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Ailing pope celebrates 25th anniversary

Will Ashenmacher

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Cardinal Karol Jósef Wojtyla was elected successor to Pope John Paul I on Oct. 16, 1978.

“Twenty-five years is known as a Jubilee year, and that’s a very significant year in the Church,” Topczewski said, also noting that Pope John Paul II’s papacy is “remarkable for its length.”

Pope John Paul II’s papacy has been marked by a unique openness and sense of approachability, as evidenced by his extensive traveling to evangelize and encourage Catholics worldwide, Topczewski said. Over the course of his papacy, Pope John Paul II has visited Catholics worldwide as close to the Vatican as Turin, Italy, and as far away as Cuba, frequently giving public Masses and speeches. He is the first pope on record to ever visit a synagogue.

“I think most people will remember his travels as a defining aspect of his papacy,” Topczewski said.

The pope has canonized over 470 saints during his papacy.

“How this pope has recognized the holiness of people — both modern and from the past — reminds people of our own call to holiness,” Topczewski said.

The pope has a deep regard for Catholic youth. He was the youngest pope elected since Pope Pius XI, whose papacy ended in 1878.

“With their gifts of intelligence and heart, (young people) represent the future of the world,” the pope said in a speech to the attendees of World Youth Day 2003, an international gathering of young Catholics, which he was the founder of.

“He has an amazing rapport with youth, a kind of inspirational relationship with them,” said William Thorn, an associate professor of journalism, who has done Vatican reporting. “He has always gone out of his way to spend time with youth.”

Earlier this month, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn told Austrian broadcasting firm ORF that the pope is suffering from ill health, according to the Associated Press.

“The entire world is experiencing a pope who is sick, who is disabled and who is dying,” Schoeborn said. “I don’t know how near his death is — (he) is approaching the last days and months of his life.”

The selection of a successor to the pope is a “very complicated process,” said Michael Fahey, Emmett Doerr professor of theology. When a successor of the pope must be chosen, the Sacred College of Cardinals will be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel and over 120 voting Cardinals (those who are younger than 80) will select the next Pope. Technically, any Roman Catholic adult male is eligible for the papacy, but it is most often Cardinals who are elected.

The voting Cardinals cast their votes by secret ballot, and whoever receives a two-thirds majority of the votes is declared the next pope, Fahey said.

Although there is no obvious candidate to succeed Pope John Paul II, Fahey expects the Cardinals might choose a candidate who has symbolic meaning as well as the requisite requirements and credentials.

“There is some speculation that they might choose an African or Latin American Pope next to show the international character of the Church,” Fahey said.

One reason Pope John Paul II was elected was his Polish heritage, making him the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years, Fahey said. His election to the papacy affirmed the Church’s global reach.

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