Pope John Paul II arrived in Miami, Florida on this historic day, September 10, 1987, to begin a ten-day tour of the United States. He was greeted by President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan as well as thousands of well-wishers.
“I come as a pilgrim, a pilgrim for justice, peace and human solidarity, committed to building the one human family,” Pope John Paul said that day as he read his remarks in English from a stage on a canopy at Miami International Airport, the New York Times reported.
The cheering audience of thousands waved flags and wore yellow and white papal colors.
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In his remarks marking the Pope’s arrival, President Reagan noted the heat in Florida.
“Today’s Florida sunshine,” Reagan told the pope, “is no warmer than the welcome you will receive in this country,” multiple sources reported.
According to the Catholic News Agency, Pope John Paul II traveled to the United States seven times over the course of his nearly 27-year pontificate – five of considerable length and two brief stops during which he nevertheless left a lasting impression.
During his visit to Miami in September, according to the Archdiocese of Miami, he marked the following events:
- Meeting with representatives of the country’s priests at St. Martha Church in Miami Shores
- Participated in a groundbreaking meeting with representatives of the U.S. Jewish community that paved the way for the Vatican’s eventual recognition of the State of Israel
- Parade down Biscayne Boulevard with his “Popemobile”
- Celebrated an outdoor mass in Tamiami Park attended by over 200,000 people. “The Mass was interrupted by flashes of lightning and thunder, and the Pope ended the celebration in a caravan behind the massive altar, then came out to bless the stubborn few who had waited out the storm,” the same source said.
“The theme of the visit was unity, and Miami’s multiculturalism was on full display with Cuban flags and Polish solidarity banners, music in Spanish, Creole, English and Gregorian chants, and Mass was celebrated in three languages,” the Archdiocese of Miami said.
In addition to Miami, the Pope also visited Columbia, South Carolina; New Orleans; San Antonio; Phoenix; Los Angeles; Monterey; San Francisco; and Detroit.
“This trip was John Paul II’s longest trip to the United States and his first to the adjacent West Coast,” the Catholic News Agency noted.
“Miami’s multiculturalism was on full display with Cuban flags and Polish solidarity banners; Music in Spanish, Creole, English and Gregorian chant; and Mass was celebrated in three languages.”
Notable episodes following his time in Miami included an address to black Catholic representatives at the Superdome in New Orleans; attending an ecumenical conference on the University of South Carolina campus; Celebration of the Mass in San Antonio with approximately 275,000 visitors; toured a Catholic hospital and attended the Tekakwitha Conference, a national gathering of Native American Catholics, at the Arizona State Fair Grounds Coliseum in Phoenix; and an address to communications industry officials in Los Angeles, the same source said.
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Pope John Paul was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland.
He was elected pope on October 16, 1978 – and served until his death on April 2, 2005.
He was a pope with many firsts.
He was the first non-Italian pope since the 16th century and the most traveled pope in history. According to the Catholic News Agency, he visited 129 countries, including Cuba and Haiti.
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In addition, he was the first pope to visit the White House (1979), the first to travel to the United Kingdom and pray with the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury (1982); the first to visit Egypt and meet with the Coptic Pope and the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria (2000); the first to visit Greece and pray in a mosque (2001); the first to attend and celebrate Mass at Auschwitz (1979); the first to set foot in a Jewish synagogue since the beginnings of Christianity (Rome, 1986); and, according to the same source, the first to pray at the Western Wall during a visit to Jerusalem (2000).
Pope John Paul II is known for his successful efforts to end communism and for building bridges with people of other faiths.
On April 2, 2005, John Paul II died at his home in the Vatican.
He was 84.
Six days later, two million people flocked to Vatican City for his funeral, History.com reported.
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The same source reported that Pope John Paul II was remembered for his successful efforts to end communism, as well as for building bridges with peoples of other faiths, and for the Catholic Church’s first apology for its actions during World War II.
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Pope John Paul’s successor was Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI. became.
Then Pope Francis succeeded Pope Benedict in March 2013 and canonized John Paul II in April 2014.