Blessed John Paul II: Vatican II & The Year 2000


As our final post in our build up to the beatification of Pope John Paul II, we will look at two major events in his life and in the life of the Church – Vatican II and the great jubilee year of 2000.

These two momentous occasions which Karol Wojtyla took part in, in very different ways, shaped the Pope he would become and the way he would be remembered.

Vatican II took place between 1962 and 1965, bishop Wojtyla came to Rome from behind the Iron Curtain representing a Church that had suffered immensely during what is sometimes known as “The war that Poland lost twice” having been occupied first by the Nazis, then by the Communists.

Jim Gallagher explains his contribution to the Council thus in the new CTS biography John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood:

“He also intervened on the ‘Church in the modern world’ and from January to April the following year, 1965, he took part in a subcommission re-drafting the Council document (Gaudium et Spes) on that same topic. [Now] Cardinal Wojtyla intervened twice in the final session of Vatican II; on the responsibilities of religious freedom, and on the Christian understanding of ‘the world’ and the problem of modern atheism.”

He returned to his diocese in Poland and implemented the Council he wholeheartedly believed in, when he became bishop of Rome he did the same, for as he often said:

“If the Holy Spirit brought the bishop of Krakow to Rome there must be value for the whole Church in what I learnt there.”

The great Jubilee

After the Council in 1966, Karol Wojtyla took part in the millennial celebrations of Polish Christianity, yet it was as bishop of Rome celebrating the beginning of the third millennium of Christian history that John Paul II achieved some of his most remarkable feats. Taking on a grueling schedule for anyone, let alone an eighty year-old whose health was deteriorating, he travelled to the Holy Land in March – where his security codename for the Israeli Defence Force was “Old Friend” – he held Jubilee celebrations for people from every walk of life; children, journalists, politicians, deacons, athletes, the world of entertainment and priests to name just a few.

But as is explained in the text of the beatification decree:

“The Great Jubilee of Redemption, in the Year 2000, was not for John Paul II a “pretext” for pastoral action, but first and foremost a historical reality reminding us of the coming of Jesus of Nazareth and everything that this historical event has brought.”

John Paul II’s first encyclical Redemptor Hominis published in 1979, began with the words:

“The redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the centre of the universe and of history,” 21 years later whether he was speaking to 2 million young people at World Youth Day in Rome or to prisoners, migrants or anyone else, his message was the same, a message he delivered not just in words, but with his whole life.

John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood by Jim Gallagher is available from CTS at £2.95

Of related interest:

John Paul II: The Pope who Made History – A unique and monumental 5-DVD collection that chronologically follows Pope John Paul II’s life, including his childhood in Poland, his appointment as Pope, his most important foreign visits, and his last days.
John Paul II: His Life his Pontificate – his DVD contains two feature-length documentaries: His Life (30 mins) and His Pontificate (60 mins). They consider the two parts of John Paul’s life, before and after his election as Pope.
How Saints are Canonised – Through baptism, all Christians are called to be saints, and yet there are also ‘saints’ who are ‘canonised’ by the Church. This booklet gives an overview of the history and process of beatification and canonisation in the Catholic Church.

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