Christened Karol Józef Wojtyła, Pope John Paul II was born in the Polish town of Waldowice, in 1920. His mother died young, but Karol was very close to his father a doctor. The young Karol was something of an athlete when young, and led a very active social life. At University, he was interested in amateur dramatics. However, he was deeply religious.
During the Nazi occupation of Poland during World War II, he was forced to work as a slave laborer. During and after the war, he displayed great bravery and kindness towards refugees, including Jews fleeing the Holocaust. When his father died, he began to seriously think about the priesthood. He began studying to be a priest in 1944, and was ordained in 1946.
St. John Paul was a gifted theologian and teacher. As a young priest, he discovered that he had a gift for inspiring the young with zeal for God. He was to continue to do so even as Pope.
His brilliance as a theologian led to his quickly being elevated first to Bishop, then Archbishop. In 1967, the future John Paul II was elected to the College of Cardinals. He stoutly defended Catholicism against the Polish Communist Government.
In 1978, Pope John Paul II was elected Pope. He immediately transformed the image of the Pope and traveled throughout the world.
The Pope helped to inspire the anti-Communist movement in his homeland. This was to indirectly lead to the fall of Communism. He was also a champion of traditional Catholic values and doctrines.
In 1981, there was an attempt on the Pope’s life. John Paul II was critically wounded by a Turkish terrorist who was probably working as a Communist agent. The Pope survived, and, in 1983, visited his would-be assassin in prison and forgave him in an inspiring display of Christian love.
In 2001 the Pope was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, which he bore bravely, inspiring many.
Pope John Paul II was associated with several miracles.
A bed ridden French nun was stricken with Parkinson’s, but upon praying to Pope John Paul II she was cured. Today she is working in a hospital.
On the fourth anniversary of John Paul II's death, a boy seriously ill with cancer was brought to the Vatican. After praying to the dead Pope, he recovered his health and was cured.
Pope John Paul championed Catholicism against a range of opponents, including communists and secularists:
“This is no time to be ashamed of the Gospel.”
Pope John Paul believed that love and understanding were key:
“The worst prison would be a closed heart.”
Pope John Paul died in 2005, to the great sadness of all. In 2013, he was canonized, and continues to inspire Catholics and non-Catholics alike to this day.