NPR logo Papal Visits: When Popes Take the Gospel Global

Papal Visits: When Popes Take the Gospel Global

The image of the leader of the Roman Catholic Church as a globetrotter is a thoroughly 20th-century one: Between 1870 and 1929, popes didn't even leave Vatican City, let alone Rome.

Pope Paul VI was the first modern pope to travel outside of Italy — and the first to go by airplane, journeying to five continents in the 1960s.

But it was Pope John Paul II who became known for his relentless world travel: During his 26-year papacy, the pope took more than 100 foreign trips. A joyful, vibrant person, John Paul II was also a master of the iconic gesture, and he became an international media star. That celebrity, in turn, made him a powerful presence on the global stage.

In contrast, the current pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, is described as a quiet man with a towering intellect. His travels so far are perhaps best-known for controversy, though Benedict has made moves to soften his image since he became pope in 2005.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.