WORLD POSTAGE STAMPS WITNESS THE LIFE & TRAVELS OF
ST JOHN PAUL
ST JOHN PAUL
When Karol Cardinal Wojtyta, Archbishop of Krakow, was elected Pope on 16th October 1978, he took the name John Paul II. Even though he had traveled widely before his election, he was not well known outside of Poland and the Vatican. Once elected, it soon became clear that he was determined to change the office of the Papacy from a mainly ceremonial role to one of the true Vicar of Christ on earth.
The change stemmed mainly from his personality-intellectual identity. The Holy Father not only liked sports, but also loved meeting people from all over the world. As an accomplished linguist, he was able to converse with many people in their own language. In his 28-year pontificate, he made over 104 apostolic pilgrimages outside Italy, visited over 130 countries and no less than 617 cities and acquired the nickname “The Pilgrim Pope”.
He created a new pontifical style, open to millions of the faithful. During his pontificate, John Paul II managed to bring the Church closer to the people and proving his genuine concern for their lives. His own life demonstrated the great effort of a man who undertook the heroic responsibility for the spirituality of millions of people around the world. Through his travels John Paul II sought to show unity in the Catholic world of diversity, as well as his interest for various populace and cultures.
Even after his death John Paul II is indisputably one of the most famous personalities in the world, and during his lifetime was seen in person by more human beings than anyone else in history.
The calling of John Paul II and his popularity have been visualized philatelically. “Papalia” are stamps, souvenir sheets, miniature sheets, First Day Covers, postal stationery, special postmarks and other postal items that are linked with John Paul II. More than 2,000 stamps have issued depicting Pope John Paul II to date.
The fact that his life and death gave rise to such an abundance of postage stamps, confirming , if anything, the enormous esteem this Pope enjoyed all over the world. His pontificate was considered to be unique in many aspects. However, after his death, the number of stamps depicting John Paul II increased and continues to rise.
No other man in such a short period of time has ever been represented on so many postal stamps in so many countries. The small colour print of a stamp overcomes borders of religions and cultures, reaches beyond social and political conditions, and has been a part of modern civilization since 1840.
As early as January 24, 1979 Gabon celebrated his election by dedicating a 100 francs stamp to him, the Holy Father being depicted in a waving salute. A second stamp for the value of 200 francs shows Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul I, against the background of a crowded St. Peter’s square. On January 25, 1979 the Dominican Republic issued a 10 centavos stamp to commemorate his first trip. The Vatican set was issued on March 22, 1979 to mark the new pontificate and it consisted of three stamps depicting the Papal emblem (170 lire), the Pope whilst giving blessing (250 lire) and Christ consigning the Keys to St. Peter (400 lire)
Papal stamps were issued to: mark his pilgrimages, anniversaries of these pilgrimages, important dates from the Holy Father’s curriculum, papal diplomatic actions, beatifications and even activities with local politicians. After his death there have been a flood of stamps issued to pay tribute to the late Pope.
Let us consider the stamps. What do these issues dedicated to the Pope actually depict? They obviously feature his face, bust, or the entire figure in greeting or whilst blessing, often associated with other pertinent elements such as the papal emblem, the yellow-white Vatican flag, the Crossed Keys and, more commonly, the Crucifix. Often on these stamps issued to commemorate his travels, the Pope is depicted alongside a welcoming institutional representative, whether it be a King or a President.
The careful collection and classification of artifacts are absolutely necessary in order to preserve the material to help future generations understand the tremendous effect of John Paul II’s pontificate. There are plans in the works for multiple museums and institutions to gather memorabilia on this pontificate and stamps form an important part of the visual record