John Paul I
|264th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church
16 October 1978 – 2 April 2005
Karol Józef Wojtyła, known as "Lolek" by those close to him when he was young, was the second of two sons and youngest child born to Emilia Kaczorowska, (who died in 1929) and Karol Wojtyla (senior), a non-commissioned army officer. Karol the senior died in 1941 while Karol (the junior) was away, which is thought to have influenced his decision to go to seminary. Karol was born in Wadowice near the city of Kraków in southern Poland 18 May 1920. He was baptized in the church of St. Mary, Wadowice, Poland 20 June 1920. The early deaths of his parents and brother all made lasting impacts on him.
Despite tensions between Jewish and Christian communities in Poland, Karol was on good terms with everyone. He was active in football, often subbing on the Jewish team when they were short a player, while playing against the Catholic team.
Following high school, Karol and his father moved to Krakow where he would attend the Jagiellonian University, studying philosophy, Polish language and literature, introductory Russian, and Old Church Slavanic. He spent time as a volunteer librarian. He also completed his compulsory military service, but refused to wield a weapon. By the time he was Pope, Karol could speak at least nine languages fluently.
At the outbreak of World War II, Karol was working as a messenger for a restaurant while attending university. He went on to work as a laborer in a limestone quarry. During this time, he entered the underground seminary run by Cardinal Sepieha, which was known to aid Jews in escaping persecution. One evening while walking home, Karol was hit by a passing German truck. The officers helped him to the hospital where he would remain to recover for two weeks. The entire incident helped concrete Karol's belief that his pursuance of a religious life was what he should be doing. Karol survived the massive persecution of Black Sunday by hiding in his home then fleeing to the Archbishop of Krakow's residence, where he would remain until the end of the war.
Karol was ordained a priest in the Catholic church 1 November 1946, All Saints Day, in Krakow, Poland. In the following decade, he was busy, completing two doctorates, writing for local papers, leading small groups dedicated to prayer and healing, teaching at universities, writing poetry and plays, and felt he had achieved a prophesied post of "the highest post in the Church" when he was ordained a Cardinal. His literary works were published under two pseudonyms, Andrzej Jawień and Stanisław Andrzej Gruda. His religious writings were published under his own name. He often joined students and church members in various outdoor activities and sports, as well as holding small group discussions and masses outside. Because it was not permitted for students to do many of those activities with their priest, Karol insisted on being called "Wujek", which means "Uncle" in Polish. The nickname stuck with him his entire life, especially in Poland.
On 13 January 1964, Bishop Karol was made Archibishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI. By June 1967, he was elected to the Sacred College of Cardinals by Pope Paul VI. He was part of the council to elect Pope John Paul I following Pope Paul VI's death in 1978. Just 33 days later, Pope John Paul I would die, and Cardinal Karol Wojtyla would be elected Pope.
Pope John Paul is remembered for helping to end communism in Poland and throughout Europe. He was a supporter of the Second Vatican Council, while still maintaining his orthodox belief in the Church's stance on contraception and the ordination of women. He was instrumental in mending relationships between the Roman Catholic Church and several other religions.
As Pope, he was prolific in his canonizing and beatification during his time, raising more people than the popes of the previous five centuries. He was the second longest serving pope and one of the best traveled.
Pope John Paul II had Parkinson's Disease. As he aged, he also suffered from osteoarthritis. In February 2005, he was hospitalized with influenza, which was causing trouble breathing. He was released and then admitted again for the same troubles. By the end of March, he was admitted for a urinary tract infection which led to septic shock. He was cared for and later passed away at his home in the Vatican from heart failure and complications of the sepsis on 2 April 2005. He was interred in the Chapel of St. Sebastian, Saint Peter's Basilica, Vatican City, Rome,Italy.
Pope John Paul II's canonization started just one month after his death, the normal five year waiting period waived. Pope John Paul II was beatified on May 1, 2011 in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI. He was canonized April 27, 2014 in Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Francis.
This profile is being updated by the Popes Project in cooperation with the Notables and Polish Roots Projects
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