THE PAPAL YEARS: The Nineties
John Paul II names 12 Bishops for 11 Dioceses in Romania, re-instating the
Church (the first time in 42 years). He establishes diplomatic relations
with Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. He visits Cape Verde,
Guinea, Bissau, Mali, Burkina, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Curacao, Malta,
Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Ivory Coast.
John Paul II attends World Youth Day at Polish Shrine of our Lady of
Czestochowa on August 15 celebrating with an estimated 1.5 million people
at the closing Mass. He issues 9th encyclical: Centesimus Annus in honor
of centenary of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (on capital and labor).
Meets with bishops and President Bush to assess Church's role at end of
Gulf War. Convenes European Synod of Bishops. He visits his homeland of Poland again
as well as Hungary, Brazil, and gives thanks personally to Our Lady at Fatima for her intercession ten years prior when he was shot on her feast day.
John Paul II undergoes surgery for removal of a benign intestinal tumor in
July but recovers to begin 500th anniversary of the beginning of
Christianity at Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Approves
publication of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, first such in over 400
years. He makes visits to Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Angola, and Sao Tome
On Divine Mercy Sunday the Holy Father beatifies the "Apostle of Mercy" - Blessed Sister Faustina Kowalska. John Paul II meets with European leaders of all faiths at Assisi for a
prayer summit for peace and travels to Denver to preside at World Youth Day
1993 culminating with Holy Mass on August 15th. The Holy Father conducts
Ad limina visits for all U.S. bishops. He also travels to Benin, Uganda,
and Sudan in Africa; Madrid, Huelva and Seville, Spain for close of
International Eucharistic Congress; Jamacia and makes his first trip to
Albania while continuously pleading for an end to the war in
Bosnia-Herzegovina. On the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord - August 6 he issues his tenth
encyclical Veritatis Splendor - The Splendor of Truth which deals with moral teaching.
After delays in the translation, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church is finally released.
The Holy Father proclaims 1994 the "Year of the Family" and issues a special Letter to Families in February. John Paul calls the Synod of African Bishops as well as conducting a Synod on Religious Life. He visits Zagreb in Croatia where millions cheer him and he shares their grief over the war in their homelands. Towards the end of the year he receives countless petitions requesting him to proclaim Mary as Coredemptrix, Advocate and Mediatrix of all graces. The surgery John Paul II had on his hip earlier in the year forces him to cancel trip to U.S. where he was to address the United Nations Assembly.
Recovered from his surgery, the Holy Father visits the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland again then the Philippines where a record four million turn out for his Papal Mass. On March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation he issues his eleventh encyclical Evangelium Vitae called the Gospel of Life. Two months later, on the Solemnity of the Ascension, he releases his twelfth encyclical Ut Unum Sint - "That They May All Be One" on the Church's commitment to ecumenism. He expresses grave concern for the slaughters in Rwanda and Sudan on his trip to Cameroon, Kenya and South Africa. He beatifies Edith Stein. He finally makes it to the U.S. eastern seaboard in October where he addresses the UN and draws record crowds in the pouring rain in stadiums in New York and Baltimore. He plays a major influence from afar in the Beijing UN Conference for Women. He wraps up the year in December by debuting the Vatican on the Internet at Christmas.
The Holy Father issues an Apostolic Constitution on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the election of the Roman Pontiff with Universi Dominici Gregis. He visits Guatamala, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, as well as Tunis. He releases another book "Gift and Mystery" that would rise to the bestseller list just as "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" had. He calls for unity with the Orthodox and condemns President Clinton for his late-term abortion veto as he assails the United States for their stance on abortion and plays a major pivotal role at the UN Conference on World Population in Egypt by rallying the third world countries to vote down mandatory abortion and population control. Score one for the Culture of Life! In October he undergoes an appendectomy operation and celebrates his 50th year - his Golden Anniversary - as a priest on the solemnity of All Saints with a special concert at the Vatican as they tell him: "It is your song that unites the Church."
The Pope begins the year by dedicating it to Jesus Christ the Son for the first year of Jubilee 2000 as the countdown to the millennium begins. The Holy Father visits Sarajevo in Bosnia, the Czech Republic again, and Lebanon before jetting to Brazil to celebrate the "World Family Meeting." Despite consistent rumors that the Holy Father has Parkinson's Disease, John Paul II confounds all the so-called medical and media experts by just going and going and going. Even in the summer heat of Paris he outlasts the youth who clamor for shade at World Youth Day in August where the tremendous unexpected turnout astounds prognosticators and local clergy who expected far fewer people. The Pope meets with Mother Teresa and her successor Sister Nirmala in the Spring. It would be their last meeting, these two modern-day saints, for the Holy Father would mourn her death along with the entire world in the Fall. He caps the year by declaring Saint Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church - the third woman to be granted such an honor, and closes the year with the Synod of the American Bishops combining North, Central and South America for what was called the Synod of the Americas.
The Holy Father dedicates the second year of the Jubilee to the Holy Spirit and makes his first ever trip to Cuba where he is wildly received by the faithful as a stern and cautious Fidel Castro looks on. John Paul II calls for greater freedom for the people religiously and politically and calls for an end to the U.S. Embargo. Returning to Rome he conducts another Consistory where he elevates 22 new Cardinals including Cardinal James Francis Stafford, former Archbishop of Denver who hosted World Youth Day and now a member of the curia, and Cardinal Francis George, OMI the new head of the Chicago archdiocese, replacing the departed Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. In early May he is shocked and saddened by the murder of his loyal Swiss Guard Alois Estermann and his wife by a disgruntled underling Swiss Guard. Alois was the young man who cradled and protected the Holy Father as the Popemobile sped away in St. Peter's Square in 1981. The Holy Father had just granted Estermann the highest honor of Commandant of the Guard and was to have been installed a few days later. John Paul II again gives thanks on the seventeenth anniversary of his near-death shooting episode and enjoys a quiet, relaxed 78th Birthday at the Vatican looking forward to bringing Holy Mother Church into the glorious third millennium. In June he journeys to Austria amidst much tumult and uprising, soothing the people as no other Pope ever could without backing down or giving into liberal demands after he had placed a solid, orthodox bishop in the See of Vienna. Before the hot summer months he vacations in the Italian Alps for a week, then resides at the papal summer home just outside of Rome in the hills at Castel Gondolfo where he remains until visiting Brescia in Northern Italy to honor Pope Paul VI at his birthplace. Just prior to canonizing the Church's newest saint Saint Edith Stein or Saint Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, he travels to Zagreb and Split in Croatia where he beatifies the controversial and maligned Archbishop of Zagreb during the war years and the Communist occupation of Cardinal Alojzie Stepinac while at the same time doing all he can throughout his pontificate to ease relations between the Jews and Holy Mother Church and trying to bridge relations with other faiths, especially the Eastern Orthodox Church. Just before the 20th anniversary of his elevation to Supreme Pontiff he makes an impromptu phone call to an Italian television station on air to voice his gratitude and on the eve of his twentieth anniversary, he issues his thirteenth encyclical Fides et Ratio on "Faith and Reason."
The Holy Father kicks off the final year of the millennium, the Year of God the Father, with his Ano et Urbi talk from St. Peter's emphasizing the universal declaration of human rights. On January 6, he ordains nine new bishops and a few days later receives Academy Award actor Roberto Benigni for a private screening of his hit film "Life is Beautiful" at the Vatican. The Pope enjoys both the movie and the companionship of the ebullient Italian comedic actor who is a good Catholic today. Two weeks later he heads to America to officially close the Synod of the Americas at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City and then on to St. Louis where massive crowds pack the gateway city to see and hear him including a personal encounter with St. Louis Cardinal record-setting star Mark McGwire who gives the Pontiff a jersey and bat. At the same time the Holy Father is able to save the life of convicted murderer Darrell Mease, pleading for the Sanctity of Life to Missouri Governor Mel Carnahan who heeds the Pope's request. Back in Rome the Pope comes down with the flu and is bedridden for a week before resuming his busy schedule which includes private audiences with Palestine's Yasser Arafat and the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Archbishop George Carey.
He concludes the Lenten season pleading for peace in Kosovo and East Timor as well as many parts of Africa and South America. He spends many night hours pouring over information and consulting with his Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran who is so instrumental in finally bringing a cease fire in Kosovo. On May 2 he beatifies Padre Pio before a massive turnout at St. Peter's Square that spills out all the way to the Tiber River. On May 7 he travels for a three-day historic papal visit to Romania, the first trip there ever for a Roman Pontiff where he is surprisingly received warmly to huge crowds and where he prays with the Orthodox Patriarch Teoctist for unity. Returning to the Holy See he receives Iraq's Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Rafael Bidawid who offers an invitation for the Holy Father to visit Iraq in December as the first leg of his historic "Jubilee Journey" in which the Pope hopes to retrace the steps of Abraham with a trip to Ur and then Moses at Mt. Sinai in Egypt before continuing in 2000 with a most historic tour of the Holy Land as he follows the footsteps of the Founder of the Church, then onto Syria, Turkey and Greece retracing the Apostle Paul's journey. On May 18th he turns 79 and shortly thereafter receives Kofi Annan in a private audience as they discuss world hot spots including Kosovo and East Timor. In June John Paul II embarks on his longest pilgrimage since he became Sovereign Pontiff, returning to his beloved homeland of Poland where he makes a whirlwind 12-day tour of 23 cities with a total estimate of nine million turning out to see and hear him. He takes advantage of the opportunity, chastising the people for letting down their guard down towards capitalism and a regression from their moral resolve in compromising on abortion and contraception, plus relaxing the laws on marriage. He is visibly upset that this could happen to his fatherland. Towards the end of his trip, which would have included a triumphant return to Krakow, he is struck with the flu bug and is forced to not only forego public appearances on the final leg of his trip in Poland's major city where he was Archbishop before becoming Pope, but is unable to stop in Armenia to visit the Patriarch who would die soon after. The Holy Father extends his remorse and then heads to northern Italy for his annual vacation in the Italian alps and, upon returning, retires to Castel Gondolfo for the hot summer months of August and September, working on yet another encylical expected to be released later in the year on the End Times. He returns to the Vatican the end of September and on October 2nd, the Feast of the Guardian Angels, he presides over ceremonies inaugurating the new-look St. Peter's Basilica and Square where years of renovation are finally complete and he blesses the brighter, cleaner facade and then enjoys the Te Deum to the accompaniment of festive fireworks. He then moves inside to observe daily the pivotal European Synod of Bishops being held throughout October during which he celebrates on Saturday, October 16, the 21st anniversary of his pontificate, the tenth longest in the history of the papacy. As October winds down he begins making plans to officially close the Asian Synod of Bishops with his November Papal trip to India and then Georgia in the former Soviet Union, before planning for his on-again-off-again beginning of his historic "Jubilee Journey" to Ur in Iraq and Mt. Sinai in Egypt in December. He will officially kick off the Jubilee 2000 activities with the opening of the Holy Doors on Christmas Eve as the entire city of Rome will brace for a tremendous influx of pilgrims during the first year of the third millennium.