On September 10, 1987, Pope John Paul II began his 10-day tour of the United States by arriving in Miami, Florida. A large crowd, including President Ronald Reagan, first lady Nancy Reagan, and thousands of well-wishers, greeted him at Miami International Airport. Standing on a stage beneath a canopy, the Pope announced himself as a pilgrim in the cause of justice, peace, and human solidarity, aiming to build a united human family.
The audience, waving flags and dressed in yellow-and-white papal colors, cheered with excitement. President Reagan, acknowledging the Florida heat, reassured the Pope that the warmth of his welcome in the country would surpass even that of the Florida sunshine.
Throughout his nearly 27-year-long papacy, Pope John Paul II visited the United States seven times, leaving a lasting impact on the nation. His visit in September 1987 included stops in Miami, Columbia, South Carolina, New Orleans, San Antonio, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Monterey, San Francisco, and Detroit. The theme of unity was evident during his time in Miami, with displays of multiculturalism, including Cuban flags and Polish Solidarity banners, music in various languages, and a multilingual Mass.
After Miami, the Pope embarked on several notable events, such as addressing representatives of Black Catholics in New Orleans, attending an ecumenical conference in South Carolina, celebrating Mass with a massive congregation in San Antonio, and participating in the Tekakwitha Conference, which brought together Native American Catholics in Phoenix. He also spoke to representatives from the communications industry in Los Angeles.
Born as Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920, Pope John Paul II was elected Pope on October 16, 1978, and served until his death on April 2, 2005. He achieved many firsts, becoming the first non-Italian Pope since the 16th century, and the most well-traveled Pope in history. He visited 129 countries, including Cuba and Haiti.
Pope John Paul II made significant strides in his papacy, contributing to the end of communism, fostering interfaith dialogue, and issuing the Catholic Church’s first apology for its actions during World War II. He also attended historic events, such as visiting the White House, engaging in prayer with the Anglican archbishop of Canterbury, meeting with the Coptic pope and Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria in Egypt, praying in a mosque in Greece, celebrating Mass at Auschwitz, and praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
On April 2, 2005, Pope John Paul II passed away at his Vatican home at the age of 84. His funeral in Vatican City attracted two million people. Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later known as Pope Benedict XVI, succeeded him. Pope Francis succeeded Pope Benedict in March 2013, and in April 2014, he canonized Pope John Paul II.