From George Weigel:
In June 1959, the Ante-Preparatory Commission [for Vatican II] established by John XXIII had written to all the world's Catholic bishops, superiors of men's religious orders, and theological faculties, asking their suggestions for the Council's agenda. Many bishops submitted outlines of internal Church matters they wanted to discuss. Bishop Karol Wojtyla sent the commissioners an essay-- the work of a thinker, not a canon lawyer. Rather than beginning with what the Church needed to do to reform its own house, he adopted a quite different starting point. What, he asked, is the human condition today? What do the men and women of this age expect to hear from the Church?
The crucial issue of the times, he suggested, was the human person: a unique being, who lived in a material world but had intense spiritual longings, a mystery to himself and to others a creature whose dignity emerged from an interior life imprinted with the image and likeness of God. The world wanted to hear what the Church had to say about the human person and the human condition, particularly in light of other proposals-- "scientific, positivist, dialectical"-- that imagined themselves humanistic and presented themselves as roads to liberation. At the end of 2000 years of Christian history, the world had a question to put to the Church: What was Christian humanism and how was it different from the sundry other humanisms on offer in late modernity? What was the Church's answer to modernity's widespresd "despair [about] any and all human existence"?
The crisis of humanism at the midpoint of a century that prided itself on its humanism should be the organizing framework for the Council's deliberations, Bishop Wojtyla proposed...
With Vatican II, the Church opened its windows to the world. Bad things fly in through open windows, but it began an engagement of the Church with the world that will play out for centuries.
Bishop Wojtyla played a central role in setting the agenda for Vatican II. In 1978 (as you probably already know), he was elected Pope John Paul II.
He spent the next decade bringing Christ to the world and preaching Christian humanism.
By 1991, Communism in Europe was dust.