John Paul II For Dummies, Special Edition - John Trigilio - ebook

John Paul II For Dummies, Special Edition ebook

John Trigilio

29,99 zł


Find out how two extraordinary leaders changed religion and theworld In April 2014, Pope Francis will jointly canonize twopredecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII, in a move thatrecognizes the extraordinary accomplishments of these leaders ofthe Catholic faith. An estimated 1 million people filled St.Peter's Square and the surrounding streets for John Paul II'sbeatification, and the joint canonization will attract even more.With John Paul II For Dummies, Special Edition youcan learn more about these admired religious leaders and joinmillions of devotees in celebrating their lives and legacies.You'll get an in-depth look at John Paul II's remarkable life andachievements and learn more about the beloved John XXIII in a bonuschapter. With this special edition e-book written in friendly, plainEnglish, you'll discover how John Paul II's deep religiousconvictions affected world politics, history, and the Catholicfaith. You'll be introduced to his influences, his personalstruggles, the way he impacted the Church, and his methods forspreading his powerful message. Catholics and non-Catholics alikewill find the stories of these holy men fascinating andinspiring. * Introduces you to the lives and legacies of both John Paul IIand John XXIII * Presents you with the struggles, influences, and approaches toworld politics of John Paul II, whose actions had a great impact onhistory * Includes a bonus chapter that details the life of John XXIII,who will be canonized along with John Paul II in April 2014 * Written in an engaging, accessible style and a great read forCatholics and non-Catholics alike John Paul II For Dummies, Special Edition is your guideto discovering the exemplary lives of two rare and extraordinarymen who have influenced generations of people all over theworld.

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About the Authors

Rev. John Trigilio, Jr., PhD, ThD: A native of Erie, Pennsylvania, Father Trigilio serves as the pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel (Marysville, Pennsylvania) and St. Bernadette Catholic Churches (Duncannon, Pennsylvania). He is the President of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy and Executive Editor of its quarterly journal, Sapientia magazine. Father Trigilio is a co-host of two weekly TV series on the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN): Web of Faith and Crash Course in Catholicism. He also serves as a theological consultant and online spiritual advisor for EWTN. He was listed in Who’s Who in America in 1993 and Who’s Who in Religion in 1999 and is a member of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Harrisburg (Pennsylvania) in 1988.

Rev. Kenneth Brighenti, PhD: A native of New Britain, Connecticut, Father Brighenti serves as pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church (Raritan, New Jersey). He is the Managing Editor of Sapientia magazine, a member of the Board of Directors for the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy, and is co-host of Crash Course in Catholicism, a weekly TV series on EWTN. Father Brighenti also served as a U.S. Naval Reserve Chaplain for ten years and was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Metuchen (New Jersey) in 1988. He and Father Trigilio co-authored Catholicism For Dummies (2003), The Everything Bible Book (2004), and Women in the Bible For Dummies (2005).

Rev. Jonathan Toborowsky, MA: A native of Port Reading, New Jersey, Father Toborowsky serves as Parochial Vicar of St. Mary Catholic Church (Alpha, New Jersey). He is the host and moderator of Proclaim the Good News, a weekly radio show, and an online theological advisor for Ave Maria Single Catholics Online. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Metuchen (New Jersey) in 1998.


This book is dedicated in memory of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, whom we firmly believe and trust will one day be proclaimed John Paul the Great and Doctor of the Church (the Luminous Doctor, just as St. Thomas Aquinas was known as the Angelic Doctor and St. Bonaventure as the Seraphic Doctor). Although his beatification and canonization are within the hands of Almighty God and the current reigning pope, like many of the faithful, we are confident that these, too, will eventually happen in time as per Divine Providence. Each one of us owes a great debt of gratitude for the example, inspiration, and model of priestly sanctity, personal piety, and pastoral love John Paul lived and expressed throughout his priesthood and pontificate. We grew up with heroes like the courageous astronauts who landed on the moon and the honest athletes who showed good sportsmanship, but when we became adults, the temptation to cynicism arose thanks to scandals, dishonor, deceit, and disgrace, which infected sports, politics, and even some within religion itself. Then, when it seemed as if a dark shadow of malaise had permeated every institution from church to state, God sent us a priest, prophet, and shepherd — a wise man from the East (at least Eastern Europe), called Karol Wojtyła. His 26-year papacy, in its zeal, its orthodoxy, and its effect, inspired many of us to follow the “fisherman” and become priests. May the Good Lord reward Pope John Paul II for his great love and service and the sacrifices he rendered to save souls and to serve Holy Mother Church as the Servant of the Servants of God. We commend him in our prayers to the bosom of Our Lady, Queen of the Clergy and Mother of the Church, so she may escort him to her Son Whom he loved and served to the best of his ability.

We also commend this work to our current pope, Benedict XVI. As (Cardinal Ratzinger) a faithful friend, loyal servant and accomplished advisor, he served Pope John Paul II to the best of his abilities. As he now brings those same gifts to the Church as Vicar of Christ himself, we believe that the good work begun by JP2 will continue and flourish under B16.

This book is also dedicated in memory of our dear friend and colleague, Father James Pilsner, a priest of the Archdiocese of New York and member of the Board of Directors of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy as well as Treasurer of our organization, who passed away suddenly while we were writing this book. May Christ the High Priest give him eternal rest.

Authors’ Acknowledgments

We wish to thank the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center ( for their invaluable assistance and recommend that our readers visit this jewel in Washington, D.C., where you can experience the life, teachings, and papal ministry of Pope John Paul II. This facility is a resource of material and information on the most influential pope of modern times, if not since St. Peter himself. More than just an exhibit, the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center is a national treasure like the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which is just across the street, adjacent to Catholic University of America — well worth the visit any time you’re in the District of Columbia.

Finally, we would like to thank Rev. Robert J. Levis, PhD; Heather Dismore; Christopher Kaczor, PhD; Jessica Faust; Tracy Boggier; Joyce Pepple; and Elizabeth Kuball for their technical assistance.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

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John Paul II For Dummies, Special Edition

Table of Contents

About the Authors


Authors’ Acknowledgments

Publisher’s Acknowledgments



About This Book

Conventions Used in This Book

What You’re Not to Read

Foolish Assumptions

How This Book Is Organized

Part I: Getting to Know John Paul II

Part II: Continuing the Legacy of Others and the Traditions of the Church

Part III: Putting His Unique Stamp on the Papacy

Part IV: Embracing Modernity and Looking to the Future

Part V: The Part of Tens

Part VI: Appendixes

Icons Used in This Book

Where to Go from Here

Part I: Getting to Know John Paul II

Chapter 1: John Paul II: A Man for All Seasons

Being a Groundbreaker

The first Polish pope — and the first non-Italian in 455 years

The last pope of the 20th century — and the first pope of the 21st

Reaching out: Around the World, across religions, and to young people everywhere

Author, Author



Becoming a Philosopher-Theologian

Loving linguistics

Secretly studying philosophy

Wondering about a Sign of Contradiction

Revisiting His Legacy

A People’s Pope: John Paul the Great?

Chapter 2: Looking at the Landscape of JP2’s Life

Setting the Stage for the Rise of Totalitarianism

Witnessing the end of Victorian morals after the “Great War”

Rejecting democracy and liberalism

Failing with the Treaty of Versailles

Experiencing a worldwide depression

Taking Advantage of the Situation: Communism and Fascism (1920–1940)

Introducing the dictators

Spreading anti-Semitism

Taking War to a New Level: World War II (1939–1945)

Fighting a multifront war

Dropping the bomb

Feeling the Chill of the Cold War (1947–1991)

Dropping the Iron Curtain

Raising up the superpowers: The Soviet Union and the United States

Witnessing the space race

Throwing off the yoke of Communism

Looking at Other Cultural Forces of the Times

Chapter 3: Discovering the Man Who Would Be Pope

Growing from Humble Roots

Surviving Family Tragedy

The loss of his mother

The loss of his brother

The loss of his father

Being Successful at School

Facing His Own Mortality

Surviving an assassin’s bullet

Forgiving an enemy

Enduring declining health

Chapter 4: Identifying Early Influences in John Paul II’s Life’

Growing Up in a Country with a Rich Heritage

Practicing the faith: Catholic and traditional

Living with Jewish neighbors

Living Under Nazi Occupation

Outlawing higher education

Joining the underground theater as resistance to the Nazis

Deepening his spiritual life

Working hard at other jobs

Entering the underground seminary in 1942

Escaping Death

Surviving Communist Oppression

Chapter 5: Building the Foundation of His Thinking and Reasoning

Using Traditional Philosophy to Look at the World

Exploring the Theology of the Body

Identifying the meaning of the body in marriage

Understanding sexual pleasure and the theology of the body

Opening the Scriptures: Using the Bible

Part II: Continuing the Legacy of Others and the Traditions of the Church

Chapter 6: Tracing John Paul II’s Career

A Marian Man: His Early Devotion to the Virgin Mary

Hiking and Skiing with “Uncle Lolek”

Ordained priest 1946

Working with youth

Serving as a parish priest

Becoming a Philosopher

Receiving doctoral degrees

Becoming a professor and faculty member

Being a Shepherd (Bishop)

Participating in the Second Vatican Council

Implementing reforms in the diocese

Moving Up the Ranks

Becoming the archbishop of Krakow

Receiving the red hat: Cardinal Wojtyła

Electing a new pope: John Paul I

Wearing the Shoes of the Fisherman: Being Elected Pope

Chapter 7: Continuing the Council: Understanding Vatican II

What Was Vatican II?

A brief history of the Second Vatican Council

Identifying the effects of the Council

Speaking to the Council Fathers

Weighing in on divine revelation

Understanding the Catholic Church as a perfect society and Catholics as a pilgrim people

Expanding the responsibilities of the laity

Exploring religious freedom

Implementing the Reforms

Chapter 8: Holding the Line: Reinforcing Church Values, Teachings, and Traditions

Reaffirming Traditional Morality

Understanding papal infallibility

Discussing divorce and annulment

Counseling against artificial contraception

Simplifying sex and reproduction

Reiterating Church Doctrine

Rejecting the ordination of women

Weighing in on married clergy

Enforcing Discipline within the Clergy

Chastising priests in politics

Reprimanding dissident theologians

Excommunicating a bishop

Meeting New Challenges to the Faith

Believing in organ donation

Weighing in on stem-cell research

Facing the U.S. clergy sex-abuse scandal

Chapter 9: Defending a Civilization of Life versus a Culture of Death

Abhorring Abortion

Identifying his position

Understanding his impact

Insisting Against Euthanasia

Identifying his position

Understanding his impact

Seeing No Reason for Capital Punishment

Identifying his position

Understanding his impact

Hating War

Identifying his position

Understanding his impact

Part III: Putting His Unique Stamp on the Papacy

Chapter 10: Keeping Up to Date: Moving the Catholic Church into the Modern Era

Understanding the Pope as Lawmaker, Teacher, and Judge

Making the law

Teaching the flock

Acting as judge

Revising the Code of Canon Law (1983)

Identifying the changes

Understanding the impact

Revising the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992)

Identifying the changes

Understanding the impact

Reforming the Roman Curia (1984–1988)

Identifying the changes

Understanding the impact

Chapter 11: Internationalizing the Church: Making It “Catholic”

Visiting Other Nations

Canonizing Saints from All Over the World

Expanding the College of Cardinals

Chapter 12: Building Bridges: Reaching Out to Other Religions

Mending Millennial Fences: Catholics and Jews

Establishing diplomatic relations with Israel

Looking at bumps in the road

Taking Care of Family Business: Catholics and Protestants



Creating an Atmosphere for Dialog: Catholics and Muslims

Reaching out to Muslims of the world

Visiting a mosque

Trying to Heal the East-west Split: Catholicism and Orthodoxy

Visiting Turkey

Capitalizing on the collapse of Communism

Striving for one church

Asking for Forgiveness for Sins of the Past

Chapter 13: Slaying the Dragon: Helping to Defeat the Evil Empire

Recognizing How JP2 Dealt with the Communist Bloc

Working within the communist system

Waiting for the Polish government’s reaction to his election

Having a unique understanding of the system

Visiting the Homeland

The first papal visit as Pope John Paul II

Making subsequent journeys

Supporting Solidarity

Supporting the strikes from afar

Using the power of prayer

Chapter 14: Sanctifying the Saints and Saintly of the World

Quantifying the Prolific Pontiff

Revising the Process for Beatification and Canonization

Understanding the current process

Highlighting John Paul II’s reforms

Looking at Beatification and Canonization Ceremonies around the World

Chapter 15: Giving Hope to the Young: World Youth Day

How World Youth Day Began: John Paul 2, We Love You

Identifying the Themes, Places, and Times

First World Youth Day, 1984

Second World Youth Day, 1985

Third World Youth Day, 1987

Fourth World Youth Day, 1989

Fifth World Youth Day, 1991

Sixth World Youth Day, 1993

Seventh World Youth Day, 1995

Eighth World Youth Day, 1997

Ninth World Youth Day, 2000

Tenth World Youth Day, 2002

Entrusting the Future: Giving Confidence to Youth

Part IV: Embracing Modernity and Looking to the Future

Chapter 16: The Epic Visits of a Traveling Pope

Understanding the Scope of His Travels

Identifying Some Key Visits

Focusing on Evangelism (1979–1981)

Opposing Communism (1981–1989)

Resisting materialism (1989–2004)

Making a Jubilee Pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 2000

Chapter 17: A Media-Savvy Pope

Can You Hear Me Now? Using the Communications Tools at His Disposal

Read all about it! The Vatican newspaper and Vatican Information Service

The world press

Vatican Radio

Vatican TV

Author, author: JP2 breaks new ground

The Vatican Goes Live: Development of the Papal Web Site

Chapter 18: Exploring Sainthood

Santo Subito: The Fast Track for Sainthood

Standing the test of time

Removing the five-year waiting period

John Paul the Great

Living a Life of Heroic Virtue

Receiving the title “Servant of God”

Verifying that he’s “Venerable”

Interviewing witnesses

Beatifying John Paul II

Looking for a miracle

Evaluating the evidence

Receiving the title “Blessed”

Taking the Next Steps for Sainthood

Witnessing a second miracle

Receiving the title “Saint”

Chapter 19: Concerning the Future of the Papacy

Identifying the College of Cardinals

Understanding Conclave: The Papal Election Process

Meeting the New Pope, Benedict XVI

Looking at his childhood

Experiencing the Nazis firsthand

Serving time in the German army

Joining the priesthood

Moving up the ranks

Discovering his reputation

Identifying his goals

Figuring Out Where We’re Going from Here

Part V: The Part of Tens

Chapter 20: Ten (Or So) Reasons That Pope John Paul II Was Truly the “People’s Pope”

He Was Visible and Accessible

He Was Born a Common Man

He Was a Man of Hope

He Loved His Job — and It Showed

He Was Respectful

He Had Courage

He Loved Young People

He Practiced What He Preached

He Was a Man of Hope

Chapter 21: Ten Fun Facts about Pope John Paul II

Soccer Papa

Shoes of the Fisherman

JP2’s Summer School

Papal Threads

The Pope’s Pool

The Actor Pope and the Pope Actor

Pope on a Slope

Speaking in Tongues?

Walking the Walk

It’s Good to Be Pope

Chapter 22: Ten Important Papal Encyclicals of John Paul II

Redemptor Hominis (1979): On the Dignity of the Human Race and Its Redemption by Jesus Christ

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Laborem Exercens (1981): On the Spiritual Purpose and Sanctity of Human Labor

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Familiaris Consortio (1981): On the Value of the Christian Family in the Modern World

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Salvifici Doloris (1984): On the Christian Meaning of Suffering

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Redemptoris Mater (1987): On the Virgin Mary as Mother of the Redeemer (Jesus Christ) and Her Role in Salvation

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Ex Corde Ecclesiae (1990): On the Nature, Purpose, and Duties of a Catholic University

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Veritatis Splendor (1993): On the Basis and Foundation of Christian Morality and Ethics

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Evangelium Vitae (1995): On the Value and Inviolability of Each and Every Human Life

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Fides et Ratio (1998): On the Connection between Faith and Reason

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Ecclesia de Eucharistia (2003): On the Eucharist and Its Relationship to the Church

The key goals of the encyclical

The essential parts of the encyclical

Chapter 23: Ten Notable Beatifications and Canonizations of Pope John Paul II

St. Pio of Pietrelcina

St. Josemaria Escriva

St. Faustina

St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross

St. Katharine Drexel

St. Maximilian Kolbe

St. Rose Philippine Duchesne

Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha

Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

St. Juan Diego

Chapter 24: Ten Saintly Characteristics

Personal Holiness





Groundbreaking Trailblazers


Righteous Gentile



Part VI: Appendixes

Appendix A: A Brief Chronology of Pope John Paul II’s Life and Times

Appendix B: Travel Itinerary for John Paul II’s Papacy

Appendix C: A Look at the Life of Pope John XXIII

Connect with Dummies



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In the 20 centuries since Jesus Christ called Simon Peter to follow Him, there have been many popes. Some have been saintly and most others very ordinary men. A very few have been infamously notorious and guilty of every sin under the sun. Some of Peter’s successors have imitated that humble fisherman’s shame and awe in the face of his miraculous Lord and Savior. Others, filled with Peter’s faith, have bravely endured anguish and martyrdom to follow their Master to the last. Some pontiffs convened Ecumenical Councils to fight heresy and clarify doctrine. Some have worked for peace and been condemned for it. Some bishops of Rome have courageously saved their flock from destruction. Others have wielded Peter’s sword against the enemies of the Church. Some Holy Fathers made lasting contributions of insight and understanding to moral and doctrinal teachings. Others courageously corrected those who might have led Catholics astray. Some inspired magnificent works of art and architecture that continue to uplift the hearts of all human beings of good will.

In almost 2,000 years of popes, not many people have been so fortunate as to have lived during the papacy of one who would have a major influence on the history of the world and take his place among those who are called great even by those outside the Church. After all his dynamic pilgrimages and lucid encyclicals, his honored accomplishments in art and philosophy, his restoration of unity by strongly shepherding the manifold members of God’s people, Pope John Paul II, like St. Peter, ended his earthly journey having his belt tied by others who led him where he did not want to go. At the end of all this glory, we witnessed the sagging eyes and the drooping head of one who was led by illness and pain to endure the cross that his Master had predicted.

I commend Fathers Brighenti, Toborowsky, and Trigilio for their thorough, fair, honest, and candid look into the life, times, thought, and person of Pope John Paul II. This book is not a definitive biography like George Weigel’s Witness to Hope, but it is a wonderful introduction and appetizer to such a main course. These authors have done a terrific job in summarizing, analyzing, and explaining the man, Karol Wojtyła, and the pope, John Paul II, without resorting to myth and legend. Other books may expose some of his faults and shortcomings or actually sensationalize them by blowing them out of context. John Paul II For Dummies, Special Edition, is not a sanitized or saccharin product of propaganda; rather, it is a respectful, intelligent, and sensitive journey into the life, the mind, and the heart of a man who shaped history. Too often, modern biographers feel the need to “humanize” their subject by disclosing embarrassing details, highlighting rare acts of imprudence, or imputing motives. These prolific authors, by no means naïve, present just the facts of what John Paul said and did, leaving judgment where it belongs, with God and with history.

Glory, praise, and gratitude to Almighty God for this precious gift to the Church and to the world, whom we were blessed to have known as Pope John Paul II!

Rev. Monsignor James Cafone, STD Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Seton Hall University South Orange, New Jersey


When he died on April 2, 2005, three million people came throughout the next week to pay their respects by visiting his body. Six days after his death, 4 kings, 5 queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, more than 14 leaders of other religions, as well as 157 cardinals, 700 bishops, and 3,000 priests were present at the funeral Mass along with another quarter million faithful crammed into St. Peter’s Square. No other person in recent history has had such a tremendous display of respect, honor, and mourning over his life and death as was given to Pope John Paul II. Not only did the more than one billion members of the Catholic Church, which he shepherded for 26 years, grieve his death, but over 200 heads of state sent representatives or went themselves to his funeral.

You don’t get such a spectacular exit from this world unless you’ve done something during your life to merit the admiration and respect of so many. The fact that so many non-Catholics honored the man known as John Paul II attests to his effect on the world — and not just within his own religion.

Here are just few of the statistics that reinforce Pope John Paul II’s popularity:

He was the first pope in history to visit most of the nations he visited. He traveled 721,052 miles (1,160,421 km), or the equivalent of 31 consecutive trips around the globe, making pastoral trips to 129 countries and 876 cities.

Over the course of his papacy, he received 17.6 million visitors at 1,161 general audiences in his own backyard (actually, St. Peter’s Square or Pope Paul VI Hall) in Rome.

Hundreds of thousands of young people traveled halfway around the world to see him for International World Youth Days. This guy not only got around, he was very popular.

The first non-Italian pope in 450 years and the first Polish pontiff ever, Karol Wojtyła was elected Bishop of Rome and Supreme Pastor of the Catholic Church on October 16, 1978, and took the name Pope John Paul II. He was one of the youngest popes elected, at the age of 58, and had the third longest reign (26 years) from the long list of 266 people (from St. Peter to Benedict XVI) who have held that office.

Just the fact that so many people in the world knew who he was and what he stood for, even if some of them disagreed with him or did not share his principles and convictions, is a testimony to his influence on the world. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin once dismissively remarked, “How many divisions does the pope have?” Both Stalin and Hitler had no time for and showed no respect for Pope Pius XII during World War II, for either the man or the office. Though Pope John Paul II was not able to convert Mikhail Gorbachev or Fidel Castro, he did have the Communist leader of the U.S.S.R. visit him at the Vatican, and he was greeted by the Communist leader of Cuba when he landed in his country for a pastoral visit. Uncle Joe Stalin must have been spinning in his grave.

About This Book

This book is written for anyone and everyone, whether you are Catholic or Protestant; Christian, Jewish, or Muslim; Hindu, Buddhist, or Taoist; whether you are of the Shinto, Jainist, Sikh, Confucian, or Baha’i faiths; even if you are agnostic or atheist. Pope John Paul II may not have been the leader of your religion and you may not have agreed with every one of his positions, statements, policies, or decisions, but despite his philosophy and theology, he had an enormous impact on the entire world, and this book explains the impact he had.

Not only do you not have to be Catholic to appreciate or even just to be curious about John Paul II, you can read this book regardless of your faith affiliation or the religion you profess. We don’t sanitize the life of John Paul II — as others have done in the past with other historical figures, so that their lives are more myth than reality. Nor do we sensationalize his weaknesses and shortcomings, attacking the integrity and honor of a person who is no longer alive to defend himself. Instead, we give you an objective, concise, and pertinent overview of his life and the effect he had on the world, on history, and on the church he governed for more than a quarter-century.

This book will help you appreciate the background and roots of the man born and baptized as Karol Wojtyła, as well as his personal struggles and tragedies. We look at what shaped and formed the man, what he did and said before he became pope and as Pope John Paul II — including his numerous visits to foreign nations, his frequent World Youth Days, the prolific number of saints he canonized, the multitude of documents and letters he issued, and the impact his papacy had on the world, from the dissolution of the Soviet Union to defending life in the womb, in the hospital and nursing home, in the battlefield, and even in prison.

That said, this book is a reference, which means you don’t have to read it from beginning to end. You can use the table of contents and the index to find the information you’re most interested in at the moment, dipping into the book as you want to over time. Of course, if you want to read the book cover to cover, that’s no sin either!

Conventions Used in This Book

In this book, you’ll find different names referring to the same person. Karol Wojtyła was the name given to the man about whom this book is written. He was baptized with that name as an infant. We use the proper name Karol Wojtyła to refer to him in the days before he was pope. We refer to him as Pope John Paul II, John Paul, or JP2 when we’re referring to him during his pontificate, because that’s how he was known at that time.

Every pope of the Catholic Church is simultaneously the Bishop of Rome. The two offices are inseparable. But to keep it simple, we just refer to John Paul as pope. We don’t use his other titles — Vicar of Christ, Successor of St. Peter, Servant of the Servants of God, Patriarch of the West, Prince of the Apostles, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of Vatican City, Supreme Roman Pontiff, Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church, and His Holiness — to prevent confusion.

Catholic custom is to use the first two words of the original Latin text for any official document, whether a papal letter or a decree from an ecumenical council. We use that same convention and list Pope John Paul II’s encyclical letters as they can be found on the Internet or in any library or reference book. For example, Veritatis Splendor is Latin for “Splendor of Truth”; it’s also the name of a papal encyclical on morality and ethics. When we use these Latin titles, we usually include the English equivalent in parentheses.

Sacred Scripture and the Bible are synonymous terms in Catholicism, so either one refers to the same thing. We also alternate the use of adjectives like scriptural or biblical, but both mean the same thing: anything found in either the Old Testament or the New Testament.

To help you navigate through this book, we use the following conventions:

We use


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What You’re Not to Read

This book is a reference book, so as we mention earlier, you don’t have to read everything. Sidebars, which are text enclosed in a shaded gray box, give you information that’s interesting to know but not necessarily critical to your understanding of the chapter or section topic. You can skip them if you’re pressed for time, and still get the most important information. You can also skip any text marked by a Technical Stuff icon (see “Icons Used in This Book,” later in this Introduction for more information).

Foolish Assumptions

In writing this book, we made some assumptions about you:

You’re curious about this man who was pope for 26 years, who led over a billion followers, and who traveled around the world more than anyone else in human history.

You may not be a Catholic Christian, but you’re still intrigued by the faith and witness this man gave in the name of his God and for the service of his church.

You may be a Catholic who just wants to know more details about the life, background, ministry, and impact John Paul II had on the world as well as on the Church.

You may have no religious affiliation but you have respect and admiration for the man behind the office and want to know more about him as a person.

Either you grew up knowing no other pope than John Paul II or you remember the papacies of other popes before JP2.

How This Book Is Organized

This book comes in six parts, consisting of 23 chapters and 2 appendixes, but you can read any one you like and not have to worry if you didn’t read the previous chapters. We refer you to other parts of the book to make it easy for you to get a better appreciation and understanding, but each part and each chapter in those parts can work on its own.

Part I: Getting to Know John Paul II

In this part, we paint the landscape of Pope John Paul II — the background, context, and climate (social, political, and theological) of the place and time he lived. Before we look at the man and the pope, we examine the religious, philosophical, and historical scenery on which the portrait of the life of Karol Wojtyła would be painted. No one is born into an empty, sterile world with no past behind it; likewise, this man from Poland, who would one day become pope and leader of more than a billion Catholic Christians around the globe, was in a sense painted onto an already existing canvas we call life in the real world. This part gives you the origin of the man himself, especially before his ecclesiastical career as a priest, bishop, cardinal, and finally pope.

Part II: Continuing the Legacy of Others and the Traditions of the Church

Karol Wojtyła, the churchman, was unique but at the same time was like other popes, cardinals, bishops, and priests before him and after him as well. This part looks at his pontificate, as a whole, from the beginning of his vocation and seminary training to his priestly career and eventual papal ministry.

Like all popes, he was Supreme Pastor and shepherd of the Universal Church. That meant his job was to be the representative of Christ (literally, Christ’s vicar on Earth) to the Church and to the world. The priestly work of sanctifying the people of God with divine grace, the prophetic work of teaching them the faith, and the kingly office of governing and providing sound leadership are expected in the person who has been chosen to this awesome task.

This part examines the role of pope as teacher and as shepherd as he maintains connection and continuity with the past, while addressing the needs and concerns of the present and looking to the promise of the future.

Part III: Putting His Unique Stamp on the Papacy

What distinguishes Pope John Paul II from other popes, like Paul VI, John XXIII, and Pius XII? This part looks at how JP2 injected his own flavor into the papacy and wore it like a tailor-made suit. We examine his unique contributions and perspectives, his policies and programs, and other aspects that made an impact on the Church and the world, specifically because of his style and his leadership during his 26-year pontificate.

Part IV: Embracing Modernity and Looking to the Future

Although his theology, philosophy, and ethics were considered mainstream and orthodox (that is, consistent with what the official Roman Catholic Church has taught and held for ages), some have erroneously labeled John Paul II doctrinally conservative, morally traditional, and socially progressive. This part examines his use of the modern world, not in embracing its values but in using its technology to communicate his message. A man of his era, John Paul II utilized modern media, modern travel, and modern approaches (like appealing to the younger generation) in fulfilling his role as teacher and pastor of the Universal Church. Finally, we look at his legacy and what lies ahead for his successors, the popes who follow him.

Part V: The Part of Tens

In this part, you see ten reasons that Pope John Paul II was considered the “people’s pope,” discover ten fascinating and fun facts about him, understand ten of his important papal encyclicals and letters, and identify ten of his notable canonizations. You see the philosopher-theologian in John Paul II show his colors when he writes to the Church around the world about issues of faith and morals. You find out about the missionary and evangelical vein in him that prompted pastoral trips around the world to see the people of his parish — which, as pope, meant the entire planet. You discover little-known facts about this famous man of history and his diverse repertoire of talents, experience, and knowledge. In this part, you get four short chapters that are long on his accomplishments and his influence.

Part VI: Appendixes

If you have a propensity for statistics, you’ll enjoy the appendixes, which include a chronological timeline of pertinent events in the life of Pope John Paul II, as well as the details of his travel itinerary throughout his papacy.

Icons Used in This Book

Icons are the fancy little pictures in the margins of this book. Here’s a guide to what they mean and what the icons look like:

This icon marks interesting information that helps you get the inside scoop on JP2.

This icon points out ideas that sum up and reinforce the concepts we discuss. In fact, if you’re short on time and can’t read an entire section, go straight to this icon. Also, if you need a refresher in a chapter for any reason, you can skim through and read these to reinforce the main points.

Think of this icon as bonus material — the info flagged by this icon gives you some background information that isn’t critical. In some cases, this information gives you the brief history of a point, or more detail than is absolutely necessary. We think the information is interesting so we include it — but if you’re in a time crunch, you can skip it.

Where to Go from Here

You can start right in with Chapter 1 and read to the end, or you can use the table of contents and index to find just the bit of information you’re looking for.

If you want even more information on JP2, we highly recommend a visit to the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., or a virtual trip to, where you’ll find a vast amount of material on the person and the papacy of JP2. The exhibits and displays are fantastic and are rivaled only by the Vatican Museums themselves in Rome.

If you can’t make a trip to the Eternal City (otherwise known as Rome) to visit the Vatican in person, you can go to its Web site and find plenty of information on Pope John Paul II, especially his official writings. Check it out at

Many good biographies on Pope John Paul II are available, but we personally and highly recommend Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II, by George Wiegel. Also very informative are John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father, by Peggy Noonan, and John Paul II: A Personal Portrait of the Pope and the Man, by Ray Flynn. Even though we don’t share or agree with all their opinions, interpretations, or inferences, you may also find interesting Pope John Paul II, by Tad Szulc, and His Holiness, by Carl Bernstein and Marco Politi.

Part I

Getting to Know John Paul II

In this part…

We look at the personal history, background, landscape, and major influences that shaped and formed the early life of Pope John Paul II. Besides his fascinating story of where, when, and how he grew up into the man called Karol Wojtyła, we also examine the cultural, historical, intellectual, and spiritual forces that contributed to his formation. This will give a glimpse into the person — the human being, the world would later know as John Paul II.

Chapter 1

John Paul II: A Man for All Seasons

In This Chapter

Seeing how he plotted his own course

Reading his writings

Understanding his philosophy and theology

Knowing where he stood

Taking a look at everything he accomplished

Robert Bolt’s play titled A Man for All Seasons (1960) was about the life of Sir Thomas More, Lord Chancellor of England, who remained completely faithful to his God, his church, and his conscience even to the point of death. Although fidelity is easy when things are going well, maintaining and persevering in one’s faith in times of trial and tribulation is not an easy task. Thomas More was called a “man for all seasons” because he didn’t allow public opinion or political pressure to infect his soul.

Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II, can also be called a “man for all seasons,” because he did not allow anything to weaken his faith. Neither the German Nazis who invaded his homeland during World War II nor the Soviet Russians who occupied Poland throughout the Cold War could discourage this man’s convictions and commitment to his religion. Despite a would-be assassin’s bullets and Parkinson’s disease, JP2 never succumbed to discouragement.

Both Thomas More (1478–1535) and John Paul II were poets, philosophers, and men of many talents. They were truly spiritual men who loved their countries but loved their God even more than their own lives. Like More, JP2 was a man of conscience and a Renaissance man (someone who has a broad education and has some proficiency in the arts, humanities, and sciences).

At the movies

One of Pope John Paul II’s favorite movies in English (according to anonymous sources) was the screen adaptation of Bolt’s play A Man For All Seasons (1966), starring Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, Robert Shaw as King Henry VIII, and the famous Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey. The Academy Award–winning movie was later resurrected in a 1988 version with Charlton Heston as More and Sir John Gielgud as Wolsey. Ironically, Vanessa Redgrave was in both movies; she played Anne Boleyn (Henry VIII’s second wife and mother of Elizabeth I) in the first film and played Lady Alice, Sir Thomas More’s wife, in the remake.

In this chapter, you discover how Pope John Paul II was a true pioneer in the sense that he went into uncharted waters and territory. We show you how he made an impact on the world itself, how he left an indelible mark on the Catholic Church, how he injected his own style and flavor into the papacy, and how he brought his Polish culture and personal faith into his public role as leader of the world’s largest religion. Groundbreaker, innovator, defender, protector, shepherd, and pastor — these are but a few of the hats Pope John Paul II wore.

Being a Groundbreaker

John Paul II came from an ancient land steeped in tradition, was raised in a 2,000-year-old religion, and would become the visible defender of traditional morality and orthodox doctrine. At the same time, JP2 was innovative, not in content but in presentation. He showed his followers how the Church and especially the papacy could — and should — adapt to the modern world.

JP2 broke the stereotype of popes being elderly Italian church bureaucrats. Unlike some of his predecessors, he was elected at the young age of 58; was the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century; and traveled more than any other pope in history. He had the third longest reigning papacy (after St. Peter and Blessed Pius IX). The non-Catholic world, however, will remember John Paul II for his groundbreaking efforts to open dialogue with members and leaders of other faiths and religions. His gestures to heal wounds between Christians and Jews and between Catholics and Protestants were sincere and profound — if not totally successful.

The first Polish pope — and the first non-Italian in 455 years

The first mold John Paul II broke was the origin of the popes. JP2 was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. The last non-Italian was Cardinal Adrian Florensz Boeyens, a Dutchman, elected Pope Adrian VI in 1522. From the time of St. Peter (the Jewish fisherman Jesus chose to head his church, whom Catholics consider the first pope) to Benedict XVI (the current pope, as of this writing), we’ve had 217 popes from Italy, 17 from France, 8 from Germany, 3 from Spain, and 1 each from Africa, England, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland, and Palestine (present-day Israel).

Why the Italian monopoly? Believe it or not, no strong-arm tactics were involved here. The practical reason was that, until the era of John Paul II, the papacy was very much involved in local concerns involving the diocese of Rome, of which the pope is the bishop, and surrounding Italian dioceses of Italy. It made sense to elect a local, an Italian, who not only spoke the language but who knew the culture and the problems the local and national churches were experiencing.

These days, the popes no longer need to worry about national defense and other domestic issues that other world leaders have to contend with every day. The small 109 acres of land that make up the Vatican are merely a home, a place of pilgrimage, and a center of ecclesiastical administration.

Since the time of Pope Paul VI (1963–1978), who was the first pontiff to visit five continents (and was called the “pilgrim pope” until the arrival of John Paul II), the universal ministry of the office became more relevant. Instead of just handling the affairs of the diocese of Rome or the Catholic Church in Italy, the papacy in the latter half of the 20th century became much more global in its perspective.

With the College of Cardinals comprising representatives from almost every nation on Earth, the unofficial Italian “monopoly” over the papacy ceased to exist. The year Pope John Paul II was elected (1978) was as good a time as any to elect a non-Italian, even if it hadn’t been done for 455 years.

The last pope of the 20th century — and the first pope of the 21st

John Paul II has the unique claim of being the last pope of the 20th century and the first pope of the 21st century; he reigned from 1978 to 2005. Because of the unique time in which he was pope, a time of numerous technological advances, Pope John Paul II was able to bring the Church and the papacy into the 21st century, embracing technology instead of shunning it.

The message would be the same: perennial teaching of Christ as found both in Sacred Scripture (the Bible) and Sacred Tradition and as taught for two millennia by the Catholic Church. The medium by which the message was delivered would utilize the best the contemporary world had to offer. Pope John Paul II used modern tools to bring time-honored values and principles to a new generation.

JP2 inaugurated the Vatican Web site on Easter (March 30) 1997, and was considered the first “high-tech pope.” Unlike previous popes who occasionally used modern media like radio and television, John Paul II was the first to capitalize on and utilize the full potential of high-tech communications. His weekly Wednesday audiences were broadcast by radio, television, satellite, short-wave radio, and Internet to all corners of the Earth.

Reaching out: Around the World, across religions, and to young people everywhere

John Paul II certainly broke the mold when he took the papacy on the road. Other popes had traveled, but none of his successors would cover as many miles, visit as many nations, and be seen and heard by as many people of every age, race, and background. Some old-time Vatican bureaucrats thought he traveled too much and should have stayed home more to “mind the store.” But in practice, Vatican City (as an independent country) and the Holy See (as the administrative center of the one-billion-member organization) virtually run by themselves in terms of the day-to-day business and work that has to be done. The pope does not micromanage every diocese or nation. For the most part, he lets the local bishop shepherd his own flock.

Pope John Paul II’s 104 pastoral trips to 129 countries around the globe were always media events, attracting reporters and journalists from every nation. He used the press to help communicate his message to the universal flock he was shepherding, even if those who covered him did not completely agree with him. He was the first pope to actually hold press conferences on airplanes during his worldwide travels.

JP2 was a true groundbreaker not only because he used modern media, but also because he was the first to make monumental advances in ecumenism (efforts to bring more unity and cooperation among all religions). As the first pope to visit a Jewish synagogue (in 1986) since St. Peter, he referred to all Jews as “our elder brothers.” John Paul II was also the first pope ever to visit an Islamic mosque (in Damascus in 2001) and was the first pope ever to preach in a Lutheran church (in 1983).

The third longest pontificate: 26 years, 5 months, 17 days

John Paul I had one of the ten shortest papacies (33 days), but his successor, John Paul II, had the third longest. St. Peter, considered the first pope, is thought to have served 37 years, from a.d. 30to approximately a.d. 67. This would have been, so far, the longest pontificate in history.

Blessed Pius IX (1846–1878) reigned 31 years, 7 months, and 23 days (or a total of 11,560 days, if you go in for the big numbers) and ranks number two in papal longevity. He was only 54 years old when he was elected pope, and he died at the age of 85.

John Paul II (1978–2005) ruled 26 years, 5 months, and 17 days (or a total of 9,665 days).

Four years older than Pius IX when he was elected, JP2 was an energetic and athletic 58-year-old when the cardinals chose him to be pope. Some even called him “God’s athlete” due to his love of hiking, swimming, and skiing. Many doctors and physicians have speculated that, had he not been shot in 1981 and had he not contracted Parkinson’s disease, this robust man could have surpassed the previous two and been the longest reigning pope in history, living well into his 90s or longer. Unfortunately, he was shot and he did get Parkinson’s, but the fact that he was able to survive both until he was a month and half away from his 85th birthday is still noteworthy.

Besides his efforts to communicate with the spiritual leaders of other religions and with the political leaders of other nations — whether capitalist, socialist, or communist — JP2 was also a groundbreaker in reaching out to the youth. He was the first pope to have World Youth Day, an annual event in which young people across the globe get together with the head of the Catholic Church. Since 1986, these events have brought together anywhere from 300,000 to more than 4 million young men and women at one place and time.

Author, Author

Most people know of John Paul II’s papal encyclicals (see Chapter 22) and letters. What a lot of people don’t know is that he authored many books:

Sign of Contradiction (1979)

Love and Responsibility

(1960, Polish; 1980, English translation)

The Way to Christ: Spiritual Exercises


Crossing the Threshold of Hope


Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination


The Theology of the Body: Human Love in the Divine Plan


Pope John Paul II: In My Own Words


Forgiveness: Thoughts for the New Millennium


Get Up, Let Us Go


Lessons for Living


Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium


JP2 is best known for being the first Polish pope, and then as a theologian and philosopher in his own right, before and during his papacy. He was also a poet and playwright. Like the several languages he spoke fluently, this man was also of several talents, interests, and abilities. During Nazi occupation and then under Communist control, freedom of thought was not encouraged and freedom of speech not tolerated. Plays and poetry were two ways that patriotic citizens maintained their heritage.


Not only did John Paul II write books, he also wrote plays. Besides plays based on biblical characters like David, Job, and Jeremiah, he also wrote plays like Our God’s Brother, The Jeweler’s Shop, and The Radiation of Fatherhood: A Mystery, dealing with the universal themes of faith and practicing it in day-today life. The last two he wrote under the pseudonym of Andrzej Jawien to avoid being caught by KGB agents in Soviet-controlled Poland.

Since the time of the Nazi occupation during World War II and throughout the Soviet control of Poland during the Cold War, resistance to Fascism and Communism took expression in the arts, especially in plays, prose, and poetry. Authors tried to keep the flames of freedom burning in the hearts of their countrymen despite the occupation and oppression. A common safeguard to avoid arrest and possible torture was to use a pseudonym whenever writing such material.

The Jeweler’s Shop is a three-act play still available in English today. The setting is, as the title suggests, a jewelry shop, and the main characters are three couples who enter the store. Each couple has a different struggle, as well as a different understanding and experience of love, doubt, fear, disappointment, disillusion, and hope. The moral of the story is to not give up, which applies not just to married life, but also to religious and spiritual life and to an oppressed people whose country has been occupied or controlled by another nation.


John Paul II also wrote poetry. Through his poems, you get a glimpse into his heart and soul as a man and a human being. He wrote some poems during and after World War II, during his priesthood, during his episcopacy (the time spent in the government of the church as a bishop, archbishop, and a cardinal), and even during his pontificate. The poems show a tender, vulnerable, yet still very confident nature of the man who became the Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church.

Here is a sample of his poetry from a poem he wrote in 1939 about his mother, Emilia, who had died tragically when Karol (John Paul’s name at birth and his baptismal name) was only 9 years old.

“Over This, Your White Grave”

Over this, your white gravethe flowers of life in white —so many years without you —how many have passed out of sight?Over this your white gravecovered for years, there is a stirin the air, something upliftingand, like death, beyond comprehension.Over this your white graveoh, mother, can such loving cease?for all his filial adorationa prayer:Give her eternal peace —

John Paul II had a very strong devotion to the Virgin Mary, which was probably based not only on his staunch Catholic upbringing, but also on his Polish heritage and his need to be a son and have a mother he could turn to for comfort. Mary was not a substitute for his mother, Emilia, but the mother of Christ was still his spiritual mother, because Jesus, her biological son, was also his spiritual brother.

Becoming a Philosopher-Theologian

When John Paul II was still Karol Wojtyła, a teenager in high school, he was so good at public speaking that he was chosen to give the welcome address to a very special dignitary visiting the school one day. Prince Adam Stefan Stanislaw Bonfatiusz Józef Sapieha (that’s a mouthful), the Archbishop of

Krakow and one of the most dignified members of Polish aristocracy, came for a visit. When he heard the eloquent speech given by Wojtyła, he asked one of his teachers if the lad was headed for the seminary. His professor replied that Karol had designs on going to Jagiellonian University to study philology (linguistics). Momentarily disappointed, thinking the church was losing a potential intellectual jewel for the priesthood, the archbishop merely replied, “Too bad.” Little did he know then that divine providence had another plan for Karol Wojtyła.

Loving linguistics

As an incoming freshman, Karol Wojtyła had a heavy load. He studied not only Polish grammar, phonetics, and etymology but also the Old Slavonic and Russian languages. He loved language because it conveyed to others what was in the mind and heart of the writer or speaker of that tongue.