When Pope St. John Paul II died, crowds in St. Peter’s Square chanted “santo subito (sainthood now).” The Vatican heard, and the sainthood cause for the jet-setting pontiff who helped bring down European communism was put on the fast track; he was beatified in 2011.
Born in Wadowice, Poland May 18, 1920, Karol Wojtyła was an actor shaped by World War II. He attended an underground seminary during the Nazi occupation of Poland and was ordained Nov. 1, 1946.
As archbishop of Krakow, Cardinal Karol Wojtyła, led the Church in Poland during Communist rule. In 1979 he was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
In his 26-year pontificate, he evangelized on trips to 129 countries — including a historic visit to Phoenix Sept. 14, 1987.
“By a happy act of providence, my visit to Arizona coincides with the 75th anniversary of Arizona’s statehood. On this happy occasion, I offer to all of you my best wishes and congratulations,” the pontiff said from the plaza at St. Mary’s Basilica during his apostolic visit to Arizona.
“Like all of America’s Southwest, Arizona faces challenges of amazing growth. I am told that the motto of your state is ‘Ditat Desu,’ ‘God enriches,’” he added. “And indeed, you have all around you ample proof of this enrichment: in the majesty and beauty of your landscape and especially in the diversity and giftedness of your people. Your state and the ever-growing number of its citizens have been greatly blessed and enriched by God. In the past 40 years, in particular, you have experienced remarkable progress and development. And this brings with it increased obligations and responsibilities.”
He upheld traditional Church doctrine against dissent, developing what is now known as the “Theology of the Body,” connected with the world’s youth and named more than 450 new saints. He also modeled Christian values by forgiving his would-be assassin and living an increasingly frail old age in public. He died April 2, 2005.
In early 2006 it was reported that Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre, French nun and member of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards, experienced a complete healing from Parkinson’s Disease after praying for the intercession of Pope John Paul II, leading to his 2011 beatification.
In 2011, the healing of Costa Rican woman Floribeth Mora of an otherwise terminal brain aneurysm was determined to be directly attributable to the intercession of John Paul II, leading to his canonization in 2014.
He is the patron of St. John Paul II Catholic High School in Avondale and the John Paul II Theology of the Body Resource Center. He is also a patron of the diocese’s “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign.