Since the pope is the leader of the Roman Catholic Church, domestic policy of the Vatican City is primarily devoted to the health, maintenance, and augmentation of the church worldwide. The Vatican City labor force consists mainly of priests and other ecclesiastics who naturally accept the leading role of the pope. Adult literacy is close to 100% and about 65 papal educational institutions are located throughout Rome. One of the major responsibilities of the Vatican is to be the voice of the Catholic Church for its members. To that end, the Vatican publishes a newspaper and magazine devoted to Catholic affairs and prints official church documents that are communicated throughout the world.
John Paul II has made himself and his papacy part of the global scene through his extensive worldwide travel. These journeys are used to show the universal character of the Roman Catholic Church and to personally deliver the pope's message to all interested peoples. This universality of the church, combined with a call for greater religious toleration, has long been a personal doctrine for the pope. At the Vatican Council II (1962–1965), the future Pope John Paul II pointed out that the church could not claim religious liberty for itself without conceding it to others.
Despite his outgoing, modern personal image, John Paul II is still considered to be somewhat strictly conservative when it comes to traditional church doctrine. He continues to condemn the use of artificial forms of contraception, denies the right of priests to actively participate in the political and economic affairs of their host countries, strongly supports the mandate of celibacy in the priesthood and is firmly against the ordination of women in priestly orders. At the same time though, the pope has spoken forcefully for the need to respect human rights and the need for the world community to act with greater unity. He has been especially vocal in calling upon the rich to share its wealth with poor regions and has tried to build bridges with the Islamic world in the 1990s.
In 2002, allegations of serial predatory pedophilia among a number of U.S. priests led many church leaders to seek changes in canonical law that would allow for immediate or quicker dismissal of clergy who have been accused of such abuse crimes. As of 2002, a priest who faced a credible accusation of misconduct could be suspended from immediate service, such as serving in Mass, but removal from the priesthood involved appeal processes that could take years. The 2002 cases highlighted instances where priests accused of pedophilia were quietly reassigned to other parishes, where in some cases they continued their pattern of abuse. John Paul II issued a statement to the U.S. cardinals that offered vague support for addressing the issue and called the abuse a "crime" but fell short of calling for removal from the priesthood of those who have been credibly accused. In fall 2002, the pope rejected part of a plan put forth by U.S. bishops to deal with sexual abuse within the church because it failed to protect the rights of priests falsely accused.
The pope remains staunchly committed to the youth of his church, and in 2002 despite frail health, he attended World Youth Day in Toronto, Canada. His message to the youth was one of optimism, telling the crowd that "Man is made for happiness. Your search for happiness is within you."
Health problems have begun to plague the octogenarian pope, often so that he is unable to fully participate in the celebration of Mass. But he remains intellectually sharp and has only cut back slightly on his official international activities. In 2002 some observers questioned whether John Paul's fragile physical condition would prevent him from providing the strong leadership needed to help the Roman Catholic Church address the challenges it would face in the twenty-first century. Despite these health concerns, the pope travelled to his homeland of Poland in 2002 for an emotional visit, and planned an apostolic voyage to Spain in May of 2003.