Blessed Pope John Paul II,Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II,Jan Paweł II), born Karol Józef Wojtyła,(18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005), reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of The Holy See from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005, at 84 years and 319 days of age. His was the second-longest documented pontificate, which lasted 26 years and 168 days; only Pope Pius IX (1846–1878) who served 31 years, has reigned longer. Pope John Paul II is the only Slavic or Polish pope to date, and was the first non-Italian Pope since Dutch Pope Adrian VI (1522–1523).
John Paul II has been acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the 20th century. It is widely held that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. Conversely, he denounced the excesses of capitalism. John Paul II is widely said to have significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. Though criticised by progressives for upholding the Church's teachings against artificial contraception and the ordination of women, he was also criticized by traditionalists for his support of the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reform of the Liturgy as well as his ecumenical efforts.
He was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. He spoke Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Russian, Croatian, Esperanto, Ancient Greek and Latin as well as his native Polish. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 saints,more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011.
Karol Józef Wojtyła (Anglicised: Charles Joseph Wojtyla) was born in the Polish town of Wadowice and was the youngest of three children of Karol Wojtyła, an ethnic Pole, and Emilia Kaczorowska, who was of Lithuanian ancestry. His mother died on 13 April 1929, when he was eight years old. Karol's elder sister, Olga, had died in infancy before his birth; thus, he grew close to his brother Edmund, who was 14 years his senior, and whom he nicknamed Mundek. However, Edmund's work as a physician led to his death from scarlet fever, profoundly affecting Karol.
As a youth, Wojtyła was an athlete and often played football as a goalkeeper. His formative years were influenced by numerous contacts with the vibrant and prospering Jewish community of Wadowice. School football games were often organised between teams of Jews and Catholics, and Wojtyła would voluntarily offer himself as a substitute goalkeeper on the Jewish side if they were short of players.
In mid-1938, Karol Wojtyła and his father left Wadowice and moved to Kraków, where he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University. While studying such topics as philology and various languages at the University, he worked as a volunteer librarian and was required to participate in compulsory military training in the Academic Legion, but he refused to fire a weapon. He also performed with various theatrical groups and worked as a playwright. During this time, his talent for language blossomed and he learned as many as 12 foreign languages, nine of which he later used extensively as Pope.
On completion of his studies at the seminary in Kraków, Karol Wojtyła was ordained as a priest on All Saints' Day, 1 November 1946, by the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Sapieha. He was then sent to study theology in Rome, at the Pontifical International Athenaeum Angelicum, where he earned a licentiate and later a doctorate in sacred theology. This doctorate, the first of two, was based on the Latin dissertation The Doctrine of Faith According to Saint John of the Cross.
He returned to Poland in the summer of 1948 with his first pastoral assignment in the village of Niegowić, fifteen miles from Kraków. Arriving at Niegowić during harvest time, his first action was to kneel down and kiss the ground. This gesture, adapted from French saint Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, would become one of his ‘trademarks’ during his Papacy.
Bishop and cardinal
On 4 July 1958, while Wojtyła was on a kayaking vacation in the lakes region of northern Poland, Pope Pius XII appointed him to the position of auxiliary bishop of Kraków. He was then summoned to Warsaw, to meet the Primate of Poland, Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, who informed him of the appointment. He agreed to serve as auxiliary to Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, and he was ordained to the Episcopate (using the title, Bishop of Ombi) on 28 September 1958. At the age of 38, he became the youngest bishop in Poland. Baziak died in June 1962 and on 16 July, Karol Wojtyła was selected as Vicar Capitular, or temporary administrator, of the Archdiocese until an Archbishop could be appointed.
Beginning in October 1962, Bishop Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965),where he made contributions to two of the most historic and influential products of the council, the Decree on Religious Freedom (in Latin, Dignitatis Humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes).
Election to the Papacy
Dear brothers and sisters, we are saddened at the death of our beloved Pope John Paul I, and so the cardinals have called for a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a faraway land - far and yet always close because of our communion in faith and Christian traditions. I was afraid to accept that responsibility, yet I do so in a spirit of obedience to the Lord and total faithfulness to Mary, our most Holy Mother. I am speaking to you in your - no, our Italian language. If I make a mistake, please ‘kirrect’ [sic] me.
In August 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Wojtyła voted in the Papal conclave that elected Pope John Paul I, who at 65 was considered young by papal standards. John Paul I died after only 33 days as Pope, thereby precipitating another conclave.
The second conclave of 1978 commenced on 14 October, ten days after the funeral of Pope John Paul I. It was divided between two strong candidates for the papacy: Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, the conservative Archbishop of Genoa, and the liberal Archbishop of Florence, Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, a close associate of John Paul I.
Supporters of Benelli were confident that he would be elected, and in early ballots, Benelli came within nine votes of election. However, the scale of opposition to both men meant that neither was likely to receive the votes needed for election, and Franz Cardinal König, Archbishop of Vienna, individually suggested to his fellow electors a compromise candidate: the Polish Cardinal, Karol Józef Wojtyła. Wojtyła ultimately won the election on the eighth ballot on the second day with, according to the Italian press, 99 votes from the 111 participating electors. He subsequently chose the name John Paul II in honour of his immediate predecessor, and the traditional white smoke informed the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square that a pope had been chosen. He accepted his election with these words: ‘With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.’ When the new pontiff appeared on the balcony, he broke tradition by addressing the gathered crowd:
Wojtyła became the 264th Pope according to the chronological list of popes and the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest pope elected since Pope Pius IX in 1846, who was 54.
Like his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II dispensed with the traditional Papal coronation and instead received ecclesiastical investiture with the simplified Papal inauguration on 22 October 1978. During his inauguration, when the cardinals were to kneel before him to take their vows and kiss his ring, he stood up as the Polish prelate Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński knelt down, stopped him from kissing the ring, and hugged him.
As pope, one of John Paul II's most important roles was to teach people about Christianity. He wrote 14 papal encyclicals and taught about "The Theology of the Body".
In his At the beginning of the third millennium (Novo Millennio Ineunte), he emphasised the importance of "starting afresh from Christ": "No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person."
In The Splendour of the Truth (Veritatis Splendor), he emphasised the dependence of man on God and His Law ("Without the Creator, the creature disappears") and the "dependence of freedom on the truth". He warned that man "giving himself over to relativism and skepticism, goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself".
In Fides et Ratio (On the Relationship between Faith and Reason) John Paul promoted a renewed interest in philosophy and an autonomous pursuit for truth in theological matters. Drawing on many different sources (such as Thomism), he described the mutually supporting relationship between faith and reason, and emphasised that theologians should focus on that relationship.
John Paul II also wrote extensively about workers and the social doctrine of the Church, which he discussed in three encyclicals. Through his encyclicals and many Apostolic Letters and Exhortations, John Paul also talked about the dignity of women and the importance of the family for the future of humanity.
Other encyclicals include The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) and Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One). Despite critics who accused him of inflexibility, he explicitly re-asserted Catholic moral teachings against murder, euthanasia and abortion that have been in place for well over a thousand years.