Is Pope JPII's new name "The Great"?


I’ve heard any people call Pope John Paul II “Blessed John Paul the Great”. Is this his new name?

The title “the Great” is not given by the Church, but by general popular acclaim. If enough people call him “John Paul the Great,” then he is John Paul the Great.

As said, it isn’t an official title given by the Church. It’s just something that people say, and it’s catching on. I imagine this is how other saints like St. Gregory the Great or St. Leo the Great got their titles. People just started saying it, and it caught on. I hope this also happens for Blessed John Paul THE GREAT.

Great also implies “greater” than the other Popes of the same name. So technically (but unofficially) you’re correct in not using the number. :slight_smile:

Actually, Pope Benedict started this. He used this title at his funeral. As everyone has already said, the Church does not assign titles such as The Great. Those come through popular usage.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

If I’m not mistaken, you are thinking of Pope Benedict’s brief address immediately after election, in which he merely referred to his predecessor as “the great Pope, John Paul II.”

You may be right. I don’t remember the details of those days. I was in Rome for a chapter. The death, funeral, conclave and installation is all a blur in my head.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

I remember when watching the funeral I heard the word, ‘Magnus, magnus’ (Latin for ‘the great. the great’) chanted by the crowd in St. Peter’s Square.

There are two [maybe three] Popes given the title ‘The Great’ after their names: St. Leo I, St. Gregory I, and I think there’s a Pope Nicholas who was called ‘The Great’.

I have a DVD from EWTN of the election of Pope Benedict, and the late Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who co-hosted with Raymond Arroyo, kept calling John Paul II ‘the Great’.

As I’m just recently putting serious thought into becoming Catholic, I don’t know much about JP II? Why was he so “great”?

Along with his great holiness, he is considered the most pastoral pope of the 20th century. Can’t speak for the 21st, because it’s just beginning. Like every human being, he did many things that upset people on the left and on the right. No human being can please everyone and every human being has motives that are unknown to the rest of us or known only to their confessors, spiritual directors and very close friends. It’s really unfair to judge the man’s motives for the things that we disapprove.

However, he did some extraordinary work in several areas:

  1. Ecumenism: He developed a trust between Catholic and non-Catholic leadership. That’s not a conversion, but everything begins with trust and goes from there.

  2. Youth: He reached out to the youth of the world, not just Catholics. The result has been very positive. Many young people have returned to the Church and there are many young men and women who are becoming priests, brothers, sisters, deacons and nuns and they say that they were inspired by him.

  3. Religious life: He approved the foundation of over 300 new religious congregations around the world and he encouraged the reform of the major religious orders of men. As a result we have many new and emerging religious communities and the major religious orders of men, among them the two largest are the Augustinian and the Franciscan families are returning to our roots. This does not go too well with some people. As a result, we’re ordaining less men and closing parishes. That has to be done in order to be the orders that we were founded to be. The secular clergy has to pick up that slack.

  4. Communism: He challenged Communism in Poland and around the world, without risking a life and without a confrontation. He worked very closely with the USA to bring down the Wall.

  5. Theology: He wrote more theological works than any pope in the last 500 years. Though Pope Benedict, has written more, but he was not pope when he was writing. He has not written too many theological works during his papacy.

  6. Compassion: Many people discredit him for being soft on sinners and dissidents. However, there is another way of looking at him. He was the man who was more in line with a Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Bl. John XXIII, Vincent de Paul, and a few other of that same school of spirituality. I call them the soft saints. I don’t mean wimpy. I mean they are the type of saint who believe in the goodness of man and who love humanity so much that they always hope and pray that people will convert through the power of prayer and penance. So, he spent hours in prayer and led a very ascetical life for the conversion of those in error and in sin. If he had a weakness, one would have to say is that his weakness was the same as these other saints. He loved every human being and trusted, sometimes too much.

  7. Asceticism: He was an ascetic. He’s a rather interesting man. He was not a religious. He was a secular priest. However, studying his life, one would think that he was a monk. As a secular priest he was entitled to have money, to determine what he was going to do and how, to live independently as long as he remained chaste. However, he did just the opposite. He died penniless. There was nothing of monetary value in his will. The only thing that he literally owned were his clothes, a few books and a very old car that he never drove. He did not own his own home. There were no bank accounts and no assets. It seems that every penny he ever made as a priest and a bishop he gave away. He would spend hours in prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. It is believed that he had raptures. There were moments when people could not rouse him from prayer. This is more typical of the monk, than of the secular priest who is much more active. He always lived in community. Even at the Vatican he had a group with whom he lived and insisted that he not be alone so that he could have people with whom to pray, recreate and be with. This too is not typical of the secular priest. Most secular priests live in rectories. Rectories are more like frat houses. People come and go on their own schedule. Once in a while you’ll find a group of priests who pray together and eat together. This is not expected of them.

  8. Hunger for God in the world: He made it his mission to find God in the world. He did not set out on great campaigns to fix this or that. That was not his spirituality. This takes me back to men like Francis. These are not men who are called to solve problems. They deal with them as they come and when possible, they delegate to others. These are men who find God in humanity and go out to humanity to speak to society about Christ and encourage humanity to find Christ and not be afraid of him. Bl. John Paul delivered this message with power and conviction, because he truly believed that God is among us and wants to be found, because he has already found us.

There is wonderful book written by Peggy Noonan. John Paul the Great: Remembering a Spiritual Father. There is another written by his secretary. I have not read that one yet. I did read Noonan’s books and it’s excellent.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Amen to what you said, Brother JR! :thumbsup:

I know some traditional Catholics who absolutely despise both Blessed John Paul II (and Benedict XVI, for that matter). Last week I listened to an Internet radio call-in talk show, where the priest who answered questions from listeners (or in this case, emailers) had nothing to say but bad things about both Popes!

I was ready to shoot off an email myself and ask him, ‘With all due respect, Father-who died and made YOU Pope?’

He even called John Paul a MASON, for heaven’s sakes! Another word frequently heard was that he [John Paul ] was a ‘Modernist’!

I got so aggravated, I had to turn it off!

I don’t think these ‘traditional Catholics’ have even READ anything by either Pope!

I would not blame that on Traditional Catholics. I would place the blame where it belongs, at the foot of the priest who was making the statements. I know many Traditional Catholics (how I hate labels :frowning: ) who are very fond of both popes and who are very realistic. They are not bitter angry people. Most of them are very simple people who are on a spiritual journey and find great consolation the the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. That’s OK. They should have it, if they find spiritual consolation there. The Church should be a mother than offers all of her children the opportunity to find the consolations of the Holy Spirit where ever they are to be found.

Also, many Traditional Catholics are very simple people in respect to catechesis. Simple does not mean dumb. By simple, I mean that they liked the previous way of teaching the faith. I always describe them as bottom line people. They’re not really too interested in all the philosophical and theological jargon and constructs. They just want to know that we still believe the same thing. That too has validity and can be useful.

I teach a bible course to middle school kids. I teach it along with the new edition of the Baltimore Catechism. I show them what the Church teaches and then find it in the bible for them. However, I teach theology to student friars. I don’t use the Baltimore Catechism. They’re not interested in the conclusions. They know them. They are interested in the background. They want to know the theological and philosophical sources that support the doctrines and moral teachings to which we subscribe. They are interested in how Francis of Assisi saw these teachings and how he included them in his life and in the life of his community. They want to know what the Franciscan masters have to say about these things.

As you can see, there is a difference between people. There are different needs. There are different levels of intellectual approach. Not everyone wants to approach every Church teaching via philosophy and theology. Not everyone wants to approach every Church teaching as a done deal without dissecting it. Both are good as long as we remember to preserve the faith in the end.

When you get people as the priest that you described, that’s a person who has an ax to grind, not a person who is interested in understanding the other person’s approach to the Christian Life.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

True again, Brother. I also know other traditional Catholics (and yeah, like you I don’t like the ‘labeling’ either:( ) who love both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. In fact, those young Catholics who like the EF Mass have their own group for World Youth Day-‘Juventutem’!

You are so smart, Brother, you have a good answer for everything here! I just wish I was that eloquent and able to put my thoughts together. But I’m just a dumb laywoman. :o :frowning:

If there is a petition going around on calling Blessed John Paul “the Great,” where do I sign?


I can vouch for A Life with Karol, his secretary’s (Cardinal Dziwisz’s) book. While if you’ve read the main bios (Weigel, Szulc, etc), you won’t learn much more, his is a good and accessable overview of the man (as opposed to the ‘politician’, the Pole, the friend of Jews, etc), describing the world as he (JPII) saw it, with the least coloring of the author’s view of any bio I’ve read (even Weigel).

It did come off as ever so slightly canned though, as if Dziwisz knew the beatification was forthcoming and wanted to make public all the info he could relevant to it. There are also two somewhat widespread urban legends about John Paul which Dziwisz downplays, if not outright debunks. As I would regard both legends as complimentary, I found it made the book even more credible and down-to-earth. But you’ll need to read it to find out which ones:o.

I’ve heard that it’s a good book. I just have to get the money to buy it.

There is no such thing as dumb lay person. There is a difference between having information and not having it. That does not make the person who does not have the information dumb. As to eloquence, I cheat. :smiley: I have been teaching theology since 1984. :eek: Jeez Louise, that’s a long time. I’m old.


Br. JR, OSF :slight_smile:

Wow, thank you very much for your excellent response. He definitely sounds like a great guy. Makes me with that I was born a few years earlier so that I could have been old enough to know what he was doing. The only time I ever remember seeing him was the day he died, and that was only because of the pictures and videos the news was showing. He must have been a great leader.

All I can say to this JPII the great title is " May God have mercy on us for we know not what we are doing"

Benedict XV the Great

Pius XI the Great

Pius XII the Great

  1. The Divine Liturgy in a shambles.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit