Pope John Paul II dies. Born in Poland in 1920, John Paul II was also the first non-Italian to be elected pope since 1523 and the second longest reigning pope in the history of the Catholic Church (1978-2005).
Pope John Paul II was very conservative theologically and politically, though he consistently criticized the excesses of western capitalism as well. He was a prolific author on many subjects and the most widely travelled of any pope to date.
Pope John Paul II wanted to transform the Catholic Church for the modern era, but because of his conservatism he also placed great emphasis on the importance of orthodoxy. Because of the length of his pontificate and the era in which he lived, he has the opportunity to become one of the most influential popes in history, playing a role in the decline and end of communist states in Eastern Europe and Russia and repairing relations between the Catholic Church and other religious traditions.