KAROL Josef Wojtyla had been many things before he became Pope. Among these many things, he had been a theatre actor and nothing had been more dramatic than the events that led to the day he was presented to the world's stage as the newly elected Pope on October 27, 1978.
In 1968, Morris West's bestselling novel, "Shoes of the Fisherman" became a movie blockbuster. Released at the height of the Cold War, the film captured the imagination of the free world because it told the story of how a Russian, a Siberian prisoner for 20 years, ended up playing a key role as pope in a very troubled world facing the horrid prospect of a nuclear world war. Kiril Lakota turned out to be a revolutionary pope who extended his papal influence beyond the boundaries of the Vatican and the spiritual needs of the Catholic Flock.
Ten years later, in 1978, a pope did rise from behind the Iron Curtain.
The ascendancy of Polish Karol Wojtyla happened under most unusual circumstances - he was to be the first non-Italian pope in 455 years and the third pope to reign within the same year. Pope Paul VI died and was succeeded by John Paul I who died 33 days into his papacy. The stunning developments of having three popes in one year gave Pope John Paul II his dramatic entrance. But far beyond the flourish and drama that attended his installation as the 264th leader of the Catholic Church, it was the unprecedented initiatives he had undertaken that really created the most impact in his 26-year papacy. Whoever will succeed him will find the last fisherman's shoes mighty big to fill.
Pope John Paul II was the only pope who enjoyed tremendous recognition and made a personal impact on 50...