“We, Poles, owe especially a lot to John Paul II”

Source: Republic of Poland in English

Forty years ago, on October 16, 1978, Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected to the papacy, adopting the name John Paul II. He was the 264th pope and the first non-Italian pope in 456 years.Regarded as one of the major players in the overthrow of communism in Eastern Europe, John Paul II is also remembered for his many reassuring words to the Polish people in their final years under communism. John Paul II is held to have helped end communist rule in his native Poland and subsequently all of Central and Eastern Europe.

Photo by: PAP/Tomasz Prażmowski 

John Paul II’s over 26-year pontificate was marked by many changes, the most notable of which included his strivings to bring the papacy closer to common people as well as unite different religions. He especially pursued closer ties to Judaism and Islam, and is remembered for achieving visible progress in inter-religious dialogue.

One of his main goals was to transform the Catholic Church, which he expressed by the wish “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”.

During his pontificate, John Paul II issued 14 encyclicals, 14 adhorations, 11 apostolic constitutions and 43 apostolic letters, he also nominated 240 cardinals, including 5 from Poland, and 2,500 bishops, and canonised 478 saints, including 10 from Poland.

During his 104 foreign journeys, John Paul II often visited the sick and poverty-stricken, he also held frequent meetings with young people worldwide. He was also a committed mediator for peace, especially in major conflicts.

John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, a month and a half before his 85th birthday, prompting a spontaneous world-wide surge of mourning. He was canonised by Pope Francis in 2014.

President Andrzej Duda in a letter marking the anniversary wrote: “We, Poles, owe especially a lot to John Paul II. His words encouraged us during the struggle for freedom and were a signpost for us in the difficult process of building an independent state,”

The president recalled that Karol Wojtyła took office “during a difficult moment of history, when our world was plunged into the darkness of the Cold War and divided by the Iron Curtain”, but thanks to “his unwavering faith, he remained a man of extraordinary courage, which he made the guiding slogan from the first day of his pontificate.”

Andrzej Duda thanked John Paul II for what he did for Poland and the whole world. “I am deeply convinced that his election as pope was one of the most important events of the 20th century: Saint Pope John Paul II will forever remain a model of patriotism and humanity rooted in the world of Christian values,” he stressed. (PAP)