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JOHN PAUL II

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264th Pope of the Catholic Church

BEGINNING PONTIFICATE 16 October 1978
END PONTIFICATE 2 April 2005
SECULAR NAME Karol Józef Wojtyła
BIRTH 18 May 1920 in Wadowice (Kraków, Poland)

Glimpses into his life…

Karol Woytiła was the first non-Italian pope after more than four centuries, that is to say since Adrian VI (Dutch, 1522-1523), as well as the first pope from Poland.
His papacy was the third longest ever after Pius IX (1846-1878) and Peter the Apostle (the very first pope).
He was born in Wadowice, a little town nearby Cracow. By his 21 he had already experienced the demise of all his closest relatives: his elder sister had died in fact even before his birth, while his elder brother, a doctor by profession, died in 1932. His mother, Emilia Kaczorowska, had passed away in 1929, while his father Karol, an officer in the army and a very religious man, put all his efforts to guarantee his son a proper education until he died in 1941.
He undertakes his academic studies at the University of Cracow in 1938, which he has to interrupt the following year due to the Nazi invasion of Poland: as a consequence, indeed, the university is forcefully closed.
From 1940 to 1944 he manages to avoid deportation by working first in a quarry, then in the chemical factory of Solvay. In 1942 he begins to attend the clandestine seminary organized by the archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha, while he keeps on nourishing his passion for theatre by being one of the organizers of the clandestine “Rhapsodic Theatre”.
The end of the war allows him to go ahead with his studies in theology, both ath the seminary and at the Jagellonian University, and to be ordained priest in 1946. Afterwards he is sent to Rome, where he earns a PhD in theology. Once back in Poland, during the following decade he is in charge as a parish priest in a few local communities while he furtherly perfections his studies until he is appointed professor of moral theology and ethics in Crakow and in Lublin.
He takes part in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), remarkably contributing to one of the theological documents that were there produced. Meanwhile he is created bishop in 1964 and cardinal in 1967 by pope Paul VI.
In August 1978, following the death of Paul VI, he attends the conclave that will appoint as pope Albino Luciani, that is to say pope John Paul I. Luciani is at that time 65 year old, a young pontiff compared to his predecessors.
Unexpectedly he dies after just thirtythree days pontificate. So in October 1978 a second conclave takes place, and the 58 years old Karol Wojtyła is elected pope with the name of John Paul II.
His papacy was in many ways revolutionary, and at the same time always in line with the theological milestones of the Catholic Church.
Karol Wojtyła’s life crossed all the great historical episodes of contemporary history, such as the end of the communist rule in Eastern Europe and Russia, something on which he played a significant political role.
He is known as the pope who travelled the most both in Italy and abroad: he made 104 apostolic journeys during which he visited 129 different nations in all five continents (some countries receiving for the first time in history a visit by the pope); in Italy he made 146 pastoral visits, and was greeted into 317 on 333 total parishes in Rome.
His attention to youth is at the origin of the institution of the World Youth Day in 1985, a yearly event which still takes place today and attracts milion people from all over the world.
He actively encouraged dialogue with all the other religion, and inaugurated the third millennium of the Catholic Church by celebrating the Great Jubilee in 2000.
Among the many memorable events during the almost twentyseven years pontificate of John Paul II, people will certainly remember the attempt on his life at the hands of Mehmet Ali Ağca on 3 May 1981, in St. Peter’s Square.
The pope was hit by a bullet in the abdomen, following which he underwent a more than five-hour surgery.
He said he was saved by Virgin Mary, and in 1982 he met and forgave his attacker.
The last few years of papacy were marked by serious health problems that ultimately led to his death at the beginning of April 2005.
The event moved million people, who asked for his immediate canonization.
The process took place in a very short time indeed: he was beatified on 1 May 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI and canonized on 27 April 2014 by pope Francis in the presence of the Pope Emeritus Joseph Ratzinger (an exceptional event, that of two living popes side by side).
The tomb of John Paul II is inside St. Peter’s Church, in the chapel of St. Sebastian.

Did you know that…

Karol Woytiła knew 11 languages, some of them he had bagan to study at school when he was young: he could speak Polish, Slovak, Russian, Ukrainian, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, German, English and Church Latin of course.

He was a sportsman: he used to ski, swim, row kayak and play soccer. He was also a mountain lover, a passion he kept on nourishing by going to the mountains of Abruzzo (in central Italy) whenever he had the chance.

The choice of his papal name was a tribute to his immediate predecessor, John Paul I, who had so passed away so prematurely.