I read JPIIs wiki-ography tonight, and too much stuck out not too share the fun bits.
A few details.
John Paul II was a pope. Yes. But looking just at his early life, we see he was…other things. A footballer. A patriot. A lover. A philogist. A conscientious objector. An actor. A playwright. A hyperpolygot. A resistance fighter. An uncover seminarian. I can’t help but think that practically all fictional backstories pale in comparison to his. And this is just him as a kid and a teen. (No wonder he has such faith that youth can save the world!)
As a young priest, he earned two doctorates, lead a group of young philosophers, skied and kayaked, wrote various religious works (including the defining work on theology of the body, which as far as I can tell, didn’t exist at the time), wrote poetry and plays, was ordained a bishop…
I’m not even going to starton what he did as a bishop. It’s too simultaneously awesome and boring-sounding.
Except that he was elected pope at 58. Which was ridiculously young.
As a pope…
He visited 129 countries. I don’t think any world leader has ever done that. It’s absolutely crazy and impractical and awesome.
He attracted one of the largest crowds in human history. Possibly the largest crowd.
He visited the White House. He visited the Queen. He visited Muslim countries. He prayed in a mosque. He flied to Kazakhstan right after 9/11, when many people are too afraid to fly even to Christian countries.
He visited Poland in 1979, which started the Solidarity movement, which eventually toppled Poland’s communist government.
He wrote 14 encyclicals.
He apparently interrupted a U2 recording session to speak to Bono.
He befriended the Dalai Lama—unless, of course, they spent their eight meetings yelling at each other.
He met the leader of the Eastern Orthodox church. He apologied for, more or less, everything Catholics have done to the Orthodox Church. In history. The Orthodox leader prayed with him, breaking the Orthodox taboo against praying with Catholics.
He received a priestly blessing. From a rabbi.
He kissed a Quran.
He was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in ending Communism, but lost, mostly because it was the Nobel Peace Prize.
He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In the Vatican.
He was shot by a Turkish assassin, and lost three-quarters of his blood. A nun tackled the gunmen. This is why if, God forbid, you’re trying to assassinate the Pope, you do so somewhere outside the Vatican. Unless, of course, you intend not only to fail (which you will), but also look ridiculous doing so.
An Italian parliamentary commission found, in 2006, that the plot had been orchestrated by the Soviet Union. Quite ironically, he outlived the Soviet Union.
He personally forgave the man who shot him.
He died in 2005. His funeral was the largest gathering of statesmen in history.