Pope John Paul II: Model of Heroic Faith
CINCINNATIOn April 2, 2005, after a lengthy battle with Parkinson's disease, Pope John
Paul II died in the 27th year of leading the Catholic Church.
Despite debilitating illness in recent years, Pope John Paul II traveled
extensively, advocated for life in all of its stages, created more saints than
any of his predecessors and worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between
Christians, Jews and Muslims. On that April day, the world's Catholics lost
their beloved father-in-faith. The world's citizens lost one of their greatest
In light of his passing, St. Anthony Messenger has devoted its May cover story, entitled
"John Paul II: Model of Heroic Faith," to the late pontiff. Contributing Editor
Father Jack Wintz, O.F.M., who covered the pope's first visit to the United
States in 1979 for this publication and who wrote of John Paul II's visit to
Cuba in 1998, reflects on Karol Wojtyla's life, his legacy and his lifelong mission to spread the word of God. After April
20, the article will be posted at: AmericanCatholic.org.
"Heroic" is just one of many terms that can be
attributed to Pope John Paul II. Following the German invasion of Poland in 1939, Karol Jozef Wojtyla worked as
a laborer while studying at an underground seminary in Krakow. Ordained in
1946, he became an assistant pastor in Krakow in 1949 and later was appointed
as the auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1958. Wojtyla became the archbishop in
1964 and was elected pope in October 1978, becoming
the first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years.
John Paul II made good use of his time as the leader of
the Catholic Church. Visiting 130 countries, delivering more than 2,000 public
addresses and issuing countless encyclicals and apostolic letters, Pope John
Paul II battled Communism, campaigned for peace and human rights and fought to
spread the message of Christ, thus reinvigorating the faith of many. He also
fought personal illness and suffering. By 1998, the effects of Parkinson's
disease were clearly visible during his trip to Cuba.
"Once the pope's health began to fail," Father Jack
Wintz writes, "he manifested heroic faith by the way he dealt with personal
illness and suffering. He walked with a shuffle, his hand often trembled and
his speech was so slurred and weak at times that it almost faded into silence."
Yet Pope John Paul II never tired of spreading God's
love around the world. Asserting throughout his papacy that Christ is the model
of our humanity, Pope John Paul II exhibited such grace, never more evident than when he forgave his
would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Ağca, in 1983. During that event, and indeed
throughout his life, Pope John Paul II certainly lived up to his calling.
"It was as if he was born to lead usand all God's
peopleback to Bethlehem," Father Jack writes, "to contemplate and absorb the
meaning of the Incarnation and the whole mystery of Jesus Christ, upon whom the
Holy Father's life was centered."
granted to reprint this release.