President, FM, US ambassador mark centenary of birth of St. John Paul II

Born in the town of Wadowice in 1920, Karol Wojtyła was elected the 264th pope on October 16, 1978. Marek Langda/PAP

President Andrzej Duda, Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz, US Ambassador to Poland Georgette Mosbacher and Sejm (lower house) Speaker Elzbieta Witek paid tribute to the late Polish-born Pope John Paul II on the centenary of his birth on Monday.

In a message published on the President's Office website, President Duda wrote that the pope had always believed that Poles would never lack internal strength and that, while shaping the future, we would always remember the greatest among us, namely, the pope and solidarity.

"Our historical victories and successes, those from before 100 years ago and from 30 years ago, have proved that an unwavering pursuit of freedom and the bonds of solidarity that connect us, are a source of tremendous strength. We need this strength today in the face of modern challenges and opportunities, when we are building a modern state. And we need it especially today in order to jointly overcome the coronavirus pandemic. Karol Wojtyla always believed that Poles would never lack this internal strength," the president said, adding that, "we would always remember the pope of freedom and solidarity."

The Polish foreign minister said on Monday that the heritage of the Polish-born pope had a universal nature. "Its historic pontificate changed the face of Poland, the Church and the world," he stated.

He remarked that, owing to Pope John Paul II, a bloodless revolution took place in Poland, and Central and Eastern Europe started their march to freedom. "Europe was at the bottom of his heart, he cared for its fate since he saw the importance of bringing European nations closer to each other, to build a community based on freedom," he stated.

The US ambassador to Poland wrote on Twitter that "100 years ago, the exceptional Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice. St. Pope John Paul II played a huge role in the fall of communism in Europe, defended human rights, and was a champion of peace. He was, and still is, an inspiration for billions of people around the world."

Sejm Speaker Elzbieta Witek said that the late Pope John Paul II had made the largest contribution to the historic change, which occurred at the end of the 20th century and was connected to the collapse of the communist system.

She added that the changes which tore down the Iron Curtain, carried the Polish people out of the oppression of the Polish People's Republic (the former communist and Soviet satellite state - PAP) to the sovereign Third Polish Republic.

Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice on May 18, 1920. He was elected pope on October 16, 1978. He died on April 2, 2005. He was beatified on May 1, 2011, and canonised on May 27, 2014.