Pope John Paul II

  • Issue: May 2005
  • Designer: Yitzhak Granot
  • Stamp Size: 30.8 mm x 40 mm
  • Plate no.: 611 (no phosphor bar)
  • Sheet of 6 stamps Tabs: 3
  • Printers: E. Lewin-Epstein Ltd.
  • Method of printing: offset

Pope John Paul II (1920-2005) was the 264th pope to be appointed head of the Catholic Church. He was the first pope of Polish origin and the first non-Italian pope for hundreds of years.

He was born in Wadowice near Krakow and was named Karol Wojtyla. He was ordained in 1946, completed his doctorate in theological studies in 1948 and lectured at the universities of Krakow and Lublin. In 1964, Karol Wojtyla was appointed Archbishop of Krakow and on 26 June 1967 he was elevated to the rank of cardinal.

On 16 October 1978 he was elected pope by a large majority. Pope John Paul II, who was fluent in a number of languages, made more than one hundred official visits to countries all over the world and conducted many public masses.

Through his meetings mixing with people from the west he was convinced that materialistic capitalism threatened faith and religion just as much as atheistic communism.

Pope John Paul II was greatly admired due to his profound dedication to freedom and world peace and his charismatic personality. Thus he was able to bring the Catholic church closer to other faiths and religions. His steadfast support for the "Solidarity" Movement in his homeland, Poland, contributed to its success which was one of the reasons for the fall of the communist bloc.

Pope John Paul II demonstrated a special relationship with the Jewish people. Already in 1969, as Archbishop of Krakow, he visited the synagogue in the Kazimierz quarter. During his historic visit as Pope, on 13 April 1986, to the Great Synagogue in Rome he said: "You are our dearly beloved brothers and, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers."

The Pope was consistent in his condemnation of anti-Semitism. At a meeting with leaders of the Jewish community in Hungary, in 1991, the Pope called "for teaching consciences to consider anti- Semitism and all forms of racism, as sins against God and humanity". He repeated this in his book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (1994).

On 15 June 1994 diplomatic relations were established between the Holy See and the State of Israel.

In March 2000 the Pope made an official pilgrimage to Israel, during which he met with the President of Israel and visited the "Yad Vashem" Holocaust Memorial and Museum. The Pope's meeting with the Chief Rabbis paved the way for a dialog between Israel's Rabbinate and the Holy See.

While visiting the Western Wall, the Pope placed, between the stones, a note on which written: "God of our fathers, you chose Abraham and his descendants to bring your Name to the Nations: we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of yours to suffer, and asking your forgiveness we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant."

Dr. Eitan Bursztyn

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Pope John Paul II