Blessed John Paul II: The most beloved Pope

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Saturday, April 30, 2011

WHEN Pope Benedict XVI approved a miracle attributed to Pope John Paul II, it cleared the way for the late pontiff’s beatification, the final step before sainthood. The Vatican announced that the beatification ceremony will take place in Rome on this Sunday, May 1, 2011. The Vatican likewise waived the normal five-year waiting period to begin a sainthood cause, on account of what it described as the “imposing fame for holiness” enjoyed by John Paul II during his life.

The Philippines was blessed with the coming of Pope John Paul II in 1981. Here in Bacolod City, we all awaited his coming whether we had any roles or not. Just the glimpse of the charming Pope left a memory so indelibly etched in our minds.

I could never forget that when Pope John Paul II passed, my son Luigi’s yaya who is a Protestant was jumping and crying. I was truly amazed with that.


In 1995, he blessed us again with another visit but this time in Manila for the World Youth Day. Pope John Paul II was very attached to children and the youth and established the World Youth Day. During his pontificate, he brought millions of young people all around the world for 19 World Youth Days.

Pope John Paul II was born Karol Jozef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland in May 18, 1920. Nicknamed Lolek, he was the youngest of three children. A month before his First Communion, his mother died. He became very close to his father, a non-commissioned army officer, with whom he prayed and read the Bible.

As a young man, he enjoyed sports like soccer, skiing, swimming, kayaking in Poland’s Swaka River and had a great love for the outdoors. At a boy’s school, he studied German, Latin and Greek. He later on became fluent in eight languages and was adept in 13 languages.

He enrolled in drama and loved the theatre. No wonder he was so at home with his audience globally. He was called the Beatle Pope because of the John (Lennon) and Paul (MaCarthy) connotation. He was also called the Superstar Pope because of his magnetic presence which could instantly draw a following. He had command of his audience and used that gift to evangelize and to convert. No wonder Luigi’s yaya was an instant convert.

When German tanks invaded Poland and all throughout World War II, he worked as a laborer in a quarry and in a chemical factory but studied theology in secret. Continuing his studies after the war, he was ordained a priest in 1946. By 1964, he was Archbishop of Krakow and three years after became a Cardinal.

Karol Wojtyla was an unexpected choice for a Pope when elected in 1978 at the age of 58, the 263rd successor to the Apostle Peter. He was the first non-Italian in 450 years so he was not considered “in the box”. He took the name John Paul II and the rest is history. He has one of the longest history of the Pontificate which lasted almost 27 years.

He dedicated all his energy to pastoral ministry. He made 104 pastoral visits outside Italy and 146 within Italy. As Bishop of Rome, he visited 317 of the city’s 333 parishes as well as monasteries, convents, hospitals, prisons, universities, seminaries, rest homes and schools. But not content with just limiting his mission in Rome, he had visited 129 countries around the globe starting in 1979 until 2004. Only physical illness deterred him from reaching as many souls as possible.

He was an active Pope who met with numerous government personalities he encountered during 38 official visits, 738 audiences and meetings with Heads of State and 246 meetings with Prime Ministers.

But aside from successfully encouraging dialogue with the Jews and with representatives of other religions, whom he invited to prayer meetings for peace, he wrote many important Church documents which included 14 encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions and 14 Apostolic Letters.

He organized 15 Assemblies of Synod Bishops; expanded the College of Cardinals and called six full meetings of the College of Cardinals. He gave extraordinary impetus to canonizations and beatifications, celebrating 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 Blesseds and 51 canonozations for a total of 482 saints.

He made St. Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church. He promulgated the Cathechism of the Catholic Church in the light of Tradition interpreted by the Second Vatican Council.

A busy but profound Pope, he published five books of his own.

During his Pontificate, Pope John Paul II expanded the number of nations which the Holy See has diplomatic relations from 85 countries to 174 countries in 2005. These include the United States, the European Union, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and most of the nations of the former Communist block, as well as achieved mutual diplomatic recognition with Israel. In addition, he established the “relations of a special nature” with the Russian Federation and the Palestinian Liberation Union.

Despite all the good Pope John Paul II accomplished, on May13, 1981, he was shot in St. Peter’s Square by a Turkish national. He attributed his survival to the Blessed Mother. After a long recovery, he met the gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, and offered forgiveness.

Pope John Paul II lived a long and vigorous life, surviving many events and health problems. However, on April 2, 2005, while Saturday was drawing to a close and on the octave of Easter Sunday and the Feast of the Divine Mercy, the Beloved John Paul II joined HIS LORD and SAVIOR at the age of almost 85 years.

It is believed that more than 3 million mourning pilgrims came to pay homage to the mortal remains of the Beloved Pope. This Sunday, the Feast again of the Divine Mercy, for sure there will be more than 3 million pilgrims who will come and be present for Pope John Paul’s beatification.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on April 30, 2011.


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