Saint John Paul II - short biography
Karol Jozef Wojtyla, known as John Paul II, was born in Wadowice - a town situated 50 kilometers from Cracow - on May 18, 1920. He was the youngest of Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska's three children. After graduating from Marcin Wadowita High School in Wadowice, he enrolled in Cracow's Jagiellonian University in 1938. The Nazi occupants closed the University in 1939, and Karol was forced to take up a job at a quarry (1940-1944) and later in the Solvay chemical factory. In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began taking courses in the clandestine seminary in Cracow. At the same time he was one of the pioneers of the clandestine 'Rhapsodic Theatre'
After World War Two he continued his studies in the re-opened major seminary of Cracow and at the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to priesthood by Archbishop Sapieha in Cracow on November 1, 1946. Shortly afterwards, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome. He finished his doctorate in Theology in 1948 with a thesis on the subject of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross. At that time, he was exercising his pastoral ministry amongst the Polish immigrants from France, Belgium and Holland.
He returned to Poland in 1984 and became a vicar of various parishes in Cracow as well as a chaplain for university students. In 1951 he took up his studies again in philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on ‘An Evaluation of the Possibility of Constructing a Christian Ethics on the Basis of the System of Max Scheler’ at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became a professor of Moral Theology and Social Ethics in the major seminary of Cracow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin.
On July 4, 1958, he was appointed Titular Bishop of Ombi and Auxiliary of Cracow by Pope Pius XII and was consecrated on September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Cracow, by Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak. On January 13, 1964, he was appointed archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal on June 26. The Cardinals elected him Pope at the Conclave on October 16, 1978; he took the name of John Paul II. On October 22 he solemnly inaugurated his Petrine ministry as the 263rd successor to the Apostle.
John Paul II exercised the Petrine ministry with tireless missionary spirit. He made 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy and 146 within it. He had had more meetings with People of God and Leaders of Nations than any of his predecessors.
His love for young people led him to establish the World Youth Days. The 19 WYDs celebrated during his pontificate brought together millions of young people from all over the world. At the same time, his care for the institution of family was expressed in the World Meetings of Families, which he initiated in 1994.
John Paul II successfully encouraged dialogue with Jews and with representatives of other religions, whom he invited several times to prayer meetings for peace, especially in Assisi. Under his guidance, the Church prepared itself for the Third Millennium and celebrated the Great Jubilee of the year. With the Year of the Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist, he promoted the spiritual renewal of the Church.
He gave an extraordinary impetus to Canonizations and Beatifications, focusing on countless examples of holiness as an incentive for the people of our time. He proclaimed 1,338 blessed and a total of 482 saints. He made Thérèse of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church.
He promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the light of Tradition as authoritatively interpreted by the Second Vatican Council. He also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law, created new institutions and reorganized the Roman Curia.
In the light of Christ risen from the dead, on April 2, A.D. 2005, at 9.37 p.m., the Church's beloved Pastor, John Paul II, departed this world to the house of the Father.
The Pope - Pietro Bellotti painting. Photo by Judyta Papp
Document of the Holy See