John Paul II in the virtual world on his 100th birthday anniversary

“The hundredth anniversary of Karol Wojtyła's birthday is an opportunity to reflect on his biography and heritage. The portal, giving wide access to reliable materials, is a base for gaining and deepening knowledge about the extremely rich achievements of John Paul II and developing opinions about his pontificate," says Michał Senk, the director of the Centre for Thoughts of John Paul II.
The hundredth anniversary of Karol Wojtyła's birthday is coming up. What does this date mean to you?
Jubilees are an opportunity to restore the collective memory of important events for each community or family, and thus build their identity as communities. The hundredth anniversary of Karol Wojtyla's birthday is an opportunity to recall what his election to the Holy See meant for us,as well as his pilgrimage to Poland, and the way we united around his suffering and death in 2005, but also to return to the papal teaching in the field of philosophy and theology contained in scientific works and encyclicals.
Moreover, it is an opportunity to convey to the young generations how significant and inspiring the figure John Paul II was, not only for Poland, but for the entire world, setting ethical azimuths and contributing during his pontificate to the most significant global changes.
How can we familiarize ourselves, and in particular young people, with the figure of Pope John Paul II?
There are already quite a lot of memorials of John Paul II, and we know that he was a great Pole, a saint. The time has come to fill these forms and titles with content by getting to know his biography and writings better. Many people are neither able to refer to the legacy of John Paul II giving reliable arguments nor say whether they agree or disagree with John Paul II on important social and ethical issues. That is why I place great hopes in the portal we are creating, which gives an easy and intuitive access to facts and documents and creates a solid basis for developing opinions.
What is the purpose of creating this portal? After all, we already know a lot about the Pope .
We know that he liked cream custards and traveled the world - I dare to say with a smile. Today, the common knowledge about John Paul II seems quite superficial and stereotypical. This is due to the fact that the access to source materials is very limited, copyrighted, dispersed and not systematic. The portal launched by the Center addresses this situation. John Paul II in one place on the Internet, made accessible, and rediscovered in a comprehensive and mature way - these are our goals.
What's on the portal ?
The portal will be a database of knowledge and documents, films and educational materials, combined with an intuitive, advanced content search engine. The team of the Centre for Thoughts of John Paul II has acquired a huge amount of material, which we have described and developed in terms of its content and technology in accordance with the best practices used in the world for creating similar digital collections, so that it can be used more easily. And thanks to the cooperation with, among others: The General Directorate of State Archives, Institute of National Remembrance, Warsaw Archdiocese, Polish Radio S.A. we have gained access to valuable documents, often previously unpublished on a wider scale. The portal will also include many photographs taken before the pontificate and, for example, during pilgrimages to Poland, as well as about 200 video recordings with testimonies to the life of Karol Wojtyła / the pontificate of John Paul II. Our ambition is to share the gathered knowledge and materials with all those interested, also outside Poland, and that is why, when the portal is launched on May 18, 2020, we will provide an English version of it.
Did you come across any particularly interesting archives during this work?
There were plenty of interesting discoveries. The statements of Karol Wojtyła at the meetings of the Polish Bishops' Conference of 1968-78 from the resources of the Warsaw Archdiocese in the form of audio files will have their premiere at JP2online. Among nearly a thousand Polish Radio broadcasts presented on the portal, the listeners' attention will be drawn by numerous "hot" comments after the assassination attempt on John Paul II, as well as the statement of the Primate of the Millennium recorded shortly before his death. At the Institute of National Remembrance in Krakow we found a 1946 document mentioning the 26-year-old Karol Wojtyla as the first reference to the future Pope recorded by the organs of the communist security service.
Who will the portal be addressed to ?
It is addressed to the general public. Researchers can find here valuable source documents for their research works, teachers - auxiliary materials for history or religion lessons, journalists and writers will benefit from access to proven and reliable information, while documentary filmmakers - from testimonies of history witnesses. All Internet users will be able to listen to papal homilies from pilgrimages to Poland, see photographs, read papal texts and comprehensive thematic studies.

In addition, the portal will provide access to a multimedia biography of John Paul II, which will present the figure of Karol Wojtyła in a pictorial way, using audiovisual materials, photographs and animations. It is a great educational tool, developed with the latest trends in mind.
Does the portal pursue the mission of the Centre for Thoughts of John Paul II ?
Definitely, yes. The Centre for Thoughts of John Paul II is a cultural institution of the Capital City of Warsaw, which in the intellectual and spiritual output of Karol Wojtyła seeks answers to the most important questions and challenges of the contemporary world. We operate in the field of culture, education and building a committed and responsible society. The portal created by us, as a virtual centre of knowledge about John Paul II, in accordance with the spirit of the times, enables us to fulfil our mission also in the digital space.

The interview was published in "wSieci Historii" magazine, May-June 2020