In the third of a three-part series to mark the centenary of John Paul II’s birth, photographer Jerzy Ochoński presents images of the Polish pope’s pilgrimages to his homeland. In our previous articles, papal biographer George Weigel reflected on the lessons that today’s struggling democracies can learn from the idea of John Paul II, and Stanisław Obirek argued that a more nuanced perspective is needed to understand the complex papacy, and character, of the Polish pope.
Pope John Paul II was born Karol Józef Wojtyła a hundred years ago, on 18 May 1920, in the southern Polish town of Wadowice. His was the second longest papacy in history, from 1978 until his death in 2005, a time of great change. He was also the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century, and one of the most widely travelled leaders in world history.
The Polish pope made a total of nine pastoral visits to his home country during his pontificate. His first pilgrimage came in 1979, less than eight months after his election, and was his second foreign visit overall. This was perhaps his most significant visit of all, widely credited with setting in motion the events that led to the formation of the Solidarity trade union, an important factor in ending communist role in Poland and the region.
Further visits followed, amid a dramatically changing landscape in Poland, in 1983, 1987, 1991 (twice), 1995, 1997, 1999, and 2002. The pope participated in eucharistic congresses and World Youth Days, celebrated beatifications and anniversaries, dedicated shrines, and met with politicians. But the visits are best remembered for the crowds lining the streets and gathering in huge numbers for open-air Mass with a pontiff venerated by many in his homeland.
This selection of images from John Paul II’s visits to Poland has been curated by photographer Jerzy Ochoński. To see more photographs from around Poland, visit his website.
More of Jerzy Ochoński’s work can be found on his website, which offers a wide variety of images of different aspects of life in Poland, as well as photo services. Main image credit: Maciej Musiał