Today marks the one year anniversary of the death of John Paul II. His life was truly astounding. I had the incredible honor of having a private audience with him -- I'll never forget it.
John Paul's impact on the world was tremendous (e.g., be sure to read the material at the end of this post!).
Here are a few of the many accomplishments of John Paul II (much, much more could be said!).
John Paul II (Karol Wojtyla)...
—was a key figure in the Polish struggle against the Nazis; a well known actor in the Rhapsodic Theatre
—was placed on the Nazis “black list” in 1944
—earned two doctoral degrees, one from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas (also known as the Angelicum), the other form Jagiellonian University; his dissertations were The Doctrine of Faith in Saint John of the Cross and An Evaluation of the Possibility of Constructing a Christian Ethics on the Basis of the System of Max Sheler
—served as lecturer at Jagiellonian University and at the University of Lublin
—published several academic books and essays prior to becoming pope; also published poems and plays
—made significant contributions to the decrees of the Second Vatican Council
—was the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century; first Polish pope ever
—was pope 26 years, 5 months, and 17 days (third longest papacy in history)
—was the most widely traveled pope in history; 104 apostolic journeys to 129 different countries (covering more than 725,000 miles (roughly thirty times the circumference of the earth; three times the distance of the earth from the moon)
—was named Time magazine’s “Man of the Year” in 1994
—played a decisive role in the downfall of communism in Russia
—presided over the largest Christian public event in history: a Mass in the Philippines during World Youth Day in 1995, which somewhere between 4-7 million people attended
—spent about 1,000 hours outside the Vatican (6% of his papacy)
—promulgated 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 45 apostolic letters, and 28 motu proprios
—wrote five books as pope, the last was published posthumously in 2005: Beyond the Threshold of Hope (1994); the autobiography, Gift and Mystery" (1996); Roman Triptych (2003); Get Up, Let Us Go (2004)
—was the first pope to have a book on the New York Times best seller list
—his CD on the Rosary has gone “platinum”
—held 1,165 general public audiences, and these Wednesday audiences drew a total of 17.7 million people
—established diplomatic relations with 83 countries
—created 231 new cardinals; presided at the ordination of 321 bishops,
—proclaimed more saints than all of the other popes since the Council of Trent combined. The standards for beatification and canonization were set at Trent and since then 2,343 men and women have been beatified, 785 canonized as saints; John Paul II was responsible for elevating more than half of those-- 1,342 and 483, respectively
In addition, I should mention that John Paul did amazing things in terms of ecumenism. I believe his papacy was a major force behind the unprecedented ways Catholics and Protestants are coming together (see below posts: A Protestant Scholar asks: Is the Reformation Over? and First Catholic Lecturer at Oxford Since the Reformation). In fact, after his death a Protestant theologian, D. Stephen Long, wrote an interesting peice asking "Do we need a pope?"
If you want a great treatment on John Paul's papacy I HIGHLY recommend George Weigel's book, Witness to Hopen. Not too long ago I posted a bit from his account of the assassination attempt on John Paul's life. You can read that here.