The most recognised man in the world, His Holiness Pope John Paul II was born in Wadowice, Poland on the 18th May, 1920.
When he was born he was given the name Karol Jozef Wojtyla, Karol after his father and Jozef after the father of Jesus Christ. He was referred to affectionately as Lolek.
By the age of 21 the Pope had experienced great loss with the deaths of all the immediate members of his family.
His mother died when he was only 8 years old, his elder brother, a doctor, when he was 12 and his father when he was just 21. His father had dreamed of seeing his son enter the priesthood, but unfortunately he did not live to see him become a priest.
As a schoolboy the Pope was an excellent student and an enthusiastic athlete – he skied, hiked, kayaked and swam.
The Pope’s family were strict Catholics, but he had Christian friends and Jewish friends – in a time when many behaved in a racist manner towards Jewish people.
After graduating from high school the Pope attended the university in Krakow. While at university studying Literature and Philosophy, he also joined a theatre company.
In 1939 Nazi Germany invaded Poland. The Nazis closed libraries, and universities – including the one where the Pope studied. They shot people for going to the theatre and even for speaking the Polish language. They even shot priests who opposed them. The Pope also saw his Jewish friends and neighbours being herded into the ghetto. During this time the Pope worked in a quarry and a chemical factory while he studied Theology in secret.
“Any day I could have been picked up on the street, at the factory or at the stone quarry and sent to a concentration camp. Sometimes I asked myself: ‘So many people at my age were losing their lives, why not me?’”.
When the Seminary in Krakow re-opened after the war the Pope continued his studies and he was ordained on the 1st November, 1946. Learning was important to the Pope and over the next few years he obtained a number of degrees.
As a young priest in Poland the Pope defied the Communist authorities. Privately he advised and encouraged political activists. He developed a Catholic newspaper that conveyed views that opposed those of the communist government. He founded secret clubs for Catholic intellectuals and ran an underground seminary for future priests from ne...
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...cognised their importance to the Holy Catholic Church by instituting World Youth day. The first gathering was in 1984 when he invited the youth to gather in Rome for a special celebration - an international jubilee of youth. The following year he invited the youth to come again to celebrate the United Nations International Year of Youth. He was so overwhelmed by the numbers that came that he decided to make it a regular celebration. World Youth Day is held every two years. This year the celebration is being held in Cologne, Germany.
The Pope had a large capacity to forgive. In 1981 he was shot in an assassination attempt. The Pope visited his would-be assassinator in gaol offering him his forgiveness.
Throughout his 26 papacy he worked tirelessly for mankind to bring peace and justice to the world. He reminded us of the value of individuals in the modern world.
In recent years we have seen the Pope struggle as his health has failed him, but he continued to meet the daily challenges of life. It was this humanity, his warmth as a human being and his ability to talk plainly that made people feel close to him, and this is why so many mourn throughout the world at this time.
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