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40 years since John Paul II became Pope! Posted by on Oct 16, 2018 in Countries, People, Religion

On October 16, 1978, the Cardinals of the Catholic Church gathered in the Sistine Chapel and elected the first non-Italian Pope in 456 years! Many people know him as Karol Wojtyła but the world knows him now as Pope Saint John Paul II.

When he first appeared at the balcony of Saint Peter’s basilica Oct. 16, 1978, Catholics all around the world felt as if they were meeting an old friend: “If I make a mistake in your – in our – Italian language – please correct me!” Since that day, nothing was the same in the course of the papacy.

The new pope chose the name John Paul II in honor of his immediate predecessor, Archbishop Albino Luciani of Venice, who resigned as John Paul I for just 34 days before his death Sept. 28.

For a church in a deep crisis in the Western world, the choice of a cardinal from the most fervently Catholic country in Eastern Europe seemed to be both a tribute to the way Poland has clung to its religious faith through three decades of Communist rule bid to infuse a new spirit in a flagging faith elsewhere.

It was a bound to have a major effect on the Roman Catholic Church’s relations with the Communist world. Wojtyła was known as a political liberal and a theological moderate. He was one of the most active participants in the Vatican II Council that liberalized the church’s orientation in the 1960s.

Image courtesy Pixabay.com

The new pope seemed immediately to win the hearts of cheering Romans as he spoke from the central window of St. Peter’s Basilica to be expectant thousands below. When John Paul II said that he came from a distant land, someone shouted in Italian, “It’s a good thing.” The reaction of the crowd seemed to be immediate acceptance. Vatican priests who have met the new pope said they found him friendly, approachable and easy to talk to.

At the window, one of the new pope’s first statements was, “We are still saddened by the death of our beloved John Paul I.”

“I was afraid to receive this call,” said the new Pope, “but I accepted it in the spirit of obedience to God.”

The words of John Paul II have long inspired Christians throughout the world. People of faith often turn to his wisdom in trying or difficult times.

It was a privilege and real honor to meet this wonderful human in person when I was visiting Rome as a teenager! The moment He walked in into a basilica in Rome was truly spectacular. I was shivering and that moment just didn’t seem real. I never thought He will walk up so close to me, start speaking to me and touch my face. He was an amazing person who will be in memory of millions forever.

Myself as a teenager in Rome speaking to Karol Wojtyła


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About the Author: Kasia

My name is Kasia Scontsas. I grew up in Lublin, Poland and moved to Warsaw to study International Business. I have passion for languages: any languages! Currently I live in New Hampshire. I enjoy skiing, kayaking, biking and paddle boarding. My husband speaks a little Polish, but our daughters are fluent in it! I wanted to make sure that they can communicate with their Polish relatives in our native language. Teaching them Polish since they were born was the best thing I could have given them! I have been writing about learning Polish language and culture for Transparent Language’s Polish Blog since 2010.


  1. Karl:

    Interesting that he was a political liberal. Great you got to meet him. I am American living in Poland who found your blog while searching for any web entries detailing possible ways to find a community in Poland where trick or treating is done. Of course being American I want my children to all know how this works and get to do it.