Honors Late Pope John Paul II
Weeks before the canonization of Pope John Paul II, Maspeth residents will celebrate the late holy father’s legacy and Polish heritage with a special street renaming on Sunday, Apr. 6.
Not only is Holy Cross Church located in a heavily Polish community, but it also hosted John Paul II years before he became leader of the Roman Catholic Church, according to historian Jeff Gottlieb. Then-Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, serving as Archbishop of Warsaw in his native Poland, stayed at the Holy Cross rectory while touring Brooklyn and Queens parishes during a visit to the U.S. in 1969.
City Council Member Elizabeth Crowley sponsored legislation for the street renaming, which was signed into law by then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the waning days of his administration last December. Crowley along with the Polish- Jewish Dialogue Committee-a panel dedicated to improving relations between Polish Jews and Christians-are the major sponsors of the street renaming ceremony.
Among those scheduled to participate include Auxiliary Bishop Octavio Cisneros of the Diocese of Brooklyn and Queens; Polish Consul General Ewa Junczyk-Ziomecka; Community Board 5 Chairperson Vincent Arcuri; Fr. Witold Mroziewski, current Holy Cross Church pastor; Msgr. Peter Zendzian, former Holy Cross Church pastor; Frank Milzewski, downstate chair of the Polish-American Congress; and Rabbi Moshe A. Birnbaum of the Jewish Center of Kew Gardens Hills.
Elected to the papacy in 1978- the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years-John Paul II became a transcendent figure of faith in his 27 years as Bishop of Rome. During his reign, he worked to uphold the church’s traditional teachings while also improving relations with other faiths across the globe.
Moreover, John Paul II became one of the most well-traveled popes in history, bringing his message of faith to millions in 129 different nations. His visit to Poland in 1979 was considered by many to be the beginning of the end for communism in his native land, as it helped spur the Solidarity movement that ultimately rose to power in 1989.
John Paul II further endeared himself to the city’s Polish community and other ethnicities during his two visits to New York City in 1979 and 1995, respectively. Before thousands, he celebrated Masses at Shea Stadium during his first visit and at Aqueduct Racetrack in his last trip.
Following years of declining health, Pope John Paul II died on Apr. 2, 2005, at the age of 84. Succeeding him as pontiff was Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of Germany, who became Pope Benedict XVI.
Immediately following his death, millions of Catholics advocated for John Paul II to be canonized a saint. He was beatified (a precursor to potential sainthood) by the Catholic Church in 2011, referred to posthumously as Blessed John Paul II.
Last July, Pope Francis announced that John Paul II will be canonized as saints on Apr. 27, 2014. The decision was made following an inquiry by a Vatican commission which found that two miracles were attributed to the late holy father’s intercession.