Holiness John Paul II
Karol Józef Wojtyla , 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 Wojtyla 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
Wojtyla was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre," also clandestine.
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.
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.
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
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.
January 13, 1964, he was nominated Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI, who made
him a cardinal June 26, 1967.
part in Vatican Council II with an important contribution to the elaboration of
the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyla 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
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).
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 .