John paul ii
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John paul ii

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 enrolled 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,“ also 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 him to Rome where he worked under the

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 Cracow 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

Archbishop Baziak.

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 Pontificate on October 16, 1978, Pope John Paul II

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[2] 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 must also be remembered the numerous government

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

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