St John Paul II

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'Do not be afraid' was most often-used Biblical quote by Pope John Paul II. Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in the Polish town of Wadowice, a small town 50 kilometres from Krakow, on 18 May, 1920. He was the youngest of three children born to Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. A sister, Olga, had died before he was born. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer died in 1941. Karol was baptized on 20 June, 1920 in the parish church of Wadowice by Fr Franciszek Zak, made his First Holy Communion at age nine and was confirmed at 18. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.

The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry (1940-1944) and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany. In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyła was one of the pioneers of the underground 'Rhapsodic Theatre'.

After the war he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Sapieha in Krakow on 1 November, 1946. Shortly afterwards, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the subject of faith in the works of St John of the Cross. At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants in France, Belgium and Holland.

In 1948 he returned to Poland and served in several parishes in Krakow as well as being chaplain to university students. In 1951 when he returned to studying philosophy and theology. Later he became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin. On 4 July, 1958, he was appointed titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary of Krakow by Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated on 28 September 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, by Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak. On 13 January, 1964, he was appointed archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal on 26 June, 1967.

Besides taking part in Vatican Council II (1962-1965) where he made an important contribution to drafting the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyła participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

The Cardinals elected him Pope at the Conclave of 16 October 1978, and he took the name of John Paul II. On Sunday 22 October, he solemnly inaugurated his Petrine ministry as the 263rd successor to St Peter. His pontificate, one of the longest in the history of the Church, lasted nearly 27 years.

Pope John Paul II exercised his papacy with a tireless missionary spirit. He made 104 pastoral visits outside Italy and 146 within Italy. As bishop of Rome he visited 317 of the city's 333 parishes. More than 17,600,000 pilgrims participated in the General Audiences. His love for young people brought him to establish World Youth Day. The 19 WYDs celebrated during his pontificate brought together millions of young people from all over the world. At the same time his care for the family was expressed in the World Meetings of Families, which he initiated in 1994. John Paul II successfully encouraged dialogue representatives of all other religions, whom he several times invited to prayer meetings for peace, especially in Assisi.

Under his guidance the Church prepared herself for the third millennium and celebrated the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 in accordance with the instructions given in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente. The Church then faced the new epoch, receiving his instructions in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, in which he indicated to the faithful their future path. With the Year of the Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist, he promoted the spiritual renewal of the Church.

He gave an extraordinary impetus to Canonizations and Beatifications, focusing on countless examples of holiness as an incentive for the people of our time. He celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 Blesseds; and 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints. He made Thérèse of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church.

He considerably expanded the College of Cardinals, creating 231 Cardinals (plus one in pectore) in nine consistories. He also called six meetings of the College of Cardinals. He organized 15 Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops - six Ordinary General Assemblies. one Extraordinary General Assembly and eight Special Assemblies. His most important Documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 45 Apostolic Letters. He promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the light of Tradition as interpreted by the Second Vatican Council. He also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law, created new Institutions and reorganized the Roman Curia.

He published five books: "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" , "Gift and Mystery, on the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination as priest", "Roman Triptych" poetic meditations , "Arise, Let us Be Going" and "Memory and Identity".

On 2 April 2005, at 9.37 pm, the Octave of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church's beloved Pastor, John Paul II, departed this world for the Father. From that evening until his funeral on 8 April, more than three million pilgrims came to Rome to pay their last respects. Some stood in line up to 24 hours to enter St Peter's Basilica. On 28 April, the Holy Father, Benedict XVI, announced that the normal five-year waiting period before beginning the cause of beatification and canonization would be waived for John Paul II. The cause was officially opened by Cardinal Camillo Ruini on June 28 2005.

Blessed John Paul II was canonised by Pope Francis on 27 April 2013 together with Blessed John XXIII.

Watch a film about St John Paul II 'Karol - the man who became Pope' here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4bWX9zaFBI

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