Pope John Paul II was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his death in 2005. He was elected pope by the second papal conclave of 1978, which was called after John Paul I, who had been elected in August to succeed Pope Paul VI, died after 33 days. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected on the third day of the conclave and adopted the name of his predecessor in tribute to him. John Paul II is recognised as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and the rest of Europe.
John Paul II attempted to improve the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, and the Eastern Orthodox Church. He maintained the Church's previous positions on such matters as abortion, artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and a celibate clergy, and although he supported the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he was seen as generally conservative in their interpretation. He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate.