Pope John Paul II

May 18, 1920 - April 2, 2005

Pope John Paul II , sometimes called Blessed John Paul or John Paul the Great,was the head of the Catholic Church from 16 October 1978 to his death in 2005. He was the second longest-serving pope in history and, as a Pole, the first non-Italian since Pope Adrian VI, 455 years earlier.

John Paul II was one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. He is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe.John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. Controversially, he upheld the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, he supported the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform, and he held firm orthodox Catholic stances. He is known for his implementation of several papal documents pertaining to the role of the Church in the modern world.

He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. He named most of the present College of Cardinals, consecrated or co-consecrated a large number of the world's past and current bishops, and ordained many priests.A key goal of his papacy was to transform and reposition the Catholic Church. His wish was "to place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great [religious] armada".Time magazine named him Person of the Year 1994.On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011 after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to him, the healing of a French nun from Parkinson's disease. A second miracle, attributed to the late pope, was approved on 2 July 2013 and confirmed by Pope Francis two days later. John Paul II will be canonised on 27 April 2014, alongside Pope John XXIII.Like Pope John XXIII, his feast day is not celebrated on the date of his death as is usual, but on 22 October, the anniversary of his papal inauguration in 1978.