Pope John Paul II visits Chicago
Photo: Armando Villa/Chicago Tribune

October 4–6, 1979

More than 750,000 people lined his motorcade’s route from O’Hare, and a huge crowd came to Grant Park the next day for his outdoor Mass. For greater Chicago’s 2.4 million Catholics — and even more so for its 500,000 residents of Polish descent — the Poland-born pope’s visit felt like a homecoming, and a validation for the city’s Polish community, the largest outside Poland. In Brighton Park, Polish Americans at Five Holy Martyrs Church wept when they saw him. Later, in Grant Park, the pontiff beheld the crowd and, in a poetic acknowledgment of Chicago’s immigrant roots, said, “Looking at you, I see people who have thrown their destinies together and now write a common history.”