The pontificate of John Paul II “has borne fruit both in the form of personal conversions and social transformations in many countries previously closed to Christ,” said Pope Francis in his greeting to the Polish faithful at the close of the general audience on October 18, 2023.
Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was elected to the See of Peter on October 16, 1978. The 45th anniversary of this election was celebrated at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, in the presence of the Polish head of state.
“Last Monday, we commemorated the 45th anniversary of Karol Wojtyla’s election to the See of Peter,” said Pope Francis, greeting the Polish faithful “warmly.”
“During his pontificate, the call to open the door to Christ resounded with great force,” recalled the Argentine Pope, alluding to John Paul II’s homily at his installation mass on October 22, 1978.
“Following the example of this holy Pope, continue the work of the new evangelization he initiated,” urged Pope Francis, who was created a cardinal by John Paul II in 2001 and canonized him, jointly with John XXIII, on April 27, 2014.
The long pontificate of the Polish Pope, from 1978 to 2005, left a lasting imprint on the history of the Church and the world, not least because of his central role in the fall of communism in Europe at the end of the 1980s. In recent years, however, a number of cases of abuse in communities he supported, notably the Legionaries of Christ, have drawn increasing criticism.
Pope Francis vigorously defended him at the Regina Cæli address on April 16, 2023. The Argentine Pope denounced “unfounded and offensive allegations” against the Polish Pontiff. At the beginning of 2023, John Paul II was targeted in Poland by journalistic investigations accusing him of negligence in dealing with abuses when he was Archbishop of Krakow. He was also accused of complicity in the disappearance of Emanuela Orlandi by the missing woman’s brother, Pietro Orlandi, whose statements caused a media storm in Italy.
On October 16, the anniversary of John Paul II’s election, a Mass in his memory was celebrated in St. Peter’s Basilica, presided over by the new Polish cardinal Grzegorz Ryś, archbishop of Łódź. Despite the political upheaval following the October 15 elections, Polish President Andrzej Duda made the trip to Rome for the celebration.