Karol Józef Wojty³a , 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 Wojty³a 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
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 Wojty³a was one of the
pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre,"
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
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
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
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 Wojty³a
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.
Bishop of Rome he has visited 317 of the 333 parishes .
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);
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
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.
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.