April 4, 2005

Karol Józef Wojtyła (1920-2005), Pope John Paul II (1978-2005)

May 18, 1920 – Born at Wadowice, Poland
November 1, 1946 – Ordained as priest
1958 – Named auxiliary Bishop of Krakow
December 30, 1963 – Appointed Archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI
1965-69 – Participated in the Second Vatican Council
1967 – Named Cardinal by Pope Paul VI
August 1978 – Participated in the Conclave that elected Pope John Paul I.
October 16, 1978 – Elected pope, the first non-Italian in 455 years.

Pope John Paul II reigned the third longest pontificate in history of the Catholic Church.
Reportedly canonized and beatified more persons than all his predecessors put together.
According to the New York Post, the Pope performed three exorcisms: to a woman during 1982, on a 19-year old teen on St. Peter’s Square last September 2000, and on September 2001, to a twenty year old woman.
An airport in Balice, Poland, near Krakow was named for him.
Received the Charlemagne Award (in 2004, the award is awarded by the city of Aachen, Germany to persons who contributed to the European idea and European peace.
The first country he visited during his pontificate was Mexico on 1979. The ;ast was on Lourdes, France August 14-15, 2004. He visited Poland 9 times, France 8 times, the United States 7 times and the Philippines twice. The pope has visited 127 countries in 104 pastoral visits, the more than all of the previous popes put together.
The largest mass presided by a Pope was on the World Youth Day in Manila. Organizers expected one million pilgrims, but four million people turned out, a papal record.
Visited the Royal and Pontifical University of Santo Tomas, the Catholic University of the Philippines twice, on 1981 and 1995.

Italians were somewhat dismayed when they finally saw the new pope. He was not Italian, and has was referred by many as “a man from a far country.” In fact, he came from “behind” the Iron Curtain, in Poland, a Soviet satellite state.

Location was an important factor. The Italian cardinals temporarily suspended an election of a non-Italian pope when a compromise candidate, Albino Luciani (John Paul I). But with the unexpected (some allege shady) death of Pope John Paul I, the second conclave of the year was promulgated. The two Italian cardinals who were “papabili” (or in a crude English translation, popepable, or candidate for the papacy), Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, and Giovanni Cardinal Benelli. As with the previous conclave, a compromise candidate was needed, and with a dearth of uncontroversial Italian cardinals at that time, Karol Wojtyla was chosen, using the name “John Paul II” out of reverence to his predecessor.

His efforts to make the papacy more humane (a move initiated by John Paul I), alienated some quarters. Yet this move made him a worldwide superstar. His weekly audiences were in layman’s terms, “sellouts” (though it was free). The loosening of the regality of the papal office was seen by some as the humanizing of the Catholic Church itself.

However, he was staunchly conservative, or orthodox, in a Christian sense, on major social and political issues. He opposed abortion, euthanasia (with some exceptions), contraception, capital punishment (the death penalty), homosexuality (an intrinsic moral evil), same-sex marriage (attempts to pit human rights against family and man), war (he actively opposed Gulf Wars I and II), and liberation theology.

His stance on liberation theology was the issue of contention nearest at the heart of the Catholic Church. He criticized the over-emphasis on the “political liberation”, instead of “spiritual liberation.” This arrangement takes the church out of the loop.

Another issue near the heart of the Catholic Church is his opposition in the ordaining of female priests. In this time and age of feminism, female presidents, Prime ministers and monarchs, the pope still opposes the ordination of women, and he even refuses to acknowledge the Anglican Church (the Church of England), a church that ordains women (by a very close vote, if I may add).

The Pope took the recent child molestation scandals (a la Michael Jackson) of Catholic priests with great sadness. He verbally reprimanded the erring priests, with Rome staying away, as the Vatican refused to bail out individual dioceses.

The Pope was also outspoken on several political issues. He pressured former Philippine president Ferdinand Marcos to lift martial law or else he won’t visit the country. Lo and behold, the former strongman of the archipelagic republic lifted (at least in words) martial law. In 1981, the Pope visited the Philippines for the first time, as a Pope.

He threatened to abdicate the throne of St. Peter to pressure the Polish communists to allow Solidarity (the labor union opposing the communists) to operate freely. His anti-communism stance was seen by many as his greatest political achievement. The fall of communism could have happened without him, but through the Pope, it came quicker. Solidarity was legalized, the Berlin Wall fell, and Communism was in shambles by the start of the 1990s.

He was adjudged as the “pilgrim pope.” Instead of demanding every Catholic to make the pilgrimage to Rome, he himself reached out to the people. Taking advantage of the available breakthroughs in technology (jet travel, satellite TV), he had reached more people than anyone else living. This outstanding feat made him more endeared by the people, the people’s pope, as they say. He brought Rome to the people.

And for a lot of people, seeing the Pope was a once in a lifetime moment. People flocked his appearances, and he addressed hundreds of thousands of people in a single meeting. The largest papal mass was held in Manila during the 1995 World Youth Day. Organizers expected one million, yet four to five million people arrived to hear the mass. The love of the people was so overwhelming. Seeing him was the nearest way of seeing God.

His tolerance of other religions is so remarkable, that he was the first pope to recognize the State of Israel. Previous Popes pronounced Jews as the reason on the crucifixion of Christ. And with that pronouncement, anti-Semitism became so widespread. As a matter of fact, Pope John XXIII was seen by many to have committed the sin of omission by refusing to speak against Hitler’s extermination of the Jews during World War II.

During his Millennium pilgrimage to the Holy Land, a matter of contention of three Abrahamic religions: Christianity, Islam and Judaism, he brought together the sons of Abraham closer than anyone has imagined doing. He was deeply sorry for the mistakes of the Roman Catholic Church have made against the Jews. His visit to the National Holocaust Memorial evoked memories of the War. He made peace with the Jews. And that made a point of no return with the church’s relationship with the Jews.

However, the day before that, he went to the archenemies of the Israelis: the Palestinians. He visited a concentration camp where Yasser Arafat. He brought hope to the Palestinians as he supported the ideals of a Palestinian nation, side by side with Israel.

While Judaism and Islam are “external” religions, an “internal” religion – that of the Greek Orthodox Church needed some good fixing. And on 2001, after 1,291 years, a Pope (the Western church) visited Athens, Greece. No Eastern Orthodox leaders greeted him at his arrival. Black flags were seen in Athens as defiance to papal authority.

The Pope met with Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens. The Archbishop said that the Roman Catholic Church has not been heard a single request for pardon for the "maniacal crusaders of the 13th century. The Pope responded by saying "For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us forgiveness," to which Christodoulos immediately applauded.

The rift between the East and West has never been closer.

Pope John Paul II led the church in its crossroads (as a matter of fact, the Church is perpetually in its crossroads). In unstable times he helped shaped the church as a potent political force not only in Europe but the whole world as well. He drew the lines where the church can’t cross, and he carved the future of church. The changes he made helped bring back the people who left the church due to the changes of Vatican II. Those reforms would long outlive the current century.

He brought the church to the people. His unbelievable quest to touch every household, of any faith, did not only introduce Christ, but brought hope to the people with no hope. Calamity victims sought to him as the shining light at the end of the tunnel. His works against the “Culture of Death” may alienate some, but it shows Catholicism’s unwavering fight against unjust death. A pacifist to the core, he fought for the civilians who’d be at the first line of fire. His death marked the end of an era, not only to the Roman Catholic Church, but to the whole world as well.

Viva il papa! May God bless him, as St. Peter waits at the gates of heaven, God’s servant has now entered the Kingdom of God. Yet, he stays at the hearts of everyone he has touched forever.

Pope John Paul II, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
List of pastoral visits of Pope John Paul II outside Italy
USTExchange: John Paul II: The Configuration of a Living Saint.

1 comment:

  1. Very well said Howard. he was indeed a great man. . . .


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