This crisis of civilization must be countered by the civilization of love, founded on the universal values of peace, solidarity, justice and liberty, which find their full attainment in Christ. - John Paul II, Tertio Millennio Adveniente
Karol Wojtyla was elected pope on October 16th, 1978. This year, we celebrate the 43rd anniversary of his Pontificate.
John Paul II’s Pontificate was one of the longest pontificates in the two millennia of Christian history. “Due to its importance, the pontificate of John Paul II cannot be forgotten… We remember that the works he did for the world, for the Church, for Europe, for Central and Eastern Europe, for Poland are unforgettable works,” according to the Archbishop of Warsaw, Kazimierz Nycz.
John Paul II impacted enormously the fate of the world and the Church. His greatness derived not only from its significant, historical achievements, but mainly from his teaching and acting, which opened up new venues for the Church.
The Polish pope contributed to his saintly mission the experiences of a man, writer, priest, professor, and bishop. As philosopher, he was capable of professional and systematic reflection, in particular at the crossroads of Thomism and phenomenology, augmented with a literary and theological vision. This conjunction bore fruit in unsurpassable achievements.
John Paul II changed radically the form of the papacy on the threshold of the 21st century and the third millennium of Christianity.
He turned the papal office back toward its evangelical roots. He published 14 encyclicals, 15 exhortations, 13 apostolic constitutions, and 45 apostolic letters. His pontificate was extraordinary also as far as the number of beatifications and canonizations.
The Pope breathed a new life in this eldest institution of in the world, the Church, through his pilgrimages, private records, homilies, books, speeches, and meetings with the powers that be. He was most probably a gifted statesman, and most certainly a saintly pope, who pilgrimaged nearly everywhere in the world.
Each pope has brought his own style to the Church. John Paul II’s way was to go out to the people. He welcomed the believers from every corner of the world during general audiences with millions of pilgrims, and other occasions either in Rome or across the globe.
John Paul II had intense devotion to Mary, Mother of God. Totus Tuus became a motto of his Pontificate.
There is no universal and exhaustive list of all the achievements and deeds of the Polish Pope. There is also no single key to his mystery.
However, undoubtedly, hope was one of the most important ones.
“I am here before you as a witness: a witness to human dignity, witness of hope, witness of certitude that the fate of each nation rests in the hands of merciful Providence,” said John Paul II at the United Nations in 1995.
Any recollection would be incomplete without a mention of his literary output, including theatrical plays.
Indeed, His entire pontificate constituted a great theater. His high school friend Halina Kwiatkowska wrote: “I believe that … his theatrical experience gave him his strong voice and magnificent diction, shaped his beautiful sense of gesture, taught him to appreciate the value of a pause, toned down in his homilies later.”
Karol Wojtyla’s wisdom, sense of humor, distance to his own sickness and weakness, involvement in saving humanity, defending religious freedom, defeating the evil of Communism, and his entire personality, dictated a new kind of understanding of his papal office.
Is that all about the Holy Father? Of course not.
Through his suffering he wrote the most beautiful encyclical. We read his pain in it with tears into our eyes.
Text “was transparent and clear for both the mighty and the humble of the world, and to those vivacious in their youth and those with temples covered in gray, and even those standing apart from the Church.”
The media recorded “the suffering Pope: extremely expressive, hopelessly straightforward, harrowingly painful, and inspiringly heroic.”
Who was the Pole of Wadowice when he became Pope?
Andre Frossard, French author and journalist, pointedly concluded: “This man ‘bringing peace’ believed in people to such a degree – including in joining even with those who wanted to harm him – that he could ignite in them a desire to trust people. And he believed in God to such an extent that he returned to them, perhaps, a desire of such faith as he himself felt. This is the way the Pope is. The records of the Holy See, the crowds, and the newspapers call him John Paul II, but the name that Christ gave him is Peter.”
Time flies and John Paul II injures unforgettable. His famous encouragement that comes from his homily in 1978, still remains valid for all people round the world: “Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. To His saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization, and development.”
Monika Jablonska is an author of "Wind from Heaven: John Paul II, The Poet Who Became Pope." Her next book on Saint John Paul II is forthcoming in 2021. She is a lawyer and a literary scholar living in Washington D.C. Read Monika's Reports — More Here
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