Pope John Paul II
The beloved pope was born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920 to Karol Wojtyla and his wife Emilia Kaczorowska. Karol was the youngest of their three children; his sister Olga had died before he was born. Young Karol lost his mother when he nine and made his First Holy Communion shortly thereafter. When Karol was nearly thirteen, his older brother Edmund, who had recently received his degree as a doctor, died from an illness contracted from the people he served. Karol enrolled in Jagiellonian University at Krakow in 1938, but his studies were interrupted by the German invasion in 1939 and he worked first in a stone quarry and then at a chemical factory. In 1941, his ailing father died, leaving Karol with no close relatives, but many close friends. The next year, the young man entered the seminary ran in secret by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow. During this time, Karol also was involved in the clandestine “Rhapsodic Theatre” aimed at preserving Polish culture in the midst of the Nazi occupation. After the war, the major seminary reopened and the young man continued his studies there. He was ordained November 1, 1946. He a was able to go to Rome to finish his doctoral studies under Fr. Garrigou-Lagrange, a famed French Dominican theologian. Father Wojtyla’s thesis for the doctorate was the subject of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross. On his return to Poland, he was stationed in several parishes in Krakow and also served as a chaplain to university students. After more studies in theology and philosophy he became a professor of moral theology and social ethics at Krakow’s major seminary and at Lublin Catholic University. He was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow in 1958, did significant work at the Second Vatican Council, and was created cardinal in 1967. He was elected pope on October17, 1978, the first non-Italian pope in over four hundred years. His pontificate was remarkable. He took a 104 pastoral visits to countries around the work. He visited 317 of Rome’s 333 churches. Over 17 million pilgrims attended his general audiences held every Wednesday. He issued 14 encyclicals and the Catechism of the Catholic Church written. He had numerous Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. He established World Youth Days and World Meetings of Families. He canonized or beatified more saints than any other previous pontiff and he declared St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church. Above all his warmth and obvious holiness allowed him to reach out to people in all walks of life and of all faiths. He continued to minister to the world in his declining years, when the ravages of Parkinson’s disease and a broken hip were obvious. John Paul II went home to his Heavenly Father on April 2, 2005, the Saturday after Easter and the day before Divine Mercy Sunday which he had instituted. Thousands of people crowded St. Peter’s Square praying for him in his last hours and millions more did so around the world. Benedict XVI has waived the usual five year wait for his canonization process and he has now been declared Venerable, the first step in the process that leads to official Sainthood.