Electing Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to the papacy on 16th October 1978 sent shock waves across the world.
In all corners of the globe, people struggled to pronounce the last name of a 58-year-old cardinal and shared the joy of electing a pope “from a faraway country”, as St. John Paul II himself said at the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica 45 years ago.
“It became clear within a week of his election that this was a man of God who was going to boldly proclaim the Gospel, and who was going to challenge the forces of atheism precisely because they were harming human beings, that the human person without God is a lesser creature, and he would make that clear, which he did for 26 and a half years,” papal biographer George Weigel told OSV News.
A pope that revolutionised the world in many different ways, stole the hearts of millions of faithful across the globe instantly by delivering his first message in Italian, not Latin, at the night of his election saying in perfect Italian: I don’t know if I can express myself well in your-in our-Italian language. But if I make a mistake, you will correct me.”
Weigel said the pope’s mission and his biggest challenge was “to remind people about the excitement of the Gospel,” which “remains the most compelling, beautiful, energising proposal about who we are and how we should live available in the world today.”
Picture: Papal biographer George Weigel and St. John Paul II are pictured in a combination photo. (OSV News photo/ourtesy Napa Institute/Arturo Mari, L’Osservatore Romano)