You may have heard a number of people refer to Saint Pope John Paul the Second as “Saint John Paul the Great”. With this title, the faithful are surely recognizing the great contribution he made both to Church theology (through such extensive teachings as the Theology of the Body) as well as the impact he made on the Western world for his contribution to the downfall of the Soviet Union.

The truth is, however, the designation of “the Great” may or may not properly apply to St. John Paul II. Before this, only two or three Popes have been considered “Great” and this was only determined by Church historians many years after their death: St. Pope Leo the Great, St. Pope Gregory I the Great, and debatably St. Pope Nicholas I the Great.

So what makes a Pope “Great” by the standards of the Church?

Professor of Church History Steve Weidenkopf explains that “What links Leo, Gregory, and Nicholas as great popes is the fact that all three significantly contributed to Catholic theology and practice, and all exercised leadership in a time of grave temporal crisis.”

The Popes who have been given this title previously certainly meet this criteria. St. Pope Leo the Great is known for his substantial work defining and defending the two natures of Christ against heresy. In the temporal realm, Leo kept Attila the Hun from capturing Rome in the 5th century. St. Pope Gregory I the Great protected the role of the papacy against secular rulers that wanted to influence it. He is known for this written works on the vocation and roles of the Pope and the bishops. Pope Gregory was known for his humility and generous contributions to the poor. Pope Nicholas also protected papal primacy, but against the incursion of bishops. At the same time, he defended the sacrament of marriage. While Frankish bishops recognized the divorce and remarriage of a secular leader, Pope Gregory asserted the indissolubility of marriage and excommunicated the errant bishops.

Yet, “the Great” is not an official pronouncement of the Church, like the designation given to doctors of the Church. Rather, it is a way of recognizing the tremendous contributions of these popes, looking back over the history of the Church. Church historians gradually come to a consensus and the the tag “the Great” eventually goes down in history.Is St. Pope John Paul II destined to be known forever as “the Great”? While some schools and other institutions have already adopted the name, only time will tell whether or not this saintly leader will be known as “Pope John Paul the Great” for centuries to come.

Is St. Pope John Paul II destined to be known forever as “the Great”? While some schools and other institutions have already adopted the name, only time will tell whether or not this saintly leader will be known as “Pope John Paul the Great” for centuries to come.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. It shouldn’t take long to come to this consenesus. He worked in the secular realm to assist in the downfall of the Iron Curtain over Eastern Europe and (as a devoted follower of Mary) sought to free Russia from Communist rule – especially important given the revelations of Fatima and the consecration of the Russian people to Our Lady by Pope Pius XII. He also was one of the primary authors of Blessed Paul VI’s cultural earthquake-inducing and moral bulwark encyclical ‘Humanae Vitae’. He is also responsible for the belief in secular culture that the most powerful political force in the world is the Papal airplane – signifying that when the Pope arrives in a country (certainly when HE did), the country’s politics are forever changed. Top that with the 3rd longest papacy in history and his wonderful personal sacrifice of showing the world that suffering is to be embraced as he publicly fought his Parkinson’s disease and I have no doubt that he will be Pope St. John Paul the Great for the remainder of human history.

  2. Pope St John Paul’s monumental work on The Theology of the Body has potential to awaken all Christianity to revelation to Gods intimate relationship of love within the Trinity to the individual, to families and to the Church.

  3. WE HOW LOVED HIM DO NOT KNOW OF HIS MANY contribution to the church, we just know he is our hero a king and loving individual who help us to
    truly love God and hIS Holy Mother – O Mary conceived without sin – pray for us who have recourse to Thee

  4. I feel he deserves to be called St John Paul the Great but this title I feel goes also to Pope John XX111 who by means of the 2nd Vatican Council opened many religious activities to all faithful , although in Malta things always take longer to materialise. I still remember my parents reciting the Litany of Our Lady in Latin and there are still elderly people who still do so , and not so long ago I went to confession to an elderly priest who said the absolution in Latin.

    Whenever I went to hear mass abroad when the priest told us to exchange a sign of peace they made it by a handshake and others by a hug and kiss , as directed by the Church in the early seventies. In Malta the vast majority do this by nodding their heads , and in the Eucharist (the mass of the Neo Catechumenal Way) there are those who found “a new way” to exchange a sign of peace by doing something similar the priests do at the altar , without touching each other’s cheeks! As far as I know when I went for the preparation talks one of the catechists told us that we should give each other a hug and a kiss. Some came with the lame excuse that they had a boy/girl friend ,they had a jealous husband/wife and others because of the swine flu!

    • Dear Eugene Sapiano, have you EVER took the time to look around you and beyond you and over there beyond the shores of Malta. Have you EVER read what J. P. II himself said about the DISASTERS following VAT. COUNCIL II, About what Pope Paul VI himself said following VAT. COUNCIL II, especially in June 1972; About what Pope Benedict XVI said about the LITURGICAL MESS following VAT. II ; IS the celebration of the MOST HOLY MASS, the REENACTMENT of the SELF-OFFERING of Jesus Christ to the Eternal Father, ENHANCED by the DISRUPTION of the DEVOTION, RESPECT and SOLEMNITY of the PRESENCE of God on the TABLE !? (not ALTAR) by the HUGGING, KISSING and HANDSHAKES and DISTURBANCE during the exchange of PEACE? Are you aware that now, ONLY 16 % of Catholics worldwide go to Sunday MASS? Do you know that in the USA, SCORES ( hundreds) of Churches have been SOLD because there are NO PRIESTS to take care of the churches. That there are about 4000 parishes in the USA WITHOUT A PRIEST !!! THE AFTERMATH of VAT. II ! I am MALTESE and presently I am ASHAMED of the PRESENT GOVERNMENT passing LAWS against God’s LAWS, against the Natural LAW. May God have mercy on us.

  5. No. He is a saint, but the failure to clean out the Vatican, the appointing of heretic after heretic, Assisi, the Koran episode, the failure overall to stop modernists from destroying the faith of millions upon millions, the presiding over a historic decline in every facet of measurable Church life…no, not great. A Saint, ok, but not Great.

    • It seems that you are well versed in the HOLISTIC NATURE of FACTS. I agree with you that J.P.II should not be considered as GREAT. FAR FROM IT. You mention SOME of the NEGATIVE points; there are more negatives and some are rather disturbing. But I guess you wanted to be SHORT in your contribution.

    • I totally agree. With Assisi, intentionally or unintentionally, he continually elevated all religions (in the eyes of the world) to the same status as the Church. He personally basically killed Evangelion of Catholicism to the world.

  6. I am not learned in the church as it appears some of you are. I have had a difficult time because of the problems with children. He brought the bishop from Boston to Rome and there he is today. I am embarassed and ashamed I believe to this day the church has not done enough in reparation for this dark stain.

  7. Thankyou those of you who have given their vires as far as I concerned let us just wait -God’s will be done

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