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MAIN Arrow to People in the News People in the News Arrow to Pope John Paul II Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II He was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, and remains a record-holder for the most traveled pope in history attracting some of the largest crowds ever assembled.

Upon his passing on April 2, 2005 USA Today eulogized, "His death, at age 84, ended the most eventful pontificate in centuries."

On the road to sainthood

A year after his death, Catholics actively promoted sainthood for John Paul II hoping that Pope Benedict XVI would beatify the native of Poland in a process unique to the Catholic church. Beatification is a significant step toward elevating a church member to sainthood.

In 2007, reports of a miracle cure by Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre after praying for John Paul II's intervention soon fueled the fast track process for elevating the popular pope to "blessed" or beatified.

Four years later, with the exhumation of his body in late April, the official beatification of Pope John II is set for May 1, 2011.

With the news of his almost assured elevation to sainthood, Christians around the world are rejoicing, and none more so than in his native Poland where a large Catholic population are already referring to the much-beloved pope as John Paul The Great.

Related Bios & Pictures | Quotes

John Paul II to be beatified

Early Life

Born Karol Józef Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920, the second of two sons born to staunchly Catholic parents, Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska, he later attended Jagiellonion University and also studied acting at a local drama school.

Karol's education was cut short, however, when the university was forced to close its doors following the Nazi invasion in World War II.

He later found work in a chemical factory, and it was during this period when he secretly began studying at the seminary of Cracow, writing poems, and becoming one of the pioneers of Cracow's underground Rhapsodic Theatre.


Following the war, he continued his studies and was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946.

Energetic, intelligent and fully committed to his ministry, the man who was to become known as the "traveling Pope" was soon selected to continue his studies in Rome, and used his summer breaks to work among Polish immigrants in France, Belgium and Holland.

He completed his doctorate in theology in 1948, returning to Cracow to work as a chaplain among the city's university students. Throughout the 1950's he also taught moral theology and social ethics at Cracow's major seminary. An auxiliary bishop by 1958, eight years later he was nominated Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI, who was present at his induction later as Cardinal on June 26, 1967.


He was elected Pope on October 16, 1978, following the sudden death of his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, who died after only 33 days in office and in whose memory John Paul II named himself.

Having personally been acquainted with political oppression during World War II, he was a key player in Poland's Solidarity Movement and crusader against communism, and equally outspoken on the excesses of capitalism. Among the young, he took on the status of rock star, and was admired for his energetic and charismatic style.

Often criticized for his conservative views, John Paul II was outspoken against abortion, divorce, gay rights and had close ties to the staunchly conservative Opus Dei.

As a world ambassador of social justice and a champion of the poor, Pope John Paul II traveled thousands of miles on more than 100 trips during his papacy, speaking directly to the needs of the disenfranchised. It is estimated that he effectively circled the globe 27 times.

On March 14, 2004, his papacy reached a milestone when John Paul II became the third-longest reigning pope in the history of the Catholic Church.

Despite Parkinson's disease, assassination attempts, and general ill-health his later years, he refused to step down as pope and continued his schedule of international appearances.

The Pope Is Mourned

In late March 2005, he began to suffer from heart and kidney failure and was reportedly near death for several days. Final news of his death finally came on the evening of April 2, 2005 plunging millions of followers into mourning.

In the week leading up to the his funeral on April 8, 2005, an estimated 600,000 visitors a day filed passed the body of the pontiff in St. Peter's Basilica to pay their last respects.

Attendees to the funeral included U.S. President Bush, Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair, and Prince Charles whose wedding to Camilla Parker Bowles was delayed a day to attend the funeral ceremony.

Soon after, his successor Pope Benedict XVI announced that he had started the Vatican process that would eventually bestow sainthood on Pope John Paul II.


Related News, Pictures & Biographies:

The Pope Blog

BBC | Pope John Paul II in Pictures

The Vatican - John Paul II Biography

John Paul II - The Millenial Pope

The Pope & Papacy - Features on the history and origins of the papacy, the process of electing popes and a 1997 biography of John Paul II.


Famous Quotes:

  • I have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin.

  • Man always travels along precipices. His truest obligation is to keep his balance.

  • It is legitimate and necessary to ask oneself if this [gay marriage] is not perhaps part of a new ideology of evil, perhaps more insidious and hidden, which attempts to pit human rights against the family and against man.

  • [Abortion is] extermination which has been allowed by nothing less than democratically elected parliaments where one normally hears appeals for the civil progress of society and all humanity.

  • Young people are threatened... by the evil use of advertising techniques that stimulate the natural inclination to avoid hard work by promising the immediate satisfaction of every desire.

  • Humanity should question itself, once more, about the absurd and always unfair phenomenon of war, on whose stage of death and pain only remain standing the negotiating table that could and should have prevented it.

More John Paul II Quotes:


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