John Paul II
Karol Józef Wojtyła , known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election
to the papacy, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometres from
Cracow, on May 18, 1920. He was the second of two sons born to Karol
Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His eldest brother
Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army
officer died in 1941.
He made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at 18. Upon
graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he eenrolled in
Cracow’s Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.
The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol
had to work in a quarry (1940-1944) and then in the Solvay chemical factory
to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.
In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the
clandestine seminary of Cracow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha,
archbishop of Cracow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyła was one of the
pioneers of the “Rhapsodic Theatre,” allso clandestine.
After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary
of Cracow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the
Jagiellonian University, until
his priestly ordination in Cracow on November 1, 1946.
Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent hi
guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his
doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the topic of faith in the
works of St. John of the Cross. At that time, during his vacations, he
exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France,
Belgium and Holland.
In 1948 he returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Cracow
as well as chaplain for the university students until 1951, when he took up
again his studies on philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis
on “evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the
ethical system of Max Scheler” at Lublin Catholic University. Later he
became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary
of Crracow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin.
On July 4, 1958, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Cracow by Pope Pius
XII, and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Cracow, by
On January 13, 1964, he was nominated Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI,
who made him a cardinal June 26, 1967.
Besides taking part in Vatican Council II with an important contribution to
the elaboration of the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyła
participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.
Since the start of his Po
has completed 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy and 146 within Italy .
As Bishop of Rome he has visited 317 of the 333 parishes .
His principal documents include 14 encyclicals , 15 apostolic exhortations
, 11 apostolic constitutions and 45 apostolic letters. The Pope has also
published five books : “Crossing the Threshold of Hope” (October 1994);
“Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination”
(November 1996); “Roman Triptych – Meditations”, a book of poems (March
2003); “Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way” (May 2004) and “Memory and Identity”
(pubblication spring 2005).
John Paul II has presided at 147 beatification ceremonies ( 1,338 Blesseds
proclaimed ) and 51 canonization ceremonies ( 482 Saints ) during his
pontificate. He has held 9 consistories in which he created 231 (+ 1 in
pectore) cardinals . He has also convened six plenary meetings of the
College of Cardinals .
From 1978 to today the Holy Father has presided at 15 Synods of Bishops :
six ordinary (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994, 2001), one extraordinary (1985)
and eight special (1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 and 1999).
No other Pope has encountered so many individuals like John Paul II: to
date, more than 17,600,000 pilgrims have participated in the General
Audiences held on Wednesdays (more than 1,160). Such figure is without
counting all other special audiences and religious ceremonies held [more
than 8 million pilgrims during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 alone]
and the millions of faithful met during pastoral visits made in Italy and
throughout the world. It
personalities encountered during 38 official visits and in the 738
audiences and meetings held with Heads of State , and even the 246
audiences and meetings with Prime Ministers .
The media outlets are beginning to report that the pope has died at the age
of 85. His death (presuming that the reports are true) comes, of course, at
the end of a very long illness that had him in and out of hospital (mostly
in) for many months.
As of 1:45 PM EST, CNN is reporting that the pope’s brain has ceased
functioning but his heart is still beating. Drudgereport was reporting that
he died, but has no backtracked to say that reports indicate he may have
Now I wonder.is Terri Schiavo’s death going to be forgotten now that the
pope has also died, or will her death overshadow the pope’s, at least in
the United States? I can’t help but draw a comparison to when Mother
Teresa’s death went almost unnoticed among all the fury and media attention
surrounding the death of Princess Diana.
James White writes, “Now a Vatican representative is saying that Mary has
opened wide the door to heaven to John Paul, who dedicated himself to Mary
(a reference to the Papal motto, Totus tuus, “totally yours,” addressed not
breath waiting to hear about repentance from sin, the perfection of the
work of Christ, the imputed righteousness of Christ. But you will hear much
of Mary, far more than of Jesus. The true faith of Rome is on display in
this situation. American Roman Catholic apologists seek to diminish the
centrality of Mary in Roman theology, but here you see how foundational
Mary is to the piety of the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in Rome
3:15 PM – White, once again, says what I am too timid to say. “We are
hearing a great deal about the Pope dying in peace. And for what reason?
Because he has suffered. You will be able to see, and hear, just how badly
understood the gospel is amongst evangelicals and others as you listen to
the commentary on the Pope. The specifics of the gospel will be buried
under the emotionalism of death. The Pope’s salvation will be guaranteed
not because his faith is fixed solely upon the finished work of Christ
(which, in light of the devotion to Mary, belief in the Mass, purgatory,
etc., it clearly is not), but because of his suffering, his “goodness,” a
goodness not determined by reference to God’s holiness, of course, but by
reference to other men.
I wonder.how many evangelical leaders will honor God rather than men and
say what needs to be said? “Unless the Pope believed the gospel, he, like
any other person on the planet, died under the wrath of God, outside of the
only way of salvation God has provided in Jesus Christ!” And how many will
cave in to the fear of the face of men and do what society demands by
compromising the gospel, showing a greater love of the acclaim of men
rather than the approval of God? Remember, friends: Romans 5:1 Therefore,
having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord
I agree that this is a time when we will see what evangelical leaders are
To special groups
I offer a warm welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors
present at today’s Audience. I greet particularly the members of the
Servite Secular Institute and the groups from Scotland, Finland, Australia
and the United States of America. Wishing you a pleasant and fruitful stay
in Rome, I cordially invoke upon you the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus
I wish you all a happy New Year!
I address a special thought to the Patriarch of Cilicia for Armenians, His
Beatitude Nerses Bedros XIX, and to the Bishops accompanying him, the
members of the Lions Clubs of Puglia and the representatives of the
“Circolo Didattico di Somma Vesuviana”, gathered here with the Archbishop
I also greet the priests, seminarians and lay people of the Neocatechumenal
Way. Dear friends, I thank you for your generous commitment to the new
evangelization. I hope that the reflections of these days will help you to
deepen communion in heartfelt compliance, both with the Pastors of the
local Churches and the competent Institutions of the Holy See. Thus, you
will be able to make a more and more effective contribution to the cause of
Lastly my thoughts go to the young people, to the sick and to the newly-
weds. I entrust you all to the motherly protection of the Virgin Mary.