VATICAN CITY — The most-traveled pope in history, John Paul II left his mark on the Catholic Church and non-believers worldwide. Here are some milestones along his path to sainthood:
BY THE NUMBERS
—Elected to the papacy in 1978 as first non-Italian pope in 455 years and only Pole.
—Upon election he was 58, the youngest pope in 125 years.
—Distance traveled on his foreign trips: 725,000 miles, or nearly three times the distance from the Earth to the moon. He visited more than 120 countries, including the United States five times.
—Codified church teaching in the first major revision of the Catechism of the Catholic Church in 400 years.
—In 1986, made the first recorded visit by a pope to a Jewish house of worship when he visited Rome’s main synagogue. In 2001, became first pope to enter a Muslim house of worship when he visited a mosque in Syria.
—Biggest turnout for a papal appearance: 4 million in the Philippines in 1995.
NO, NO, NO
In writings and speeches, John Paul reaffirmed the Vatican’s ban on artificial birth control, abortion, euthanasia, divorce, in vitro fertilization, sex outside marriage, homosexual relations and same-sex unions.
He produced 14 encyclicals and the best-selling book “Crossing the Threshold of Hope.” At Christmas and Easter, he delivered greetings in dozens of languages. Among the many tongues he mastered besides his native Polish were Italian, Spanish, French, German, Russian, Portuguese and English. Once, to a group of Roman seminarians, he joked in “Romanesco,” the Eternal City’s earthy local dialect.
Born Karol Wojtyla in southern Poland on May 18, 1920. By the time he was 20, both parents and his sole sibling were dead and his homeland was occupied by the Nazis. He studied clandestinely to become a priest. Ordained in 1946, after the end of World War II.
ON THE RISE
He became auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1958, bishop in 1964, cardinal in 1967.
He credited divine providence for surviving an assassination attempt in St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981 that left him gravely wounded. Later he visited the gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk, in prison and forgave him. Various theories about the attack abounded, including purported involvement from the Soviet bloc, but reasons behind it were never made clear.
His 1979 pilgrimage to Poland helped foster the birth of the Solidarity labor movement, and later tours kept alive its spirit during Communist crackdowns. In 1985, he capped a six-year mediation effort in joining Argentina and Chile in signing a treaty to end 200-year-long dispute over Beagle Channel.
CONSERVATIVE TO A POINT
His back-to-basics conservatism on doctrinal issues pleased conservatives. But John Paul also declared that capital punishment had no place in modern society, frequently railed against “unbridled” capitalism and consumerism, and denounced the war in Iraq.
Scandals involving pedophile priests and systematic efforts by church hierarchy to cover up the abuse exploded under John Paul’s watch in the United States, Western Europe and elsewhere.
Mikhail Gorbachev was the first Soviet leader to visit the pope at the Vatican. But Orthodox-Catholic tensions thwarted John Paul’s dream of visiting Russia.
Ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, he prayed in 2004 at the shrine at Lourdes, France, where many faithful seek miracles. That was the 84-year-old pontiff’s final trip abroad.
NOTABLE AND QUOTABLE
— ‘Nazi paganism and Marxist dogma … tend to become substitute religions.”
— Jews are Christians’ “older brothers.”
— “The Church is not a democracy, and no one from below can decide on the truth.'”