Papal Visits: When Popes Take the Gospel Global A look at modern Roman Catholic pontiffs who have taken the papacy global to minister to the Catholic flock and spread their vision of social justice.
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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.