On May 19th 2020, the entirety of Christendom celebrated 100 years from the birth of Pope John Paul II.
The Polish Pope, the first non-Italian to be anointed Sovereign Pontiff in the past 500 years, was born Karol Józef Wojtyła on May 18th 1920 in the Polish town of Wadowice, and passed away on April 2nd, 2005. He was the 264th head of the catholic Church from October 16th 1978 to his death, his pontificate being one of the longest in history. As shepherd to the whole of Christendom, but also as a political leader, Pope John Paul II was a tireless advocate for global peace and interfaith dialogue between the people of the world.
The Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization paid homage to the great personality of Pope John Paul II in 2019, on the 20th anniversary of his ecumenical and state visit to Romania – making him the first Pope to visit a majority-Orthodox country after the Great Schism of 1054 – through the publication of an anniversary volume titled Pope John Paul II in Romania. Catholic-Orthodox dialogue nine centuries after the Great Schism. The album showcases the efforts made in arranging the papal visit, the papal sojourn itself, as well as the consequences of this major historic event, and is part of a broader project researching the history of religion and of interfaith dialogue in the Levantine space, the cradle of the world’s three great Abrahamic religions. In the foreword to the volume, Emil Constantinescu, the Institute’s president, highlighted the following:
One constant of my life, which I consider a blessing of Fate, has been the opportunity to meet great personalities whose lives leave behind profound imprints on the collective consciousness. Pope John Paul II was one such personality, a saint whose visionary thought and action enriched hearts and minds alike, leading to seismic shifts in public consciousness and to historical upheavals.
According to Alberto Quattrucci, the Secretary-General of the Sant’Egidio Community, May 18th 2020 also marks another symbolic milestone: it is the first time after the outbreak of the global pandemic that the faithful have been able to come together in joint prayer, as a community, in the light of the Ressurerction. Read aloud in the Santa Maria di Trastevere basilica, his chosen passage from the Gospel of John concerning the missionary and pastoral activity of Saint John the Baptist became entwined with the luminous image of Pope John Paul II, canonized in 2014, and with the echoes of his tireless advocacy for strength and peace that reverberate through time:
Peace is an endeavour open to all, not only to specialists, scholars and strategists… Peace is a universal responsibility: it permeates a thousand small acts throughout our daily lives. Depending on their daily lifestyles, people can work towards peace, or can work against it.