Pope St. John Paul II was the third-longest reigning pontiff in history and was the Pope for an entire generation of young people in the Catholic Church. He defined what it means to be a Catholic for that generation, and defined Catholicism for a skeptical world.
Here are the Top Five moments in the papacy of St. John Paul II.
World Youth Day
World Youth Day has become such an important festival for Catholic youth that it is easy to take it for granted, but World Youth Day was begun by St. John Paul, who loved young people and saw them as the future of the Church, longing for them to have a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ and a deeper devotion to his Blessed Mother. Today, World Youth Day, held every 2 to 3 years, is the Catholic Church’s largest single youth event.
The Divine Mercy
St. John Paul canonized St. Faustina Kowalska, whose vision of Divine Mercy, of the feast on the Second Sunday of Easter and the chaplet that bears that name held a special place in the heart of her fellow Pole, Pope John Paul. Today, devotion to the Divine Mercy has spread around the Catholic world.
First Visit to the U.S. in 1979
In October, 1979 St. John Paul came to the United States and was warmly greeted by President Jimmy Carter. The highlight of his visit, however, was not his visit with Carter, but his interaction with ordinary Americans, especially young people. He would be a globe-trotting Pontiff who would bring the Gospel to the end of the world.
The mere election of St. John Paul rocked the world at that time. John Paul I, who Karol Wojtyla succeeded, died after only 33 days on the Chair of Peter. With the Western world and the Communist bloc more bitterly divided than ever, the College of Cardinals chose a Pope from a country under some of the most harsh and bitter captivity. He was the first non-Italian to be elected Pope in five centuries.
"We Want God" (Poland, 1979)
No one played a bigger role in the collapse of world Communism as a political force opposed to the Church than St. John Paul II. Nowhere was the more apparent than on his first pastoral visit back to Poland in 1979. He made Polish Communist authorities literally tremble in fear at his moral authority. The Communists would never again be able to suppress the Catholic Church.