John Paul II's world travels continued to be commemorated on stamps right up until his death. During the second half of his papacy, his voyages were targeted at bolstering the emerging church in the former Eastern Bloc and improving relations between Catholics and other world religions. In the Holy Land, for example, he became the first pope to pray at the Western Wall and visited Mount Sinai to pray with the heads of the Coptic and Greek Orthodox faiths (2000, stamps issued 2001).
In 1993, the Vatican began participating in the annual Europa stamp program, inaugurated in 1960 by the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunication Administrations (CEPT). The Vatican joined CEPT in 1963 and participated in the Europa issue of 1969, but abstained in future years on the grounds that the subjects chosen by CEPT were too political. Once PostEurop took over the program in 1993 and changed its focus to culture, however, Vatican City began issuing Europa stamps annually.
Two other themes resurfaced regularly. The first was the Sistine Chapel, which emerged from a two-decade-long restoration in 1999. Stamps depicting different stages of the restoration were issued in 1991, 1994, 2000, 2001, and 2002. The second was the approach of the Holy Year 2000, which was heralded with two different, long-running series. The first, which lasted from 1995 to 1999, featured four stamps per year depicting historiated initials and illuminations from medieval codices. The other, which ran from 1998 to 2000, featured the portraits and coats of arms of every pope who has proclaimed a Holy Year observance since the first in 1300.
The pope's eightieth birthday was celebrated in 2000 by a Vatican joint issue with his native Poland. The stamps were engraved by Czeslaw Slania, a fellow Pole widely recognized as the world's foremost stamp designer and engraver. Slania engraved two other commemorative issues for the Vatican before his death on March 17, 2005.