JOHN PAUL II

Saint John Paul II

The 16th of October 2018 was the 40° anniversary of the election of Pope John Paul II.

Karol Józef Wojtyla was born to a devoted family on the 18th of March 1920 in Wadowice (near Kraków). His mother died when he was nine years old, and he then later lost his elder brother and father.

A lover of literature, in 1938 he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, but with the Nazi occupation of Poland, he was forced to work in a quarry. In 1942 he entered the underground seminary in Kraków. He was ordained as a priest in 1946, and in 1948 he passed his doctoral exam at the Pontifical Athenaeum Angelicum in Rome.

In the 50s he was a University lecturer. He was appointed Bishop in 1958, Cardinal in 1967, and on the 16th of October 1978 was elected Pope, the first non-Italian Pope since the Dutch Pope Hadrian VI (†1523).

A militant Pope

Never taking a neutral stance with respect to the political events of his time, from the beginning of his pontificate he attacked the Soviet bloc and condemned with equal severity the capitalistic system that tramples on human dignity.

The defence of life and peace (World Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi 1986 together with representatives of other religions) were the cornerstones of his activity.

His iron constitution supported him in his continuous journeys (it is estimated that he travelled 1,200,000 km, or three times the distance between the Earth and the Moon), thanks to his athletic body that he trained since he was a young man performing mountaineering, skiing and also playing football. In 1992 he developed the first symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and a tumour was removed from his intestines. He suffered health problems up until his death. He died in the Vatican on the 2nd of April 2005, and was buried in Saint Peter’s in the Saint Sebastian Chapel.

The assassination attempt

On the 13th of May, 1981, during an audience in St. Peter's Square, he was wounded by the Turk Alì Ağca, who had possible links to the Soviet secret services. After surviving an operation that lasted 6 hours, he considered it to be a miracle, and offered the bullet used in the assassination attempt to Fatima, that today is set in the crown of the statue of Mary.

Famous phrases

Speech to UNESCO 1980: “I am the son of a Nation which has survived by relying on its culture.”

In Saint Peter’s Square, 22nd October 1978: “Do not be afraid!”

Speech to workers of the Solvay factory 1992: “I consider it the Lord's grace to have been a worker, because this gave me the opportunity to deeper understand the working man”.

In 1993, after an injury: “The Pope salutes you, A slightly injured Pope, but stronger than ever, he isn’t yet dead!”

A pontificate in numbers

The third longest lasting pontificate, with 146 pastoral visits in Italy and 104 abroad, a Special Jubilee (1984) an Ordinary Jubilee (2000), 19 World Youth Days, 14 Encyclicals, 5 books.

He was the first pope to visit a synagogue (Rome, 1986), and a mosque (Damascus, 2001).

The Holy Pope: when is it celebrated?

The beatification process was brief also thanks to two certified miracles and many witness accounts. Proclaimed Saint by Pope Francis in 2014, he is celebrated on October 22nd.