Apostolic Voyage 1
MEXICO January, 1979
Just three months after his election as pope, John Paul II undertook his first trip, to Mexico, a country with an anti-clerical constitution and no diplomatic ties to the Vatican. On arrival, he began what would become his custom on all trips: He dropped to his knees and kissed the ground.
Despite being officially ignored by the Mexican government, the Pope was greeted by as many as five million people, who lined the streets of Mexico City to hail him. Even the skeptical Mexican press acknowledged that "He came, he conquered."
Speaking to the Conference of Latin American Bishops, the Pope denounced those who would turn their ministries toward a more political form of liberation theology.
"This notion of a political Jesus, a revolutionary, the subversive from Nazareth," he said, "is not in harmony with the church's teaching."
Apostolic Voyage 2
POLAND June, 1979
Eight months into his papacy, John Paul returned in triumph to his native Poland. The first non-Italian pontiff in more than four centuries, he was the first pope to penetrate the Iron Curtain. In nine tumultuous days, he was seen firsthand by one out of every three Poles.
Communist authorities were powerless to prevent him from challenging the ideology of their regime and alliance with the unholy Soviet Union. From the massive greeting he received in his old parish of Krakow, to the mass he celebrated in the Auschwitz death camp, and the rally of workers in Nowa Huta, John Paul planted the seeds that would blossom as the Solidarity movement in the Gdansk shipyards the next year.
Anticipating the upheaval his visit would trigger, the Pope reassured the Polish people: "There is no need to be afraid. The frontiers must be opened. There is no imperialism in the church, only service."
Apostolic Voyage 21
SOUTH KOREA May, 1984
Determined to spread the gospel and his influence around the world, John Paul visited South Korea where he proclaimed 103 Korean martyrs as saints -- the first time since the Middle Ages that a canonization had taken place outside of Rome.
While the Roman Catholic Church in Korea was small -- 1.7 million followers -- its intensity was great, the Pope said, the result of so much blood shed in the church's name during the 18th and 19th centuries. "The blood of the martyrs is the seed of Christians," he told a mass of one million people in Seoul.
Apostolic Voyage 23
CANADA September, 1984
On his first trip to Canada, an extensive 12-day visit took John Paul to almost every major centre in the country. Despite the Canadian church's largely urban nature, the Pope emphasized two themes during his stay: the importance to him of the country's aboriginal people, and the responsibility of wealthy nations to care for the poor.
"In the light of Christ's word," he told the faithful at an open-air mass outside Edmonton, "the poor South will judge the rich North. The poor peoples . . . will judge the nations that have carried off their property, claiming their imperialistic monopoly over their goods and a political supremacy at other people's expense."
Apostolic Voyage 27
AFRICA August, 1985
On a 12-day trip that took him to Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Zaire, Kenya and Morocco, John Paul emphasized a major theme of his papacy: human rights. He denounced the "crying injustice" of apartheid, called for the independence of South African-occupied Namibia, and apologized for the slave trade once carried out by Christian nations.
In Zaire, at the palace of president Mobutu Sese Seko, the Pope criticized African leaders for corruption, exploitation of the poor and repression of political dissent. In the Central African Republic, he celebrated mass at the site where dozens of children had been slaughtered for protesting against wearing school uniforms.