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Pope John Paul II
Leader of the Roman Catholic Church

1920 - 2005

Warsaw, Moscow, Budapest, Berlin, Prague, Sofia and Bucharest have
become stages in a long pilgrimage toward liberty. It is admirable that in these
events, entire peoples spoke out — women, young people, men, overcoming
fears, their irrepressible thirst for liberty speeded up developments,
made walls tumble down and opened gates.

                                                                                   —Pope John Paul II

Karol Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920 at Wadowice, Poland. For many years Karol believed God was calling him to the priesthood. He studied secretly during the German occupation of Poland, and was ordained to the priesthood on November 1, 1946. He earned a doctorate in theology in 1948 at the Angelicum in Rome, Italy.

From 1948 to 1951 he served as a parish priest in Poland's Krakow diocese and then returned to study philosophy at the Jagiellonian University at Krakow. From 1952 to 1958 Wojtyla taught social ethics at the Krakow Seminary, and became a professor at the University of Lublin in 1956. Pope Pius XII appointed Wojtyla an auxiliary bishop in Krakow on July 4, 1958, and Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Krakow on December 30, 1963.

As Archbishop of Krakow, Wojtyla proved himself an able pastor in the face of Communist persecution. He attended all four sessions of Vatican II Council, and played a prominent role in the formulation of the Declaration on Religious Freedom. Following the Council Pope Paul VI, appointed Wojtyla a Cardinal of the Roman Church on June 26, 1967.

On October 16, 1978, Archbishop Wojtyla became the first non-Italian pope since Hadrian VI (455 years), and at age 58, the youngest pope in 132 years. John Paul II asserted that he took the name of his predecessors (John, Paul, John Paul) to emphasize his desire to continue the reforms of the Vatican II Council.

In his role as the shepherd of Catholic dogma, John Paul II rejected changes in the Vatican's traditional positions on issues including abortion (NO), birth control (NO), divorce (NO), homosexuality (NO), the marriage of priests (NO), women priests (NO), and on the more recent issue of stem cell research, he took a strong position against it. Many of these positions were rejected by American and European liberals, to which John Paul responded, the Church is not a democracy.

John Paul's influence was felt far beyond the Vatican. In 1979, his first visit to his homeland as Pope was a major catalyst for the collapse of communism in Poland. The visit was a harbinger of events that would bring down communist regimes across the Soviet Bloc. Throughout his papacy, John Paul worked to improve the Vatican's relations with other Christian sects and with the Jews.

During a public appearance in Rome in May 1981, John Paul was the target of an assassin. The gunman, a Turkish Muslim named Mehmet Ali Acga, was apprehended at the scene. The pope forgave Acga from his hospital bed.

In 1993, John Paul II was stricken with Parkinson's disease, a condition that grew progressively worse, slurring his speech, and causing him to shake uncontrollably and shuffle when he walked. Despite his frailty and ailments he maintained a tenacious grip on the papacy.

John Paul II was the most traveled pope in history, visiting more than 120 countries during his 26-year papacy, nearly every country in the world which would receive him.

Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005. He was 84 years old.

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•  Other Spiritual/Religious Figures in Lucidcafé Library
•  Books By and About Pope John Paul II
•  DVDs About Pope John Paul II
•  Pope John Paul II Images
•  Related Websites


  Other Spiritual/Religious Figures in Lucidcafé Library

  Books By and About Pope John Paul II

  DVDs About Pope John Paul II

  • John Paul II - The Pope Who Made History - Collector's Edition 5 DVDs - Producer: Vatican Television Center

    This unique collection chronicles John Paul II's journey that began with his childhood in Poland, to the Pontiff appointment, to the most significant travels until his last days. A last touching section is dedicated to the last goodbye of the faithful in Rome. It is the extraordinary portrait of a Pope who has spiritually guided millions of people, and has left an indelible mark on history.

    Click here to purchase this DVD edition of "The Pope Who Made History Collector's Set "

  • Pope John Paul II Collector's Set (1996) - Producer: HBO Studios

    The history-making visit of Pope John Paul II to North America captured the hearts of a nation and made him one of the most beloved of world leaders. Now you can share the experience of his life and liturgies in this unforgettable two video set.

    Click here to purchase this DVD edition of "Pope John Paul II Collector's Set "

  • Karol: A Man Who Became Pope (2005) - Producer: Universal Studios

    "Karol: A Man who Became Pope" traces Karol Wojtyla's personal history from the early days of the second world war until the time he becomes the Pope. His life story is an interesting and inspirational.

    Click here to purchase this DVD edition of "Karol: A Man Who Became Pope"

  • Witness to Hope - The Life of John Paul II (2002) - Producer: Xenon Studios

    Based on George Weigel's book of the same title, Witness to Hope is a complete and intimate portrait of an extraordinary leader.

    Click here to purchase this DVD edition of "Witness to Hope"

  Related Websites

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Copyright © 1995-2016 Robin Chew
Article written by Robin Chew - May 1996