St. John Paul II
Karol Wojtyła was born in Wadowice, where he also spent his school years. After graduating from high school in 1938, he moved with his father to Kraków, in order to take up a course in Polish studies at the Jagiellonian University, as well as to pursue his passion for acting. Soon afterwards, however, the outbreak of World War II interrupted the studies of the young and deeply religious Wojtyła. The experiences of occupation and the death of his father led him to the decision to take priestly vows. From 1942, he frequented the underground Metropolitan Theological Seminary in Kraków. He was ordained right after the war in 1946. For the next two years he continued his studies in Rome. On returning to Poland, he was assigned to pastoral service in the parish of Niegowić, near Wieliczka. After seven months, he came back to Kraków and became one of the pioneers of the “tourist” student ministry. He wandered in the mountains and took part in canoeing rallies with the academic youth, while continuing his theological studies. In 1958, Karol Wojtyła was anointed bishop. He was then very much involved in the preparatory projects before the Vatican Council II. Only five years later, he became metropolitan bishop of Kraków. In 1967, Pope Paul VI appointed him cardinal. He soon became an internationally known Church authority, philosopher, thinker and theologian. For that reason, the decision of the conclave to elect him as Pope on 16 October 1978 did not come as a surprise for those in the know. The new Pope adopted the name of John Paul II and soon made a number of decisions that broke new ground for the future of the Church. First and foremost, he was the Pilgrim-Pope, who visited all the inhabited continents during his 104 pilgrimages, including eight visits to his homeland. Of immense importance were his actions in favour of strengthening the spirit of ecumenism. He was the first Pope ever to appear in a Jewish synagogue and to pray with Muslims in mosques. He issued fourteen encyclicals, many of them of crucial significance to the Church. The pontificate of John Paul II was one of the longest (outdone only by St. Peter and the Blessed Pope Pius IX) and lasted until his death on 2nd April 2005.