Pope St. John Paul II
Pope St. John Paul II, affectionately known as JPII, was born in Poland in 1920. His name was Karol Jozef (Charles Joseph) Wojtyla, and he enjoyed school, sports, the outdoors, and the theater. He had great sorrows as a child, losing his older sister, his mother, his older brother, and his father all before he turned twenty. It was a difficult time for the country as well. In 1939 Nazi German and Stalinist Russian forces invaded and occupied Poland, and Karol was forced to leave his studies at the university and work as a laborer in a limestone quarry.
He began to consider the priesthood and was accepted into the secret underground seminary, run by the archbishop of Krakow. He was active in helping the city's suffering population, especially the Jews, during the occupation, which ended in 1945. The next year, Karol was ordained a priest, and at thirty-eight he became the youngest bishop in Poland. He participated in the Second Vatican Council.
In 1967 he was promoted to cardinal. In l 978, Pope Paul VI died, and Cardinal Wojtyla voted in the papal conclave, which elected Pope John Paul I. Apparently God had other plans, and John Paul I died after only thirty-three days as pope. In the next conclave, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected, and he took the name John Paul II to honor his predecessor. In contrast to JPI, JPII served for twenty-six years and became the third-longest-serving pope in history, after St. Peter and Bl. Pius IX.
The focus of John Paul II's pontificate was the universal call to holiness, and a (related) surge in beatifications and canonizations, as he sought to provide role models for Catholics in all walks of life. His papacy was marked by his unprecedented accessibility at public events at the Vatican and all over the world, where he spoke to millions. He had friendly relationships with world leaders, reached out to non-Catholic religious leaders, and had a gift for connecting with young Catholics. He is remembered for his affirmation and clarification of traditional teaching on Catholic social issues, especially human sexuality, abortion, and birth control, and his firm stance against communism.
As a priest, and even as pope, he never lost his love for sports and the outdoors, continuing to run, swim, lift weights, hike, and ski. He survived two assassination attempts. In 2001 he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. Four years later, he died of complications from the disease at the age of eighty-four and was buried beneath St. Peter's Basilica in "bare earth", per his request, rather than in a tomb. His successor and friend, Pope Benedict XVI, waived the usual five year waiting period and opened his cause for canonization a month after his death. John Paul II was beatified in 2011 and canonized in 2014. His feast is celebrated on the day of his installation as pope rather than of his death because April 2 would often fall during Holy Week. Pope Francis added his feast to the universal calendar.
Resources from: The Catholic All Year by: Kendra Tierney