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John Paul II

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Pope John Paul II (Polish: Jan Paweł II, Latin: Joannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II), born Karol Józef Wojtyła (pronounced [ˈkaɾɔl ˈjuzɛv vɔi̯ˈtɨwa]; 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) served as Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death almost 27 years later. His was the second-longest pontificate; only Pope Pius IX served longer. He was the only Polish Pope, and was the first non-Italian Pope since Dutch Pope Adrian VI in the 1520s.

John Paul II has been widely acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the twentieth century. It is widely agreed that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe as well as significantly improving the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. Though criticised for his opposition to contraception and the ordination of women, as well as his support for the Second Vatican Council and its reform of the Liturgy, he has also been praised for his firm, orthodox Catholic stances in these areas.

He was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. He was fluent in many languages: Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Croatian, Ancient Greek and Latin as well as his native Polish. He was also known to speak some Asian languages like Tagalog and Papuan. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 Saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries.

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