post article of February 19, 2002, John Paul II personally performed three exorcisms during his tenure as pope. The first exorcism was performed on a woman in 1982. His second was in September 2000 when he performed the rite on a 19-year-old woman who had become enraged in St Peter's Square. A year later, in September 2001, he performed an exorcism on a 20-year-old woman.
  • The John Paul II International Airport (IATA: KRK), in Balice, Poland, near Kraków where he served as Archbishop before being elected Pope, was named in his honor.
  • In 2004 he received an extraordinary Charlemagne Award of the city of Aachen, Germany.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters visited Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in November of 2000 and named the Pontiff an Honorary Harlem Globetrotter.
  • The action-thriller novel, Red Rabbit (2002) by Tom Clancy, detailed a fictional KGB attempt to assassinate a newly elected Polish Pope, who, though only mentioned by the name "Karol", is obviously supposed to be John Paul II.
  • On March 23, 1999, John Paul II released his debut CD "Abbŕ Pater".
  • John Paul II has been featured on at least seven popular albums in his native Poland. Most notably singer/songwriter Stanislaw Sojka’s 2003 album, “Jan Pawel II -- Tryptyk Rzymski”, a ten-track collection of the Pope's poems set to music, reached No. 1.[34]
  • In 2003, his death was incorrectly announced by CNN when his pre-written obituary (along with those of several other famous figures) was inadvertently published on CNN's web site due to a lapse in password protection.
  • In 2004 John Paul II met members of the Polish National Football Team. It was at this time he told Liverpool Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek that he was a keen fan of his and followed Liverpool whenever they played.
  • John Paul II is considered as the " protector " of Fluminense Football Club among supporters of this traditional Brazilian football team.One of the team's most famous chants is "A Bęnçăo, Joăo de Deus" ("Bless us, John of God"), a song that was composed in honour of the pope John Paul II on his first visit to Brazil in 1980. The tradition is that Fluminense fans spontaneously started singing the famous song when the team was to decide the 1980 state championship on a penalty shootout against their arch-rivals Vasco da Gama. Fluminense won the championship.
  • John Paul II is the eighth most admired person by U.S. citizens in the 20th century, according to Gallup.
  • John Paul II was an avid football player in his youth and later became an honorary member of FC Barcelona and Schalke 04. He was a goalkeeper.
  • His favorite football team had always been Cracovia Krakow, whose games he attented while living in Krakow,
  • Polish Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica drives in a helmet with the "Jan Pawel II" inscription,
  • John Paul II sent the first papal e-mail in 2001.[35]
  • Solar eclipses took place both on the day he was born, and the day of his funeral.[36]
  • In 2004, Ferrari made a special F1 car for the pope to celebrate his 26th anniversary as the pontiff.
  • '... He's met / The Dalai Lama, / Fidel Castro, / Yasser Arafat, / Crossing borders and boundaries / Guarded not always by the Swiss guards...' from the poem Karol Józef Wojtyła by Mediterranean poetess, Beatrice Lao.
  • John Paul II is the only Pope that appears as a main character in his own comic book and animation feature.[37]
  • John Paul II, when meeting Bono and Bob Geldof during their visit famously asked to try on Bono's trademark Fly sunglasses, leading to one of the most enduring and personal images of his life.
  • In 1988, when the Pope delivered a speech to the European Parliament, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley, shouted "I renounce you as the antichrist!" and held up a poster reading "POPE JOHN PAUL II ANTICHRIST". The Pope continued with his address after Paisley was ejected from the auditorium.[38][39][40][41]
Main article: Denunciation of Pope John Paul II by Ian Paisley
  • John Paul II (as portrayed by an actor) featured at the climax of the hit 1992 film Sister Act.
  • A popular story in chess circles states that a certain Karol Wojtyła had published a chess problem in 1946. Although the young Wojtyła was indeed an accomplished chess player, the story of this publication appears to be a hoax whose roots were uncovered by Tomasz Lissowski.


Books, Poetry, Films, Media on Pope Paul II


Ioannes Paulus II Peninsula on Livingston Island in the South Shetland Islands, Antarctica is named for Pope John Paul II in recognition of his outstanding contribution to world peace and understanding among people.

Pope John Paul II Drive in Chicago is named in his honor because he visited that city.

There is a Pope John Paul II park in Boston, Massachusetts.[48]

Joăo Paulo II Airport in Ponta Delgada, Azores, Portugal is named in his honor because he visited that city.

The Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C. is named for and dedicated to him, as is Krakow's international airport.

John Paul II Square in Sofia was named for him on the occasion of his visit to Bulgaria in 2002.

He is probably Poland's most known contemporary figure and is even now being called Pope John Paul II The Great. Philosophers and theologians influenced by him include-among countless others: his successor, Pope Benedict XVI, Jurgen Habermas, John Haas, Andrew Greeley, Rocco Buttiglione, Hans Köchler, George Weigel, Scott Hahn, Mary Beth Bonacci, Deirdre McQuaide, Antoinette Bosco, Hans Kung, Yves Congar, Avery Dulles, SJ, John J. Myers, Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke, Joseph Bernardin, Francis Cardinal George, O.M.I., Timothy M. Dolan, Edward Egan, John O'Connor, Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz, Christoph Schonborn, Stanislaw Dziwisz, Franciszek Macharski, Josef Glemp, Peter-Hans Kolvenbach, S.J., Paolo Dezza, Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Oscar Romero, Mother Theresa, Walter Kasper, Michael Fitzgerald, Jean-Marie Lustiger, Andre Vingt-Trois, and Elio Sgreccia.

Map indicating countries Pope John Paul II visited.


Map indicating countries Pope John Paul II visited.

In Paris, the place du Parvis-Notre-Dame (french for "Notre-Dame square") was renamed Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II ("Notre-Dame - John Paul II square").

References and Notes

Wiki Source

Pope John Paul II
Papal succession
Born: May 18, 1920
Religious Posts
Preceded by
Eugeniusz Baziak
Archbishop of Kraków
Succeeded by
Franciszek Macharski
Preceded by
Pope John Paul I
Succeeded by
Pope Benedict XVI

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