May 1, 2011

Karol Wojtyla A Man of God: The Beatification of Pope John Paul II

  (Length: 4h 15m) note: actual video begins at 4m 30

"Auctoritate Nostra Apostolica facultates facimus ut Venerabilis Servus Dei Ioannes Paulus II, papa, Beati nomine in posterum appelletur ..."

Karol Wojtyla was the beloved Son of Poland and beloved Man of God to the world. During his pontificate he had visited 129 countries, travelling a total distance of about 1.1 million km (or 725,000 miles). He spoke Latin, English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portugese, Croatian, Esperanto, Ancient Greek, German, Russian, Ukrainian, and his native language, Polish. During his pontificate, he beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints - more than the combined total of his predecessors in the past 500 years!

He was the first Pope to visit the White House (October 1979) where he was welcomed very warmly by then President Jimmy Carter. He was the first Pope to visit the United Kingdom in 1982 and met with Queen Elizabeth II. In 1983 he traveled to Haiti and was met at the airport by thousands of poor Haitians to whom he spoke in Creole.

He was the first Pope to visit Egypt where he met with Coptic Pope, Pope Shenouda and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria. He was the first Pope to visit Syria, where in 2001, he visited and prayed in an Islamic mosque in Damascus, and called on Muslims, Christians and Jews to work together. He visited the Umayyad Mosque, which was formerly a Christian Church, and where it is believed that John the Baptist was interred.

Millions upon millions of Catholic youth all over the world assembled in many cities to celebrate World Youth Day, The largest congregation was in Manilla, Philippines where over 5 million were reported to have gathered.

But foremost among all his visits was his pilgrimage to beloved homeland Poland where his visit in 1979 (and several visits thereafter) was met by millions of ecstatic compatriots. He had given more than hope to the people of Poland. He gave them courage and the fervent belief that they had God behind them to free themselves from the brutal communist regime. A year later the Solidarnosc movement was created. Pope John Paul II was indeed the instrument of God that destroyed the reign of communism in Poland and set off a domino effect that dismantled the iron curtain throughout eastern Europe.

Pope John Paul's visit to Poland 1983
Pope John Paul II and Lech Walesa

He survived a deadly assassination attempt that almost took his life. He attributed his survival and recovery to the intervention of Blessed Mother Mary, to whom he was especially devoted all his life.

Could I forget that the event [Ali Ağca's assassination attempt] in St. Peter’s Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over sixty years at Fátima, Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet.
Pope John Paul II -Memory Identity, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005, p.184

In 1983, just two days after Christmas, Pope John Paul II visited his would-be assassin in prison and spoke privately with him for about twenty minutes.  The Pontiff later declined to mention what was discussed, and said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me.  I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust."

On October 27, 1986, Pope John Paul II, traveled to Assisi for World Day of Prayer for Peace, and met with over 120 representatives of many religious faiths and Christian denominations. It was more than a day of fasting and prayer, but a tacit recognition and awareness that we are all the same family under God.

He made improvements in the relations between Catholicism and Judaism. On April 13, 1986 he was the first Pope to make an official visit to a synagogue, the Great Synagogue of Rome. In 1994 he established formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel and openly acknowledged its centrality in Jewish life and faith. To honor this event, he hosted a Papal Concert to commemorate the Holocaust. The concert was attended by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the President of Italy, and Holocaust survivors from around the world. Most moving of all was his visit to Jerusalem in March 2001, where he visited Yad Vashem. He was the first Pope to do so, and to visit and pray before the Western Wall. He touched the holy Wall, and placed a letter inside it. The following is an excerpt:

"I assure the Jewish people the Catholic Church ... is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place"....(there are ) "no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust"

Pope John Paul II places letter in Western Wall, Jerusalem
In January 2005, Pope John Paul II received a priestly blessing from a Rabbi, when Rabbi Benjamin Blech, Barry Dov Schwartz, and Jack Bemporad visited the Pontiff at Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace.

With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.    Pope John Paul II, April 13, 1986

 Pope John Paul II receives a gift from the Grand Rabbi of the Ashkenazis,
In May 1999 Pope John Paul II was invited to visit Romania by Patriarch Teoctist Arapasu of the Romanian Orthodox Church. The first time a Pope had visited an Eastern Orthodox Country since the Great Schism in the year 1054.

On June 23 to 27, 2001, the Pope was visited the Ukraine on the invitation of the President of the Ukraine and the Bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. About 200,000 people attended the liturgy celebrated by the Pope in Kiev, and over 1.5 million in Lviv.

The Dalai Lama visited Pope John Paul II eight times, the two sharing similar beliefs, and experiences, both affected by communist regimes in their respective countries.

Pope John Paul II and Dalai Lama

Pope John Paul II was the greatest man the world had ever known, a friend, a brother to the entire world. He reigned for 26 years and 168 days. Although the second longest pontificate (Pope Pius IX served for 31 years), Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla, had done more for the world than any other man past or present. He was a living saint. And now, the world awaits with baited breath for the much awaited Beatification of Pope John Paul II -  he is just a step away from Sainthood. It is a joy to be a witness to this historic and spiritual event.

Pope John Paul II met with Mother Teresa

Abba Pater by John Paul II ~ Deo Gratias (00:05:49m)

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