Manila, Philippines – Today marks the 7th Anniversary of the death of Blessed John Paul II. Born Karol Josef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920, he joined our Creator on April 2, 2005. He reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from October 16, 1978, until the time of his death. Acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century, he was the secondlongest serving Pope in history and the first non-Italian Pope since 1523.
The well-loved Pontiff was one of the most travelled world leaders, having visited 129 countries during his pontificate. He is said to have been instrumental in ending communist party control in Poland and eventually the rest of Europe. He also denounced the excesses of capitalism. He significantly improved the Catholic Church, relations with other religious groups, namely Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. A key goal of his papacy was “to transform and reposition the Catholic Church…’To place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great (religious) armada,’ While he received criticisms from progressives for upholding the Church’s teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, and from traditionalists for his support of the Second Vatican Council and the reforms that it introduced, he also received praise for his firm, orthodox Catholic stance. He beatified 1,340 people and canonized 483 saints, exceeding the combined tally of his predecessors in the preceding five centuries.
He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on May 1, 2011, in rites witnessed by millions of Catholics worldwide. Many members of the clergy at the Vatican, including Pope Benedict XVI, have began referring to him as “John Paul the Great,“ the fourth Pope to be so acclaimed.
The Philippine is privileged to have been visited by this Pope twice in 1981, and in 1995. As we observe the 7th Death Anniversary of Blessed John Paul II, let us keep alive the virtues that this great pillar of the Catholic Church exemplified. Let us also reflect on our experiences and testimonies about the seeing the Pope in the flesh with his charismatic smile, and how this has changed our lives and deepened our faith in God.
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