91 Days of Life: 35 Years Ago Today Karol Wojtyla Changed His Name
On this day in 1978 Karol Józef Wojtyła became Pope John Paul II. While I would like to say I remember the day clearly I do remember shortly after the death of Pope John Paul I my Catholic teacher asking my class of about twenty what name we thought the new Pope would take. Amazingly I was the only one who answered “Pope John Paul the II” – for which I won a rosary. Blessed Pope John Paul II (who will be canonized next year on April 27th) became better known for what he did then of course for the name he chose. On top of being the second longest-serving pope in history and the first non-Italian since Pope Adrian VI, who died in 1523.
More importantly he created and nurtured a generation, if not generations, of people, young and old, to more fully embrace God and His teachings. One of the many encyclicals he wrote was Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”) which clearly articulated the position of the Catholic Church regarding the value and inviolability of human life. The Pope issued the encyclical on March 25, 1995. Before writing Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II surveyed every Catholic bishop in the world asking whether they agreed that murder, directly willed abortion, and euthanasia were immoral, and they all agreed that they were.
Evangelium Vitae is a love letter to the whole world. At the same time, it is a prophetic indictment of what we human beings are increasingly doing to one another at the end of the twentieth century, at the threshold of the third millennium. Love and prophecy are not opposed to one another. On the contrary, true prophecy is always driven by love. And true love dares to speak the truth that is necessary for the welfare of the beloved. Love that deceives is neither truthful nor loving. The Apostle Paul tells us that we are to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15). Evangelium Vitae is a powerful example of doing just that.
Blessed John Paul II’s writings and speeches on the life issue should be seen as an inspiration to all who stand up for the unborn and others who cannot fight for themselves. It is no coincidence that the younger generations are more pro-life than their parents.
To find out more about Blessed John Paul II visit the website for the Blessed John Paul II shrine.