While the pope is often referred to as the Successor of St. Peter, every bishop can trace their spiritual lineage in their own diocese, being the successor of bishops in that region.
What’s interesting is how St. John Paul II would repeatedly refer to his own spiritual lineage, being the “Successor to St. Stanislaus.”
While St. Stanislaus was the 7th bishop of Krakow, Poland, his heroic example became a cornerstone of Catholicism in the region. Because of his criticisms of Poland’s King Boleslas II—whom Stanislaus had excommunicated because of his sexual immorality and harsh treatment of his subjects—the king himself murdered Stanislaus as he celebrated Mass in Wawel Castle.
St. Stanislaus was regarded as a martyr and his heroic defense of the faith remained an inspiration to his successors.
Successor of St. Stanislaus
During his first homily as pope, St. John Paul II spoke to Polish pilgrims, saying, “What shall I say to you who have come from my Krakow, from the See of Saint Stanislaus of whom I was the unworthy successor for fourteen years?”
Not surprisngly, St. John Paul II made it his goal to visit Poland during his first year as pope and it happened to be during 1979, the 900th anniversary of St. Stanislaus’ death.
He spoke about this during his homily in Warsaw on June 2, 1979.
I was, through the inscrutable designs of Divine Providence, called by the votes of the Cardinals from the chair of Saint Stanislaus in Krakow to that of Saint Peter in Rome …
My pilgrimage to my motherland in the year in which the Church in Poland is celebrating the ninth centenary of the death of Saint Stanislaus is surely a special sign of the pilgrimage that we Poles are making down through the history of the Church not only along the ways of our motherland but also along those of Europe and the world.
St. John Paul II did what he could to imitate St. Stanislaus, fearlessly proclaiming the faith throughout his entire pontificate.