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'Faith came first' - the Pope in your life

Pope John Paul II was the most widely travelled pontiff ever and touched the lives of millions of people around the globe.

Here is a selection of accounts sent to BBC On This Day from those affected by news of the Pope's appointment, the attempt on his life, his visits to various countries all over the world and his death on 2 April 2005.


Pope John Paul II had an intimate relationship with Jesus and emanated the character of Christ. He reached out to all peoples, all faiths yet upheld the Gospel and that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.
Barbara de Souza, UK

I think he was a great Pope as he made an effort to see people even when he was very ill. He has been the first Pope that I have known as I am only 11 years of age.

He was a great man and has gone through a lot of terrible things like when he was shot but survived it, which I was very happy about. He is one of the best Pope's ever.
Natalie Ward, England

Last year I went to Rome and saw the Pope coming out from his palace. I couldn't believe it, I really liked the Pope, now he's died it feels sad to see his funeral.
Nikita, London

As an Irish Catholic brought up under a conservative Catholic regime I am delighted that this reactionary Pope has gone.

I am sure all those people who have been infected by AIDS as a result of his campaigns against the use of condoms will agree with me. Hopefully the decadent Catholic church will elect somebody a little more humane to be his successor.
Sean O'Flynn, Ireland

He is really a man of the world, because when he visited Tanzania on 1st September, 1990 nobody wanted to be left behind not to see him. He was a Pope of hope for the whole world not only for Christians! May God rest his soul in peace.
Astrida Mjaila, Tanzania

We walked hundred of miles to hear this person speak. He had courage and charisma.

He was a good human being. Thanks for the memories. We are going to visit the Vatican in October 2005. We will miss you.
Rosa Chumba, Kenya

I was eight when the Pope came to Singapore in 1982 and remember standing at the National Stadium in the pouring torrential rain with the tens of thousands, singing "There shall be showers of blessings".

Never had the Catholics on this tiny island felt closer to the Pope than that day. A true leader who went out of his way to visit his church in every corner of the earth.

Call him conservative or traditionalist, but if a Pope doesn't uphold the fundamental values of the church, then there's no point having one. If the point was to give in to the trends of the times or even the majority vote, we wouldn't need a Pope but a politician. And thank God we don't have one of those!
Kim Hogan, Singapore

I met John Paul II (for the Poles - Jan Pawel II) three times in my life. In 1997 I was in the Vatican, then in 1999 and in 2002 the Pope came to us, to Krakow and I was among more than 2,000,000 people attending the mass on Blonia on18 August.

Unforgettable experience. I am 23 years old and I live in Krakow - the Pope's beloved city.

Karol Wojtyla changed my life. I truly believe in God and I am sure that John Paul II is now with Him - no longer suffering. The whole of Poland cries after her Pope, literally.

I hope we will never forget His words and His consignment.
Ewa Eustachiewicz, Poland

Pope John Paul was a friend of the poor and the suppressed.

He brought the whole world together through his good leadership and extended the peace of Jesus Christ our Lord to everybody irrespective of race, sex or religion.

It is now left to the world to emulate the virtues of this noble man so that together we can create a peaceful world. The world will forever remember him and may his soul rest in perfect peace.
Samuel Amegashie, Ghana

I have lived in the UK for a few years, but I'm Italian and as a schoolgirl I had the pleasure to meet Pope John Paul II during one of his meetings with the young.

He was a wonderful person, sweet, kind and very humble. He was so friendly and easy going that if it was not for his dress you would have never guessed who he was! I feel like I have lost a grandfather! Bye lovely Father.
Fiammetta, Hampshire, UK

I saw the frail Pope along with two million other young Catholics in Rome for the jubilee year.

It was an incredibly special moment and I was in awe of the togetherness of all of the young Catholics who took part. The Pope will always be remembered for reaching out to the young and creating a special bond with all.

He will be sadly missed and I hope he rests in peace.
Helen, UK

In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited Nigeria and was scheduled to stop by at my little town, Umuahia.

At the age of six, I was selected as one of the girls to present him with flowers. We waited in an open field and under the blazing heat for hours after which we were told that the Pope would not be stopping to see us anymore.

I never asked why he didn't arrive but I was particularly pained considering all the time we spent learning and perfecting our regal courtesies.
Adaobi Nwaubani, UK

Pope John Paul II was the people's Pope. His Grace wanted peace among all nations and was not a Pope for Catholics alone but was for all around the world. May His soul rest in peace.
Joy Kurudamannil, UAE

Even though the Pope has died, he has been a strong believer in Christ and a social man who did not discriminate against any person in terms of religion, for example he has brought peace in the Middle East. May God rest him in peace.
Balinda, Uganda

For the past few weeks, the media has reported every concern for a person close to the hearts of many of the planet's citizens, John Paul II.

His passing is a death in our own families. I'm sure his only worry is that he didn't do enough, but I also think God will have a better opinion.

We can honour him best by listening attentively to his fatherly advice. May God's Peace & Joy embrace him forever!
David Thoennes, USA

I was born in 1979 ... since that time the Pope has been an inherent part of my life.

He always reminded me of the granddad I never had. His optimism and personality comforted me. He accompanied me during tough times, he was present in people's hearts and I could see so many pictures of him being present in almost all Polish homes.

I grew up with him, and actually thought, that he was going to be my company for ever...and he will...even now...
Monika, Poland

There is a certain joy in my heart this day 2 April 2005 that our dear Holy Father will soon be hearing the gentle words of our Lord saying, "Job well done my good and faithful servant, enter the Kingdom which my Father had prepared from the beginning for those who love him."

Thank you John Paul II for your obedience to our Heavenly Father and for setting such a wonderful example for us to follow. Blessed be God forever.
Michael Bralish, USA

I was very lucky to get so very close to the Holy Father. I was a young nun aged 24 at the time and it was just a few days after my profession. The feeling was awesome. I know you will be with the Lord soon JP and I ask you to ask Jesus for a miracle for two loved family members who have cancer.

Please John Paul, tell Jesus we need this miracle as I have a very heart-broken sister, please help her John Paul.

Go now John Paul to your heavenly home on the high places. We love you with all our heart and we will miss you greatly. I know you will watch over the world as that is what you did in life, so I know you will continue in death. God be with precious Father and Goodbye from the People of Ireland.
Sally, Ireland


I was staying at the Europejski Hotel in Warsaw at that time.

I was in Poland looking for some relatives. I remember the exact moment when the Polish media announced the news. It was incredible!

Everybody was so excited and many, many people flocked to the local churches that late afternoon.

Of course I wanted to go to Rome immediately but every train and every flight was already booked. I had to go to Rome via France, but finally made it to Vatican City two days later.

It was a very proud and fantastic moment for me. I will never forget it.
Daniel Szawica, USA

I am a second generation Polish immigrant living in the UK.

At the time of the election I was in Munich.

The headlines of the local papers proclaimed: Der neue Papst is ein Pole.

That means "New Pope..." - fine, I thought, but "Pole" means Pole, so that can't be right and I spent the rest of the afternoon wondering what, apart from Pole, the word Pole could mean in German.

My mother rang me up later. She was ecstatic.

What many Poles had realised was that one of their greatest poets, Slowacki, had predicted the coming of Slav Pope.

For them, John Paul was not only a miracle, but the fulfilment of a hope of national liberation. And so it proved.
Michael, UK, 2003

I was 13 years old, and attending classes in an all-Polish Catholic grade school in Joliet, Illinois when the white smoke was seen above the Vatican.

Sister Viola, a Polish nun, had arranged for a television to be put in our classroom, and we watched the process on TV.

We knew we were witnessing history, but we didn't know or expect the announcement of whom it was that was chosen as our new pontiff.

I am a second generation Polish-American, and I was keenly aware of the history of Poland, and the struggle its people had had during the communist rule.

So, when the announcement that Karol Wotyla, archbishop of Krakow, was the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years, the class was astonished, and we all erupted in cheers and clapping.

The nun was almost bowled over at the announcement!


" My Catholicism has waned, but my admiration for, and respect for John Paul II has increased "

James Zaworski, USA

I recall the pope's speech to the crowd and that he was taking the name "John Paul II". In Polish, "Jan Pawel Drugi".

I remember the sense of hope that I had, and remembered seeing a movie starring Anthony Quinn, "The Shoes of the Fisherman", about a Russian pope who would challenge communism.

I wondered what kind of impact this pope would have.

In the years since, my Catholicism has waned, but my admiration for, and respect for, this man, John Paul II, has increased and has grown with each year.

He is a remarkable man, and is the most progressive pope the Church has ever seen.

I am fortunate to have lived during the momentous times of the past 25 years. The fall of communism, the Berlin wall, the acceptance of Poland into Nato and the European Economic Union. I wonder how much of a role this one man has played in all of this!
James Zaworski, USA, 2003

I remember my father who is Polish could not believe it. He thought in his lifetime this would never happen. All the Poles in the UK knew that the Communists would not like it.

He brought freedom to Poland. I am glad my father saw a Polish pope before he passed away.
J Monist, UK, 2003

My mother and I were delighted at the sight of this pope and gave our respect and devotion to him immediately.

I was only eight at the time and she told me that I said that the new pope, whoever he would be, would name himself John Paul II as a mark of respect.

He did and this marked the kind man who has walked into our life since.

He has travelled our world in peace and when he added a trip to Argentina on top of his planned UK trip this showed these qualities: faith came first, never conflict.

He spent half an hour speaking to his would-be assassin and this was a turning point in the life of many to show us an example in facing conflicts in our own life and how to face them and to forgive.

He is a great man whom I love dearly.
Mairi McIntyre, Scotland, 2003

I was in a gathering in Wellington when somebody poked their head round the door and shouted with great urgency "The new Pope's Polish!" We all sat back and waited for the punch line.

I recall that we were going through a journalists' strike and the newspapers were not appearing for two weeks.

The local Catholics were so upset about that they put out their own newspaper (at huge expense) devoted entirely to the election of the new Pope.
Dave Smith, New Zealand, 2003


I was a little girl living in Warsaw in those days. My mother took me to the mass with the Pope and I remember it as quite amazing experience.

For us Poles this visit meant much more that a religious event - it was a sign of a better future and people felt it so much that even I - a seven-year-old - could understand this excitement.

As an adult I can agree or not with Pope's teachings but I will always respect him for this what he's been giving to people - hope and closer contact.

I wish him to get well soon.
Joanna, USA, Feb 2005

I drove my severely disabled son John,16, and his brother Martin, six, from London, by ferry and across Eire to Knock in the hope of seeing and hearing Pope John Paul II.

I had felt a sudden urge to take my sons on this epic journey and had nowhere to stay in Knock. I prayed to Our Lady on the journey and asked her to guide us.

The policeman laughed when I asked him to allow me to drive into the grounds of the shrine but while his attention was diverted, I took a chance and drove in and right across the ground followed by some large trucks so that the policeman who chased me could not remove our car.

He told me that "I was a very naughty woman" and then saw my disabled son. He helped me to get him into his wheelchair and then left me there. I met a man inside a building and asked him if I could borrow a couple of blankets from a pile nearby.

When I told him I had just driven from London he asked me to drive him to what was a huge tent where there were a few hospital beds.

He told me to put the boys to bed and then asked me to serve tea to hundreds of volunteers and that he would return for me at 5am.

He kept his promise and took us back in my car to the shrine grounds where he was saluted by the police and waved in.

He took us to the entrance of the basilica and passed over to a policeman and instructed him to put us in a 'good place'.

The building filled up and we watched the Holy Father in Galway on a big screen. Suddenly a group of people came to me among whom was our mystery man. He said that 12 of the sick were to be anointed and would I like my son John to be one of them!

John's face lit up. That's how it happened and he was taken outside to the Mass and we watched it on the screen inside. I have no words to describe how I felt when the Holy Father came in to the basilica and addressed the sick and handicapped. It was the greatest day in our lives. My son John lived for another eight years.
Shelagh Mcdonough, England My grandmother on her deathbed had shouted "hooray" when the announcement was made that the Pope would visit Ireland.

I was 11 and we all piled into the car to make the short trip to Knock, a small windswept village in the west of Ireland.

We parked a few miles from the village, such was the throng that descended that day, and walked a few miles to the village where the Pope would preside over mass.

We were given yellow and white sticker with papal insignia and a number and made our way to our designated area.

I remember a helicopter hovering overhead and descending behind a building, I ran away from our area and just caught a glimpse of a speck emerging from the helicopter.

I ran back to my parents and announced proudly that I had seen him.


" The Pope's visit to Ireland was one of the last cultural events of an old Ireland "

Alan, Canada

There followed an interminably long mass and my little legs grew tired in spite of the little stools we had carried with us. It was dark by the time we returned to our car and in doing so we got lost.

Retracing our steps we walked in the opposite direction of 500,000 people and heard the incessant chant of "You're going the wrong way".

I remember my father carrying me in his arms and putting me to bed, a great end to a great day. The end too of an era in Ireland.

In retrospect the Pope's visit to Ireland was one of the last cultural events of an old Ireland, an Ireland before the Celtic Tiger, before Riverdance and before an affluence that the mid 1980s would bring.
Alan, Canada (ex-Ireland), 2004

I remember as a bride getting dressed to go to the church to get married and watching Pope John Paul landing at Shannon.

Fab experience.
Breeda Neeson, Ireland, 2004



I was 10 when the Pope was shot. I wrote to him telling him he couldn't die as I wanted to be the next Pope after him and since I was only 10 I would be too young to take over.

Imagine my suprise when in August of 1981 I recceived a reply from the Vatican thanking me for the kind wishes and prayers sending the love and blessing of the Pope to me and my family.
Fergal O'Neill, Ireland

I will never forget him, my mentor and friend.

It was my birthday party - myself and my friends were playing in the back garden and our parents were in the dining room clearing away the party food, with the television quietly on in the background.

I remember the gasps of horror coming from the open French doors.

We rushed in, and could see it was a newsflash, but were promptly ordered back out to the garden.

Then parents started to take their respective children home. The news had totally shocked and upset our Catholic parents and abruptly ended my birthday celebrations.

Not one birthday goes by without family or friends reminding me it was the day the Pope was shot.
Vicky, England, 2003


I just wanted to say that I saw the Pope when he visited Glasgow many years ago. He turned and blessed me, it felt wonderful. I am no longer a practising Roman Catholic, but I know that this was a very special man, and he will be sadly missed.
Sara Gibson, Scotland

My sister Steph was eight-years-old when the Pope came to England.

She has cerebral palsy and was in the congregation in Southwark Cathedral when he took a Mass for the sick, disabled and elderly.

She was in the front row when the Pope came past to give the blessings. I was only three but still remember watching the news and seeing the Pope leaning down to shake her hand.

The image of her, an excited little girl sitting in her wheelchair, awestruck and grinning broadly was used in many media reports of the event.

Our family has always had a special fondness for the Pope since he met Steph and I feel sadness, like losing a relative, that his long life and Papacy is at an end.
Rachel, UK

I will never forget the Pope's visit to Scotland in 1982, when I spent two wonderful days of spiritual renewal in his presence at Murrayfield Stadium and Bellahouston Park.

We basked in glorious sunshine throughout. Recent TV coverage evoked such happy memories of these wonderful occasions. He was a truly gifted and inspirational leader of our Church.
Eileen Dobbie, Scotland

It was an occasion to remember, a time in history when the UK was unofficially at war with Argentina, and in the midst of so much conflict and uncertainty the presence of the Pope in this country was a sign of hope.

The visit was marked by visits to Liverpool, where the Pope was applauded warmly and enthusiastically in the city's Anglican cathedral, and at Canterbury, where the Archbishop Dr Runcie greeted the Pope.

The sadness I feel is that seemingly little has happened since to strengthen ties between the churches, and that the hopes of many for Christian unity have not been realised.
Kevin Crinks, UK, 2004

I was a 12-year-old girl living in London and lucky enough to get a ticket to attend the mass at Cardiff. It was a moving experience. It was televised and it was shown at my school the next day and I was visible in the crowds.
Julie Clare, England


I was just 16 years old then. Our holy Pope John Paul II had come to Mangalore, in Karnataka, South India.

That was the last thing to be expected of him to visit such a small town in such a wide country. That was exactly what touched me and it touched me greatly.

I remember even now the sea of people who were there to see him. I still remember the strange but sure feeling I had that this man had made me and thousands of others feel closer to God.

I still at times go to that place where the 12-foot high stage erected specially for his visit lies as a lone memoir. I just couldn't even dream of going to visit the Vatican to bid goodbye to him for the last time.

But today I went to the place where he once stood and blessed us all, in my little town of Mangalore. Dear Pope, my prayers for you are just a small drop in the ocean just like a small speck in the sky but then what else could I give but pray that I and millions of us be like you. God bless & keep your soul. Amen!
Edward C Maben, India

I can still visualise the scene as he came down the plane and kissed the Indian soil.

The ever-smiling Pope was an embodiment of joy. He endeared himself to the Indians as he spoke a few words in Hindi during his address.

It was a miracle that he received a warm welcome from all, irrespective of the different religions existing here. It is amazing that a person who had gone through much hardships in life, that from a young age could exude with happiness, and spread the divine joy wherever he went.
Lissy M, India


I saw the Pope on my 18th birthay, January 26, 1999, when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis, MO.

I am Protestant, but had connections, so I got to attend the Youth Rally with my mother (who is now an ordained Pastor).

I was so excited to get to see this great man who had done so much for the church as a whole. Even though the Pope was visibly frail, he had this peaceful ora about him, and made us all feel loved.
Joy Seydel, USA


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