Saint John Paul II

Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born on May 18,1920 in Wadowice, the small town near Cracow, as a second child of Emilia and Karol Wojtyla. In 1929 his mother died and three years later in 1932 at the age of 26 his  brother Edmund died of scarlet fever infection.

In his childhood Karol was regarded as a clever and sporty boy. After graduation from the Gymnasium, in 1938 he started studying the Polish Language and Literature at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow. One year later in 1939 the World War II started and Poland got under Nazi’s occupation.

Jan Tyrnowski influenced on Karol’s spirituality and thanks to him Karol got to know  the issues of Saint John of Cross. In 1941 Karol’s father died. At that time he worked as a worker in the quarry of Solvay Chemical Factory. On his way to work he often entered to the Shrine of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy in Cracow-Lagiewniki, next to the cemetery where three years earlier sister Faustyna Kowalska, the future saint, had been buried.

In 1942 Wojtyla began to study in the conspiracy at the Metropolitan Higher Seminary and on the Philosophy Department at the Jagillonian University.

After the war on November 1, 1946 he was ordained a priest. After two-year study in Rome he was sent to his first parish in Niegowic, then one year later he was transferred to the parish of Saint Florian ( Kosciol Sw Floriana) in Cracow. There he set up the Gregorian choir. He organized also  mountain trips and canoeing rallies for a group of young people. Meantime he was granted a doctor’s degree of theology.

In 1956 he was appointed to the head of Ethic Department at the Catholic University of Lublin.

Two years later in 1958 he was nominated with an auxilary Bishop in Cracow. As a motto of his service he choice the words “ Totus Tuus”( what in Latin means “I’m completely yours”), which he directed to Holy Mother of God. Five years later he was appointed the Archbishop of Cracow, becoming the youngest one in the world.. As a bishop he took part actively in Vatican Council II. In 1965 he opened a beatification process of Sister Faustyna Kowalska. On June 29, 1967 he received from the Pope Poul VI the red cardinal’s biretta. He was  regarded, with Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski the Primate of Poland , as the one of the most important person in Polish Episcopate.

On October 16, 1978 , in the seventh vote, he was elected the Bishop of Rome. As a Pope he assumed the name of John Paul II. He was  the first Pope from Poland and the first, after the 455 popes, non Italian Bishop of Rome. On October 22, 1978 the first, very solemn Pontifical Mass took place in St. Peter’s Square. Nowaday this is the day of recall of Saint John Paul II by entire Church.

On May 13, 1981  during the general audience in St. Peter’ Square Ali Agca ,the Turkish assassin, shot the Pope. Many times later the Pope said that thanks to help the Our Lady of Fatima he had been saved because the day of assassination attempt  was an anniversary of Her revelation in Fatima  He never recovered completely after this accident.

The beginning of 90s were marked by the onset of the Parkinson’s disease. His health became rapidly worse on February 1, 2005 and He died on 2nd April at 9.37, after finishing Appeal of Jasna Góra. It was the first Saturday of the month and the feast of Divine Mercy Eve.

In January 14, 2011 the Pope Benedict XVI issued the decree about miracle and appointed the date of 1 st May as a day of  the Pope John Paul’s II beatification. The Pope Francis canonised him on the Divine Mercy Sunday in 2014.

The Pontyficate of John Paul II lasted 26 years and it was one of the two longest ones in the history of the Church. During his all pilgrimages he travelled the distance of 1.6 milion kilometers. He went on 102 pilgrimages to 135 foreign countries and 142 ones to different places in Italy. During them he made 898 speeches. He also nominated 232 cardinals, beatified 1310 people and  canonised 478 saints. He wrote 14 Encyclicals, 14 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions and 43 Apostolic letters.

He was always willing to meet with young people focusing particular attention on their lives and problems. Due to The International Year of the Youth announced by UN he prepared the special Apostolic letter (“Parati Sempre”) about importance role of young people in life which was read on the meeting in Rome in 1985.

Since that year he used to prepare the special messages for young people which became the main topics of the World’s Youth Days in different places in the world. In 1991 such a meeting was organized in Czestochowa in Poland.

The places in Poland connected with John Paul II:

l  Wadowice-  the museum in John Paul’s II house (www.domjp2.pl)

l  The Sanctuary in Kalwaria Zebrzydowska: place of his many pilgrimages (www.kalwaria.eu)

l  Niegowic- the first John Paul’s II parish (www.parafia.niegowic.pl)

l  Cracow – parish of St. Florian (www.swflorian.net); the Shrine of St.John Paul II (www.sanktuariumjp2.pl)