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Pope John Paul Ii, His Effects on Modern Catholicism, and How He Affected the Modern World

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Pope John Paul II also known as Blessed John Paul II was the Roman Catholic Pope that instituted sweeping changes to the old religion. Because of this the author has chosen him as the subject of this paper.

Roman Catholicism began as the name implies in Rome. Tradition holds that it evolved from the twelve apostles of Jesus, with Peter being the first Pope (Norman). It was first recognized by Rome in 313 A.D. when Roman Emperor Constantine I made it the state religion of Rome. He attributed his rise to power to the Christian God (MacCulloch). With its long and storied history the Catholic Church is the oldest recognized religion in world.

Pope John Paul II had an amazing effect on the relations between the Roman Catholic Church and Judaism. He visited Jerusalem in March of 2000, he touched the Western Wall and prayed for forgiveness for all the horrible things done to Jews over the years. Also while he was there he visited Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial (BBC). In 1979 he visited the concentration camp Auschwitz where many of his colleagues, mostly Polish Jews, had been slaughtered during the Nazi occupation during World War II (Cassidy). Pope John Paul II also established diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel, recognizing its importance to the Jewish faith and life (AIJAC). He became the first Pope in history to receive a blessing from a Rabbi in January 2005(PTWF). When he died the Anti-Defamation League (and American civil rights group for Jews) said "more change for the better took place in his 27 year Papacy than in the nearly 2,000 years before.".

With Islam he wanted to heal the wounds of the crusades and all other wrongs done by Catholics to Muslims throughout history. On May 6, 2001 he became the first pope to pray inside a mosque. Respectfully removing his shoes, he entered the Umayyad Mosque, a former Byzantine era Christian church dedicated to John the Baptist in Damascus, Syria, and gave a speech including the statement: "For all the times that Muslims and Christians have offended one another, we need to seek forgiveness from the Almighty and to offer each other forgiveness."(BBC). He kissed the Qur'an in Syria, an act which made him popular amongst Muslims but which disturbed many Catholics(Akin). In 2004, Pope John Paul II hosted the "Papal Concert of Reconciliation", which brought together leaders of Islam with leaders of the Jewish community and of the Catholic Church at the Vatican for a concert by orchestras from around the world(WQED). John Paul II oversaw the publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church which makes a special provision for Muslims; therein, it is written, "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in 'the first place amongst whom are the Muslims'; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."(Vatican Archives). John Paul II had a large role in reconciling Christianity with Islam and the results of his actions are still being felt to this day.

Pope John Paul II also had a lasting positive effect on relations with the Eastern Orthodox Church. In May 1999, John Paul II visited Romania on the invitation from Patriarch Teoctist Arapasu of the Romanian Orthodox Church. This was the first time a Pope had visited a predominantly Eastern Orthodox country since the Great Schism in 1054. On his arrival, the Patriarch greeted the Pope. The Patriarch stated, "The second millennium of Christian history began with a painful wounding of the unity of the Church; the end of this millennium has seen a real commitment to restoring Christian unity."(Brunwasser) On 23-27 June 2001 John Paul II visited Ukraine, another heavily Orthodox nation, at the invitation of bishops of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. The Pope spoke to leaders of the All-Ukrainian Council of Churches and Religious Organizations, pleading for "open, tolerant and honest dialogue". About two hundred thousand people attended the sermon celebrated by the Pope in Kiev. John Paul II stated that an end to the Great Schism was one of his fondest wishes. Healing divisions between the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches regarding Latin and Byzantine traditions was clearly of great personal interest.( The Institute of Religion and Society) During his 2001 travels, John Paul II became the first Pope to visit Greece in 1291 years. In Athens, the Pope met with Archbishop Christodoulos, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church. After a private 30 minute meeting, the two spoke publicly. The Archbishop read a list of "13 offences" of the Roman Catholic Church against the Eastern Orthodox Church since the Great Schism, including the pillaging of Constantinople by crusaders in 1204, and bemoaned the lack of apology from the Roman Catholic Church, The pope asked for forgiveness in a prayer for all of the wrongs done by Catholics to their Orthodox brethren (Macedonian Press Agency).

He was by no means perfect; there were criticisms of his reign



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