Pope John Paul II in popular culture

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As one of the best known and well-travelled persons of the 20th century, there are many cultural references to Pope John Paul II (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), who reigned as the 264th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City from 16 October 1978, until his death in April 2005, making his the second-longest pontificate after Pius IX's 31-year reign. In addition to his own extensive writings, many films, television programs, books, and journal articles have been written about John Paul II.


Films made about John Paul II include:

John Paul II at an open-air mass at Yankee Stadium, New York City 1979.


  • John Paul II is the only Pope who appears as a main character in an animated feature.[6]

Books by and about John Paul II[edit]

Literary references[edit]

  • The action-thriller novel, Red Rabbit (2002) by Tom Clancy, detailed a fictional KGB attempt to assassinate a newly elected Polish Pope, who, though only mentioned by the name "Karol", is obviously supposed to be John Paul II.
  • Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba in 1998, the first one ever made by a Pope to this Caribbean island, was featured in Daína Chaviano's novel The Island of Eternal Love (Riverhead, 2008).

Comics references[edit]

  • Comic book biographies of Pope John Paul II were published by Marvel Comics in January 1983[7] and by NBM Publishing in October 2006.[8] The title The Life of Pope John Paul II was illustrated by John Tartaglione.[9]
  • Pope John Paul II was a minor character in the comic book series Warrior Nun Areala. He was often just called "the Pope" but displays of his personal coat of arms—see here—confirm that the unnamed pontiff was indeed supposed to be John Paul. Sister Areala even met him and called him by name at the climax of Warrior Nun Areala/Scorpio Rose No. 4.
  • Pope John Paul II is featured briefly in the satirical comic book album Pest In 't Paleis (1983) by Guido van Meir and Jan Bosschaert.
  • Belgian cartoonist Zak and writer Bert Verhoye featured Pope John Paul II in a satirical comic album named De Vliegende Paap (1985).[10]
  • Belgian comics artist Luk Moerman drew the satirical comic book album De Papevreters – Popebusters (1985), which satirized John Paul II's visit to Belgium that same year.[11]
  • French comics artist Guy Lehideux once made a biographical comic book about Pope John Paul II.[12]
  • French comics artist Jean Lucas once featured John Paul II in a cameo in his album Le Secret de la Lune au Temple du Soleil. [13]



  • Like many celebrities of the 1980s and 1990s Pope John Paul II was featured in the satirical puppet TV series Spitting Image. In parody of his frequent world tours he was depicted as a rock 'n' roll star with an American accent.[16]
  • In an episode of The Golden Girls, the Pope makes a brief stopover in Miami and Sophia Petrillo wants him to bless a sick friend of hers. This drives her to steal his ring after the papal Mass.
  • In 1986, Pope John Paul made a cameo appearance on the television soap Brookside. While Bobby and Sheila Grant were visiting Rome, John Paul made an appearance at a window for the crowd, clearly being seen in the finished production.[17]
  • Pope John Paul II appears in the South Park episode Red Hot Catholic Love.[18]

Video games[edit]

  • Pope John Paul II is one of five world leaders to be featured in the video game Spitting Image.[19]

Miscellaneous references[edit]

  • In his youth, John Paul II played ice hockey on the Skawa River during the winter months.[20]
  • John Paul II's apostolic motto was Totus Tuus ("totally yours"); and according to his Rosarium Virginis Mariae he borrowed the motto from the Marian consecrating prayer as found in "True Devotion to Mary" by Saint Louis Marie Grignion de Montfort. The complete text of the prayer in Latin is: "Tuus totus ego sum, et omnia mea tua sunt" ("I am all Yours, and all that I have belongs to You"). Furthermore, he singled out Saint Louis de Montfort as a key example of Marian spirituality in his Redemptoris Mater encyclical, and in an address to the Montfortian Fathers said that reading one of de Montfort's books had been a "decisive turning point" in his life.[21][22]
  • John Paul II was the only Pope of the twentieth century to have a letter (the letter 'M' for Mary in a Marian Cross) in his coat of arms. [Pius VII] (1800–1823) also had letters in his coat of arms, forming the word PAX (peace).
  • A new form of the Stations of the Cross, called the Scriptural Way of the Cross which calls for more meditation, was introduced by Pope John Paul II on Good Friday 1991. He celebrated that thereafter at the Colosseum.[23][24]
  • The Pope was named Time Magazine’s Person of the year in 1994.
  • According to a New York Post article of 19 February 2002, John Paul II personally performed three exorcisms during his tenure as pope. The first exorcism was performed on a woman in 1982. His second was in September 2000 when he performed the rite on a 19-year-old woman who had become enraged in St Peter's Square. A year later, in September 2001, he performed an exorcism on a 20-year-old woman.
  • The John Paul II International Airport (IATA: KRK), in Balice, Poland, near Kraków where he served as Archbishop before being elected Pope, was named in his honor.
  • In 2004 he received an extraordinary Charlemagne Award of the city of Aachen, Germany.
  • The Harlem Globetrotters visited Pope John Paul II at the Vatican in November 2000 and named the Pontiff an Honorary Harlem Globetrotter.
  • In 2003, his death was incorrectly announced by CNN when his pre-written obituary (along with those of several other famous figures) was inadvertently published on CNN's web site due to a lapse in password protection.
  • In 2004 John Paul II met members of the Polish National Football Team. It was at this time he told Liverpool Goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek that he was a keen fan of his and followed Liverpool whenever they played. Dudek, who had the honour of presenting the Pope with a souvenir goalkeeper shirt, would later dedicate Liverpool's Champions League success to the late pontiff.
  • John Paul II is considered as the "protector" of Fluminense Football Club among supporters of this traditional Brazilian football team. One of the team's most famous chants is "A Bênção, João de Deus" ("Bless us, John of God"), a song that was composed in honour of the Pope John Paul II on his first visit to Brazil in 1980. The tradition is that Fluminense fans spontaneously started singing the famous song when the team was to decide the 1980 state championship on a penalty shootout against their arch-rivals Vasco da Gama. Fluminense won the championship.
  • John Paul II is the eighth most admired person by U.S. citizens in the 20th century, according to Gallup.
  • John Paul II was an avid football player in his youth and later became an honorary member of FC Barcelona, BV Borussia Dortmund, and Schalke 04. He was a goalkeeper.
  • His favorite football team had always been Cracovia, whose games he attended while living in Kraków.
  • In 2006 a white hybrid tea rose was named "Pope John Paul II" in his honour, with a percentage of sales going to charity. Ten of the rose bushes were planted in the Vatican gardens.[25][26]
  • Polish Formula 1 driver Robert Kubica drives in a helmet with the "Jan Pawel II" inscription.
  • John Paul II sent the first papal e-mail in 2001.[27]
  • Solar eclipses took place both on the day he was born and the day of his funeral 9:22 pm.[28]
  • In 2004, Ferrari made a special F1 car for the pope to celebrate his 26th anniversary as the pontiff.
  • John Paul II, when meeting Bono and Bob Geldof during their visit famously asked to try on Bono's trademark Fly sunglasses.
  • In 1988, when the Pope delivered a speech to the European Parliament, the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, Ian Paisley, shouted "I denounce you as the antichrist!" and held up a poster reading "POPE JOHN PAUL II ANTICHRIST". The Pope continued with his address after Paisley was ejected from the auditorium, primarily by then 77-year-old Otto von Habsburg, former crown prince of Austria-Hungary and a well-known and devout Catholic, with Habsburg snatching Paisley's banner, punching him in the face and, along with other MEPs, pushing him out of the chamber.[29][30][31][32]
  • A popular story in chess circles states that a certain Karol Wojtyla had published a chess problem in 1946. Although the young Wojtyla was indeed an accomplished chess player, the story of this publication appears to be a hoax whose roots were uncovered by Tomasz Lissowski.[33]
  • John Paul McQueen is named after the pope in the fictional soap Hollyoaks; they also share the same birthday.


  1. ^ Dudek, Duane (20 April 1984). "Finney's Rainbow: Verstile English actor adds Polish pope to his repertoire". Milwaukee Sentinel. Retrieved 26 May 2012.
  2. ^ FaithStreams Communities, Our Television Programs Archived 10 December 2007[Date mismatch] at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ CBS Archived 8 December 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Pope John Paul II (2005) (TV)
  5. ^ Poniewozik, James (27 November 2005). "Television: Pope John Paul, Times II". Time. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  6. ^ "Cartoon tribute to Pope John Paul". BBC News. 16 October 2006. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  7. ^ The Life of Pope John Paul II #1 (January 1983) at the Grand Comics Database
  8. ^ The Life of Pope John Paul II ... In Comics! (October 2006) at the Grand Comics Database
  9. ^ https://www.lambiek.net/artists/t/tartaglione_john.htm
  10. ^ https://www.lambiek.net/artists/z/zak.htm
  11. ^ https://www.lambiek.net/artists/l/lukas.htm
  12. ^ https://www.lambiek.net/artists/l/lehideux_guy.htm
  13. ^ https://www.lambiek.net/artists/l/lucas_jean.htm
  14. ^ http://goldenageofmusicvideo.com/director-recalls-shooting-%E2%80%9Ceighties%E2%80%9D-video-for-killing-joke-%E2%80%9Cthey-were-a-frightening-band%E2%80%9D/
  15. ^ "Pope rocks Polish pop music charts", MSNBC News, 14 May 2005 (accessed 11 June 2005).
  16. ^ Colgan, Stevyn (1 October 2013). Constable Colgan's Connectoscope: How One Thing Leads to Another. ISBN 9781908717825.
  17. ^ Graham Kibble-White; Phil Redmond (4 November 2002). 20 Years of Brookside. p. 160. ISBN 9781842227640.
  18. ^ http://southpark.cc.com/full-episodes/s06e08-red-hot-catholic-love
  19. ^ Blouin, Michael; Shipley, Morgan; Taylor, Jack (2 September 2014). The Silence of Fallout: Nuclear Criticism in a Post-Cold War World. ISBN 9781443868037.
  20. ^ http://www.hockeyrefs.com/intheheadlines/04022005.htm
  21. ^ Pope John Paul II on Saint Louis de Montfort "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2 December 2008. Retrieved 2 December 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ Pope John Paul II's encyclical Redemptoris Mater http://www.cin.org/jp2ency/jp2mot.html
  23. ^ Joseph M Champlin, The Stations of the Cross With Pope John Paul II Liguori Publications, 1994, ISBN 0-89243-679-4
  24. ^ Vatican Description of the Stations of the Cross at the Colosseum
  25. ^ Langlois, Ed (21 March 2006). "Oregon company develops hybrid tea rose in honor of late pope". Catholic News Service. Archived from the original on 12 October 2008. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  26. ^ "Pope John Paul II Hybrid Tea Rose". Jackson & Perkins. Archived from the original on 12 January 2009. Retrieved 9 January 2009.
  27. ^ BBC, "Pope sends first e-mail apology", 23 November 2001. Retrieved on 4 March 2007.
  28. ^ The solar eclipse on May 18, 1920 5:22–5:33 Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine and on April 8, 2005 Archived 8 March 2008 at the Wayback Machine on NASA web site.
  29. ^ MacDonald, Susan (2 October 1988). "Paisley ejected for insulting Pope". The Times.
  30. ^ Chrisafis, Angelique (1 September 2004). "The Return of Dr. No". The Guardian.
  31. ^ McKittrick, David (10 October 2006). "An amazing conversion? The Big Man makes a long journey". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on 7 September 2008. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  32. ^ HEADLINERS; Papal Audience
  33. ^ http://www.chessbase.com/newsdetail.asp?newsid=2316