The entire St. John’s University community joins the world in
mourning the passing of Pope John Paul II, dynamic spiritual leader
of 1.1 billion Roman Catholics and a champion of moral values in an
overwhelmingly secular world.
The Vatican reported that the Holy Father succumbed to a
prolonged illness today, April 2, 2005. He was 84 years old.
Throughout his 26 years in the Vatican, the Holy Father earned a
reputation as a vibrant spiritual leader who drew vast crowds
wherever he journeyed. In fact, he was the most traveled Pope in
history, having made more than 170 visits to some 115 nations.
The Holy Father also won wide admiration as a powerful moral
force, bringing the Gospel message of human dignity to world
leaders as well as ordinary worshippers. In 1994, Time magazine
named Pope John Paul its “Man of the Year.” Writing in Time in
1998, William F. Buckley Jr. described the Holy Father as “the most
tireless moral voice of a secular age,” a leader who “reminded
humankind of the worth of individuals in the modern world.”
Born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920, the
Holy Father was the first non-Italian Pope since Hadrian VI, who
ascended to the papacy in 1522. Pope John Paul ascended to the
papacy on October 16, 1978.
Pope John Paul II survived an assassination attempt in 1981. In
1983, he met with and forgave the would-be assassin. Fully
recovering from his wounds, the Holy Father continued visiting
every nation that would receive him.
In 1985, he established a new tradition by calling young people
to join him in Rome for the first World Youth Day celebration, part
of his successful efforts to bring the Gospel to new generations of
youth. Students at St. John’s are among the millions of young
people who have participated in World Youth Day. Campus Ministry
led students and staff on trips to the most recent World Youth Days
in 2000 and 2002.
In his encyclicals, the Holy Father has championed the sanctity
of life, the rights of workers, and the need for a renewed
commitment to Catholic identity in the world’s Catholic
universities. A widely read author, the Holy Father’s most recent
book was Crossing the Threshold of Hope, an international
Visiting Rome, Rev. Donald J. Harrington, C.M., President of St.
John’s University, spoke with CNN about Pope John Paul’s impact. At
St. John’s Queens campus, students, faculty and staff showed their
love and respect for the Holy Father during a special
prayer service at St. Thomas More Church on Friday