*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***
It is the 16th of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I’m Dan van Voorhis.
So, if you’re listening in Poland right now- I’d like to be the first to wish you a very happy Pope John Paul II day. They do this in honor of that first Polish Pope who was elected to the office of the Papacy by the college of Cardinals on this day in 1978.
If you ask any elder Millennial, Gen-X, or Boomer about the Pope, there is a good chance they (well, we) think of the diminutive smiling Pole, Karol Wojtyła.
The third longest-serving Pope behind Peter and Pius IX he was in office from 1978 until his death in 2005. With those many years in office you would expect records, controversy, adulation, etc… let’s break down a few things about PJ2.
He was born in Poland during a period of independence but was present for the invasions of both Hitler and Stalin. His distaste for authoritarianism in those forms seems to have fueled a good bit of his Cold War diplomacy. He also played an important role in the global Catholic Church. And it is perhaps his international work that make him a one-of-a-kind Pope.
He was the first non-Italian Pope in over 450 years. Think about that.
He had a Jewish girlfriend as a young man that he would reminisce about when he was older. His proximity to Auschwitz made him more sensitive to the horrors of the Holocaust and antisemitism. He apologized for the lack of action by the church during the Holocaust and apologized to all people who have suffered at the hands of the church. He was the first Pope to enter a synagogue and the first Pope to enter a Mosque.
It is estimated he traveled roughly the equivalent of to the moon and back 3 times- he visited 129 countries and re-established Vatican diplomatic relations with Britain after 450 years. He re-established relations with the White House and was the first Pope to go to the White House.
On account of his travels and the large crowds to which he spoke, one biographer has suggested that no single person has ever preached to more people in person in their life. The methodology for that might get tricky but take the point: few people in history have been as recognizable.
His relationship with conservative American evangelicals marked a new chapter in the American Protestant-Catholic relationship. Once it was unthinkable that a Catholic could be president. Catholics were targets of the KKK. Anti-Catholicism was an American scourge, but when the newly formed religious right saw an ally in the Pope it was a new ballgame. John Paul wrote against abortion which engendered him to the American right although his same argument in the same document against birth control and the death penalty were conveniently glossed over.
He himself canonized and beatified more than every other Pope combined. Pause here for a second. How is this? First, he was Pope for a long time. Second, his travel belied his intention to make the Catholic Church more universal. Visiting someplace, preaching, and then canonizing local saints is a great method for reviving interest in your institution.
He has in the past year or so been implicated in the Catholic clergy sex scandal. According to a report from the Vatican itself, he too often turned a blind eye or sought unity despite grave moral failures. He was vilified by progressives for his conservative views (on Gender roles in the church, for instance) and hated by some conservatives for his progressive views (which were few, but he was in favor of the Vatican 2 reforms).
Love him or hate him (or remain ambivalent about him) today we remember the face of the Catholic Church in the late 20th century and the Pope that ushered the Catholic Church into the 21st century- today we remember Pope John Paul II on “Pope John Paul II Day” in Poland- this, the 16th of October.
The last word for today comes from Matthew 23:
8 “But you shouldn’t be called Rabbi, because you have one teacher, and all of you are brothers and sisters. 9 Don’t call anybody on earth your father, because you have one Father, who is heavenly. 10 Don’t be called teacher, because Christ is your one teacher. 11 But the one who is greatest among you will be your servant. 12 All who lift themselves up will be brought low. But all who make themselves low will be lifted up.
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 16th of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org.
The show is produced by a man whose favorite Papa’s include John, Smurf, and the other half of the Mama’s. He is Christoper Gillespie.
The show is written and read by a man whose favorite John Paul’s include the sailor and the bassist… not a big fan of Getty. I am Dan van Voorhis
You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.