John Paul II, sometimes called Blessed John Paul or John Paul the Great, born Karol Józef Wojtyła , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was the second-longest serving Pope in history and the first non-Italian since 1523.
A very charismatic figure, John Paul II was acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He is credited with helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. Though criticised by progressives for upholding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, and by traditionalists for his support of the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, he was also widely praised for his firm, orthodox Catholic stances.
On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011.
During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II made trips to 129 countries, travelling more than 1,100,000 kilometres (680,000 mi) whilst doing so. He consistently attracted large crowds, some among the largest ever assembled in human history, such as the Manila World Youth Day, which gathered up to four million people, the largest Papal gathering ever, according to the Vatican. John Paul II's earliest official visits were to the Dominican Republic and Mexico in January 1979.While some of his trips (such as to the United States and the Holy Land) were to places previously visited by Pope Paul VI, John Paul II became the first pope to visit the White House in October 1979, where he was greeted warmly by then-President Jimmy Carter. He was the first Pope ever to visit several countries, starting in 1979 with Mexico and Ireland.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 travelled to Haiti in 1983, where he spoke in Creole to thousands of impoverished Catholics gathered to greet him at the airport. His message, "things must change in Haiti", referring to the disparity between the wealthy and the poor, was met with thunderous applause. In 2000, he was the first modern pope to visit Egypt, where he met with the Coptic pope, Pope Shenouda III and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria. He was the first Catholic pope to visit and pray in an Islamic mosque, in Damascus, Syria, in 2001. He visited the Umayyad Mosque, a former Christian church where John the Baptist is believed to be interred,where he made a speech calling for Muslims, Christians and Jews to live together.
On 15 January 1995, during the X World Youth Day, he offered mass to an estimated crowd of between five and seven million in Luneta Park,Manila, Philippines, which was considered to be the largest single gathering in Christian history.In March 2000, while visiting Jerusalem, John Paul became the first pope in history to visit and pray at the Western Wall.In September 2001, amid post-11 September concerns, he travelled to Kazakhstan, with an audience largely consisting of Muslims, and to Armenia, to participate in the celebration of 1,700 years of Armenian Christianity.
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