John Paul II
John Paul II (Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II, Polish: Jan Paweł II) born Karol Józef Wojtyła (May 18, 1920, Wadowice, Poland – April 2, 2005, Vatican City) reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City from October 16, 1978, until his death more than 26 years later, making his the second-longest pontificate in modern times after Pius IX's 31-year reign. He is the only Polish pope, and was the first non-Italian pope since the (Low) German Adrian VI in the 1520s.
The official title of John Paul II, as recognized by the Roman Catholic Church was: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of Saint Peter, Head of the College of Bishops, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Patriarch of the West (this title was recently removed from the papal list of titles by the reigning pope, Benedict XVI), Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the City State of the Vatican, Servant of the Servants of God Pope John Paul II.
His early reign was marked by his opposition to communism, and he is often credited as one of the forces which contributed to its collapse in Eastern Europe. In the later part of his pontificate, he was notable for speaking against war, fascism, dictatorship, materialism, abortion, contraception, relativism, unrestrained capitalism, and what he deemed the "culture of death".
John Paul II was Pope during a period in which Catholicism's influence declined in developed countries but expanded in the Third World. During his reign, the pope traveled extensively, visiting over 100 countries, more than any of his predecessors. He remains one of the most-traveled world leaders in history. He was fluent in numerous languages: his native Polish and also Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Croatian, Portuguese, Russian and Latin. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he canonized a great number of people.
In 1992, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. On April 2 2005 at 9:37 p.m. local time, Pope John Paul II died in the Papal Apartments while a vast crowd kept vigil in Saint Peter's Square below. Millions of people flocked to Rome to pay their respects to the body and for his funeral. The last years of his reign had been marked by his fight against the various diseases ailing him, provoking some concerns as to leadership should he become severely incapacitated/vegetative, and speculation as to whether he should abdicate. On May 9 2005, Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II's successor, waived the five year waiting period for a cause for beatification to be opened.
Relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church
Relations with Romania
In May 1999, John Paul II visited Romania on the invitation of his Beatitude Teoctist, the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was the first time a Pope had visited a predominantly Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism. On his arrival, the Pope was greeted by Patriarch Teoctist and Romanian President Emil Constantinescu. The Patriarch stated, "The second millennium of Christian history began with a painful wounding of the unity of the Church; the end of this millennium has seen a real commitment to restoring Christian unity."
On May 9, the Pope and the Patriarch each attended a worship service conducted by the other (an Orthodox Liturgy and a Catholic Mass, respectively). A crowd of hundreds of thousands of people turned up to attend the worship services, which were held in the open air. The Pope told the crowd, "I am here among you pushed only by the desire of authentic unity. Not long ago it was unthinkable that the bishop of Rome could visit his brothers and sisters in the faith who live in Romania. Today, after a long winter of suffering and persecution, we can finally exchange the kiss of peace and together praise the Lord." A large part of Romania's Orthodox population has shown itself warm to the idea of Christian reunification.
Relations with Greece
Two years later, in 2001, John Paul II became the first Pope to visit Greece in almost 1300 years, since the visit of Pope Constantine I (r. 708-715) in 710. The visit was controversial, and the Pontiff was met with protests and snubbed by Eastern Orthodox leaders, none of whom met his arrival.
In Athens, the Pope met with Archbishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Greece. After a private 30-minute meeting, the two spoke publicly. Christodoulos read a list of "13 offences" of the Roman Catholic Church against the Orthodox Church since the Great Schism, including the pillaging of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204. He also bemoaned the lack of any apology from the Roman Catholic Church, saying that "until now, there has not been heard a single request for pardon" for the "maniacal crusaders of the 13th century."
The Pope responded by saying, "For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us forgiveness," to which Christodoulos immediately applauded. John Paul also said that the sacking of Constantinople was a source of "deep regret" for Catholics.
Later, John Paul and Christodoulos met on a spot where Saint Paul had once preached to Athenian Christians. They issued a "common declaration," saying, "We shall do everything in our power, so that the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be preserved ... [w]e condemn all recourse to violence, proselytism and fanaticism, in the name of religion." The two leaders then said the Lord's Prayer together, breaking an Orthodox taboo against praying with Catholics.
However, during the visit the Pope avoided any mention of Cyprus, still a source of tension between the two faiths.
Relations with other Orthodox countries
John Paul II visited other heavily Orthodox areas such as Ukraine, despite lack of welcome at times, and he said that an end to the Schism was one of his fondest wishes.
With regard to the relations with the Serbian Orthodox Church, Pope John Paul II could not escape the controversy of the involvement of Croatian Catholic clergy with the Ustasa regime of World War II. He beatified WWII-time archibishop of Zagreb, Alojzije Stepinac, in 1998, the Croatian war-time archbishop of Zagreb, convicted for colaboration with Croatian Ustašas fascist regime in 1946. This move was seen negatively by Serbian Church and Serbian people. On June 22, 2003, he visited Banja Luka in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a main city of Serbian Orthodox population in Bosnia. He held a Mass at the Petrićevac monastery. It's friars participated in killing Serbs during the World War II (most notorius of them was Fra Miroslav Filipović Majstorović). Orthodox Bishop of Banja Luka Jefrem refused to attended the Mass because Pope did not express his regreat. They met later that day."
The Pope had also been saying during the entire pontificate that one of his greatest dreams was to visit Russia, which never actually happened. He had made several attempts to solve the problems which arose during centuries between the Roman Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church, like giving back the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in August 2004. However, officials of the Church of Russia were not that enthusiastic, giving statements like: "The question of the visit of the Pope in Russia is not connected by the journalists with the problems between the Churches, which are now unreal to solve, but with giving back one of many sacred things, which were illegally stolen from Russia." (Fr. Vsevolod Chaplin). There were also statements saying that the icon which was returned was one of four copies made of the original icon, which is still in an unknown location.
Orthodox Perspectives on his life and work
- Holding on to all that humanity can mean - Thomas Hopko, International Herald Tribune Monday, April 18, 2005 (Alternate link)
- The Great Unifier: Pope John Paul II - Jaroslav Pelikan, NY Times (Original link)
- Russian Orthodox Official Hopeful for a Prompt Beatification: A Great Pope, Bishop Hilarion Says of John Paul II - Zenit News, April 5, 2005
- Memories of the Pope - Jeffery A. Johnson (A parishioner of St. Thomas Antiochian Orthodox Church, Sioux City, Iowa)
- "World mourns Pope John Paul II," CNN, (accessed April 13 2006).
- http://www.robinsonlibrary.com/philosophy/denominations/catholic/history/johnpaul2.htm Pope John Paul II, The Robinson Library]
- RESPONSE OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE CAUSE FOR BEATIFICATION AND CANONIZATION OF THE SERVANT OF GOD JOHN PAUL II
John Paul II
John Paul I
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