Pope John Paul II
The Servant of God Pope John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II), born Karol Józef Wojtyla (May 18, 1920 – April 2, 2005), reigned as pope of the Catholic Church for almost 27 years, from 16 October 1978 until his death, making his the third-longest reign in the history of the Papacy.
He is sometimes referred to as Pope John Paul the Great. On 13 May 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II’s successor, waived the five year waiting period for a cause for beatification to be opened. The official process for beatification began in the Diocese of Rome on June 28, 2005.
Pope John Paul II’s reign innovated in many ways. He was the first non-Italian to reign since the 16th century. His early reign was marked by his opposition to Communism, and he is often credited as one of the forces which brought about the fall of the Soviet Union. In other domains, he advocated socially conservative values such as opposition to abortion and promoting the “sanctity of marriage”, but also economically progressive ones such as an emphasis on social justice and the fight against poverty.
During his reign, the pope travelled extensively, visiting over 100 countries, more than any of his predecessors. He canonized more people than all popes before him put together. During his reign Catholicism’s decline continued in developed countries but it expanded in the Third World. Pope John Paul II was extremely popular worldwide, attracting crowds of millions during many of his travels, and being respected by many even outside of the Catholic Church, despite strident criticism over his controversial stances, a disparity of views that has led some to call him a sign of contradiction.
At first known as “God’s athlete” due to his sports manlike attitude and athletic build, the 1981 attempt on his life had a lasting impact on his vigour. He never fully recovered, and the years afterward were marked by slow decline. In the late 1990s, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. On 2 April 2005, Pope John Paul II passed away. The last years of his reign had been marked by his fight against the various diseases ailing him, provoking some concerns that he should abdicate, but in retrospect his determination was widely seen as an exemplary display of courage.
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