Archbishop Stanislaw Gadecki, head of the Polish Episcopal Conference, is calling for St John Paul II to be declared a Doctor of the Church and a co-patron saint of Europe.
The late pope and recent saint should be recognized as a co-patron saint of Europe for his efforts to bring down the Iron Curtain and reunite Western Europe with Central and Eastern Europe, Gadecki said in a letter to the bishops of the world, asking for their support in the effort, according to Poland In.
“Fifty years of Soviet domination in East-Central Europe painted an image in many people’s minds of Europe consisting only of Germany, France, the UK, Italy and the Scandinavian countries. One might say that John Paul II ‘brought back’ half of Europe from ‘nonexistence’, [he brought back] grand and wonderful heritage of cultural and Christian roots,” wrote Gadecki.
Fr Karol Wojtyla (who would later become Pope John Paul II) was ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow in 1946, shortly after a Soviet-backed communist government had come to power in Poland. Fr Wojtyla promoted religious liberty and Christianity in the face of the anti-religious regime.
Wojtyla was ordained a bishop in 1958, and in his elevated position, fought the communists for the right to build a Catholic church in Nowa Huta, which was constructed specifically by the communists to be a city without God. During his time as archbishop of Poland, Woytjla staged a traditional Marian procession with an empty frame where the icon of Our Lady of Czestachowa would normally be – the communists had banned the procession of religious icons, but not of frames.
As pope, John Paul II returned to his homeland of Poland for nine days (instead of the planned two) in 1979, bringing a message of hope and solidarity to his people who were still under communist rule. President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II also met a total of four times before the Iron Curtain fell, including just six days before the president’s famous “tear down this wall” speech in 1987. Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev also met with Pope John Paul II in 1989, and later said that the fall of the Iron Curtain would not have been possible without him.
“The Polish Pope knew that the current cultural crisis is an epochal call to a wise return to the common historical heritage that Christianity is. In this regard, the saint Pope became… a protector of European values that constitute an irremovable foundation of the modern-day civilization,” Gadecki said.
“Twenty-seven years of Pope John Paul II’s pontificate was a breakthrough to the Church and the world both in the terms of his teachings and social influence,” Gadecki wrote. He added that in 2019, he asked Pope Francis to declare John Paul II a Doctor of the Church and co-patron of Europe on behalf of the leaders of the Church in Poland.
There are currently 36 Doctors of the Church, which are saints recognized for their universal importance to the Church due to their important teachings and great sanctity.
Europe currently has seven co-patron saints. St Benedict of Nursia was declared “Patron Saint of all Europe” by Pope Paul VI in 1964. During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II declared Sts Cyril and Methodius, St Bridget of Sweden, St Catherine of Siena, St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross (Edith Stein), St Jadwiga of Poland as co-patrons of Europe.