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An introduction to the life of pope john paul ii

See Article History Alternative Titles: His pontificate of more than 26 years was the third longest in history. As part of his effort to promote greater understanding between nations and between religions, he undertook numerous trips abroad, traveling far greater distances than had all other popes combined, and he extended his influence beyond the church by campaigning against political oppression and criticizing the materialism of the West.

He also issued several unprecedented apologies to groups that historically had been wronged by Catholics, most notably Jews and Muslims. His unabashed Polish nationalism and his emphasis on nonviolent political activism aided the Solidarity movement in communist Poland in the 1980s and ultimately contributed to the peaceful dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. More generally, John Paul used his influence among Catholics and throughout the world to advance the recognition of human dignity and to deter the use of violence.

His centralized style of church governance, however, dismayed some members of the clergy, who found it autocratic and stifling. He failed to reverse an overall decline in the numbers of priests and nunsand his traditional interpretations of church teachings on personal and sexual morality alienated some segments of the laity. Although Wadowice, a town of about 8,000 Catholics and 2,000 Jews, lay only 15 miles 24 km from the future site of Auschwitza Nazi death campthere was apparently little anti-Semitism in the town before the war.

His mother, Emilia Kaczorowska, died when he was eight years old; his brother, Edmund, who had become a physician, died less than four years later. His studies ended abruptly when Nazi Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. In the months that followed, Jews as well as non-Jewish cultural and political leaders, including professors and priests, were killed or deported to concentration camps by the Naziswho considered the Slavs an inferior race.

For the next four years, in order to avoid arrest and deportation, he worked in a factory owned by Solvay, a chemical firm that the Nazis considered essential to their war effort.

In 1945 the Soviets replaced the Germans as occupiers of Poland. He then began two years of study in Rome, where he completed his first doctorate, an examination of the theology of St. John of the Cross. During the next decade he completed a second doctorate, taught theology and ethics at the Jagiellonian University, and eventually was appointed to a full professorship at the Catholic University of Lublin. The young priest wrote poetry, published anonymously, on a variety of religious, social, and personal themes.

He also became the spiritual leader and mentor of a circle of young adult friends whom he joined on kayaking and camping trips. Together, they celebrated mass in the open at a time when unapproved worship outside of churches was forbidden by the communist regime. Experiences with these friends contributed to the ideas in his first book of nonfiction, Love and Responsibility 1960an exploration of the several graces available in conjugal sexual relationships.

The work was considered radical by those who held the traditional church view that sex was solely for the purpose of procreation. He planted a cross in the field where the church was to stand and defied communist authorities by holding masses there. He also applied for permission to hold traditional religious processions in the streets, though he was often turned down. Meanwhile, he had written his major philosophical work, The Acting Person 1969which argues that moral actions—not simply thoughts or statements—create authentic personality and define what a person truly stands for.

This ability would enhance the impact of the messages he delivered as pope to the an introduction to the life of pope john paul ii around the world, especially during his trips, when his ability to appeal to the millions who gathered to see him was captured in global television broadcasts. He died only 33 days later. Liberal interpretations of religious life that followed the Second Vatican Council had created rifts and defections; religious conservatives were digging in, claiming that the council had betrayed the church.

The cardinals also hoped that his relative youthfulness would attract young people to the church. It also presaged the bold but nonviolent human rights campaigns that John Paul would conduct around the world. While in Mexico, he attracted what was called the largest crowd ever assembled—estimated at some five million people.

His second trip June 1979 was to Polandwhere he declared to his audiences that their Catholic faith dictated that they had a right to be free. Many Poles said later that the sight of themselves assembled in enormous but orderly gatherings made them realize their own political strength and encouraged their subsequent defiance of the communist regime. To the chagrin of some Americans, John Paul used his U. In particular, he decried the neglect of the poor and denounced the exploitation of poor nations by wealthy ones.

LC-U9-38282-12 On his fourth trip November 1979 he visited Turkey to meet with the titular head of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which included most of the state-allied churches of what was then the Soviet Union. He thereby indicated a possible intention to pressure Soviet leaders by means of church congregations across eastern Europe.

Although such an eastern arm of his anti-Soviet campaign never materialized, the Soviet government viewed it as a serious threat. Political and cultural messages In travels during the next 10 years, John Paul preached to the world his messages an introduction to the life of pope john paul ii religious freedom, national independence, and human rights.

Some Vatican clergy said privately that the new pope was traveling too much, giving a triumphalist face to Catholicism when he should have been concentrating more on rebuilding the church from behind his desk in the Vatican. John Paul kept traveling. The sudden prospect of losing both men unsettled the Solidarity movement.

Early life and influences

Although no conspiracy in the assassination attempt was ever proved in court, the widespread suspicion that the Soviets were involved in the hope of demoralizing Solidarity did much to diminish world opinion of the Soviet Union at the time.

As the Polish Solidarity movement gained momentum, John Paul repeatedly emphasized to his fellow Poles the importance of pressing for change peacefully, so as not to give the communist regime a justification for using force and dismantling the trade union.

Despite the arrest of thousands of Solidarity members and years of uncertainty, the movement persevered. In April 1989 the communists legalized the trade unionand in June of that year Solidarity made a strong showing in free elections.

The collapse of the Soviet Union occurred two years later. Not all his political initiatives were successful, however. His fierce criticism of some U. After the dissolution of the Soviet UnionJohn Paul continued to criticize what he considered the pernicious effects of materialism in the West, including consumerism and pornography. In the later years of his papacy, he strongly emphasized the message of nonviolence, reflecting a concern borne of his experience of the German and Soviet occupations of his homeland.

He frequently made personal appeals for clemency in cases of prisoners sentenced with the death penaltyand he repeatedly insisted that religion should never be used as an excuse for violence of any kind. Dialogue with other faiths World religions In 1986 John Paul invited the leaders of all major religions to AssisiItalyfor a universal prayer service for world peace. The meeting was scorned by the ultraconservatives of several religions, including his own.

Nevertheless, by the mid-1990s John Paul had orchestrated some dramatic acts of interfaith reconciliation, especially with the two other religions that stem from Abraham — Judaism and Islam. He worked to improve relations with these two faiths through frequent meetings that often garnered little public attention.

St. John Paul II

In 1990 he declared anti-Semitism a sin against God and humanity, and throughout his papacy he used his influence in efforts to help end nearly 2,000 years of oppression and violence inflicted on Jews by Christians. By the end of 1993 he had pushed the Vatican to recognize the State of Israeloverriding the objections of Vatican officials who worried about the consequences for Christian minorities in Arab countries, and on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 1994 he hosted Jews and Christians at an unprecedented memorial concert inside the Vatican.

The Vatican document We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah 1998 reviewed various aspects of Catholic anti-Jewish prejudice that contributed to the Holocaust. A few reconciliation efforts failed. From the beginning of his pontificate, he held nearly 50 substantive meetings with Muslim leaders—far more than those of all previous popes combined.

Its invitation to non-Catholic churches to join John Paul in rethinking the role of the papacy in world Christianity sparked new ecumenical discussions. Although his hopes of mending the 1,000-year rift with the Eastern Orthodox Church see Schism of 1054 were advanced with his visits to a few nations of the former Soviet Union, the Russian Orthodox Church remained suspicious and did not invite him to visit the country.

Ecclesiastical and theological contributions During his long pontificate, John Paul directed the rewriting of several major church texts.

  • Moreover, they urged, his activism only helped the church by showing that its essential values, advanced with commitment and courage, could improve the world;
  • His centralized style of church governance, however, dismayed some members of the clergy, who found it autocratic and stifling;
  • As a private Doctor he also published five books of his own;
  • A few reconciliation efforts failed;
  • Although he may have considered the possibility of resignation, he remained silent on the subject few popes had resigned, the last being Gregory XII in 1415.

In 1992 he promulgated the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, its first revision in more than four centuries see catechism.

John Paul admired and encouraged the scientific search for truth but warned against the misuse of science in ways that undermine human dignity. He saw no basic contradiction between the findings of modern science and biblical accounts of the Creationstating in a series of brief homilies published as Original Unity of Man and Woman, 1981 that some stories in Genesisincluding the story of Adam and Eveshould be understood as inspired metaphor. Blakemore Final years Beginning in the early 1990s, the once-robust John Paul was increasingly slowed by Parkinson disease and by a series of operations.

Nonetheless, he maintained a rigorous schedule, insisting that his visible suffering was part of his ministry. Although he may have considered the possibility of resignation, he remained silent on the subject few popes had resigned, the last being Gregory XII in 1415.

After 2003, he appeared in public only when seated. By Easter 2005, following a tracheotomy, he was unable to speak to the people he blessed from his apartment window. He died at his Vatican residence in accordance with his wishes. His election coincided with the arrival of routine, worldwide, instantaneous audiovisual communications, and many of his major efforts were intended to adjust—though not to challenge—the essential tenets of Catholicism for an open, interconnected world in which nations and religions must live in daily contact with one another.

By publishing unprecedented papal meditations about other faiths, he demonstrated how a Catholic may approach them with reverence. He also hoped to strengthen Catholicism in many cultures around the world by canonizing far more saints —drawn from a broader geographical and occupational spectrum—than had any of his predecessors. John Paul II, 1997. John Paul also proscribed the teachings of some dissident Catholic theologians.

Decision to join the priesthood

Throughout his pontificate John Paul maintained traditional church positions on gender and sexual issues, denouncing abortionartificial contraceptionpremarital sex, and—through Vatican teachings—homosexual practices though not homosexual orientation.

He continually rebuffed pleas for priests to be allowed to marry and denied requests from Catholic nuns who wanted a greater role in the church. And, though he often spoke out for full equality for women outside religious vocations, he rejected even any discussion of the ordination of women as priests—a stance that evoked sharp and continuing criticism from some quarters.

Even as revelations of the abuse grew into a worldwide scandal, the church did little to confront the problem, allowing it to fester without intervention or punishment.

In April 2002 the U. In June 2002 all American bishops met in DallasTexasto adopt strict new policies for investigating any charges of clergy abuse of minors and removing proven offenders.

Moreover, they urged, his activism only helped the church by showing that its essential values, advanced with commitment and courage, could improve the world. Other critics claimed that his pontifical writings were often unfocused, but supporters insisted that his encyclicals and other assertions were simply so numerous, varied, and farsighted that it would take years for their impact on Catholicism to be understood.

From the start of his pontificate, John Paul tried to reassert a sense of religious challenge and discipline by making firm declarations about personal morality and the religious life. This effort generally did not reverse a dramatic decline in an introduction to the life of pope john paul ii to the priesthood and sisterhood, nor did it improve church attendance in many Catholic countries. The cardinals who elected him had asked that he end the sense of confusion among many Catholics that seemed to stem from the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, but there was no consensus that he did.

Nevertheless, John Paul is generally seen as having increased the global prestige of the papacy and thus to have laid a foundation for possible future revival within the church.