ABOVE: The late John Paul II blesses pizzamakers during the Jubilee of Pizza Chefs on October 25, 2000. Here, gifts are delivered to Il Papa by Walter Botrugno of the Associazione Nazionale Pizzaioli E Ristoritori, Catalan Stefano of the Pizzaioli Associati Siciliani, and the owner of Naples' Starita Pizzeria, the famed location of Sofia Loren's L'Oro di Napoli. RIGHT: John Paul II at Shea Stadium on October 3, 1979. Though there's no evidence that he ate pizza during his visits to New York City, it's nice to think that he may have.
I was saddened last night to hear the news of John Paul II's death. In certain circles it's probably not cool to like the Pope, but I was raised Catholic and am half Polish so I've got a soft spot for Il Papa. I'd bet a certain segment of our readers do, too.
And when you consider that a great deal of Italians and Italian Americans—the folks who invented pizza and brought it to the U.S.—are Catholic, this little obituary for Karol Jozef Wojtyla is not out of place on Slice.
Even though the late Pope was probably more at home with pierogi and kielbasa, he did have an affinity for pizza. In fact, John Paul II blessed the world's pizzaioli (pizzamakers) during the jubilee of 2000. He thanked 2,000 pizza chefs, saying, "I assure you of my prayers for your families and for your professional activity, which is so appreciated."
They in turn presented the Pope with an antique Neapolitan pizza oven, a brass pizza platter, and a decorated pizza slicer.
There's more about this ceremony here: Giubileo del Pizzaiolo (in Italian).