JOHN PAUL II was the first non-Italian pope since 1523, whose energetic, active approach to his office, unprecedented world travel, and firm religious conservatism have enhanced the importance of the papacy in both the Roman Catholic church and the non-Catholic world. The pope is also the head of the independent state of Vatican City.
Born Karol Wojty³a on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland, he studied poetry and drama at the University of Kraków. During World War II he worked in a stone quarry and in a chemical factory while preparing for the priesthood. Ordained in 1946, he earned a doctorate in theology at Rome's Angelicum Institute in 1948. Until he became auxiliary bishop of Kraków in 1958, he was a university chaplain and taught ethics at Kraków and Lublin. His philosophical approach, which integrated the methods and insights of phenomenology with Thomistic philosophy, owed much to the 20th-century German thinker Max Scheler.
In 1964 Wojty³a became archbishop of Kraków and in 1967 a cardinal. An active participant in the Second Vatican Council, he also represented Poland in five international bishops' synods between 1967 and 1977.
John Paul II was elected pope on Oct. 16, 1978, succeeding John Paul I. On May 13, 1981, he was shot at close range and severely wounded in an assassination attempt as he entered Saint Peter's Square in the Vatican, but he made a full recovery.
Throughout the 1980s and '90s, John Paul II dealt forcefully with dissent within the church, reaffirming Roman Catholic teachings about homosexuality, abortion, artificial methods of human reproduction and birth control, and priestly celibacy. He resisted secularization in the church, although he endorsed the use of modern technologies such as the Internet to spread the church's messages. In redefining the responsibilities of laity, priests, and religious orders, he rejected ordination of women as priests and opposed direct political participation and office holding by priests. His initial ecumenical moves were toward Eastern Orthodoxy and Anglicanism, but his greatest achievement came on Oct. 31, 1999, when Catholics and Lutherans signed, at Augsburg, Germany, an accord ending the dispute over the doctrine of justification which sparked the Protestant Reformation 482 years earlier. During the same period, he also contributed to the restoration of democr...
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...erve the traditional Christian values of truth and morality as one entity (1993); reiteration of teachings about abortion, euthanasia, and capital punishment (1995); a plea for an end to the separation of faith and reason (1998); and the importance of the Eucharist (2003).
John Paul has published poetry and, under the pseudonym Andrzej Jawien, a play, The Jeweler's Shop (1960). His extensive ethical and theological writings include Love and Responsibility (1960); and Fruitful and Responsible Love and Sign of Contradiction—both published in 1979. His memoirs include Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994) and Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination (1996). A recording of the pope reciting and singing psalms in a variety of musical settings was issued in 1999 on the compact disc, Abba Pater, meaning “father” in Aramaic (abba) and Latin (pater). His book, Memory and Identity: Conversations Between the Millenniums, was published in early 2005.
John Paul died in his apartment in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican, on April 2, 2005.
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