Pope Francis called on Christians to remember Pope St. John Paul II “with great affection and gratitude” as the Catholic Church marked the centenary of the saint’s birth on May 18.
Speaking after the Regina Caeli prayer on Sunday, May 17, the pontiff prayed that the Polish saint would “continue to intercede for the People of God and peace in the world.”
Pope John Paul II, or Karol Wojtyla, was born on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland.
Catholics around the world have scheduled celebrations in honor of the beloved former pontiff, but a documentary on Polish clerical child abuse has cast a shadow on the celebrations.
Polish archbishop Wojciech Polak called on the Vatican to “launch proceedings” into cases of child abuse that was cited in the film “Hide and Seek” streaming on YouTube. The documentary focuses in detail on two brothers who were alleged victims of a priest who was protected by a bishop in the former pontiff’s country.
Although the film did not mention lack of action by Pope St. John Paul II during his pontificate, it tackled cases that supposedly happened during that period.
Pope St. John Paul II was pope from 1978 to 2005. He is widely venerated in his native Poland.
He served as the archbishop of Krakow from 1964 until his election as pope on Oct. 16, 1978. He died on April 2, 2005.
One month after his death, the cause for his canonization commenced waiving the traditional 5-year waiting period.
On Dec. 19, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed Pope John Paul II venerable and was beatified on May 1, 2011. He was canonized on April 27, 2014.
Pope St. John Paul II has visited 129 countries during his 26-year pontificate. He was the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX.
On May 18, the Polish Bishops’ Conference is expected to issue a special message to the faithful highlighting the relevance of Pope St. John Paul II’s pontificate.