Blessed John Paul II - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

Last edited 5th November 2012

Blessed John Paul II - WYD2013 Patron of the Week

John Paul II also called John Paul the Great, was born Karol Józef Wojtyla on the 18 May 1920, in Poland. He reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was the second-longest serving Pope in history.

John Paul II was acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion.
Though criticised by progressives for upholding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, and by traditionalists for his support of the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, he was also widely praised for his firm, orthodox Catholic stances.

He was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries.

A key goal of his papacy was to transform and reposition the Catholic Church. His wish was "to place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great religious armada". On the 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on the1st of May 2011.

During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II made trips to 129 countries travelling more than 1,100,000 kilometres whilst doing so.

He consistently attracted large crowds; some amongst the largest ever assembled inhuman history, such as the Manila World Youth Day, which gathered up to 4 million people, the largest Papal gathering ever, according to the Vatican.

Whilst he was Pope he wrote 14 papal encyclicals and taught about "The Theology of the Body".

In the year 2000, he publicly endorsed the Jubilee 2000 campaign on African debt relief fronted by Irish rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono, and famously interrupted a U2 recording session by telephoning the studio and asking to speak to Bono.

Pope John Paul II travelled extensively and met with believers from many divergent faiths. Pope John Paul II made considerable efforts to improve relations between Catholicism and Islam on the 6th of May 2001, Pope John Paul II became the first Catholic pope to enter and pray in a mosque.

Also Pope John Paul ll did great things to improve the relationship between Buddhism and Catholicism, Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, visited Pope John Paul II eight times, more than any other single dignitary. The Pope and the Dalai Lama held many similar views and understood similar plights, both coming from nations damaged by communism and both serving as heads of major religious bodies.

Relations between Catholicism and Judaism also improved during the pontificate of John Paul II. He spoke frequently about the Church's relationship with the Jewish faith. In 1979, John Paul II became the first pope to visit the German Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where many of his compatriots (mostly Polish Jews) had perished during the Nazi occupation in World War II. In 1998 he issued "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah" which outlined his thinking on the Holocaust. He became the first pope known to have made an official papal visit to a synagogue, when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome in1986.

In 1994, John Paul II established formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, acknowledging its centrality in Jewish life and faith. In honour of this event, 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 national Holocaust memorial in Israel, and later made history by touching one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, placing a letter inside it (in which he prayed for forgiveness for the actions against Jews).

In part of his address he said: "I assure the Jewish people the Catholic Church... is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place", he added that there were "no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust".

Israeli cabinet minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, who hosted the Pope's visit, said he was "very moved" by the Pope's gesture.

In an interview with the Polish Press Agency, Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, said that never in history did anyone do as much for Christian-Jewish dialogue as Pope John Paul II, adding that many Jews had great respect for the late pope. Schudrich praised John Paul II for condemning anti-Semitism as a sin, which no previous pope had done.

On the13 May 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by an assassin named Mehmet Ali Agca, in 1983; John Paul II visited Agca in prison. John Paul II and A?ca spoke privately for about twenty minutes. When asked by the press about what they spoke about 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.?

On Saturday 2 April 2005 John Paul II spoke his final words, "Let me depart to the house of the Father".

The Mass of Requiem on the 8th of April was said to have set world records both for attendance and number of heads of state present at a funeral.

It was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, Four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended alongside the faithful. It is likely to have been the largest single pilgrimage of Christianity ever, with numbers estimated in excess of four million mourners gathering in Rome.

We will finish this podcast on John Paul ll with one of his quotes:

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness; He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you; He is the beauty to which you are so attracted; it is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness that will not let you settle for compromise; it is He who urges you to shed the masks of a false life; it is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices, the choices that others try to stifle.

"It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives, the will to follow an ideal, the refusal to allow yourselves to be ground down by mediocrity, the courage to commit yourselves humbly and patiently to improving yourselves and society, making the world more human and more fraternal.”

Grant me, through your intercession, the grace to win the hearts of true friends like you were to young people! Amen.

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