During his papacy, Pope Saint John Paul II earned the moniker “the pilgrim pope” for his travels. He made 104 papal trips, more than all previous popes combined, and logged almost a million miles. Wherever he went, he attracted the largest audiences – some of the largest ever assembled in human history.

One of his famous visits was to the City of Angels, Los Angeles, on the 16th of September 33 years ago in 1987. His trip was to include a 7.2 mile popemobile parade throughout the streets of the city followed by open air Masses celebrate at the Coliseum and Dodger Stadium. Instead of a hotel, he would stay at the rectory of Saint Vibiana’s Cathedral downtown.

Franciscan sisters waiting in the streets of Los Angeles to see JPII.

One unplanned aspect of his visit? Changing the Hollywood Sign to read “Holywood” to commemorate the occasion.

In the early hours of the morning under cover a darkness, a group of people still unknown to this day hung a black tarp covering one of the famous sign’s Ls. An anonymous caller told UPI at the time it took 9 people and 10 minutes to do using black landscaping tarp and twine.

‘It was for the pope’s arrival. We just decided that we had nothing better to do with our evening and that it would be time well spent to welcome the pope to Los Angeles. Walking up there was the hard part. Once you get up there, it’s just a matter of rolling it off the top. You tie it at the top and tear it off and then tie it down with a piece of twine.’

Sadly, JPII never got to see his “Holywood” sign. Department of Parks & Recreation workers fixed the sign shortly before 9 am, about 90 minutes before his motorcade began.

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  1. Saint Joseph, terror of demons, cleanse this site from insensitive mischievous abuse. Saints Jean-Baptiste-Marie Vianney, Louis-Marie de Montfort, Anthony of Padua, Gemma Galgani, pray for us. Amen.

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