St John Paul II

Feast Day October 22nd.

Pope John Paul II was born as Karol Jozef Wojtyla on the 18th of May, 1920 in the city of Wadowice not far from Cracow. He lived with his father Karol Wojtyla and mother Emilia Kaczorowska, and his older brother Edmund who later became a doctor.

Karol attended Jagiellonian University in Cracow in 1938.  He also pursued his interest in drama. The university suddenly closed down within a year of his admission because of Nazi occupation forces. This forced Karol to start working in a mine for 4 years and then in a chemical factory. He did this not only to earn a living but also to avoid being sent to Germany.

His interest in the priesthood led to him attending courses in Cracow’s clandestine seminary from 1942 which was run by the archbishop of Cracow. Karol was also one of the founders of Rhapsodic Theatre which was also a clandestine organization.

He resumed his studies after the Second World War, when the university re-opened. He was ordained to the priesthood on the 1st of November 1946. He completed his doctorate in Rome and on returning to Poland in 1948 became chaplain as well as vicar of different parishes.

He worked as a professor of social ethics and moral theology in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin. Pope Pius XII appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Cracow on 4th July 1958 and Archbishop Baziak consecrated him in Wawel Cathedral, Cracow on 28th September 1958. He became Archbishop of Cracow on 13th January, appointed by Pope Paul VI. He was elected Pope on October 16th 1978, the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. During his 27 year pontificate he completed 146 pastoral visits within Italy and 104 outside it. He visited 317 parishes as Bishop of Rome. His love for young people led him to establish World Youth Day, celebrated 19 times during his pontificate, which attracted millions of young people from all over the world.

He survived an assassination attempt on May 13, 1981. Shocking the world, he exhibited extraordinary love and forgiveness when he made a personal visit to his attacker, Ali Agca, in Rebibbia Prison in 1983.

Pope John Paul II died during the first vespers of Divine Mercy Sunday, April 2, 2005, at 9:37 pm, soon after he had uttered his final audible words, “Let me go to my Father’s house.”

He was canonised on April 27th 2014 - the feast of Divine Mercy.

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