This 2020 marks the 100th birth anniversary of Karol Jozef Wojtyla, better known as Saint Pope John Paul II or JPII. The saint, who served as the head of the Catholic Church from 1978 to 2005, was remembered in various countries through Masses held for his centenary including a special Mass by Pope Francis himself.
But aside from Holy Masses, tributes were also made for JPII through events and speeches, among others. One of the notable tributes made for the former pope is the John Paul II Institute of Culture at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome.
The Institute, which is part of the Faculty of Philosophy, aims to make its students reflect on contemporary culture. “We’re under a lot of pressure in the contemporary world, we Christians and Catholics, and it’s critical to find the right position for our backbone,” Reverend Michael Paluch said.
Paluch, who serves as the university’s rector, says that Saint John Paul II did exactly that by being active in culture.
Pope Francis sent his blessings for the opening of the Institute in the form of a letter addressed to Paluch. He says that he is pleased that JPII’s alma mater decided to launch this project as JPII was an example for “his open and contemplative spirit, his passion for God and man, for creation, history, and art.”
Pope Francis also mentioned how the saint’s views on culture and attitude in general—admittedly more liberal than his predecessors—should be kept alive so we could be a more “outward-looking Church.”
Pope Francis ended his message by saying that the Institute and the university itself has his blessing, “with these sentiments, I renew my encouragement and gratitude to you, dear brother, and to all those who have established the new Institute,” he said.
“To the professors, students, and staff I send my best wishes for their work, and to all, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.”
Saint Pope John Paul II was a student of the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas from 1946, where he studied his doctorate degree. His thesis was Doctrina de fide apud S. Ioannem a Cruce (The Doctrine of Faith in St. John of the Cross), which he successfully defended in 1948. The original copy of this thesis is still at the university’s library.