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Pope John Paul II: The First 20 Years

The following 20-year sketch of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II intersperses materials taken from the official Vatican chronology (italic) with NCR news reports and commentary. It begins with NCR’s initial reaction to the Oct. 16, 1978, election of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Cracow, Poland, as successor to Pope John Paul I. He became the 264th pope of the Catholic church and took the name John Paul II.


“This time there were three surprises: that the new pope should be so young -- 58; that he should be non-Italian; and that he should come from an Eastern European country.”

--Peter Hebblethwaite,
(NCR, Oct. 27)

“The popular image of the Polish church seems to be closer to Vatican I (papal infallibility, Marian devotion, public piety, unyielding clerical control over the faithful’s moral, spiritual and conjugal lives) than to the more open, questioning, exploring church of Vatican II.

“Unless John Paul II has an easy familiarity with the U.S. traditions of open debate, a free press and widespread sense of political, social and economic independence, he may be horrified at the extent to which U.S. Catholics demand to be heard and demand change.

“This pope will be good for the Roman Catholic church universal -- the historic church which, by existing as institution, variously plays the role of being a magnet for good people and an umbrella to oppressed people.

“This pope may not give much solace to U.S. Catholics, not to the liberal Catholics of the 1950s-1960s Chicago tradition, nor to the middle-class U.S. Catholic majority.

“Unless the synod of bishops persuades him differently, this will not be the era of married priests called back to their former ministry, nor will this pope open the door to ordained women.

“Those who think fidelity -- either to marriage partners or to vows of celibacy -- is meant for others will find no comfort in this man.

“The Polish church strives and thrives in a harsh world. (The U.S. Catholic church, to the extent that it strives and thrives in U.S. suburbia, is not of the harsh world.) Living, the awesome task of facing the day, as a worker, as a Catholic, as a mother or father, as a priest, is as harsh in Poland as in Vietnam, much of Latin America, South Korea, the Philippines and elsewhere. It is life unshielded by affluence, unprotected by democratic government, unvarying in lack of opportunity and empty of hope except for that contained in deep faith.

“It is not easy for U.S. Catholics unacquainted with fighting for survival, economic or religious survival, to grasp immediately just how different this new pope is.”

--Arthur Jones,
(NCR, Oct. 27)

First pastoral visit of John Paul II outside Italy: to Santo Domingo, Mexico for the Third General Conference of the Latin American Bishops at Puebla, and to the Bahamas. (Jan. 25-Feb. 13)

Not much appears in the Polish mass media on the pope’s Mexican trip, but any coverage does invariably note that the pope underlines that “the clergy’s task is to work in the religious field and not engage in politics. So the church is not a social movement but a religious organization” (NCR, Feb. 16).

The pope returns from his Mexican trip bronzed and happy enough. He invites theologians of liberation to consider the evangelical foundation of their theology. He is distinctly cool about many of their principal theses: that the theology must begin from the actual political situation; that Christ is first and foremost a political liberator; that Christianity requires the complement of Marxism to be effective in practice (NCR, Feb. 16).

First papal encyclical Redemptor Hominis (“On the Redemption and Dignity of the Human Race”) is published March 15.

Turn to Christ, urges the pope, in Redemptor Hominis. In his first encyclical, John Paul shows a world filled with futility and offers a church filled with hope. This statement nonetheless contains enough abrupt stops, lack of continuity of thought and elements of “old fashioned” thought to give theologians, liturgists, intellectuals and commentators plenty to write about and some things to complain about. (The sexist language is one such complaint.)

“Nonetheless, the strong points outweigh the weak. Not least among the strong points are John Paul’s flailing condemnation of war, of materialism and his intense, almost desperate desire to re-establish the personal dignity of the individual, to unequivocally endorse human rights and to defend religious freedom” (NCR, March 13).

Pope John Paul begins rejecting priests’ requests for laicization (NCR, April 20).

John Paul: “Be strict on general absolution” (NCR, May 4).

The Polish government accepts the pope’s visit in June as inevitable. To mitigate its embarrassment, it does everything in its power to determine in advance the meaning of the journey (NCR, May 25).

John Paul’s third pastoral visit outside Italy: to Ireland, the United Nations and the United States of America (Sept. 29-Oct. 8)

The Vatican decision to bar women from distributing Holy Communion at a Mass celebrated by Pope John Paul during his stay in the United States provokes immediate and angry protest (NCR, Sept. 21).

Sisters from around the country, in deeply emotional statements, support Sr. Theresa Kane, who asked the pope to include women in all church ministries (NCR, Oct. 19).

On the first anniversary of the white smoke that announced that Karol Wojtyla had been elected pope, much of Rome offers assessments of the pope’s first year. They range from the criticism that almost everything the pope says serves to strengthen the right-wing to a description of John Paul as a tank that crushes opposition (NCR, Nov. 2)

A single sentence in Pope John Paul’s address to the 630-strong Union of Superior Generals in the Sistine Chapel on Nov. 15 has led to fears that a new code is being devised for sisters throughout the world. “After the years of experiment, concern with the updating of religious life according to the spirit of their own institute, the time has come to evaluate humbly and objectively what has been achieved, in order to recognize the positive elements, the possible deviations and also to prepare a fixed rule of life, approved by the church, which would be for all sisters a stimulus to a deeper awareness of their commitment and to a joyful fidelity in living them out” (NCR, Nov. 30).

Convening of the Special Assembly for the Netherlands of the Synod of Bishops on: “The pastoral action of the church in Holland in the present situation” (Jan. 14-31).

Printing of the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, is delayed more than an hour April 14. A last-minute change is made to one of Pope John Paul’s speeches in Turin the previous day. In the official handouts, the pope had specifically linked Marxism and terrorism. In the speech as delivered, this passage is omitted (NCR, May 2).

Swiss theologian Fr. Hans Küng and Pope John Paul II appear to have mislaid each other’s addresses. In NCR for May 16, Küng’s letter to the pope is published; on May 22 John Paul writes a highly personal letter to Küng, but addresses it to the German bishops. The correspondence reveals the two are at cross-purposes (NCR, June 6).

John Paul commenting on Matthew 5:37-38: The text speaks of looking lustfully after women, any woman, including therefore one’s wife. He does not say husbands should not desire their wives. He says that if they reduce their wives to mere objects of sexual desire and forget the other dimensions of interpersonal dialogue and spiritual exchange, they will fall into concupiscence (NCR, Oct. 24).

Lutherans, politicians lash pope’s planned German trip, questioning the spending of $10 million “for a pious spectacle when the lives of many starving human beings could be saved with that much money” (NCR, Oct. 31).

Second papal encyclical Dives in Misericordia, (“On the Mercy of God”), published Dec. 2.

Pope John Paul’s second encyclical letter is not a social encyclical -- though it has melancholy comments on the modern world. Its basic message is very simple: We all stand in need of the mercy of God (NCR, Dec. 12).

The volume of words that has emanated from the Vatican since John Paul II became pope is prodigious, and the flood is iNCReasing. The 1979 sermons and addresses fill 3,000 pages. This year 4,000 pages are topped (NCR, Nov. 28).

On Dec. 12, Pope John Paul II presents the foreign ministers of Chile and Argentina with a red leather-bound folder to take home to their respective dictators. The folders contain proposals designed to put an end to what has been known as the “Beagle Channel controversy.” The pope settles the land dispute (NCR, Dec. 26).

As the pope peers into the future, he sees not the next decade but the next 20 years. The year 2000 fascinates him like the eye of the basilisk (NCR, Jan. 9).

John Paul’s “tough” letter chastens Dutch bishops (NCR, Feb. 27).

While throughout the world, tens of thousands gather in churches and parks March 24 to mark the first anniversary of the death of Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador, the pope is silent (NCR, April 3).

At 5:19 p.m., Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca makes an attempt on the pope’s life, while he was circling St. Peter’s Square before his Wednesday general audience (May 13); following an operation that lasted 6 hours, he was hospitalized for 77 days at Gemelli hospital.

“Harsh” papal letter to Brazil bishops repeats, “Stay out of politics” (NCR, May 15).

Pope denounces “proposals for secularizing” priestly life and ministry at world synod for bishops and vocations directors (NCR, May 22).

John Paul II creates the Council of Cardinals for the study of organizational and economic problems of the Holy See, following the meeting of the Sacred College Nov. 5-9.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger is appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith Nov. 25.

The Vatican denies that the pope supports U.S. sanctions against the Soviet Union, which U.S. President Ronald Reagan claimed in a Jan. 19 aside (NCR, Jan. 29).

One year after the assassination attempt on his life, pope makes 11th pastoral visit outside Italy: to Portugal (May 12-15).

John Paul II meets U.S. President Ronald Reagan for the first time; they pledge to work for world peace and justice (June 7).

“Any cardinal -- there were some -- who contended the Jesuits were in a state of insubordination and would revolt against the papal action (appointment of Fr. Paola Dezza, personal delegate, to head Jesuit order) was proved wrong. From now on he would have to be silent or try subtler ploys” (NCR, July 16).

Blaming both leftist guerrillas and repressive right-wing government forces, the pope calls for an end to the “fratricidal war” in El Salvador (NCR, Aug. 27).

Private meeting with Yasser Arafat on the prospects for peace in the Middle East (Sept.15)

Papal meeting with Arafat irks Israelis (NCR, Sept. 24).

When in Rome wear religious dress, three-page letter to priests, brothers, nuns declares (NCR, Oct. 29).

Promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law by John Paul II (Jan. 25)

Second Consistory of John Paul II for the creation of 18 cardinals (Feb.2)

17th pastoral visit outside Italy: to Lisbon and Central America -- Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize, and Haiti(March 2-10)

Argentina’s report on “disappeared” draws sharp Vatican response (NCR, May 20).

18th pastoral visit outside Italy: to Poland (June 16-23)

Pope says U.S. clergy should be busy, celibate (NCR, Sept. 23).

John Paul five years after his election: reassertion and restoration (NCR, Oct. 14).

Act of entrustment and consecration of the world to Our Lady of Fatima by John Paul II, together with the cardinals and bishops participating in the Synod of Bishops (Oct. 16)

Pope visits Rebibbia prison and meets with Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who made an attempt on his life in 1981 (Dec. 27).

Diplomatic relations initiated between the Holy See and the United States of America (Jan. 10).

“Most people believe that present papal policy is a regression into dogma in all its archaic authoritarian form,” writes Giancarlo Zizola, adding that Pope Paul VI’s tolerance of theological pluralism seems “replaced by a style of intervention from on high” (NCR, March 9).

The pope asks all the world’s bishops to renew the consecration of the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary (NCR, March 16).

The feast of the Annunciation. The pope expects to be obeyed. So the consecration to Our Lady becomes a kind of loyalty test, sorting out Catholic sheep from the Catholic goats. He wants world’s bishops to use the same prayer he prayed on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima on May 13, 1982 (NCR, March 25).

Belgian Cardinal Leo Joseph Suenens says the pope’s media appeal often counteracts his call for greater collegiality. Because he is so charismatic, he creates the impression that only the pope exists (NCR, May 18).

Pope warns about “nuclear winter” (NCR, Aug. 31).

Pope hits birth control. With artificial contraception, “sex ceases to be act of love” (NCR, Aug. 31).

Pope criticizes any class ideas in theologies. He issues a statement that appears to move the Vatican a step closer to outright condemnation of liberation theology (NCR, Aug. 31).

Allegations that Pope John Paul II is to receive weekly briefings by the CIA are denied by the Vatican as “absurd and without any foundation” (NCR, Aug. 31).

Publication of the instruction of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on certain aspects of the theology of liberation (Sept. 3)

People and groups who promote euthanasia are “absurdly inhuman,” says John Paul in remarks to a Catholic University of America group (NCR, Sept. 21).

If four Nicaraguan priests holding government posts refuse to leave their jobs, they’ll receive sanctions under canon law, Pope John Paul II says (NCR, Sept. 21).

Pope John Paul II gives permission to bishops around the world to approve, under certain conditions, the use of the Tridentine Rite for Mass (NCR, Oct. 26).

Archbishop John P. Foley, head of the Vatican office for social communications, says it is not surprising that the Reagan-Bush campaign used a photo of John Paul in a political advertisement provided to the press because President Reagan has been closely associated with Catholics (NCR, Nov. 2).

John Paul was misinformed about the liberation theology document, sources attest, in the interrogation of Brazilian liberation theologian Leonardo Boff (NCR, Nov. 26).

Pope John Paul II orders a Vatican office to rewrite constitutions governing all 800 cloistered Discalced Carmelite monasteries. The new constitution will scrap some post-Vatican II reforms under which the sisters have lived since the late 1970s (NCR, Feb. 8).

John Paul travels endlessly to present himself as the champion of the poor, the hungry, the oppressed. He supports human rights, civil rights and especially the rights of labor. The gospel message of love for all men and women is always on his lips. In his role as pastoral leader, on the other hand, John Paul appears to move backward in time. When he counsels Christians on ways to live their lives in the world, he appears to revert to the intellectual and moral rigidities of many 19th-century clergy. He is surprisingly against emphasis on social sin other than personal sin (NCR, March 8).

Cardinal Ratzinger, others, use pope’s weight, not words, to slam church opponents (NCR, April 12).

Third Consistory of John Paul II for the creation of 28 new cardinals (May 25)

The pope publicly criticizes Catholics who support abortion as showing “a lack of knowledge or lack of conviction that from the very moment of conception there already exists a being distinct from the mother, subject to inalienable rights” (NCR, June 21).

Pope ordains 70; 28 from Opus Dei (NCR, June 28).

The pope declares Pope Pius IX -- probably the most loved and hated person of the 19th-century -- venerable (NCR, July 19).

Second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on: “The Twentieth Anniversary of the Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council” (Nov. 25-Dec. 8)

Pope asks the Nicaraguan government to stop harassing church officials (Dec. 20, NCR).

John Paul II attends the First World Day of Prayer for Peace, which he convoked in Assisi (Oct. 27).

Pope John Paul praises newly ordained Seattle auxiliary Bishop Donald Wuerl and asks him to cooperate with Seattle Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen “for the benefit of the flock” (NCR, Jan. 17).

Pope tells a group of Brazilian bishops that some theology of liberation contains deviations that are incompatible with the faith (NCR, Jan. 24).

John Paul II makes a visit to Rome’s main synagogue (April 13).

Social concept must not be allowed to override the priest’s spiritual mission, Pope John Paul II writes (NCR, March 28).

Pope reveals that a working party of 12 has been set up to prepare the universal catechism (NCR, Aug. 1).

“The destructive power of modern weapons requires nations to make the most radical rejection possible of the Cold War as a means to resolve conflicts,” said Pope John Paul II (NCR, Jan. 23).

Pope warns against lax standards in granting annulments (NCR, Feb. 13).

Official visit of U.S. President Ronald Reagan (June 6)

On the vigil of Pentecost: Solemn opening of the Marian Year (June 7)

Official visit of the President Kurt Waldheim of the Federal Republic of Austria (June 25)

In San Francisco, during a 10-day risit to the United States and Canada, the Holy Father meets with AIDS patients at Mission Dolores Basilica and embraces a little boy called Brendan (Sept. 17).

Pope meets privately Oct. 24 with Salvadoran president Jose Napoleon Duarte at the Vatican (NCR, Nov. 6).

Exploiting natural resources threatens world, pope says (NCR, Jan. 22).

The pope in a January speech to diplomats at the Vatican shifts the emphasis of his stand on the global nuclear threat from his previous position that nuclear deterrence can be a morally acceptable political policy. He steps in line with the public views of previous popes who stressed the dangers of deterrence to world peace (NCR, Feb. 5).

Capping a recent string of meetings with Central American figures, the pope meets Jan. 29 with Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega at the Vatican (NCR, Feb. 5).

The pope, in the nearly 10 years he has held office, has made approximately 1,200 episcopal appointments (NCR, Feb. 26).

Pope John Paul II’s new encyclical, Solicitudo Rei Socialis (“On Social Concerns”), published Feb. 19, strongly condemns the superpowers for transferring their ideological and political battles to the Third World and surrendering socioeconomic development. The rich-poor gap is blamed on superpower imperialism (NCR, Feb. 26).

Criticizing those who maintain that Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical forbidding artificial birth control is debatable, Pope John Paul II tells a congress on the family that Humanae Vitae is part of the “permanent patrimony” of the church’s moral teaching (NCR, March 25).

A darkening shadow begins to develop over Latin America’s church of the poor. Slowly but inexorably, the institutional church is shifting away from a prophetic stance to one of religious orthodoxy and political conservatism through the continuing appointment of Vatican yes men as bishops (NCR, June 16).

Fourth Consistory of John Paul II for the creation of 24 new cardinals (June 28)

Pope issues a document establishing a commission for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals, until now linked to the fraternity founded by Cardinal Marcel Lefebvre, who may wish to remain united to the successor of Peter in the Catholic church (July 2).

Publication of the Apostolic Letter Mulieris Dignitatem (“On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”) (Sept. 30)

The pope, in a new apostolic letter on “the Dignity of Women,” says that when Jesus chose only men as priests he was making a decision “that was totally free and sovereign” (NCR, Oct. 7).

Ten years have passed since Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected pope, Oct. 16, 1978, taking the name John Paul II (NCR, Oct. 14).

“Right to dissent” hurts faithful, pope says (NCR, Oct. 28).

Theologians speak out -- 163 German-speaking scholars challenge papal authority (NCR, Feb. 10).

Meeting of John Paul II and members of the curia with the metropolitan archbishops of the United States on the theme: “Evangelization in the context of the culture and society of the United States with particular emphasis on the role of the bishop as teacher of the faith” (March 8-11)

Official visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie (Sept. 29-Oct. 2 ) and signing of common Declaration

Official visit of the President Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR (Dec. 1)

World’s bishops get universal catechism but have little time to consult, respond (NCR, Jan. 12).

Catechism needs overhaul, scholars agree, but time limit may not allow changes (NCR, Feb. 8).

Pope-Arafat meeting boosts PLO’s image (NCR, April 20).

John Paul II calls for more emphasis on obedience in seminary training (NCR, Aug. 10).

During his Angelus message, John Paul II makes an appeal for peace in the Persian Gulf following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq (Aug. 26).

In a ceremony that spared no pomp and made no apologies for splendor, Pope John Paul II consecrates the biggest, most costly and most controversial church in Africa -- the $150 million Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in the Ivory Coast, a building described by the pope as a “visible sign” of God’s presence on earth (NCR, Sept. 21).

John Paul II accepts the resignation of the Cardinal Secretary of State Agostino Casaroli and appoints Archbishop Angelo Sodano Pro-Secretary of State (Dec. 1).

The pope approves new constitutions for 92 monasteries of discalced Carmelites, essentially splitting them from 700 other monasteries in the order (NCR, Dec. 28).

Pope sends letters to U.S. President George Bush and to President Sadam Hussein of Iraq, in an attempt to avert the Gulf War (Jan. 15).

Eighth papal encyclical Redemptoris Missio of Dec. 7, 1990, published (Jan. 22).

Pope warns Latin American religious to obey local bishops (NCR, Jan. 25).

Pope says the United Nations should have a role in determining the future of East Timor, the Catholic ex- Portuguese colony seized by Indonesia (NCR, March 24).

Pope, criticizing capitalism, laments widening rich-poor gap, ecological damage (May 31, NCR).

Fifth Consistory of John Paul II for the creation of 22 new cardinals and the announcement of the 1979 appointment in pectore of Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei (June 28)

Pope urges talks to prevent all-out war in Yugoslavia (NCR, Sept. 6).

Holy See recognizes sovereignty of Croatia and Slovenia (Jan. 13).

Gorbachev says pope played major role in collapse of communism (NCR, March 13).

Beatification of Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, founder of Opus Dei (May 17)

Holy Father undergoes colic resection surgery July 15; is released from Gemelli Polyclinic July 26.

John Paul II’s support for freedom was “decisive” in the collapse of communism in Poland, said Wojciech Jaruzelski, one of Poland’s last communist leaders, Oct. 26 after a meeting with the pope (NCR, Nov. 13).

John Paul II officially presents the Catechism of the Catholic Church to representatives from the Roman curia and to the presidents of doctrinal and catechetical commissions of the episcopal conferences (Dec. 7).

An unregulated market economy cannot guarantee the protection of the poor that Catholic teaching and human dignity demand, the pope will say in his forthcoming World Peace Day message (NCR, Dec. 25).

During an Assisi meeting of religious leaders, the pope, in the face of Bosnian atrocities, speaks more in bewildered sorrow than righteous anger: “How can it be that such enmity and hatred exists in the world? How is it possible to kill each other in this way?” (NCR, Jan. 22).

Pope urges better screening of seminarians (NCR, June 18).

In a statement released June 21, the pope speaks out publicly for the first time on the crisis of U.S. clergy sexual abuse, saying to the bishops: “I fully share your sorrow and concern, especially your concern for the victims so seriously hurt by these misdeeds” (NCR, July 2).

Pope: Reject “extreme” feminism. Women religious cited as among those going too far (NCR, July 16).

Tenth papal encyclical Veritatis Splendor (“The Splendor of Truth”) to be published Oct. 5 (NCR, Aug. 6).

Avoiding ecological disaster must be a scientific priority, the pope tells a meeting on “planetary emergencies” (NCR, Sept. 3).

The pope says Europe’s moral health is threatened by “relativism and permissiveness that end up erasing every objective boundary between good and evil, suffocating the voice of the conscience” (NCR, Sept. 17).

Pope addresses Canada’s bishops, says ordaining married men “not a path to follow” (Nov. 12, NCR).

Signing of the accord on basic principles regulating diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel (Dec. 30)

The spread of a “new paganism” places ethnic and national interests above the common good and human solidarity, says the pope in his World Peace Day message (NCR, Feb. 4).

Letter to heads of states around the world and to the secretary general of the United Nations on the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, to be held in September 1994 (March 19)

The world economy must be restructured to reflect the priority of people over money and to give developing countries a chance in the global market, says Pope John Paul. National economies must guarantee employment for the young and give women professionals opportunities without forcing them to choose work over their families (NCR, April 1).

Because of its view of abortion and sexuality in general, the pope harshly criticized a draft document prepared for the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo (NCR, April 1).

John Paul II celebrates Mass in the Sistine Chapel for the unveiling of the restored frescoes of Michelangelo (Apr. 8).

Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: “The church in Africa and Her Evangelizing Mission Toward the Year 2000: ‘You Shall Be My Witnesses’ ”(Apr. 10-May 8)

Holy Father falls, breaks femur, goes to Gemelli Hospital the morning of April 29. Released from hospital on May 27, 1994.

Apostolic Letter to the bishops: Ordinatio Sacerdotalis (“On Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone”) published (May 22).

Cardinals to ponder millennium: “Pan-Christian” fete is Rome’s wish for year 2000 (NCR, June 17).

Catholic Theological Society of America’s 49th annual meeting, June 9-12, takes place in the eye of the storm of widespread response to Pope John Paul’s May 30 instruction to the world’s bishops that there must be “no more discussion” of women priests. The conference also occurrs on the heels of the release of the English translation of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in which inclusive language had been eliminated by the Vatican (NCR, July 1).

Publication of Pope John Paul’s book Crossing the Threshold of Hope (Oct. 20)

The Vatican denies as “irresponsible and lacking any foundation” a Spanish news report that the pope is being treated for Parkinson’s disease (NCR, Nov. 27).

Addressing the diplomatic corps, the pope urges the international community not to allow “a great continent like Africa to go adrift.” Aid to Africa has declined considerably in the past few years (NCR, Jan. 27).

Pope risks furor to implant “orthodoxy.” This week’s selection of bishops -- in Vienna, Brazil and El Salvador -- points up anew how much upheaval John Paul is willing to risk in the local church to assure that his version of orthodoxy is firmly implanted in the hierarchy (NCR, March 5).

Eleventh papal encyclical Evangelium Vitae (“The Gospel of Life”) is published March 30.

A papal biography by Tad Szulc contends that as archbishop of Cracow, Pope John Paul II wrote perhaps 60 percent of Humanae Vitae, Pope Paul VI’s 1968 encyclical that continued the church’s ban on married couples using artificial contraception (NCR, April 14).

Twelfth papal encyclical Ut Unim Sint (“That All May Be One”) is published May 30.

“The Genius of Women,” the pope’s letter to women before the Fourth U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing in September is unprecedented in its apology to women for the persistence of sexism throughout human societies, including the church, and for its willingness to recognize in the women’s movement a positive contribution to human and social well-being. It also reflects the pope’s isolation (NCR, July 28).

John Paul visits four U.S. cities, New York, Newark, Brooklyn and Baltimore, on his 68th pastoral foreign trip (Oct. 4-9). His foreign trips now reach the 1 million kilometer mark.

The Holy Father addresses the U.N. General Assembly, commemorates United Nation’s 50th anniversary (Oct. 5).

Pleading the cause of the world’s starving, the pope calls for reform of global agricultural and marketing practices as he urges food experts to eliminate “structures of famine -- market mechanisms and social policies that are keeping less-developed countries in conditions of poverty and dependence” (NCR, Nov. 3).

The pope tells journalists that liberation theology retreated after the collapse of communism and so was no longer seen as a problem (NCR, Feb. 23).

Cardinal Paulo Evaristo Arns says he told the pope he gives his curia free reign. Arns says the pope replied, “You are mistaken. The curia is the pope” (NCR, Oct. 11).

The pope, in his inaugural address to the World Food Summit, rejected population control as the answer to world hunger, saying there is enough food in the world. “We must put aside the sophist view that where there are many, one is condemned to be poor” (NCR, Dec. 6).

For the first time in his pontificate, the pope is not scheduled to celebrate a public Christmas morning Mass (NCR, Dec. 29).

Opening presentation of the Holy See Internet site http://www.vatican.va/. (March 24)

75th pastoral visit outside Italy: to Sarajevo (April 12 and 13)

Asked if the Vatican would follow the French bishops’ lead and apologize for church leaders’ apparent lack of action to stop Nazi genocide of the Jews, the pope said, “We have already asked pardon for the past. What is interesting is that it is always the Catholic church and the pope who ask forgiveness. Meanwhile, others remain silent.” Rabbi David Rosen, head of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith in Jerusalem, said he was surprised at the pope’s remarks: “I don’t think he’s familiar with the remarkable documents promulgated by other religions” (NCR, Oct. 24).

Special Assembly for America of the Synod of Bishops (Nov. 16-Dec. 12); theme of the synod: Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ, the way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America

81st pastoral trip, to the Republic of Cuba(Jan. 21-26), and meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for Asia opens April 19. “Jesus Christ the Savior and his Mission of Love and Service in Asia: that they may have life and have it abundantly”

At issue before and during the synod has been the method of evangelization. While the curia may have thought it necessary to teach the Asian bishops how to evangelize, how to proclaim Jesus as savior, the Asian bishops ended up carrying their evangelization message back to the center of the old European empire. It was their subdued hope they might evangelize Rome itself (NCR, May 29).

Pope John Paul issues Ad Tuendam Fidem (To Defend the Faith), with which several norms are inserted into the Code of Canon Law and into the Code of Canons of the Eastern churches regarding the formulation of the profession of faith (May 18).

Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Ad Tuendam Fidem, closes the circle on an interesting century that began with the papal campaign against Modernism, crested with the Second Vatican Council’s cry for freedom and reform, and now crawls to a whimpering conclusion with the pope’s command to a billion faithful to think only as he thinks (NCR, July 17).

Pope issues Apostolas Suos, stating that national bishops’ conferences may issue statements on moral and doctrinal matters only when these are adopted with a unanimous vote or receive prior Vatican approval (NCR, July 31).

83rd pastoral visit abroad, to Austria (June 19-21).

Vatican condemns works of Jesuit Father Anthony de Mello for “relativizing” the faith (NCR, Sept. 4).

(Tom Fox is NCR publisher. Arthur Jones is NCR editor at large.)

National Catholic Reporter, October 16, 1998