Pope John Paul II, the head of the Roman Catholic Church, was a global religious leader whose youth and enthusiasm made him unique. His conservative stance and popularity made him one of the most influential Popes in modern times.
1. Official Titles
John Paul II’s official titles included “Bishop of Rome and Vicar of Christ”, “Successor of Saint Peter”, “Prince of Apostles”, “Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church”, “Patriarch of the West,” “Primate of Italy”, “Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province,” and “Sovereign of Vatican City.” In the United States John Paul II’s titles included “Holy Father” and “Supreme Pastor of the Church.”
2. A Survivor
Pope John Paul II survived numerous accidents and an assassination attempt. During the German occupation of Poland, when John Paul was just a young man, he was hospitalized twice. After becoming pope, he suffered severe wounds when he was shot by Mehmet Ali Agca in May, 1981, as he entered St. Peter’s Square to address an audience. In 1992, he had a benign intestinal tumor removed. In 1993, he fell in Vatican quarters and injured his shoulder. In 1994, he broke his femur in another fall.
3. 1st Non-Italian Pope in 455 Years
Pope John Paul II was the first Slav to head the Roman Catholic Church, the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years and the youngest Pope in a century. Before his ordination as a priest, he was a member of an experimental theater group, a stonecutter, a published poet and a chemical company boiler-tender. He has one of the most interesting biographies among all the Popes.
No other Pope traveled as extensively as Pope John Paul II mainly because previous popes had little opportunity or means to visit other countries. Previous Popes were not alive during the time of mass air travel. The ability to travel via air combined with the fact that John Paul II was in excellent health made it easy for him to travel overseas. Some of the largest public gatherings the world has ever seen were at John Paul II’s sermons in other countries. His world travels have taken him to 117 countries and every continent excluding Antarctica.
5. Youngest Pope in the 20th Century
Although Pope John Paul II was by no means the youngest ever Pope, at age fifty-eight, he was the youngest Pope to be elected in the 20th century and the youngest since Pius IX who was elected in 1846, at age fifty-four. Following the sudden death of the previous Pope, John Paul’s youth and vitality made him well received. In his youth, John Paul played soccer as a goalie, took daring swims in the flooded Swaka River and enjoyed skiing, hiking, mountain climbing and kayaking.
6. Conservative Views
John Paul II took a conservative stance regarding women being ordained as Roman Catholic priests. Although he was not completely opposed to war for any reason, he believed it to be a ’last resort’ and therefore disapproved of the 2003 war in Iraq. He believed that homosexuals should be treated with “respect, compassion and sensitivity”, but considered homosexuality to be an “objective disorder”. Other issues on which he expressed strong criticism were abortion, contraception and euthanasia, saying these were part of “the culture of death”. His views were summed up in his papal encyclical “Veritas Splendor” (The Shining of Truth), in which he wrote, “What is popular may not always be good”.
7. Marvel Comics
In 1983, Marvel Comics published a Pope biography. No other Pope is known to have been portrayed in a comic book.
The “Popemobile” is a term coined by the media to describe the Pope’s car. The walls were made of tall bulletproof glass which was introduced following the 1981 assassination attempt. It allowed for the Pope to both be seen by his admirers and protected from other possible assassins.
9. 2nd Longest Reigning Pope
With the exception of St. Peter, only one other pope, Pius IX, reigned longer than John Paul II.
10. Highly Revered
Pope John Paul II was highly revered by Catholics worldwide. Worshipers would go to extremes to try to get tickets for his tour’s four Papal Masses.