Sunday, May 15, 2011

⅏Did You Know: Pope John Paul II was the First Polish Pope and the First Non-Italian pope in 456 years?

Did You Know...
Pope John Paul II was the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian pope in 456 years?  He was also the first Pope to be shot.  His reign as pope of the Roman Catholic Church and sovereign of Vatican City was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted &000000000000002600000026 years and &0000000000000168000000168 days; only Pope Pius IX (1846–1878) who served 31 years, has reigned longer. Pope John Paul II is the only Slavic or Polish pope to date, and was the first non-Italian Pope since Dutch Pope Adrian VI (1522–1523).

Pope John Paul II in 1993
pic by Wik user Gumruch
Born Karol Józef Wojtyła, (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), he  has been acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. It is widely held that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe.

Since his death on 2 April 2005, many thousands of people have been supporting the case for beatifying and canonizing the late Pope John Paul II as a saint. His formal beatification ceremony took place on 1 May 2011.
Fluent in seven modern languages and Latin, he was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate and who also had little fear of going out in public.
On May 13, 1981, near the start of his weekly general audience in Rome's St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II was shot and seriously wounded while passing through the square in an open car. The assailant, 23-year-old escaped Turkish murderer Mehmet Ali Agca, fired four shots, one of which hit the pontiff in the abdomen, narrowly missing vital organs, and another that hit the pope's left hand. A third bullet struck 60-year-old American Ann Odre in the chest, seriously wounding her, and the fourth hit 21-year-old Jamaican Rose Hill in the arm. Agca's weapon was knocked out of his hand by bystanders, and he was detained until his arrest by police. The pope was rushed by ambulance to Rome's Gemelli Hospital, where he underwent more than five hours of surgery and was listed in critical but stable condition.  The pontiff spent three weeks in the hospital before being released fully recovered from his wounds.
On May 9, 1981, Agca took a plane from Majorca to Milan and entered Italy under an assumed name. He took a room in a hotel near the Vatican and on May 13 walked into St. Peter's Square and shot the pope with a 9mm Browning automatic. A handwritten note was found in his pocket that read: "I am killing the pope as a protest against the imperialism of the Soviet Union and the United States and against the genocide that is being carried out in Salvador and Afghanistan." He pleaded guilty, saying he acted alone, and in July 1981 was sentenced to life in prison.

In 1982, Agca announced that his assassination attempt was actually part of a conspiracy involving the Bulgarian intelligence services, which was known to act on behalf of the KGB.
Monument to Pope John Paul II
in Rome
Further interrogations of Agca led to the arrest of three Bulgarians and three Turks, who went on trial in 1985.  As the trial opened, the case against the Bulgarian and Turkish defendants collapsed when Agca, the state's key witness, described himself as Jesus Christ and predicted the imminent end of the world. He explained that the Bulgarian scenario was concocted by Western intelligence officials, and that God had in fact led him to shoot John Paul II. The attack, he explained, was "tied to the Third Secret of the Madonna of Fatima." The secrets of Fatima were three messages that Catholic tradition says the Virgin Mary imparted to three Portuguese shepherd children in an apparition in 1917. The first message allegedly predicted World War II, the second the rise (and fall) of the Soviet Union, and the third was still a Vatican secret in 1985. In 1986, the Bulgarian and Turkish defendants were acquitted for lack of evidence.

In the late 1990s, Pope John Paul II expressed his hope that the Italian government would pardon Mehmet in 2000. The pontiff had made 2000 a holy "Jubilee" year, of which forgiveness was to be a cornerstone. On May 13, 2000, the 19th anniversary of the attempt on his life, the pope visited Fatima, Portugal. The same day, the Third Secret of Fatima was announced by Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano. Sodano described the secret as a "prophetic vision" in which "a bishop clothed in white...falls to the ground, apparently dead, under a burst of gunfire." The Vatican interpreted this as a prediction of the attempt on John Paul II's life. Mehmet Ali Agca, who had guessed the alleged Fatima-assassination connection in 1985, was pardoned by Italian President Carolo Ciampi on June 14, 2000. 
The Western Wall in Jerusalem
In March 2000, John Paul II visited Yad Vashem, the national Holocaust memorial in Israel, and later made history by touching one of the holiest sites in Judaism, the Western Wall in Jerusalem, placing a letter inside it (in which he prayed for forgiveness for the actions against Jews). In part of his address he said: "I assure the Jewish people the Catholic Church ... is deeply saddened by the hatred, acts of persecution and displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews by Christians at any time and in any place", he added that there were "no words strong enough to deplore the terrible tragedy of the Holocaust".

Israeli cabinet minister Rabbi Michael Melchior, who hosted the Pope's visit, said he was "very moved" by the Pope's gesture.

In February 2005, Pope John Paul II was hospitalized with complications from the flu. He died two months later, on April 2, 2005, at his home in the Vatican. Six days later two million people packed Vatican City for his funeral--said to be the biggest funeral in history.


Did You Know?  For the month of

back in.....

  • 1940, Germany invaded Holland and Belgium, as Winston Churchill became prime minister of Great Britain.  On May 10, 1940, Hitler begins his Western offensive with the radio code word "Danzig," sending his forces into Holland and Belgium. On this same day, having lost the support of the Labour Party, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain resigns; Winston Churchill accedes to the office, becoming defense minister as well.
  • 1950, Flash floods in Nebraska killed 23.  In Nebraska on May 8,1950, a flood caused by 14 inches of rain kills 23 people. Most of the victims drowned after being trapped in their vehicles by flash flooding.
In southeastern Nebraska, cornfields dominate the landscape. It is the rainiest region of the state, getting approximately 35 inches annually. The spring and summer of 1950 far exceeded that total. The deadly flash flooding was part of a series of floods to hit the area near Lincoln, Nebraska, where the Big Blue River feeds into the Kansas River, between May and July of that year because of a spate of thunderstorm activity.
  • 1960, FDA aprroved the pill.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the world's first commercially produced birth-control bill--Enovid-10, made by the G.D. Searle Company of Chicago, Illinois, on May 9, 1960.

1963, Sean Connery starred in his first Bond movie, Dr. No.  With the release of Dr. No, moviegoers got their first look--down the barrel of a gun--at the super-spy James Bond (codename: 007), the immortal character created by Ian Fleming in his now-famous series of novels and portrayed onscreen by the relatively unknown Scottish actor Sean Connery. 
  • 1963, Bob Dylan walked out on the Ed Sullivan Show. Bob Dylan had secured what would surely be his big break with an invitation to perform on The Ed Sullivan Show. That appearance never happened. On May 12, 1963, the young and unknown Bob Dylan walked off the set of the country's highest-rated variety show after network censors rejected the song - "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues",  he planned on performing. Rather than choose a new number to perform or change his song's lyrics—as the Rolling Stones and the Doors would famously do in the years to come—Dylan stormed off the set in angry protest.

  • 1964, An unlikely challenger ended the Beatles' reign atop the U.S. pop charts. Following the ascension of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" to #1 in early February, the Beatles held the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for three and a half solid months—longer than any popular artist before or since. Over the course of those months, the Fab Four earned three consecutive #1 singles (a record); held all five spots in the top five in early April (a record); and had a total of 14 songs in the Billboard Hot 100 in mid-April (yet another record). But just when it seemed that no homegrown act would ever stand up to the British invaders, one of least likely American stars imaginable proved himself equal to the task. On May 9, 1964, the great Louis Armstrong, age 63, broke the Beatles' stranglehold on the U.S. pop charts with the #1 hit "Hello Dolly."
  • 1972, Fire broke out at a club in Japan. On May 13, 1972, a fire breaks out at the Playtown Cabaret in Osaka, Japan, that kills 118 people. Only 48 people at the trendy nightclub survived the horrific blaze because safety equipment was faulty and safety procedures were not followed.  The fire exits were hidden by drapes and almost no one in the club found them. Twenty people did locate the emergency chute, but it collapsed as they made their way to the ground and all of them were killed.
    Other people sought to escape the smoke and flames by jumping to the roof of a nearby building, but it was too far and all who tried were killed.
The cast of
Welcome Back, Kotter
1976, "Welcome Back Kotter" became the #1 song in America.  On May 8, 1976, the theme song "Welcome Back, Kotter" became the #1 song in America.  In 1975, John Sebastian, former member of the beloved 60s pop group the Lovin' Spoonful, was asked to write and record the theme song for a brand-new ABC television show with the working title Kotter. As any songwriter would, Sebastian first tried working that title into his song, but somehow the rhymes he came up with for "Kotter"—otter, water, daughter, slaughter—didn't really lend themselves to a show about a middle-aged schoolteacher returning to his scrappy Brooklyn neighborhood to teach remedial students at his own former high school. So Sebastian took a more thoughtful approach to the task at hand and came up with a song about finding your true calling in a life you thought you'd left behind. That song, "Welcome Back," not only went on to become a #1 pop single on this day in 1976, but it also led the show's producers to change its title to Welcome Back, Kotter.

  • 1978, Aldo Moro found deadOn May 9, 1978, the body of former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro is found, riddled by bullets, in the back of a car in the center of historic Rome. He was kidnapped by Red Brigade terrorists on March 16 after a bloody shoot-out near his suburban home. The Italian government refused to negotiate with the extreme left-wing group, which, after numerous threats, executed Moro on May 9. He was a five-time prime minister of Italy and considered a front-runner for the presidency of Italy in elections due in December. 
  • Bob Marley live in concert, 1980
    1981, Bob Marley died. In what would prove to be the next to the last concert of his tragically short life, Bob Marley shared the bill at Madison Square Garden with the hugely popular American funk band The Commodores. With no costumes, no choreography and no set design to speak of, "The reggae star had the majority of his listeners on their feet and in the palm of his hand," according to New York Times critic Robert Palmer. "After this show of strength, and Mr. Marley's intense singing and electric stage presence, the Commodores were a letdown." Only days after his triumphant shows in New York City, Bob Marley collapsed while jogging in Central Park and later received a grim diagnosis: a cancerous growth on an old soccer injury on his big toe had metastasized and spread to Marley's brain, liver and lungs. Less than eight months later, on May 11, 1981, the Jamaican-born Bob Marley, the soul and international face of reggae music, died in a Miami, Florida, hospital. He was only 36 years old.
  • 1987, Forest Fire swept across China.  Firefighters finally contained a giant fire that swept eastward across China on May 12, 1987, but not before 193 people were killed.The fateful fire began on May 6 in Mohe County of the Heilongjiang Province. From the outset, authorities mishandled the blaze, failing to contain it while the size was still manageable. It spread quickly and within two days, 2,000 square miles had burned and 100 people were dead. Firefighters also had to contend with a separate large forest fire that had broken out near China's border with the Soviet Union that threatened to join the initial blaze.
  • 1988, Woman convicted for tampering with Excedrin.  Stella Nickell is convicted on two counts of murder by a Seattle, Washington, jury. She was the first person to be found guilty of violating the Federal Anti-Tampering Act after putting cyanide in Excedrin capsules in an effort to kill her husband.

Stella and Bruce Nickell married in 1976, shortly after seven people were killed in Chicago, Illinois, from poisoned Tylenol pills. According to Stella's daughter from a previous marriage, Stella had begun planning Bruce's murder almost from the honeymoon. The Chicago Tylenol incident (which was never solved) had a lasting impact on Stella, who decided that cyanide would be a good method of murder.
  • 1996, Death on Mount Everest.  Eight climbers die on Mount Everest during a storm on May 10, 1996. It was the worst loss of life ever on the mountain on a single day. Author Jon Krakauer, who himself attempted to climb the peak that year, wrote a best-selling book about the incident, Into Thin Air, which was published in 1997. A total of 15 people perished during the spring 1996 climbing season at Everest. Between 1980 and 2002, 91 climbers died during the attempt.
  • 2001, Soccer fans trampled n Ghana.  On May 9, 2001, during a soccer match at Accra Stadium in Ghana, an encounter between police and rowdy fans results in a stampede that kills 126 people. This tragedy was the worst-ever sports-related disaster in Africa's history to that time.
The Accra Hearts of Oak, playing at home, were leading in their match against archrival Asante Kotoko of Kumasi when Asante fans began tearing up seats and throwing them on the field. Police on the field responded by firing tear gas into the crowd. The crowd, estimated at many thousands above the stated stadium capacity of 45,000, fled for the gates. However, the gates were locked and people at the exits were crushed to death by the masses behind them also trying to leave.

In the months leading to the incident, there had been several other disasters at soccer matches in Africa. On April 11, 43 fans lost their lives in South Africa and on April 29, a stampede in the Congo killed eight people. In fact, the previous 10 years of soccer in Africa had seen one disaster after another. Most of them were caused by the overcrowding of stadiums because of rampant corruption among ticket takers, the locking of security gates, under-training of security forces and the indiscriminate use of tear gas. In Nigeria at the time of the Accra disaster, tear gas was used on soccer crowds on a weekly basis.

Resources:  wikipedia,,, various magazines,

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