Pontificate Posts Numbers That Still Astound

Data on John Paul II’s Works and Trips

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- At 6:18 p.m. on Oct. 16, 1978, the white smoke of the little chimney of the Sistine Chapel announced the election of a new Pope — and the beginning of a pontificate that would startle the world.

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla had become Successor No. 263 of St. Peter.

John Paul II’s pontificate is now the fourth longest in history. The longest was that of St. Peter (precise dates unknown), followed by Pope Pius IX (1846-78: 31 years, 7 months, 17 days), and his successor, Leo XIII (1878-1903: 25 years, 4 months and 17 days), the Vatican Information Service reported today.

In his 25 years as Pope, John Paul II has held eight consistories in which he has created 201 cardinals. He announced the ninth such consistory on Sept. 28, naming 31 new cardinals, including one «in pectore» (secretly).

The consistory will be held next Tuesday and will bring the number of members of the College of Cardinals to 194, not including the «in pectore.» Of the cardinals, 135 will be under the age of 80 and thus eligible to vote in a conclave for a new pope. As of that day, John Paul II will have made 232 cardinals.

From the start of his pontificate until today, John Paul II has named more than 3,300 of the world’s bishops. He has met each of them a number of times over the years, particularly when they fulfill their five-yearly obligation of a visit to Rome.

He has written 14 encyclicals, 14 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 42 apostolic letters and 28 letters issued «motu proprio» (on his own initiative), in addition to hundreds of other messages and letters.

In preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, he wrote the apostolic letter «Tertio Millennio Adveniente,» published in November 1994. He also established the Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

The Pope has also presided over 15 synods of bishops: six ordinary (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2001), one extraordinary (1985) and eight special assemblies (1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, two in 1998, and 1999).

He has undertaken 102 pastoral visits outside Italy, the latest of which was September to Slovakia. He has made 143 trips within Italy and nearly 700 within the city and Diocese of Rome, including visits to 301 of the 325 parishes of the diocese of which he is Bishop, in addition to religious institutes, universities, seminaries, hospitals, rest homes, prisons and schools.

With his 245 foreign and Italian pastoral visits, John Paul II has reached the 1,163,865-kilometer mark (698,310 miles), that is, just over 28 times the earth’s circumference or three times the distance between the earth and moon.

While in Rome, the Pope welcomes an average of 1 million people per year, including between 400,000 and 500,000 who attend the weekly general audiences in addition to those who come for special liturgical functions such as Christmas and Easter Masses, beatifications and canonizations. He also receives about 150,000 to 180,000 people per year in audiences granted to particular groups, and heads of state and government.

Including this week’s general audience, John Paul II has held 1,106 Wednesday general audiences, welcoming more than 17 million faithful. Other audiences, including heads of state and heads of government, number over 1,500.

At the start of John Paul II’s pontificate the Holy See had diplomatic relations with 85 countries. It now has relations with 174 countries, as well as with the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It has relations of a special nature with the Russian Federation and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

According to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, over the past 25 years the Pope has proclaimed 1,324 blesseds in 140 ceremonies and 477 saints in 51 ceremonies, including the canonization ceremony on Oct. 5.

He founded the John Paul II Institute for the Sahel in February 1984, and the «Populorum Progressio» Foundation for the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America in February 1992. He also founded the Pontifical Academies for Life and for Social Sciences.

In addition, he instituted the World Day of the Sick (celebrated annually on Feb. 11) and World Youth Day. The 17th youth day was celebrated in Toronto in July 2002. The Pope himself chooses the theme and develops its contents in an annual Message to the Youth of the World.

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