Pope John Paul II

Liberation theology
In 1984 and 1986, through Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), then-leader of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, John Paul II officially condemned aspects of Liberation theology, which had many followers in South America. Visiting Europe, Óscar Romero unsuccessfully attempted to obtain a Vatican condemnation of El Salvador's regime, for violations of human rights and its support of death squads. In his travel to Managua, Nicaragua in 1983, John Paul II harshly condemned what he dubbed the "popular Church"[75] (i.e. "ecclesial base communities" supported by the CELAM), and the Nicaraguan clergy's tendencies to support the leftist Sandinistas, reminding the clergy of their duties of obedience to the Holy See.[75] During that visit Ernesto Cardenal, a priest and minister in the Sandinista government, knelt to kiss his hand. John Paul withdrew it, wagged his finger in Cardenal's face, and told him, "You must straighten out your position with the church."[76]

Views on sexuality
While taking a traditional position on sexuality, defending the Church's moral opposition to marriage for same-sex couples, Pope John Paul II asserted that persons with homosexual inclinations possess the same inherent dignity and rights as everybody else.[77] In his book, Memory and Identity, he referred to the "strong pressures" by the European Parliament to recognise homosexual unions as an alternative type of family, with the right to adopt children. In the book, as quoted by Reuters, he wrote: "It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, more subtle and hidden, perhaps, intent upon exploiting human rights themselves against man and against the family."[39][78] A 1997 study determined that 3% of the pope's statements were about the issue of sexual morality.[79]

Role in the collapse of dictatorships
Chile
Some observers of Chilean history believe that the six-day April 1987 visit of Pope John Paul II to Chile, during which he visited Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso, Temuco, Punta Arenas, Puerto Montt and Antofagasta was one of the reasons why the country's military dictator Augusto Pinochet called for elections in 1988. Before John Paul II's pilgrimage to Latin America, during a meeting with reporters, he criticized Pinochet's regime as "dictatorial." In the words of the New York Times, he was "using unusually strong language" to criticize Pinochet and asserted the journalists that the Church in Chile must not only pray, but actively fight for the restoration of democracy in Chile.[80] During his 1987 Chilean visit, the Polish pope asked Chile's 31 Catholic bishops to campaign for free elections in the country.[81] According to George Weigel, he held a meeting with Pinochet during which they treated of the theme of the return to democracy. John Paul II allegedly pushed Pinochet to accept a democratic opening of the regime, and would even have called for his resignation.[82] In 2007, Cardinal StanisławDziwisz, Pope John Paul II's secretary, confirmed that, during his visit with Pinochet, the Pope asked him to step down and transfer power over to civilian authorities.[83] According to Monsignor Sławomir Oder, the postulator of John Paul II's beatification cause, John Paul's words to Pinochet had a profound impact on the Chilean dictator. The Polish Pope confided to a friend: "I received a letter from Pinochet in which he told me that, as a Catholic, he had listened to my words, he had accepted them, and he had decided to begin the process to change the leadership of his country."[84] During his visit to Chile, John Paul II supported the Vicariate of Solidarity, the Church-led pro-democracy, anti-Pinochet organization. John Paul II visited the Vicariate of Solidarity's offices, spoke with its workers, and "called upon them to continue their work, emphasizing that the Gospel consistently urges respect for human rights."[85] Some have erroneously accused John Paul II of affirming Pinochet's regime by appearing with the Chilean ruler in his balcony. However, Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the organizer of John Paul II's pilgrimages revealed that Pinochet tricked the pontiff by telling him he would take him to his living room, while in reality he took him to his balcony. Tucci claims that the pontiff was "furious."[86]

Paraguay
The collapse of the dictatorship of General Alfredo Stroessner of Paraguay was linked, among other things, to Pope John Paul II's visit to the South American country in 1989. Since Stroessner's taking power through a coup d'etat in 1954, Paraguay's bishops increasingly criticized the regime for human rights abuses, rigged elections, and the country's feudal economy. During his private meeting with Stroessner, John Paul II told the dictator:
"Politics has a fundamental ethical dimension because it is first and foremeost a service to man. The Church can and must remind men - and in particular those who govern - of their ethical duties for the good of the whole of society. The Church cannot be isolated inside its temples just as men's consciences cannot be isolated from God."[87]
Later, during a Mass, Pope John Paul II criticized the regime for impoverishing the peasants and the unemployed, claiming that the government must give people greater access to the land. Although Stroessner tried to prevent him from doing so, Pope John Paul II met opposition leaders in the one-party state.[88]

Role in the fall of Communism
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Russian President Vladimir Putin meeting Pope John Paul II
John Paul II has been credited with being instrumental in bringing down communism in Central and Eastern Europe,[39][45][49][63][64][89] by being the spiritual inspiration behind its downfall and catalyst for "a peaceful revolution" in Poland. Lech Wałęsa, the founder of ‘Solidarity’, credited John Paul II with giving Poles the courage to demand change.[39] According to Wałęsa, "Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of communism. In Warsaw, in 1979, he simply said: 'Do not be afraid', and later prayed: 'Let your Spirit descend and change the image of the land... this land'."[89] It has also been widely alleged that the Vatican Bank covertly funded Solidarity.[90][91]
President Ronald Reagan's correspondence with the pope reveals "a continuous scurrying to shore up Vatican support for U.S. policies. Perhaps most surprisingly, the papers show that, as late as 1984, the pope did not believe the Communist Polish government could be changed."[92]
In December 1989, John Paul II met with Soviet leaderMikhail Gorbachev at the Vatican and each expressed his respect and admiration for the other. Gorbachev once said "The collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II".[45][63] On John Paul's death, Mikhail Gorbachev said: "Pope John Paul II's devotion to his followers is a remarkable example to all of us."[64][89]
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US President George W. Bush presents the Medal of Freedom to Pope John Paul II, in June 2004
In February 2004, Pope John Paul II was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prizehonouring his life's work in opposing Communist oppression and helping to reshape the world.[93]
President George W. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America's highest civilian honour, to Pope John Paul II during a ceremony at the Vatican 4 June 2004. The president read the citation that accompanied the medal, which recognised "this son of Poland" whose "principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny."[94] After receiving the award, John Paul II said, "May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolised by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place."[95]
Warsaw, Moscow, Budapest, Berlin, Prague, Sofia and Bucharest have become stages in a long pilgrimage toward liberty. It is admirable that in these events, entire peoples spoke out – women, young people, men, overcoming fears, their irrepressible thirst for liberty speeded up developments, made walls tumble down and opened gates.[96]

Relations with other faiths
Pope John Paul II travelled extensively and met with believers from many divergent faiths. At the World Day of Prayer for Peace, held in Assisi on 27 October 1986, more than 120 representatives of different religions and Christian denominations spent a day together with fasting and praying.[97]

Anglicanism
Pope John Paul II had good relations with the Church of England, referred to by his predecessor Pope Paul VI, as "our beloved Sister Church".[98] He was the first reigning pope to travel to the United Kingdom, in 1982, where he met Queen Elizabeth II, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. He preached in Canterbury Cathedral and received the Archbishop of Canterbury with friendship and courtesy. However, John Paul II was disappointed by the Church of England's decision to offer the Sacrament of Holy Orders to women and saw it as a step in the opposite direction from unity between the Anglican Communion and the Catholic Church.[98]
In 1980 John Paul II issued a Pastoral Provision allowing married former Episcopal priests to become Catholic priests, and for the acceptance of former Episcopal Church parishes into the Catholic Church. He allowed the creation of the Anglican Use form of the Latin Rite, which incorporates the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. John Paul II helped establish 'Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church', together with Archbishop Patrick Flores of San Antonio, Texas, as a place where Anglicans and Catholics could worship together.[99]

Buddhism
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, visited Pope John Paul II eight times, more than any other single dignitary. The Pope and the Dalai Lama held many similar views and understood similar plights, both coming from nations damaged by communism and both serving as heads of major religious bodies.[100][101]

Eastern Orthodox Church
Main article: Pope John Paul II's relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church
In May 1999, John Paul II visited Romania on the invitation from Patriarch TeoctistArăpaşu of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was the first time a Pope had visited a predominantly Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism in 1054.[102]On his arrival, the Patriarch and the President of Romania, Emil Constantinescu, greeted the Pope.[102] The Patriarch stated, "The second millennium of Christian history began with a painful wounding of the unity of the Church; the end of this millennium has seen a real commitment to restoring Christian unity."[102]
On 23–27 June 2001 John Paul II visited Ukraine, another heavily Orthodox nation, at the invitation of the President of Ukraine and bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church.[103] The Pope spoke to leaders of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organisations, pleading for "open, tolerant and honest dialogue".[103]About 200 thousand people attended the liturgies celebrated by the Pope in Kiev, and the liturgy in Lviv gathered nearly one and a half million faithful.[103] John Paul II stated that an end to the Great Schism was one of his fondest wishes.[103] Healing divisions between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches regarding Latin and Byzantine traditions was clearly of great personal interest. For many years, John Paul II sought to facilitate dialogue and unity stating as early as 1988 in Euntes in mundum that "Europe has two lungs, it will never breathe easily until it uses both of them".
During his 2001 travels, John Paul II became the first Pope to visit Greece in 1291 years.[104][105] In Athens, the Pope met with Archbishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church.[104]After a private 30 minute meeting, the two spoke publicly. Christodoulos read a list of "13 offences" of the Roman Catholic Church against the Eastern Orthodox Church since the Great Schism,[104] including the pillaging of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204, and bemoaned the lack of apology from the Roman Catholic Church, saying "Until now, there has not been heard a single request for pardon" for the "maniacal crusaders of the 13th century."[104]
The Pope responded by saying "For the occasions past and present, when sons and daughters of the Catholic Church have sinned by action or omission against their Orthodox brothers and sisters, may the Lord grant us forgiveness", to which Christodoulos immediately applauded. John Paul II said that the sacking of Constantinople was a source of "profound regret" for Catholics.[104] Later John Paul II and Christodoulos met on a spot where Saint Paul had once preached to Athenian Christians. They issued a ‘common declaration’, saying "We shall do everything in our power, so that the Christian roots of Europe and its Christian soul may be preserved. … We condemn all recourse to violence, proselytism and fanaticism, in the name of religion".[104]The two leaders then said the Lord's Prayer together, breaking an Orthodox taboo against praying with Catholics.[104]
The Pope had said throughout his pontificate that one of his greatest dreams was to visit Russia, but this never occurred. He attempted to solve the problems that had arisen over centuries between the Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches, and in 2004 gave them a 1730 copy of the lost icon of Our Lady of Kazan.

Islam
Pope John Paul II made considerable efforts to improve relations between Catholicism and Islam.[106]
On 6 May 2001, Pope John Paul II became the first Catholic pope to enter and pray in a mosque. Respectfully removing his shoes, he entered the Umayyad Mosque, a former Byzantine era Christian church dedicated to John the Baptist (who was believed to be interred there) in Damascus, Syria, and gave a speech including the statement: "For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and to offer each other forgiveness."[57] He kissed the Qur’an in Syria,[107] an act which made him popular amongst Muslims but which disturbed many Catholics.[107]
In 2004, Pope John Paul II hosted the "Papal Concert of Reconciliation", which brought together leaders of Islam with leaders of the Jewish community and of the Catholic Church at the Vatican for a concert by the Kraków Philharmonic Choir from Poland, the London Philharmonic Choir from the United Kingdom, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from the United States, and the Ankara State Polyphonic Choir of Turkey.[108][109][110][111] The event was conceived and conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine, KCSG and was broadcast throughout the world.[108][109][110][111]
John Paul II oversaw the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which makes a special provision[clarification needed] for Muslims; therein, it is written, "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in 'the first place amongst whom are the Muslims'; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."[112]

Judaism
Relations between Catholicism and Judaism improved during the pontificate of John Paul II.[39][59] He spoke frequently about the Church's relationship with the Jewish faith.[39]
In 1979, John Paul II became the first pope to visit the German Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland, where many of his compatriots (mostly Polish Jews) had perished during the Nazi occupation in World War II. In 1998 he issued "We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah" which outlined his thinking on the Holocaust.[113] He became the first pope known to have made an official papal visit to a synagogue, when he visited the Great Synagogue of Rome on 13 April 1986.[114][115]
In 1994, John Paul II established formal diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the State of Israel, acknowledging its centrality in Jewish life and faith.[114]Inhonour of this event, Pope John Paul II hosted ‘The Papal Concert to Commemorate the Holocaust’. This concert, which was conceived and conducted by American Maestro Gilbert Levine, was attended by the Chief Rabbi of Rome, the President of Italy, and survivors of the Holocaust from around the world.[116][117]
In March 2000, John Paul II visited YadVashem, the national Holocaust memorial in Israel, and later made history by touching one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem,[59] placing a letter inside it (in which he prayed for forgiveness for the actions against Jews).[58][59][114] In part of his address he said: "I assure the Jewish people the Catholic Church... is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place", he added that there were "no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust".[58][59]Israeli cabinet minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, who hosted the Pope's visit, said he was "very moved" by the Pope's gesture.[58][59]
It was beyond history, beyond memory.[58]
We are deeply saddened by the behaviour of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.[118]
In October 2003, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) issued a statement congratulating John Paul II on entering the 25th year of his papacy. In January 2005, John Paul II became the first Pope in history known to receive a priestly blessing from a rabbi, when Rabbis Benjamin Blech, Barry Dov Schwartz, and Jack Bemporad visited the Pontiff at Clementine Hall in the Apostolic Palace.[119]

Immediately after John Paul II's death, the ADL issued a statement that Pope John Paul II had revolutionisedCatholic-Jewish relations, saying that "more change for the better took place in his 27 year Papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before."[120] In another statement issued by the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, Director DrColin

Rubenstein said, "The Pope will be remembered for his inspiring spiritual leadership in the cause of freedom and humanity. He achieved far more in terms of transforming relations with both the Jewish people and the State of Israel than any other figure in the history of the Catholic Church".[114]
With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion. You are our dearly beloved brothers, and in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers.[121]
In an interview with the Polish Press Agency, Michael Schudrich, chief rabbi of Poland, said that never in history did anyone do as much for Christian-Jewish dialogue as Pope John Paul II, adding that many Jews had a greater respect for the late pope than for some rabbis. Schudrich praised John Paul II for condemning anti-Semitism as a sin, which no previous pope had done.[122]

Lutheranism
On 15–19 November 1980 John Paul II visited the Federal Republic of Germany[123] on his first trip to a country with a large Lutheran population. In Mainz he met with leaders of the Lutheran and other Protestant Churches, and with representatives of other Christian denominations.
On 11 December 1983 John Paul II participated in an ecumenical service in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Rome,[124] the first papal visit ever to a Lutheran church. The visit took place 500 years after the birth of Martin Luther, the German Augustinian monk who initiated the Lutheran reformation.
In his apostolic pilgrimage to Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark and Sweden of June 1989,[125] John Paul II became the first pope to visit countries with Lutheran majorities. In addition to celebrating Mass with Catholic believers, he participated in ecumenical services at places that had been Catholic shrines before the 16th century Lutheran reformation: Nidaros Cathedral in Norway; near St. Olav's Church at Thingvellir in Iceland; Turku Cathedral in Finland; Roskilde Cathedral in Denmark; and Uppsala Cathedral in Sweden.
On 31 October 1999 (the 482nd anniversary of Reformation Day, Martin Luther's posting of the 95 Theses), representatives of the Vatican and the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) signed a Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, as a gesture of unity. The signing was a fruit of a theological dialogue that had been going on between the LWF and the Vatican since 1965.

Assassination attempts
Main articles: 1981 Pope John Paul II assassination attempt, Juan MaríaFernández y Krohn, and The Bojinka Plot
As he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience on 13 May 1981,[126] Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca,[5][49][127] an expert Turkish gunman who was a member of the militant fascist group Grey Wolves.[128] The assassin used a Browning 9 mm semi-automatic pistol,[129] shooting the pope in the abdomen and perforating his colon and small intestine multiple times.[45] John Paul II was rushed into the Vatican complex and then to the Gemelli Hospital. En route to the hospital, he lost consciousness. Even though the two bullets missed his mesenteric artery and abdominal aorta, he lost nearly three-quarters of his blood. He underwent five hours of surgery to treat his wounds.[130] Surgeons performed a colostomy, temporarily rerouting the upper part of the large intestine to let the damaged lower part heal.[130]When he briefly gained consciousness before being operated on, he instructed the doctors not to remove his Brown Scapular during the operation.[131]The pope stated that Our Lady of Fátima helped keep him alive throughout his ordeal.[49][127][132]
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The site of the shooting is marked by a small marble tablet bearing John Paul's papal coat of arms and the date in Roman numerals.
Could I forget that the event in St. Peter's Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over sixty years at Fátima, Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet.[133]
Ağca was caught and restrained by a nun and other bystanders until police arrived. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days after Christmas in 1983, John Paul II visited Ağca in prison. John Paul II and Ağca spoke privately for about twenty minutes.[49][127] John Paul II said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.″
On 2 March 2006 the Italian parliament's Mitrokhin Commission, set up by Silvio Berlusconi and headed by Forza Italia senator Paolo Guzzanti, concluded that the Soviet Union was behind the attempt on John Paul II's life,[128][134] in retaliation for the pope's support of Solidarity, the Catholic, pro-democratic Polish workers' movement, a theory which had already been supported by Michael Ledeen and the United States Central Intelligence Agency at the time.[128][134] The Italian report stated that Communist Bulgarian security departments were utilised to prevent the Soviet Union's role from being uncovered.[134]The report stated that Soviet military intelligence (GlavnojeRazvedyvatel'nojeUpravlenije), not the KGB, were responsible.[134] Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov called the accusation ‘absurd’.[134] The Pope declared during a May 2002 visit to Bulgaria that the country's Soviet bloc-era leadership had nothing to do with the assassination attempt.[128][134] However, his secretary, Cardinal StanisławDziwisz, alleged in his book A Life with Karol, that the pope was convinced privately that the former Soviet Union was behind the attack.[135] It was later discovered that many of John Paul II's aides had foreign government attachments;[136] Bulgaria and Russia disputed the Italian commission's conclusions, pointing out that the Pope had publicly denied the Bulgarian connection.[134]A second assassination attempt took place on 12 May 1982, just a day before the anniversary of the first attempt on his life, in Fátima, Portugal when a man tried to stab John Paul II with a bayonet.[137][138][139] He was stopped by security guards, although StanisławDziwisz later claimed that John Paul II had been injured during the attempt but managed to hide a non-life threatening wound.[137][138][139] The assailant, a traditionalist Spanish priest named Juan MaríaFernández y Krohn,[137] was ordained as a priest by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of the Society of Saint Pius X and was opposed to the changes caused by the Second Vatican Council, claiming that the pope was an agent of Communist Moscow and of the Marxist Eastern Bloc.[140]Fernández y Krohn subsequently left the priesthood and served three years of a six-year sentence.[138][139][140] The ex-priest was treated for mental illness and then expelled from Portugal to become a solicitor in Belgium.[140]
Pope John Paul II was also a target of the Al-Qaeda-funded Bojinka plot during a visit to the Philippines in 1995. The first plan was to kill him in the Philippines during World Youth Day 1995 celebrations. On 15 January 1995, a suicide bomber was planning to dress as a priest, while John Paul II passed in his motorcade on his way to the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City. The would-be-assassin intended to get close and detonate the bomb. The assassination was supposed to divert attention from the next phase of the operation. However, a chemical fire inadvertently started by the cell alerted police to their whereabouts, and all were arrested a week before the Pope's visit, confessing to the plot.[141]
In 2009 journalist and former army intelligence officerJohn Koehler published Spies in the Vatican: The Soviet Union's Cold War Against the Catholic Church.[142] Mining mostly East German and Polish secret police archives, Koehler says the assassination attempts were "KGB-backed" and gives details.[143] During John Paul II's reign there were many clerics within the Vatican who on nomination, declined to be ordained, and then mysteriously left the church. There is wide speculation that they were, in reality, KGB agents.

Apologies
John Paul II apologised to almost every group who had suffered at the hands of the Catholic Church through the years.[39][144] Even before he became Pope, he was a prominent editor and supporter of initiatives like the Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops from 1965. As Pope, he officially made public apologies for over 100 wrongdoings, including:

On 20 November 2001, from a laptop in the Vatican, Pope John Paul II sent his first e-mail apologising for the Catholic sex abuse cases, the Church-backed "Stolen Generations" of Aboriginal children in Australia, and to China for the behaviour of Catholic missionaries in colonial times.[147]

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