The Legacy of Pope St. John Paul II

Pope St. John Paul II is known for wearing many hats, whether that was as an actor, a diplomat, a musician, an athlete, or as the Pope, the Vicar of Christ. He was also known as a record-breaker. He traveled outside the Vatican over 1500 times, visited 129 nations, and traveled more than 700,000 miles during his papacy. For context, there are 195 nations in the whole world, and the distance to the moon is 238,900 miles. He also set the all-time attendance record when he celebrated Mass in Manila in 1995. Over 5,000,000 people were in attendance. This is all to say that St. John Paul II was a world-changer.

Mary Hallan Fiorito joined John Morales on Morning Air to talk about John Paul II’s legacy and some of the most important accomplishments of his papacy.

If there was one thing that God gave to John Paul II in spades, it was courage. John directed the conversation to his inspiring fearlessness in the face of opposition. “He wasn’t afraid to talk to the United Nations. He wasn’t afraid to talk in front of Congress and talk about defending life and the culture of life.” Mary concurred, saying, “Yeah, growing up during the Second World War and under communism makes you courageous. You’re either courageous or you don’t make it, I think.”

Mary talked about John Paul II’s trips to Poland and the clashes he faced with communists. At the time, Poland was under communist control, and he had to stand with generals at assemblies on several occasions. A commentator famously remarked that John Paul II was supposed to be the guest, but by the way he faced them, it was apparent who was really the host and who was really the guest. At Pentecost Mass, John Paul II called for the Holy Spirit to liberate Poland from its controllers, unafraid of the backlash.

Pope St. John Paul II with Wojciech Jaruzelski

John Paul II was the biggest catalyst in the crumbling of communism, especially in Poland with his Solidarity movement. “He went to the Polish people and said, do not be afraid. You have dignity that God has given you. No one can take it away. I am here, I will support you. You guys got to do it yourselves, but I will be here, and I will support you. And he did, and we saw communism fall in Poland.” Mary talked about how difficult it is to really grasp how big of an impact he had on so many lives, including the ones who might not even know what he did for them: the lives of the unborn.

One of John Paul II’s biggest campaigns was for the culture and dignity of all human life, including the unborn, the elderly, and the imprisoned. One of the most famous and awe-inspiring images of him is the picture of him sitting in a cell, face to face with Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who attempted to assassinate him in 1981.

Pope St. John Paul II with Mehmet Ali Agca

In 1983, John Paul II visited Agca in prison and spoke to him in private for about twenty minutes. Nobody knows exactly what they spoke about, but afterward, the Pope revealed that he had forgiven Agca. Though it was clear Agca suffered from some sort of mental instability, he eventually underwent some type of conversion. In 2005, when John Paul II passed away, Agca remarked that he had lost a “spiritual brother.” In 2007, he converted to Roman Catholicism, and after being imprisoned for 29 years, Agca was released in 2010, renouncing his life of violence.

John Paul II has authored thousands of writings in his time as Pope, but perhaps none as important as Evangelium Vitae, “The Gospel of Life”. In it, he addresses the issues that face our modern world and shows how we have been corrupted by a “culture of death”. Practices like euthanasia, the death penalty, and abortion are at the forefront. Every life is a gift from God, and who are we to reject a gift from our creator? “Everything from The New York Times to the Chicago Tribune, their editorials about this [were], ‘Listen, we don’t agree with this guy on everything, but he has presented a very thoughtful, very clear, and very persuasive argument,’” said Mary.

Places like Chicago and New York were overrun with gang violence, shootings, and murder and the media couldn’t turn a blind eye to this idea. This “culture of death” was an indisputable fact. It was Mother Teresa who said that if the lives of the weakest and most innocent are not respected, then we will never have a world where people respect one another. One simply cannot argue that any single issue is more important than the pro-life issue because it regards the decision of who gets to live and who gets to die. Pope Saint John Paul II understood that regardless of the conditions or situation, all life has dignity, and no innocent life deserves to be cut short.

Today on October 22, the feast day of Pope St. John Paul II, we celebrate a man who lived his life the way we should all strive to live ours. He was a champion of freedom, a defender of life, a protector of the faithful, and a true Vicar of Christ.

Pope St. John Paul II, pray for us.

During this Respect Life Month, we invite you to join us for the Family Rosary for Life weeknights at 7pm CT. Go to or join us on the Relevant Radio App.

Listen to the full conversation below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at and on the Relevant Radio® app.