By Emmanuel Gandu

[“During his reign as Pope, spiritual and temporal power became indivisible. Karol Wojtila became the most political Pope in living memory, and the greatest evangelist since the Gospel Writers.”
– David Yallop (2007)

“His funeral Mass held on 8th. April 2005 set world records both for attendance and number of heads of state present at any funeral.
It was the single largest gathering of heads of state, surpassing the funerals of Winston Churchill (1965), and Josip Broz Tito (1980). Four Kings, five Queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of Judaism, Islam, Budhism, and other religions attended.
An estimated four million mourners gathered in and around the Vatican city. Between 250,000 and 300,000 watched the event from within the Vatican’s walls. An unprecedented television viewers watched the event live world wide.”]

KAROL WOJTILA’S EARLY LIFE
Born to Karol Wojtila Snr. and Emilia Kaczorowska in the town of Wadowice, Poland on 18th May 1920. While as a University student in Krakow, young Wojtila worked as a volunteer Librarian, and as a playwrite performing with various theatrical groups.
In 1939, after invading Poland, Nazi Germany’s occupation forces closed down the university. Able-bodied males were required to work, so from 1940 – 1944 Wojtila variously worked as a messenger for a restaurant, and a manual labourer in a limestone quarry for a chemical factory.

In 1940 Karol Wojtila had two major accidents, suffering a fractured skull after being struck by a tram, and sustaining injuries which left him one shoulder higher than the other, and a permanent stoop after being hit by a lorry in a quarry.
His father, Wojtila Snr., an Officer in the Polish Army died of heart attack in 1941, leaving the young adult Wojtila an orphan and the only immediate family’s surviving member.
Reflecting on those times of his life at that period, he had this to say – “I was not at my mother’s death, I was not at my brother’s death, I was not at my father’s death. At twenty, I had already lost all the people I loved.”

THE PRIESTHOOD AND PAPACY
Following the death of his father, Karol Wojtila started thinking seriously about the priesthood. On finishing his studies at the seminary in Krakow, he was ordained a priest on 1st November, 1946 by the Archbishop of Krakow. He was consecrated a Bishop on 28th September 1958, created a Cardinal on 26th June 1967, and elevated Pope on 16th October 1978.
Under Pope John Paul II, the two most important constitutions of the contemporary Catholic church were drafted and put in force. These are :
(1) 1983 Code of Canon Law.
(2) Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II died on 2nd April 2005, and canonized a Saint on 27th April 2014.

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ASSASSINATION ATTEMPTS
The first assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II was made in St. Peter’s Square on 13th May 1981 when Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turkish Muslim gunman shot and critically wounded him making him to lose nearly three quarters of his blood.
Pope John Paul II visited Agca in prison during Christmas of 1983 where he listened to his confession, and prayed with him.
A second assassination attempt was made on 12th May 1982, just a day before the anniversary of the first attempt. This was in Fatima, Portugal, when a man tried to stab him with a bayonet, leaving him injured.

POPE JOHN PAUL II FUNERAL
The funeral Mass held on 8th April 2005 set world records both for attendance and number of heads of state present at any funeral. It was the single largest gathering of heads of state, surpassing the funerals of Winston Churchill (1965) and Josip Broz Tito (1980). Four Kings, five Queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended. An estimated four million mourners gathered in and around Vatican city. Between 250,000 and 300,000 watched the event from within the Vatican’s walls. In a historical rarity, Protestant and Eastern Orthodox leaders, as well as representatives and heads from Judaism, Islam, and Budhism offered their own memorials and prayers as a way of sympathising with the grief of Catholics.

THE BEGINNING OF RADICAL REVOLUTIONARY DISPOSITION OF POPE JOHN PAUL II
The Holy See had not been perceived as a player on the international stage since the loss of the Papal State in 1870. The last time it had been asked to serve as mediator in an international dispute had been 1885 when Germany and Spain were disputing ownership of the Caroline Islands. It took until the signing of the Lateran Treaty of 1929 for Pope Pius XI to accept that the Papacy was now reduced to a state of 108.7 acres.
Albino Luciani had therefore merely acknowledged the reality of lost temporary power, in common with the majority of church members. But not Karol Wojtila (Pope John Paul II). Throughout his career in Poland he had clearly steered clear of politics. Yet in his reign as Pope, spiritual and temporal power became indivisible. Karol Wojtila became the most political Pope in living memory, and the greatest evangelist since the Gospel Writers.

“From the moment he became Pope, Karol Wojtila (Pope John Paul II) sought political influence and a role on the world stage. At the dawn of the twenty first century he seemed to embrace cultural change, promising a renewed church.” – Yallop (2007).
This aspiration had a modest birth. Before Christmas of 1978 the Vatican had been approached by Chile and Argentina to act as mediator on a boundary dispute in the Beagle Channel with the formal announcement in the middle of January 1979 that the two countries had formally agreed for the Vatican to mediate.
On 25 January 1979 Pope John Paul II left Rome on his first visit to Latin America.
This marked the beginning of many reforms that took place, with several regime change in many of those dictatorial and totalitarian leaders being replaced by the citizens in those Latin American countries like Argentina, Mexico, Nicaragua, etc.
Call it Liberation Theology or not, Pope John Paul II was such a brave religious leader that changed the course of history in the world.
One may also arrogate those world changes to the events 1989, the fall of communism, the drawing of the iron curtains, the ‘Holy Alliance’ between the White House and the Vatican, not to forget the high level of acceptability of the Charismatic ‘People’s Pope’ even among Islam and other faiths.
One thing was common – Pope John Paul II was brave and traded where less mortals feared to go.

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RADICAL/ACTIVIST REVOLUTIONARY IN ACTION
Popularly known as the Apostle of World Peace, Pope John Paul II impacted the world in an unprecedented manner.
Beginning from his native home country Poland, John Paul II peace revolution got a starting boost from Lech Walesa, a dependable ally and labour leader of the workers union of the popular Polish Solidarity Movement.
The next great and powerful world leaders that Pope John Paul II “recruited” were US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
The trio had series of meetings to bring peace to the world at the Vatican, at the White House, and at the Kremlin.
With this powerful world leaders on his side, the stage was set for a series of John Paul II initiated World Peace Revolution as follows :

(a) The fall of the Barlin Wall in November 1989. This wall had divided and sepereted Germany into two countries of Western Germany and Eastern Germany after World War II.
Pope John Paul II peaceful diplomacy with world leaders led to the eventual German re – unification as one country in October 1990.

(b) The collapse of the Cold War was actualised, and the fall of the Iron Curtains was unveiled between the Soviet Union and USA.
This epoch making events eventually led to the collapse of the mighty Soviet Union, thereby paving the way for the balkanization/breakaway of several countries that were hither to forcefully held in that union called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR)
( remember that Ukraine was one of those countries)

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(c) Pope John Paul II is credited with inspiring political reforms that led to political regime change of dictatorial governments across the world.
This was effected by his visitations to those countries through peaceful dialogue between governments and contending groups/parties. For example :
(i) Collapse of communism in Poland and all of Eastern Europe.
(ii) In Chile General Augusto Pinochet’s regime was replaced leading to the witness and restoration of democracy in that country.
The Pope visited Chile in 1987 and 1988, holding peace talks with both the dictatorial Pinochet junta and the opposition freedom groups on how to restore democracy and reconcile the country ravaged by widespread human rights abuse, assassinations and disappearance of opposition elements.
These efforts paved the way for the election of Patricio Aylwin in 1990.
This ended the (1973 – 1990) 17 years old government of Augosto Pinochet.
(iii) As for Haiti, the Pope’s peace visit in 1983 open up the country for democratic changes in order to address the problems of inequality, hunger, human rights, and other abuses leading to social change.
Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier was ultimately overthrown by a popular uprising, thus ending his 15 years (1971- 1986) rule.
(iv) Pope John Paul II peaceful wind of change blowing across Latin America did not spare the Paraguayan Authoritarian Military Dictatorial rule of General Alfredo Stroessner.
Democratic elections was eventually held thus ending Alfredo’s (1954 – 1989) 35 year rule.
(v) Nigeria : Pope John Paul II visit for the second time to Nigeria during the General Sani Abacha dictatorial regime in March 1998 enabled the Pope to appeal to Abacha for peaceful democratic political reforms in Nigeria.
The Pope also pleaded with Abacha during series of peaceful dialogue for the release of 60 political prisoners including General Olushegun Obasanjo who was imprisoned by the Abacha junta for treasonable offenses.
After that visit, God took care of events in the country and freed Nigeria from the clutches of tyranny.
Abacha died in June 1998, General Abubakar Abdulsalam came in with political reforms, Obasanjo was moved from prison to presidency, Nigeria have been enjoying an unbroken democratic dispensation since 1999.

As the world marks the anniversary of Pope St. John Paul II on 2nd April, may he continue to intercede for the entire world.
Amen.

Peace 🙏
2/4/2024

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