Pope John Paul II was a Polish man who held the position of pope for 34 years, making his papacy one of the longest in modern history. In that lengthy amount of time, he was hardly one to stay still. He was said to be the most recognized person in the world. He was, by far, the most traveled pope in the 2,000 year history of the Church. This article intends to highlight this man’s life before and during his time as leader of the Catholic Church.
Karol Józef Wojtyła was born the youngest of Karol Wojtyła’s and Emilia Kaczorowska’s three children. Emilia was a teacher who died when Karol was just eight years old. While his sister died prior to his birth, Karol was quite close with his brother Edmund, a physician who eventually died from scarlet fever.Karol was fond of sports, especially soccer, where he played as a goalie. Due to the closeness to Wadowice’s Jewish groups, school soccer matches would frequently break down into Jews versus Catholics-Karol would routinely play for the Jewish side.
In the middle of 1938, Karol and his father moved from Wadowice to Krakow, where he enrolled into Jagiellonian University to study language. While he engaged in compulsory military training within the Academic Legion, he refused to fire a weapon. He also participated in theater, writing several plays.
Nazi Occupation of Poland.
Karol spent 1940 through 1944 working odd jobs to avoid deportation, suffering a concussion, fractured skull, uneven shoulders and a permanent stoop in the process. His father died of heart attack in 1941, leaving him the sole surviving member of his family. Karol did not consider serving God until his father’s death. After reaching out to the Bishop of Krakow in October of 1942, Karol studied in a secretive underground seminary while also doing his best to stop himself or anyone else from being captured by the Nazis during events like Black Sunday. After the Nazis fled the city on January 17th, 1945, Karol helped reclaim the ruined seminary and his restoration efforts earned him the commendation of “Righteous Among the Nations” for his constant efforts to help the Jewish community, including sequestering a two-year-old boy with a Gentile family.
Career With the Church.
Karol was formally ordained, after completing his studies, on November 1st, 1946. Pope Pius XII appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow on July 4th, 1958. October 1962 would see Karol influence the policy of Vatican II. January 13th, 1964 would mark the day Karol became Archbishop of Krakow. June 26th, 1967 would be the day Karol would become Cardinal of San Cesareo in Palatio.
Time as Pope.
John Paul II was against apartheid, the death penalty, homosexuality and abortion. He also favored enshrining religious rights within the EU and the theory of evolution, with the exception of the human soul-something he felt that only God could be held responsible for.
- On May 13th, 1981, as the pope was entering St. Peter’s Square to speak, a Turkish gunman severely injured with a semi-automatic pistol. After surviving the attack, Pope John Paul II visited the man in prison to speak with and forgave him. It is believed this attack was engineered by the Soviet Union.
- On May 12th, 1982, a Spanish Catholic priest attacked Pope John Paul II with a bayonet. Although the priest was stopped, he managed to injure the pope. The priest attacked believing Pope John Paul II was a Communist agent.
- In 1995, the “Bojinka plot,” a large-scale terrorist action funded by Al-Qaeda, planned to assassinate Pope John Paul II during a visit to the Philippines for World Youth Day. The plan involved disguising a suicide bomber as a priest and getting close enough to the pope that the blast would be fatal. Despite the terrorist’s plans, a chemical fire occurred within their base of operations one week prior to the planned attack, resulting in the arrest of all the terrorists upon investigation of the fire.
Quick Facts About Pope John Paul II.
- He was born in Wadowice, Poland on the 18th of May in 1920.
- Prior to becoming pope, his name was Karol Józef Wojtyła. Wojtyła is pronounced “voy-teh-wa.”
- He died on the 2nd day of April in 2005.
- Pope John Paul II’s final days were filled with difficulties in breathing, influenza, and then septic shock after an infection. The shock left him with a high fever and low blood pressure but he refused to be hospitalized due to perceiving his end was coming soon, he wished to die within the Vatican. His final words were uttered in his native language of Polish and expressed a desire to pass on. Hours after speaking, he became comatose and succumbed to heart failure as a result of his sepsis.
- His papacy began on the 16th of October in 1978.
- His papacy ended on the day of his death, April 2, 2005.
- His successor was Pope Benedict XVI.
Interesting Facts About Pope John Paul II.
- He was an exceptionally prolific traveler, visiting 129 different nations during his time as pope.
- He was responsible for beatifying 1,340 peoeple and canonizing 483 more. This total of 1783 people means he exceeded the efforts of other popes from five centuries prior.
- After his canonization in 2014, some Catholics have referred to him as “St. John Paul the Great.”
- He was great friends with Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama and held a degree of admiration for Buddhism.
- He was a “polyglot;” in addition to his native tongue, Pope John Paul II understood English, Esperanto, French, German, Italian, Latin, Portuguese, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak, Spanish and Ukrainian. Most of these languages were frequently used during his time as pope.
- He traditionally began his pastoral assignments by kneeling and kissing the ground.