St John Paul II was the Pope and head of the Catholic Church from October 16 1978 until April 2 2005.
He was born in Wadowice, Poland as Karol Józef Wojtyła on May 18 1920.
He died on April 2 2005 at the age of 84 in his Apostolic Palace, Vatican City.
We celebrate his feast day on October 22 every year in the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II is the Patron Saint of
- Young Catholics
- World Youth Day (co-Patron)
- World Meeting of Families 2015 (co-patron)
- Trecastelli, Italy
- Świdnica City, Poland
- Rivignano Teor, Italy
- Paradahan, Tanza, Cavite, Philippines
- Borgo Mantovano, Italy
- Archdiocese of Kraków
|St John Paul II, Pope Biography
|Date of Birth
|May 18 1920
|Place of Birth
|Pope and Bishop of Rome
|Place of Work
|Date of Death
|April 2 2005 (aged 84)
|Place of Death
|Apostolic Palace, Vatican City
|By Pope Benedict XVI on May 1 2011 at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
|By Pope Francis on April 27 2014 at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
|Patron Saint of
St John Paul II, Pope Life History
Pope John Paul II’s parents were Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. His father was Polish and his mother was Lithuanian.
His mother died of kidney failure and heart attack in 1929, when he was only 9 years old and his father died in 1941 of a heart attack when he was 21 years old.
Pope John Paul II had one elder sister who had died before he was born and an elder brother called Edmund, a physician, who also died of scarlet fever.
Pope John Paul II was baptized as an infant, received his first Holy Communion when he was 9 years and was confirmed at the age of 18.
His neighbourhood had a large Jewish population and in school, he would play and mingle freely with them. His first girlfriend was a beautiful Jew called Ginka Beer.
His family left Wadowice for Kraków in 1938. In Krakow, Pope John Paul II joined the Jagiellonian University where he studied several languages and philology and also volunteered as a librarian.
He was very passionate about learning languages and managed to learn 15 languages namely Ukrainian, Spanish, Slovak, Serbo-Croatian, Portuguese, Polish, Luxembourgish, Latin, Italian, German, French, Esperanto English, Dutch, and Czech.
Pope John Paul II was also a thespian and a playwright for various theatrical groups. Although military training was compulsory there, he never fired a single shot.
The university was closed down by the Nazi German occupation forces who invaded Poland in 1939. To avoid being deported to Germany, he resulted to doing manual labour in a limestone quarry and as a messenger for a hotel.
In the quarry mines, Pope John Paul II was involved in two accidents where he fractured his skull, dislocated his shoulder, and left him with a stoop.
During the invasion, in 1940, a friend called Jan Tyranowski introduced him to the Living Rosary youth group and Carmelite spirituality youth group.
In 1941, his father died of a heart attack and he became the only surviving member of his nuclear family. From then, he began thinking seriously about joining the priesthood.
In October 1942, Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, the Archbishop of Kraków, enrolled him in a clandestine underground seminary. Meanwhile, on February 29 1944, Pope John Paul II was hit by a German lorry and was hospitalized for two weeks.
Six months after recovery, on August 6 1944, (“Black Sunday), the Geheime Staatspolizei, (Gestapo) – the official secret police of Nazi Germany and in German-occupied Europe – rounded up thousands of young men in Krakow to tame an uprising.
Pope John Paul II hid in his uncle’s basement and escaped the arrest. From then till the Nazis left Poland, he remained hidden in the Archbishop’s residence.
When the Germans fled from Krakow, on January 17 1945, the seminarians reclaimed their ruined seminary and returned it to shape.
During the Nazi occupation, Pope John Paul II helped many Jews escape the ruthless hate of the Nazi-Germans and this kind gesture was recognized in 2005 by the Israeli government after his death.
He completed his studies at the seminary and on November 1 1946, he was ordained as a priest by the Archbishop of Kraków. Shortly after, he was sent for further studies in Rome at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
It is said that in 1947, when Pope John Paul II went to St Padre Pio for confession, Padre Pio prophesied to him that one day he would become the Pope a prophecy that came to pass.
He graduated with a Doctorate in 1948, after defending this thesis titled “The Doctrine of Faith in St John of the Cross”.
After his studies in Rome ended in 1948, he returned to Krakow, Poland, and was posted to the Church of the Assumption in Niegowić. He was later transferred in 1949, to Saint Florian Parish in Kraków.
In Krakow, he taught ethics at Jagiellonian University and thereafter at the Catholic University of Lublin. He formed a group of young people who called themselves “little family” who prayed together, did acts of charity, held philosophical discussions, and went out together skiing, hiking, camping, and kayaking.
He encouraged his younger companions to refer to him as uncle (Wujek) because priests in Poland were not allowed to go out with groups of students.
In 1958, when St John Paul II became the auxiliary bishop to Eugeniusz Baziak, Archbishop of Kraków, he did not change from being “Wujek”.
As a bishop, he continued with his humility and love for people. He became the youngest bishop in Poland at the age of 38.
He earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology in 1954 from the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University but his certificates were withheld until 1957 because the communist government had abolished that Faculty of Theology.
Pope John Paul II had a passion for the teachings of St Thomas of Aquinas and used them extensively in his writings and teachings. He also wrote articles in the Kraków’s Catholic newspaper and the book Love and Responsibility.
Archbishop Baziak died in 1962 and Pope John Paul II became the temporary administrator of the Diocese in the meanwhile. On January 13 1964, he was appointed as the Archbishop of Kraków by Pope Paul VI.
Pope Paul VI also promoted St John Paul II to the College of Cardinals on June 26 1967, and also named the cardinal-priest of the titulus of San Cesareo in Palatio.
During the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II contributed extensively to the Decree on Religious Freedom and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. These two concepts have become very influential in making what the Catholic Church is today.
He was very vocal during the formulation of the encyclical Humanae vitae in 1967, which forbade artificial birth control and abortion.
When Pope Paul VI died in August 1978, John Paul I was elected as the pope but 33 days later he died. This resulted in another papal conclave that led to the election of John Paul II.
Our saint today won on the eighth ballot on October 16, on the third day with 99 votes from the 111 Cardinals convened to elect the pope.
In honour of his predecessor, he took the regnal name of John Paul II and became the 264th pope at only 58 years of age and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
He declined the traditional papal coronation during his investiture and instead, received a down-to-earth papal inauguration on October 22 1978.
Pope John Paul II made several journeys as the pope to 129 countries. Everywhere he went, he attracted very huge crowds like the one experienced in Manila, Philippines in 1995 during the World Youth Day which attracted up to five million people. this was one of the largest ever papal gatherings in the history of papal physical gatherings.
The pope pioneered the international World Youth Day and is therefore the patron saint of World Youth Day.
Among the countries he visited are;
- The Dominican Republic in January 1979
- Mexico in January 1979
- Ireland in 1979
- The United States in October 1979
- The United Kingdom in 1982
- Haiti in 1983
- Estonia in 1993
- Philippines in January 1995
- Kenya in 1995
- Egypt in In 2000
- Syria in 2001
Pope John Paul II was very vocal on several issues like:
- He championed the debate about the dignity and equality of women
- He supported the Catholic moral teachings against abortion, homosexuality, euthanasia, and the use of contraceptives.
- He Condemned vehemently the practice of capital punishment
- He campaigned for world social justice and debt forgiveness, especially in developing countries.
- He reiterated that the Catholic Church lacks the authority to ordain women to the priesthood.
- He vehemently condemned the apartheid government system in South Africa and even gave an emotional speech about it at the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands in 1985.
- In the early 1990’s he opposed the Gulf War led by the US and also in 2003, he opposed the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, saying that the United Nations can resolve the conflict through diplomacy.
- He fought hard to end the instanced of organized crime in Italy, especially from the Mafia mobs
- He called for the cessation of violence in Rwanda in 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War. While in Kenya in 1995, he pleaded for forgiveness and reconciliation as a solution to that genocide.
Pope John Paul II’s statements, teachings, and actions helped bring about many political changes to the better.
His mother country Poland was liberated from communism and eventually, many other countries in Eastern Europe, Chile, Haiti, and Paraguay got rid of their dictatorship governments.
This led to President George W. Bush giving the pope the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honour on June 4 2004.
Pope John Paul II initiated and continued the pacification of the sour relations between the Roman Catholic Church and other Christian and non-Christian Churches. He visited many countries where Roman Catholicism was not popular and thawed the ice-cold relations.
There was an assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II by a Turkish gunman called Mehmet Ali Ağca on May 13 1981 at St. Peter’s Square in Rome.
The pope was shot and wounded in the abdomen and injured his small and large intestines. During his operation and convalescence, the pope stated that the Blessed Virgin Mary helped keep him alive.
Mehmet Ali Ağca was arrested and sentenced to life imprisonment. In 1983, the Pope visited him in prison and forgave him.
Another assassination attempt was made against the pope on May 12 1982 in Fátima, Portugal when Juan María Fernández y Kroh, a priest tried to stab him. He accused the Pope of being a Communist agent.
Juan stayed in prison for three years, left the priesthood, was expelled from Portugal, and later lived in Belgium.
Pope John Paul II issued apologies to many groups and people who may have suffered in the hands of the Catholic Church over time.
Some of the apologies are;
- On October 31 1992, to philosopher Galileo Galilei regarding the cosmos theory of the universe around 1633.
- On August 9 1993, regarding Catholics’ involvement in the slave trade.
- On May 20 1995, where in the Czech Republic, the Church Hierarchy played a role in the religious wars and burnings at the stake during the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century
- On July 10 1995, to all women for injustices committed against them and the violation of their rights over the history of the Church.
- On March 16 1998, after many Catholics remained silent amid witnessing the glaring atrocities committed by the Nazi-Germans
After injuries from the two assassination attempts the health of Pope John Paul II started to decline over time. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2001.
In February 2005, he was hospitalized with breathing problems but by March his health had deteriorated further.
He remained in his Papal apartment at the Apostolic Palace as thousands of people held a vigil at St. Peter’s Square.
He died on Saturday, April 2 2005 at 19:37 UTC of heart failure from profound hypotension and complete circulatory collapse.
His funeral was attended on April 8 2005 by over four million mourners gathered in the Vatican and surrounding areas.
At least 70 presidents and prime ministers, four kings, five queens, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended.
Pope John Paul II’s body was interred in the crypt under the basilica, the Tomb of the Popes.
The traditional five-year waiting period for the cause for canonization was waived for Pope John Paul II and one month after his death, the cause for his canonization commenced.
On December 19 2009, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed him as venerable and on May 1 2011, Divine Mercy Sunday beatified him at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City.
This was after a miracle attributed to his intercessions was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. This miracle entailed the healing of Marie Simon Pierre, a nun from France, from Parkinson’s disease.
On Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27 2014, St John Paul II, was canonized by Pope Francis at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City. This is after a second miracle was attributed to him.
Pope John Paul II Feast Day
We celebrate St John Paul II’s feast day on October 22 every year in the Catholic Church. October 22 is the anniversary of his papal inauguration.
Institutions Named After Pope John Paul II
- St John Paul II Seminary, Washington DC, United States.
- St John Paul II Parish Community, Lake View, New York, United States.
- St John Paul II Minor Seminary, Antipolo City, Philippines
- St John Paul II High School, Hyannis, Massachusetts, United States.
- St John Paul II Chapel and Museum at Pakuwon Mall in Surabaya, Indonesia
- St John Paul II Catholic Secondary School, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada
- St John Paul II Catholic High School, Arizona, United States.
- St John Paul II Catholic High School, Alabama, United States.
- Saint John Paul the Great Catholic High School, Dumfries, Virginia, United States.
- Saint John Paul II Academy Boca Raton, Florida, United States.
- Pope Saint John Paul II Major Seminary Awka, Nigeria
- Pope John Paul II High School, Catholic preparatory school, Hendersonville, Tennessee, United States.
- Pope John Paul II High School in Olympia, Washington, United States.
- John Paul II Primary School, Nyahururu, Kenya
- Karol Wojtyła building at Atma Jaya Catholic University of Indonesia in Jakarta, Indonesia
- John Paul the Great Catholic University, Escondido, California, United States.
- John Paul the Great Catholic High School Indiana, United States.
- John Paul II High School, Greymouth, New Zealand
- John Paul II Gymnasium, Kaunas, Lithuania
- John Paul II Catholic Secondary School, London, Ontario, Canada
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