The Pope on the Move
“THE Pope Conquers Spain” was a headline in the Spanish press. “Papal Fever Everywhere,” proclaimed the Sunday New Nigerian on the occasion of the pope’s visit to West Africa. “More than a million Poles gathered at a soccer stadium to hear Pope John Paul II celebrate mass,” reported The New York Times of June 18, 1983.
These descriptions reflect some of the fervent reactions to the pope’s 20 journeys that have covered 38 countries around the world during the last five years. It was estimated that 18 million Poles saw him in the course of his eight-day tour of Poland this year. That is half of the country’s population!
In many countries, such as the United States and Great Britain, even non-Catholics turned out to satisfy their curiosity. As one writer stated: “Acclaim was not confined to the working classes, nor even to Catholics.”
According to the same source, “An English [Catholic] cabinet minister wrote of him [the pope] in May 1979 in the language of a fan-club magazine: the Pope had star quality, his presence was majestic and electrifying, he radiated authority and strength.”
In his biography of Pope John Paul II, Britain’s Lord Longford, a converted Catholic, commented that in New York’s Yankee Stadium the pope “was given a reception worthy of a superstar.” Little wonder that writer Peter Nichols, sympathetic to the church, though not a Catholic, stated in his book The Pope’s Divisions: “Popular enthusiasm for the papacy is now part of modern life.”
But why is this pope so popular? How deeply do his visits really affect the conduct of Catholics? Why are these papal visits so necessary at this point in history? What is the message that the pope offers to the world? The following articles will discuss these questions.
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Countries Visited by the Pope Since His Election
1979 Dominican Republic, Mexico, Poland, Ireland, United States, Turkey
1980 Zaire, Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, France, Brazil, West Germany
1981 The Philippines, Japan
1982 Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, Great Britain, Argentina, Switzerland, San Marino, Spain
1983 Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, Haiti, Poland, France, Austria