Drawn to the power of language and literature as a young man, Karol Wojtyla produced an impressive array of poetry, plays and essays as a student, a seminarian, a priest and a bishop.
Once he became pope in 1978, the great length of his pontificate and his literary productivity enabled him to add a long list of encyclicals, homilies, speeches, addresses to pilgrims and books.
Here is a brief selection from his writings:
"In fact, my experience had not been that of a 'worker-priest' but of a 'worker-seminarian.' Having worked with my hands, I knew quite well the meaning of physical labor. Every day I had been with people who did heavy work. I came to know their living situations, their families, their interests, their human worth, and their dignity. I personally experienced many kindnesses from them."
--"Gift and Mystery"
"I was spared much of the immense and horrile drama of the Second World War. I could have been arrested any day, at home, in the stone quarry, in the plant, and taken away to a concentration camp. Sometimes I would ask myself: So many young people of my own age are losing their lives, why not me? Today I know that it was not mere chance. Amid the overwhelming evil of the war, everything in my own personal life was tending towards the good of my vocation."
--"Gift and Mystery"
"A sign of hope is the increasing recognition that the dignity of human life must never be taken away, even in the case of someone who has done great evil. Modern society has the means of protecting itself, without definitively denying criminals the chance to reform. . . . I renew the appeal I made most recently at Christmas for a consensus to end the death penalty, which is both cruel and unnecessary."
-- Homily at the TWA Dome in St. Louis; Jan. 27, 1999
"This unity, which the Lord has bestowed on his Church and in which he wishes to embrace all people, is not something added on, but stands at the very heart of Christ's mission. Nor is it some secondary attribute of the community of his disciples. Rather, it belongs to the very essence of this community."
-- Encyclical "Ut Unum Sint" (That They May All Be One), 1995.
"It is no secret that the abyss separating the minority of the excessively rich from the multitude of the destitute is a very grave symptom in the life of any society. This must also be said with even greater insistence with regard to the abyss separating countries and regions of the Earth. Surely the only way to overcome this serious disparity between areas of satiety and areas of hunger and depression is through coordinated cooperation by all countries."
-- Address to the U.N. General Assembly, 1979
Life and sex
"Laws which authorize and promote abortion and euthanasia are therefore radically opposed not only to the good of the individual but also to the common good; as such they are completely lacking in authentic juridical validity. Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good. Consequently, a civil law authorizing abortion or euthanasia ceases by that very fact to be a true, morally binding civil law."
-- Encyclical "Evangelium Vitae" (The Gospel of Life), 1995
"Here, the famous Dred Scott case was heard. And in that case the Supreme Court of the United States subsequently declared an entire class of human beings -- people of African descent -- -- outside the boundaries of the national community and the Constitution's protection. After untold suffering and with enormous effort, that situation has, at least in part, been reversed. America faces a similar time of trial today. Today, the conflict is between a culture that affirms, cherishes and celebrates the gift of life, and a culture that seeks to declare entire groups of human beings -- the unborn, the terminally ill, the handicapped and others considered 'unuseful' -- to be outside the boundaries of legal protection. . . . My fervent prayer is that through the grace of God at work in the lives of Americans of every race, ethnic group, economic condition and creed, America will resist the culture of death and choose to stand steadfastly on the side of life."
-- Homily at the airport in St. Louis; 1999.
"If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain 'irremediably' evil acts."
-- Encyclical "Veritatis Splendor" (The Splendor of the Truth), 1993
War and peace
"The divisions caused by the Second World War make us realize that force in the service of the 'will to power' is an inadequate means for building true justice. Instead, it sets in motion a sinister process with unforeseeable consequences for men, women and whole peoples, who risk the complete loss of their dignity, together with their property and life itself. . . . Fifty years after that tragic conflict, which ended some months later also in the Pacific with the terrible events of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and with the subsequent surrender of Japan, it appears ever more clearly as 'a self-destruction of mankind.' War is in fact, if we look at it clearly, as much a tragedy for the victors as for the vanquished."
-- Message on the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, 1995
"Furthermore, the fact that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Mother of the Church, received neither the mission proper to the Apostles nor the ministerial priesthood clearly shows that the non-admission of women to priestly ordination cannot mean that women are of lesser dignity, nor can it be construed as discrimination against them. Rather, it is to be seen as the faithful observance of a plan to be ascribed to the wisdom of the Lord of the universe. . . . I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church's faithful."
-- Apostolic Letter "Ordinatio Sacerdotalis" (Priestly Ordination), 1994