Today, October 22, is the feast of Pope St. John Paul II, one of the most beloved popes of all time. He was born Karol Josef Wojtyla in Wadowice, a city 50 kilometers from Cracow, on May 18, 1920, to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. He was baptized on June 20, 1920, in the parish church of his town. He attended elementary and high school in Marcin Wadowita in Wadowice, after which, Karol enrolled in Krakow’s Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama until 1939 when the university closed. The young Karol had to work in a quarry for four years.
In his desire to answer his call to the priestly life, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Cracow in 1942. The seminary then was being run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, the Archbishop of Cracow. While studying for the priesthood, Karol Wojtyla was one of the pioneers of the “Rhapsodic Theatre,” also an underground organization. The major seminary of Cracow re-opened after the Second World War and Karol continued his studies in that institution and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University.
He was ordained to the priesthood on November 1, 1946, in Cracow. He sent by the Archbishop immediately after his ordination to Rome where he earned a doctorate in theology. After earning the degree, Fr. Karol was given a short assignment as assistant pastor in a rural parish followed by very fruitful chaplaincy for university students. He earned a doctorate in philosophy and began teaching at Poland’s University of Lublin. In 1958, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow. He was chosen to be a participant in all four sessions of Vatican II and contributed especially to its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World. In 1964, he was appointed Archbishop of Krakow and Paul VI named him a Cardinal three years after.
He was elected to the papacy after Pope John Paul I in September 28, 1978, and he took the name of his short-lived, immediate predecessor. He was the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years ago. During his Papacy, he wrote a total of 14 encyclicals, 13 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions and 42 apostolic letters. He presided at 138 beatification ceremonies at which 1,310 were proclaimed Blessed, and 48 canonization ceremonies for 469 Saints. He started initiatives that created a great impact on the church worldwide – World Youth Days. Annual Day of Prayer for World Peace in Assisi, and World Meeting of families. Pope Benedict XVI canonized him just nine years after his death, on the feast of Divine Mercy in April 27, 2014.
Pope St. John Paul II Quote on America
“America you are beautiful . . . and blessed . . . . The ultimate test of your greatness is the way you treat every human being, but especially the weakest and most defenseless. If you want equal justice for all and true freedom and lasting peace, then America, defend life.”
~Pope St. John Paul II
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