1. Most Saints Canonised
Pope John Paul II (JP2) canonised a record number of people, to become saints. During his 26 years as pope, he canonised 110 men and women, including Maximilian Kolbe, Josephine Bakhita and Josemaría Escrivá.
2. Most travelled Pope
Known as “The Pilgrim Pope”, JP2 made 104 foreign trips – more than all the other popes combined! The countries he visited most were Poland, France, the United States, Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Portugal and Switzerland.
3. Instituted Theology of the Body
One of JP2’s greatest legacies is his series of 100+ lectures on human sexuality; it was the first major teaching of his pontificate. It looks at the identity of the human person, the mission to love and relationship with God – a topic very relevant today.
4. Instituted World Youth Day
Another of JP2’s great legacies is World Youth Day. This amazing event is the opportunity for young people from all around the world to come together in their millions and meet the Pope.
5. Helped defeat Communism in Europe
JP2 is often credited as being instrumental in bringing down Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, by being the spiritual inspiration behind its downfall and catalyst for “a peaceful revolution” in Poland.
6. A playwright and artist
For a time, Karol Wojtyla (John Paul before he became Pope) was an actor, playwright and a poet, and even contemplated a career in the theatre. There are a number of plays and poems published that were written by him, including ‘The Jeweller’s Shop’. During his time as Pope, he wrote a letter to artists, highlighting the importance of art and beauty and encouraging them, saying that their works are gifts to the world and are necessary for the advancement of culture.
7. Mercy in the face of death
In 1981, a Turkish assassin tried to murder the Pope, by shooting him four times in St Peter’s Square, Vatican City. The assassin was sentenced to life in prison, but JP2, in his great mercy, forgave the man.
8. The Pope of Divine Mercy
Divine Mercy is a Christian devotion to the endless merciful love of God towards all people. JP2 actively promoted this devotion during his lifetime, and particularly his papacy. During the canonisation of Saint Faustina, he officially designated Divine Mercy Sunday as the first Sunday after Easter. 14 years later, in 2014, John Paul himself was canonised on Divine Mercy Sunday.
9. Coined timeless quotes
JP2 was a gifted orator and came up with many great quotes. A favourite of ours is the beginning of his encyclical Fides et Ratio: “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth – in a word, to know himself – so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.”
10. Totus Tuus
JP2’s apostolic motto was “Totus Tuus”, a Latin phrase meaning “Totally Yours”. It expressed a deep personal devotion he had to Our Lady, the Mother of God that began as a child. John Paul wrote much about this relationship and consecrated each country he visited to Mary’s intercession and protection.