ou are probably aware that Pope John Paul II was the second oldest pope in modern history with 27 years of pontificate, and he was the first non-Italian pontiff since Dutch Pope Adrian VI in 1523. But did you know? you that he changed the Catholic Church forever during these 27 years? Here are five reasons why:
1. He contributed to the fall of communism in 1989 in Eastern Europe.
The official pope biographer George Weigel, who for decades chronicled the pope’s engagement with civic leaders, noted that the way Pope John Paul II influenced the political landscape was enormous. His political influence is best seen in how his engagement with world leaders contributed to the downfall of the USSR
Just days before President Ronald Reagan called Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down” the Berlin Wall, he met the Pope. According to historian and author Paul Kengor, Reagan went so far as to call Pope John Paul II his “best friend”, believing that no one knew his soul better than the Polish pontiff who had also suffered an assassination attempt and carried the burden of the world. direction.
In 38 official visits and 738 audiences and meetings held with heads of state, John Paul II influenced civic leaders around the world in this epic battle with a regime believed to ultimately be responsible for the deaths of over 30 million of people.
âHe saw himself as the universal pastor of the Catholic Church, dealing with sovereign political actors who were as subject to universal moral law as anyone else,â Weigel said.
âHe was willing to take risks, but he also appreciated that prudence was the greatest political virtue. And I think he was highly respected by world political leaders because of his transparent integrity. His essential attitude towards these men and women was: How can I help you? What can I do to help? “
More than anything, John Paul II understood his role primarily as a spiritual leader.
According to Weigel, the Pope’s main impact on the business world has been his central role in creating the revolution of consciousness that began in Poland and swept through Eastern Europe. This revolution of consciousness inspired the nonviolent revolution of 1989 and the collapse of communism in Central and Eastern Europe, an astonishing political achievement.
2. He beatified and canonized more saints than any predecessor, making holiness more accessible to ordinary people.
One of John Paul II’s most enduring legacies is the large number of saints he recognized. He celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1338 blessed, as well as 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints. This is more than the combined tally of its predecessors over the previous five centuries.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta is perhaps the best-known contemporary of John Paul II who is now officially a saint, but the first saint of the new millennium and particularly dear to John Paul II was St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish compatriot who received the message of Divine Mercy.
“Sr. The canonization of Faustina has a particular eloquence: by this act, I intend today to transmit this message to the new millennium”, he declared in the homily of her canonization. âI pass it on to all men, so that they may learn to know better and better the true face of God and the true face of their brothers. “
Pier Giorgio Frassati, whom Pope John Paul II beatified in 1990 and nicknamed “the man of the beatitudes”, is another popular saint brought up by the Polish Pope who liked to recognize the holiness of simple people living the call to holiness with extraordinary fidelity. At the time of his death, the 24-year-old Italian was just a student with no extraordinary achievements. But his love for Christ in the Eucharist and in the poor was elevated by John Paul II as heroic and worthy of imitation.
It should be noted that Pope Francis would later surpass John Paul II when he proclaimed 800 Italian holy martyrs in a single day.
3. He transformed the papal travel program.
John Paul II visited some 129 countries during his pontificate – more countries than any other pope had visited until then.
He also created World Youth Days in 1985 and chaired 19 as pope.
Weigel says that John Paul II understood that the Pope must be present to the people of the Church, wherever they are.
“He chose to do it through these long journeys, which he insisted were not journeys, but pilgrimages,” Wegel said.
âHe was the successor of Peter, on a pilgrimage to various parts of the world, from the Church. And that is why these pilgrimages have always been built around liturgical events, prayer, adoration of the Holy Eucharist, ecumenical and interfaith gatherings, all of this was part of a pilgrimage experience.
In the second half of the 20th century – a time of enormous social change and upheaval – John Paul II’s long journeys and the proclamation of the Gospel to the ends of the earth were just what the world needed, a Weigel said.
4. He transformed the teachings of the Church.
John Paul II was a scholar who promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 1992, reformed the codes of eastern and western canon law during his pontificate, and wrote 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions and 45 apostolic letters.
This is why Weigel says that the Church has only really begun to unwrap what he calls the “magisterium” of John Paul II, in the form of his writings and his intellectual influence.
For example, John Paul’s body theology remains hugely influential in the United States and around the world, although Weigel says even that has yet to be unboxed.
5. He gave new life to the Catholic Church in Africa.
The legendary evangelical fervor of John Paul II caught fire in Africa.
He had a special friendship with the Beninese cardinal Bernadin Gantin, and visited Africa on several occasions. His visits would inspire a generation of JPII Catholics in Africa as well as in other parts of the globe.
âJohn Paul II was fascinated by Africa; he considered African Christianity to be alive, a kind of New Testament experience of the freshness of the Gospel, and he was very eager to support and uplift it, âsaid Cardinal Gantin.
âIt was very interesting that at the two Synods on Marriage and the Family in 2014 and 2015, some of the strongest defenses of the Church’s classical understanding of marriage and the family came from African bishops. Some of them are first and second generation Christians, deeply formed in the image of John Paul II, whom they consider to be a model bishop, âsaid Gantin.
âI think everywhere you look in the Church world, the living parts of the Church are those that have accepted the Magisterium of John Paul II and Benedict XVI as the authentic interpretation of Vatican II. And the dying parts of the Church, the dying parts of the Church are those parts that have ignored this Magisterium.
John Paul II’s influence in Africa and around the world transformed the world. It also forever transformed the Church.