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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
the war, he continued his studies and was ordained a priest on
November 1, 1946.
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.
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,
John Paul I, who died after only 33 days in office and in
whose memory John Paul II named himself.
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
for his conservative views, John Paul II was outspoken against
abortion, divorce, gay rights and had close ties to the staunchly
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
attempts, and general ill-health his later years, he refused to step
down as pope and continued his schedule of international appearances.
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
Benedict XVI announced that he had started the Vatican process
that would eventually bestow sainthood on Pope John Paul II.
a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin.
always travels along precipices. His truest obligation is to
keep his balance.
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.
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.
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.
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.