2.50 What is so important about Pope John Paul II?
The Polish Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) played an important role in the downfall of communism in Central and Eastern Europe in 1989. In a peaceful way he stood up for truth and freedom. In 2000 he formally asked forgiveness on behalf of the Church for many mistakes made in the past.
John Paul II is also the pope who started World Youth Day. He had a special affinity for young people and encouraged them to follow Jesus whole-heartedly. Despite his age and poor health, John Paul II continued to be a living example of the dignity of every human being, no matter how old or sick. He died on 2 April 2005, was beatified on 1 May 2011, and canonised on 27 April 2014. Now everyone can call upon him in heaven and ask for his intercessory prayer.
In his Testament, [John Paul II] wrote: “When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II… Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, said to me: ‘The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium’… I thank [God], who has enabled me to serve this very great cause”... John Paul II presented [this cause] during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in the unforgettable words: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible. [Pope Benedict XVI, Homily at the Beatification, 1 May 2011]