Cardinal Karol Wojtyła of Poland was elected pope on October 16th, 1978, the first non-Italian to occupy the Throne of St. Peter since 1522. His personality and legacy will never be forgotten, for his endeavors left a permanent mark on the universal Roman Catholic Church.
Six days later, on October 22nd, Pope John Paul II was jubilantly inaugurated as the head pastor of the Catholic Church before a crowd of 300 thousand people. He began his speech by quoting St. Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” He considered himself to be the messenger of the Gospel, which he spread to every corner of the world under his papacy. Born in Wadowice in the south of Poland, Karol Wojtyła’s main mission was to make the Church accessible to the countries of Eastern Europe. From time to time, he came out in support of secular and political causes, for example, the Solidarity movement in his native Poland, in pursuit of his goal. As pope, one of his first trips abroad was to Latin America, where he held a Holy Mass attended by thousands at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. Pope John Paul II strongly believed that political corruption and poverty were closely intertwined in the Latin American countries. Before the European Parliament, he talked about a modern Europe that could not function without Christianity. He called upon the politicians to give up their Stalinist mentality that regarded Eastern and Western Europe as sharply divided. Like a clairvoyant, he predicted that a fundamental mission awaited the new Europe of tomorrow: to function as “the beacon in world civilization”.
At 5:17 PM on May 13th, 1981, shots rang out. The international press reported on a horrible event. The pontiff had suffered life-threating injuries at the hands of a Turk named Ali Agca. To this day, a motive for the assassination attempt has not been clearly established. Was Ali Agca a lone wolf or did a secret service commission him to carry out the assassination?
Pope John Paul II visited Hungary between August 16th-20th, 1991. He summarized the objective of his visit as such: “I have come to Hungary not only to revel in the joy of your regained freedom, but to share your apprehension about the difficulties and problems of the present. Aspire to build a society that has the values of reconciliation, justice and peace as its foundation!”
by Péter Bertalan
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