On matters of personal morality -- especially on matters related to sex and sexuality -- John Paul led the church as a staunch traditionalist. He denounced birth control, capital punishment, divorce, homosexuality and the ordination of women. He issued a catechism of the Catholic Church, summarizing all the beliefs and moral tenets of the church.
"[The church] speaks to the human heart and magnifies the voice of human conscience," he said in an address to the U.N. General Assembly in October 1995.
"She seeks to educate and ennoble people so that they accept responsibility for themselves and for others. In the context of the community of nations, the church's message is simple yet absolutely critical for the survival of humanity and the world. The human person must be the true focus of all social, political and economic activity."
But despite his humanitarian efforts, allegations of sexual abuse at the hands of priests in the United States cast a shadow over the pope's image in the United States during his final years.
At least 325 of the United States' 46,000 priests were removed from duty or resigned because of molestation charges. Cardinal Bernard Law stepped down as archbishop of Boston in December 2002 after months of public outrage that he failed to protect children from pedophile priests.
And in June 2003, Phoenix Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien was forced to resign amid criminal charges stemming from a fatal hit-and-run accident. Just before the accident, O'Brien had been embroiled in controversy, winning immunity from prosecution after signing an agreement admitting he kept known pedophile priests in positions with access to children.
As the millennium turned, John Paul II made a bold ecumenical move, issuing an official apology for the wrongs done by Catholics in the name of the church over the centuries. He apologized to women, Jews, Muslims and other groups. But his groundbreaking apology was only the latest step in a 20-year career to further peace and reconciliation.
In 1981, a Turkish gunman tried to assassinate John Paul in St. Peter's Square in Rome. The pope spent nearly three months in the hospital and later visited his attacker, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison. The pope never revealed what was said in that conversation.
Italy released Agca on June 13, 2000, after imprisoning him for almost 20 years, for extradition to Turkey where he was imprisoned on other charges. The Vatican told the government John Paul supported the act of clemency.
In his fifth book, "Memory and Identity," published in February 2005, the pope for the first time wrote about the assassination attempt.
"Yes, I remember that journey to the hospital," he wrote. "I remained conscious for some time after. I had a feeling that I would survive. I was in pain, I had reason to be afraid, but I had this strange feeling of confidence."
The pope was ever an advocate for peace and forgiveness, not only in his personal life, but throughout the world. Within a year of his near-assassination, John Paul actively sought peace between Argentina and Britain, which were at war over the Falkland Islands, and the United States and the Soviet Union.