Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pope Saint John Paul II

Pope St John Paul II (1920-2005)
We celebrate today for the first time the liturgical feast of a new saint. Certainly the Man of the 20th century, Pope Saint John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18th, 1920 in Poland and became the first non-Italian Pope in almost 400 years. Also known as John Paul the Great, he reigned from October 16th, 1978 until his death on April 2nd, 2005. He was the second longest-serving Pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX who served for nearly 32 years from 1846 to 1878.
As a young boy, he lost his mother at the age of 8 and his father when he was 21. He even had to work at a limestone quarry, but then started his studies at the underground seminary run by Cardinal Sapieha in Krakow. He was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946, and after further studies, he ended up teaching at the Jagiellonian University. He was made a bishop on July 4, 1958 and later became Archbishop of Krakow on June 26, 1967. He remained very staunch to his faith in Poland, even when he became a Cardinal 3 years later. His election as Pope was a big surprise as Pope John Paul I died suddenly after 33 days, and the trend was to elect Italian Popes, but the white smoke showed that a new Pope was chosen on October 16, 1978, aged 58, relatively young for a Pope. 

The day he was elected Pope, October 16, 1978
At the balcony he waved to the thousands gathered in the Piazza and  said “the cardinals have called for a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a faraway land — far and yet always close because of our communion in faith and Christian traditions. I was afraid to accept that responsibility, yet I do so in a spirit of obedience to the Lord and total faithfulness to Mary, our most Holy Mother.”
John Paul II is recognized as helping to end Communist rule 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. He upheld the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, supported the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, and in general held firm to orthodox Catholic stances.

He was one of the most traveled 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 canonized 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. He was very much devoted to the Blessed Mother, well respected in his native Poland, especially with the famous Black Madonna, and he even chose his motto as Totus Tuus, “Totally Yours,” even with the letter M on his coat-of-arms.
John Paul II's cause for canonization commenced in 2005 one month after his death with the traditional five-year waiting period waived. His successor Pope Benedict XVI beatified him on May 1st 2011 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to him, the healing of a French nun from Parkinson's disease. A second miracle, attributed to the late pope, was approved and confirmed by Pope Francis two days later. John Paul II was canonized on 27 April 2014, alongside Pope John XXIII.

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