Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Cracow was elected Bishop of Rome and 263rd successor of St. Peter as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church on Oct. 16, 1978. He chose the name John Paul II in honor of his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, as well as Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. He was invested with the pallium, symbol of his office, on Oct. 22 in ceremonies attended by more than 250,000 people in St. Peter’s Square.

From the start, Pope John Paul II has labored to keep the Church faithful to its tradition and to the teaching and spirit of Vatican Council II, while positioning it to meet the challenges of the third millennium. He is a staunch defender of the sanctity of human life — “from conception to natural death,” he often says — and of marriage and the family. Opposition to totalitarianism and support for human rights make this activist, long-reigning pope a major figure on the world political scene.

He is the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI (1522-23) and the first Polish pope ever. At his election, he was the youngest pope since Pius IX (1846-78). On May 24, 1998, he became the longest-reigning pope elected in the 20th century, surpassing the 19 years, seven months and seven days of Pius XII (1939-58). (Leo XIII, who died in 1903, was pope for 25 years.)  John Paul II’s pontificate is also the third longest in the history of the Church. He surpassed Pope Leo XIII (25 years, 5 months), and is now behind only Bl. Pius IX (31 years, 7 months, 21 days) and St. Peter (precise dates unknown).

He is the most-traveled pope in history. Through Sept. 2004, he had covered over 750,000 miles during 103 pastoral visits outside Italy, over 144 within Italy, and over 300 to the parishes of Rome. In all, he has visited 133 countries and has held talks with 850 heads of state or government. Certainly he is the pope most prolific in literary output, having issued by his 84th birthday (May 2004) 14 encyclicals, 14 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 43 apostolic letters and 28 motu proprio.

By July 2004 John Paul II had proclaimed 1,330 blesseds in 145 ceremonies and had proclaimed 482 (as of May, 16, 2004) saints in 51 liturgical celebrations; his 17 predecessors from Pope Clement VIII to Pope Paul VI canonized a total of 302 people. He has held nine consistories for the creation of cardinals and has named a total of 232 cardinals (not including the in pectore cardinals). The last consistory was October 2003. As of May 2004, the Holy Father has presided at 15 synods: the Particular Synod of Bishops of the Netherlands in 1980; six ordinary synods (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2001); one extraordinary (1985) and eight special (1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, two in 1998, and the second synod for Europe in October 1999); the most recent synod was held in October 2001.

Over the years the pope has held over 1,100 weekly general audiences and has welcomed nearly 17 million faithful from every part of the world. Other audiences, including various groups and heads of state and government, total around 1,500.

He is also the first pope ever to visit a synagogue (Rome, April 1986); the first to visit a mosque (Omayyad Great Mosque of Damascus, May 2001); the first to call for a day of pardon (Jubilee Year 2000); and the first to add five new mysteries to the Rosary (October 2002). 

Early Life

Karol Josef Wojtyla was born May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, an industrial town near Cracow. His parents were Karol Wojtyla, who had been an adminstrative officer in the Austrian army and was a lieutenant in the Polish army until his retirement in 1927, and Emilia Kaczorowska Wojtyla. His mother died in 1929 of kidney and heart failure. His sister died a few days after birth; his older brother Edmund, a physician, died in 1932, and his father in 1941.

He attended schools in Wadowice and in 1938 enrolled in the faculty of philosophy of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, where he moved with his father. At the university he was active in the Studio 38 experimental theater group.

For young Wojtyla, as for countless others, life changed forever on Sept. 1, 1939, when World War II began. Nazi occupation forces closed the Jagiellonian University and the young man had to work in a quarry as a stone cutter and later in a chemical plant to avoid deportation to Germany. In Feb. 1940, he met Jan Tryanowski, a tailor who became his spiritual mentor and introduced him to the writings of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Ávila. He also participated in underground theater groups, including the Rhapsodic Theater of Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk.

In Oct. 1942, he began studies for the priesthood in the underground seminary maintained by Cardinal Adam Sapieha of Cracow. He was struck by an automobile Feb. 29, 1944, and hospitalized until Mar. 12. In Aug. of that year Cardinal Sapieha transferred him and the other seminarians to the Archbishop’s Residence, where they lived and studied until war’s end. Ordained a priest by the cardinal on Nov. 1, 1946, he left Poland Nov. 15 to begin advanced studies in Rome at the Angelicum University (the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas).

He subsequently earned doctorates in theology and philosophy and was a respected moral theologian and ethicist.

Bishop and Cardinal

On July 4, 1958, Pope Pius XII named him Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, Apostolic Administrator of Cracow. His book Love and Responsibility was published in 1960. (Earlier, he had published poetry and several plays.) Following Archbishop Baziak’s death in 1962, he became Vicar Capitular and then on Jan. 13, 1964, Archbishop of Cracow—the first residential head of the See permitted by the communist authorities since Cardinal Sapieha’s death in 1951.

Archbishop Wojtyla attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council, from 1962 to 1965, and helped draft Schema XIII, which became Gaudium et Spes, the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. He also contributed to Dignitatis Humanae (the “Declaration on Religious Freedom”) and on the theology of the laity.

Pope Paul VI created him a cardinal in the consistory of June 28, 1967, with the titular Roman church of S. Cesario in Palatio. Although scheduled to attend the first general assembly of the Synod of Bishops in Sept. and Oct. of that year, Cardinal Wojtyla did not go, as a sign of solidarity with Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski of Warsaw, Poland’s primate, whom the communist government refused a passport. In Oct. 1969, however, he participated in the first extraordinary assembly of the synod. Earlier that year, with approval of the statutes of the Polish bishops’ conference, he became its vice president.

In 1971 he took part in the second general assembly of the synod and was elected to the council of the secretary general. He continued to participate in synod assemblies and to serve on the synod council up to his election as pope. May 8, 1972, saw the opening of the archdiocesan synod of Cracow, which he had convened and would see conclude during his visit to Poland as pope in 1979. Also in 1972 he published Foundations of Renewal: A Study on the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council.

Pope Paul VI died Aug. 6, 1978. Cardinal Wojtyla participated in the conclave that chose Cardinal Albino Luciani of Venice his successor on Aug. 26. When the new Pope, who had taken the name John Paul I, died unexpectedly on Sept. 28, Cardinal Wojtyla joined 110 other cardinals in that year’s second conclave. He emerged on the second day of voting, Oct. 16, as Pope John Paul II.


Pope John Paul set out the major themes and program of his pontificate in his first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis (The Redeemer of Man), dated Mar. 4, 1979, and published Mar. 15. “The Redeemer of Man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history,” he wrote. Throughout his pontificate he emphasized preparation for the year 2000—which he proclaimed a Jubilee Year—and for the third  millennium of the Christian era, with the aim of fostering a renewed commitment to evangelization among Catholics. He also has produced a significant body of magisterial teaching in such areas as Christian anthropology, sexual morality, and social justice, while working for peace and human rights throughout the world.

His pontificate has been uncommonly active and filled with dramatic events. Among the most dramatic are those associated with the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Many students of that complex event credit John Paul with a central role. His visits to his Polish homeland in 1979 (June 2-10) and 1983 (June 16-23) bolstered Polish Catholicism and kindled Polish resistance to communism, while his determined support for the Solidarity labor movement gave his countrymen a vehicle for their resistance. The result was a growing nonviolent liberation movement leading to the dramatic developments of 1989—the collapse of communist regimes, the emergence of democracy in Poland and other countries, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and, in time to the breakup of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

Dramatic in a much different way was the 1981 attempt on the Pope’s life. At 5:19 p.m. on May 13, as he greeted crowds in St. Peter’s Square before his Wednesday general audience, a Turkish terrorist named Mehmet Ali Agca shot John Paul at close range. Whether the assassin acted alone or at the behest of others—and which others—remain unanswered questions. Following a six-hour operation, John Paul was hospitalized for 77 days at Gemelli Hospital. He visited Ali Agca in the Rebibbia prison on Dec. 27, 1983.

Although he resumed his activities vigorously after his recuperation, the pope’s health and strength have declined over the years. In July 1992, he had colon surgery for the removal of a non-cancerous tumor; in Nov. 1993, his shoulder was dislocated in a fall; he suffered a broken femur in another fall in Apr. 1994; and in Oct. 1996, he had an appendectomy. For several years, too, the effects have been apparent of what the Vatican acknowledges to be a neurological condition (many observers take the ailment to be Parkinson’s disease). John Paul nevertheless maintains what is by any standards a highly demanding schedule.

Foreign Pastoral Visits

As noted, his pastoral visits have been a striking feature of his pontificate. Many have been to nations in the Third World. His 104  trips outside Italy (through Sept. 2004) are as follows:

1979 -- Dominican Republic and Mexico, Jan. 5-Feb. 1; Poland, June 2-10; Ireland and the United States, Sept. 29-Oct. 7; Turkey, Nov. 28-30.

1980 -- Africa (Zaire, Congo Republic, Kenya, Ghana, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast), May 2-12; France, May 30-June 2; Brazil (13 cities), June 30-July 12; West Germany, Nov. 15-19.

1981 -- Philippines, Guam, and Japan, with stopovers in Pakistan and Alaska, Feb. 16-27.

1982 -- Africa (Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea), Feb. 12-19; Portugal, May 12-15; Great Britain, May 28-June 2; Argentina, June 11-12; Switzerland, June 15; San Marino, Aug. 29; Spain, Oct. 31-Nov. 9.

1983 -- Central America (Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras) and Haiti, Mar. 2-10; Poland, June 16-23; Lourdes, France, Aug. 14-15; Austria, Sept. 10-13.

1984 -- South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Thailand, May 12; Switzerland, June 12-17; Canada, Sept. 9-20; Spain, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, Oct. 10-12.

1985 -- Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, Jan. 26-Feb. 6; Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg, May 11-21; Africa (Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Kenya, and Morocco), Aug. 8-19; Liechtenstein, Sept. 8.

1986 -- ndia, Feb. 1-10; Colombia and Saint Lucia, July 1-7; France, Oct. 4-7; Oceania (Australia, New Zealand, Bangladesh, Fiji, Singapore, and Seychelles), Nov. 18-Dec. 1.

1987 -- Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina, Mar. 31-Apr. 12; West Germany, Apr. 30-May 4; Poland, June 8-14; the United States and Canada, Sept. 10-19.

1988 -- Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, and Paraguay, May 7-18; Austria, June 23-27; Africa (Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, and Mozam-bique), Sept. 10-19; France, Oct. 8-11.

1989 -- Madagascar, Reunion, Zambia, and Malawi, Apr. 28-May 6; Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden, June 1-10; Spain, Aug. 19-21; South Korea, Indonesia, East Timor, and Mauritius, Oct. 6-16.

1990 -- Africa (Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau, Mali, and Burkna Faso), Jan. 25-Feb. 1; Czechoslovakia, Apr. 21-22; Mexico and Curaçao, May 6-13; Malta, May 25-27; Africa (Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, and Ivory Coast), Sept. 1-10.

1991 -- Portugal, May 10-13; Poland, June 1-9; Poland and Hungary, Aug. 13-20; Brazil, Oct. 12-21.

1992 -- Africa (Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea), Feb. 10-26; Africa (Angola, São Tome, and Principe), June 4-10; Dominican Republic, Oct. 10-14.

1993 -- Africa (Benin, Uganda, Sudan), Feb. 2-10; Albania, Apr. 25; Spain, June 12-17; Jamaica, Mexico, Denver (United States), Aug. 9-15; Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Sept. 4-10.

1994 -- Zagreb, Croatia, Sept. 10.

1995 -- Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Sri Lanka, Jan. 12-21; Czech Republic and Poland, May 20-22; Belgium, June 3-4; Slovakia, June 30-July 3; Africa (Cameroon, South Africa, Kenya), Sept. 14-20; United Nations and United States, Oct. 4-8.

1996 -- Central America (Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador), Feb. 5-11; Tunisia, Apr. 17; Slovenia, May 17-19; Germany, June 21-23; Hungary, Sept. 6-7; France, Sept. 19-22.

1997 -- Sarajevo, Apr. 12-13; Czech Republic, Apr. 25-27; Lebanon, May 10-11; Poland, May 31-June 10; France, Aug. 21-24; Brazil, Oct. 2-5.

1998 -- Cuba, Jan. 21-25; Nigeria, Mar. 21-23; Austria, June 19-21; Croatia, Oct. 3-4.

1999 -- Mexico, Jan. 22-25; St. Louis, United States, Jan. 26-27; Romania, May 2-5; Poland June, 5-17; Slovenia, Sept. 19; India, Nov. 6-7; Georgia, Nov. 8-9.

2000 -- Egypt and Mount Sinai, Feb. 24-26; Holy Land, March 20-26; Fátima, May 12-13.

2001 -- Greece, Syria, and Malta, May 4-9; Ukraine, June 23-27; Kazakstan and Armenia, Sept. 22-27.

2002 -- Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, May 22-26; Toronto, Canada, July 23-28; Guatemala City, July 29-30; Mexico City, July 31-Aug. 2; Poland, Aug. 16-19.

2003 -- Spain, May 3-4; Croatia, June 5-9; Bosnia-Herzegovina, June 22; Slovak Republic, Sept. 11-14.

2004 -- Switzerland, May 5-6; Lourdes, France, Aug. 14-15.

Notable among the pope’s pastoral visits have been journeys to celebrate World Youth Day with young people, including the 2002 celebration in Toronto.

Encyclicals and Other Writings

As noted above, Pope John Paul’s first encyclical, Redemptor Hominis (1979), set the tone for and in general terms indicated the subject matter of many of the documents to follow. These are infused with the pope’s distinctive personalism, which emphasizes the dignity and rights of the human person, most truly understood in the light of Christ, as the norm and goal of human endeavor.

His other encyclical letters to date are: Dives in Misericordia (“On the Mercy of God”), 1980; Laborem Exercens (“On Human Work”), 1981; Slavorum Apostoli (“The Apostles of the Slavs”, honoring Sts. Cyril and Methodius), 1985; Dominum et Vivificantem (“Lord and Giver of Life,” on the Holy Spirit), 1986; Redemptoris Mater (“Mother of the Redeemer”), 1987; Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concerns”), 1988; Redemptoris Missio (“Mission of the Redeemer”) and Centesimus Annus (“The Hundredth Year”, on the anniversary of Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum), both 1991; Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”), 1993; Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”) and Ut Unum Sint (“That All May Be One”), 1995; Fides et Ratio (“Faith and Reason”), 1998; and Ecclesia de Eucharistia (“Church of the Eucharist”), 2003.

Among his other publications are: Catechesi Tradendae, a post-synodal apostolic exhortation on catechesis, 1979; apostolic letter proclaiming Sts. Cyril and Methodius, together with St. Benedict, patrons of Europe, 1980; post-synodal apostolic exhortation Familiaris Consortio, on the family, 1981; apostolic letter Caritatis Christi, for the Church in China, 1982; letter for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther, 1983; apostolic letter Salvifici Doloris (“On the Christian Meaning of Suffering”), apostolic exhortation Redemptionis Donum, to men and women religious, apostolic letters Redemptionis Anno, on Jerusalem, and Les Grands Mysteres, on Lebanon, and post-synodal apostolic exhortation Reconciliatio et Poenitentia (“Reconciliation and Penance”), all 1984.

Also: apostolic letter Dilecti Amici, on the occasion of the United Nations’ International Year of Youth, 1985; apostolic letter Euntes in Mundum, for the millennium of Christianity in Kievan Rus’, and apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”), all 1988; post-synodal apostolic exhortation Christifideles Laici (“The Lay Members of Christ’s Faithful People”) and apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos (“On St. Joseph”), 1989; post-synodal apostolic exhortation Pastores Dabo Vobis (“I Give You Shepherds”), 1992; “Letter to Families,” for the International Year of the Family, “Letter on the International Conference on Population and Development” in Cairo, apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (“On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone”), apostolic letter Tertio Millennio Adveniente, on preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, and “Letter to Children in the Year of the Family,” all 1994.

Also: apostolic letter Orientale Lumen (“The Light of the East”), on Catholic-Orthodox relations, “Letter to Women,” post-synodal apostolic exhortations Ecclesia in Africa, Ecclesia in Asia, and Ecclesia in Europa,  and apostolic letter for the fourth centenary of the Union of Brest, all 1995; apostolic constitution Universi Dominici Gregis (“On the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the Election of the Roman Pontiff”), post-synodal apostolic exhortation Vita Consecrata (“On the Consecrated Life and Its Mission in the Church and in the World”), and apostolic letter on the 350th anniversary of the Union of Uzhorod, all 1996; post-synodal apostolic exhortation, “A New Hope for Lebanon,” 1997; Incarnationis Mysterium, Bull of Indiction of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, 1998; and the apostolic letter Misericordia Dei (“On Certain Aspects of the Celebration of the Sacrament of Penance”), 2002.

In his years as pope he has published several books, including Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination (1996), and Alzatevi, andiamo (Get Up, Let Us Go, 2004), on the pontiff’s 20 years as a bishop in Poland.

Issues and Activities

Doctrinal Concerns: The integrity of Catholic doctrine has been a major concern of Pope John Paul. On Nov. 25, 1981, he appointed Archbishop—later, Cardinal—Joseph Ratzinger of Munich-Freising, a prominent theologian, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. The congregation under Cardinal Ratzinger has published important documents on bioethics, liberation theology (1984 and 1986), the Church’s inability to ordain women as priests — the latter affirming that the teaching on this matter has been “set forth infallibly” (1995) — and same-sex unions (2003).

Catechism: One of Pope John Paul’s most important initiatives was the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The idea for this up-to-date compendium was broached at the extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops held in 1985 to evaluate the implementation of Vatican Council II. The pope approved, and the project went forward under a commission of cardinals headed by Cardinal Ratzinger. Published in 1992 by authorization of John Paul II (the original was in French, with the English translation appearing in 1994 and the authoritative Latin editio typica in 1997), this first catechism for the universal Church in four centuries is crucial to the hoped-for renewal of catechesis.

Canon Law: John Paul oversaw the completion of the revision of the Code of Canon Law begun in 1959 at the direction of Pope John XXIII. He promulgated the new code on Jan. 25, 1983; it went into effect on Nov. 27 of that year. In Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, the apostolic constitution accompanying the revised code, the pope says it has “one and the same intention” as Vatican Council II — whose convening John XXIII announced at the same time — namely, “the renewal of Christian living.”

On Apr. 18, 1990, John Paul promulgated the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches. Although particular sections of the Eastern code appeared at various times dating back to 1949, this was the first time an integrated code of law for the Eastern Churches had been issued in its entirety.

Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations: Ecumenical and interreligious relations have received much attention from Pope John Paul II. Two of his major documents, the encyclical Ut Unum Sint and the apostolic letter Orientale Lumen, both published in 1995, deal with these matters. He has met frequently with representatives of other religious bodies, has spoken frequently about the quest for unity, and has called for Catholics and others to pray and work to this end.

Among the important actions in this area have been the signings of common declarations with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople His Holiness Dimitrios (Dec. 7, 1987) and his successor Bartholomew I (June 29, 1995); with the Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of the Anglican Communion, Dr. Robert Runcie (May 29, 1982, in Canterbury Cathedral and again Oct. 2, 1989, in Rome) and his successor Dr. George Leonard Carey (Dec. 6, 1996); with the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, His Holiness Karekin I (Dec. 14, 1996), and with His Holiness Aram I Keshishian, Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians (Jan. 26, 1997). On Oct. 5, 1991, for the first time since the Reformation, two Lutheran bishops joined the Pope and the Catholic bishops of Stockholm and Helsinki in an ecumenical prayer service in St. Peter’s Basilica marking the sixth centenary of the canonization of St. Bridget of Sweden.

Pope John Paul II has had Jewish friends since boyhood, and he has worked hard to strengthen Catholic-Jewish ties. The Holy See formally initiated diplomatic relations with the State of Israel at the level of apostolic nunciature and embassy on June 15, 1994. In Mar. 1998, the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews published an important document on the roots of the World War II Jewish Holocaust entitled We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah. In a letter dated Mar. 12 to the commission chairman, Cardinal Edward Idris Cassidy, the Pope expressed “fervent hope” that it would “help to heal the wounds of past misunderstandings and injustices.”

On Sunday, March 12, 2000, Pope John Paul II presided over a Day of Pardon for those sins committed by members of the Church over the centuries.  The Holy Father issued a formal apology for the misdeeds of the members of the Church in the past, including a renewed apology for all anti-Semitic actions by Catholics.  This apology was given even greater depth by the Holy Father’s trip to the Holy Land in Mar. 2000.  During his historic visit to Israel, the pope placed a written apology to the Jewish people in the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. He made further efforts at ecumenical dialogue with the Orthodox Churches during his visits to Greece, Syria, and Ukraine in 2001 and at the Day of Prayer for Peace at Assisi in Jan. 2002.

Women’s Concerns: Pope John Paul’s insistence that, in fidelity to the will of Christ, the Church is unable to ordain women as priests has put him at odds with some feminists, as has his opposition to abortion and contraception. But it is clear from his writings that he is unusually sensitive to women’s issues, and he is a strong defender of women’s dignity and rights, about which he often has spoken. In 1995 he appointed a woman, Professor Mary Ann Glendon of the Harvard University Law School, head of the Holy See’s delegation to the fourth U.N. conference on women, held in Beijing Sept. 4-15, the first time a woman had been named to such a post.

World Affairs: At least since Jan. 1979, when he accepted a request for mediation in a border conflict between Argentina and Chile, John Paul II has worked for peace in many parts of the world. He has supported efforts to achieve reconciliation between conflicting parties in troubled areas like Lebanon, the Balkans, and the Persian Gulf, where he sought to avert the Gulf War of 1991. He has advocated religious liberty and human rights during pastoral visits to many countries, including Cuba and Nigeria in 1998. Among the notable ecumenical and interreligious events of the pontificate was the World Day of Prayer for Peace on Oct. 27, 1986, which he convoked in Assisi and attended along with representatives of numerous other churches and religious groups.

In 1984 the Holy See and the U.S. established diplomatic relations. (The pope has met with Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush.) Relations with Poland were re-established in 1989. Diplomatic relations were established with the Soviet Union in 1990 and with the Russian Federation in 1992. Relations also have been established with other Eastern European countries and countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, with Mexico, and with other nations including Jordan, South Africa, and Libya. Working contacts of a “permanent and official character” were begun with the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1994, leading to the signing of a formal Basic Agreement with the PLO on Feb. 15, 2000. The pope also attempted to prevent the outbreak of hostilities in Iraq in 2003 and welcomed its new sovereign government in 2004.

Administration: Under Pope John Paul II the long-term financial problems of the Holy See have been addressed and brought under control. Finances were on the agenda at the first plenary assembly of the College of Cardinals, Nov. 5-9, 1979, and subsequent meetings of that body. A council of cardinals for the study of organizational and economic problems of the Holy See was established in 1981. In 1988, the Holy See’s financial report (for 1986) was published for the first time, along with the 1988 budget. In Apr. 1991, a meeting of the presidents of episcopal conferences was held to discuss ways of increasing the Peter’s Pence collection taken in support of the Pope.

A reorganization of responsibilities of Vatican offices was carried out in 1984, and in 1988 an apostolic constitution, Pastor Bonus, on reform of the Roman Curia was issued. A Vatican labor office was instituted in 1989. Pope John Paul established a new Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences in 1994 and Pontifical Academy for Life in 1995. On Apr. 8, 1994, he celebrated Mass in the Sistine Chapel for the unveiling of the Michelangelo frescoes, which had been painstakingly cleaned and restored. The opening presentation of the Holy See’s Internet site took place on Mar. 24, 1997.

As Bishop of Rome, John Paul presided over a diocesan synod that concluded May 29, 1993. He also has visited numerous Roman parishes — close to 300 out of 328 by the time of his 84th birthday.


1979: Redemptor hominis (On redemption and dignity of the human race), Mar. 4

1980: Dives in misericordia (On the mercy of God), Nov. 30.

1981: Laborem exercens (On human work), Sept. 14.

1985: Slavorum Apostoli (Commemorating Sts. Cyril and Methodius, on the 11th centenary of the death of St. Methodius), June 2.

1986: Dominum et Vivificantem (On the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and the world), May 18.

1987: Redemptoris Mater (On the role of Mary in the mystery of Christ and her active and exemplary presence in the life of the Church), Mar. 25.

Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (On social concerns, on the twentieth anniversary of Populorum progressio), Dec. 30.

1991: Redemptoris missio (On the permanent validity of the Church’s missionary mandate), Jan. 22.

Centesimus annus (Commemorating the centenary of Rerum novarum and addressing the social question in a contemporary perspective), May 1.

1993: Veritatis Splendor (On fundamental questions on the Church’s moral teaching), Aug. 6.

1995: Evangelium Vitae (On the value and inviolability of human life), Mar. 25.

Ut Unum Sint (On commitment to ecumenism), May 25.

1998: Fides et Ratio (On faith and reason), Oct. 1.

2003: Ecclesia de Eucharistia (Church of the Eucharist), Apr. 17.