May 18, 2020
By Vanessa Gera
St. John Paul II was honored on the centennial of his birth with special Masses at the Vatican and in his native Poland on Monday, an anniversary that comes as the Polish church finds itself shaken by new allegations of sexual abuse by clerics.
From the small town of Wadowice, Poland, where Karol Wojtya was born on May 18, 1920, to Warsaw and the Vatican, Catholic faithful gave prayers of thanks for the man who was pope from 1978 until his death in 2005.
“Today we can say that 100 years ago the Lord visited his people,” Pope Francis said in a morning Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Celebrating the memory of Saint John Paul II let’s remember this: the Lord loves his people, he visited his people, he sent a shepherd.”
To Poles, John Paul is best remembered for using the papacy to shake the foundations of an oppressive communist system that was toppled across Eastern Europe 11 years into his papacy.
“Karol Wojtyla was one of the most important figures of the 20th century,” Polish President Andrzej Duda said in a letter sent to worshippers at Poland’s holiest site, the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa. “His teaching and testimony still touch the hearts and minds of millions of people.”
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