Saint John Paul II
Wadowice, Poland, May 18, 1920
Vatican City, April 2, 2005
Pope Benedict XVI beatified him on May 1, 2011.
Pope Francis canonized him on April 27, 2014.
He was elected Pope on October 16, 1978.
The following is the biography of John Paul II as found on the official webpage of the Vatican: www.vatican.va.
Karol Józef Wojtyła, elected Pope on October 16, 1978, was born in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920. He was the third of three children born to Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska, who died in 1929. His elder brother Edmund, a physician, died in 1932, and his father, a non-commissioned officer in the army, died in 1941.
Karol was nine years old when he received his First Communion and eighteen when he received the Sacrament of Confirmation. After completing high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in the Jagellonian University of Krakow in 1938.
When the occupying Nazi forces closed the University in 1939, Karol worked (1940-1944) in a quarry and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn a living and to avoid deportation to Germany.
Feeling called to the priesthood, he began his studies in 1942 in the clandestine major seminary of Krakow directed by the Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha. During that time, he was one of the organizers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre", which was also clandestine.
After the war, Karol continued his studies in the major seminary, newly reopened, and in the school of theology at the Jagellonian University, until his priestly ordination in Krakow on November 1, 1946. Father Wojtyła was then sent by Cardinal Sapieha to Rome, where he attained a doctorate in theology (1948). He wrote his dissertation on faith as understood in the works of Saint John of the Cross. While a student in Rome, he spent his vacations exercising pastoral ministry among Polish emigrants in France, Belgium and Holland.
In 1948, Father Wojtyła returned to Poland and was appointed a curate in the parish church of Niegowić, near Krakow, and later at Saint Florian in the city. He was a university chaplain until 1951, when he again undertook studies in philosophy and theology. In 1953, Father Wojtyła presented a dissertation at the Jagellonian University of Krakow on the possibility of grounding a Christian ethic on the ethical system developed by Max Scheler. Later he became professor of moral theology and ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the theology faculty of Lublin.
On July 4, 1958, Pope Pius XII appointed Father Wojtyła auxiliary bishop of Krakow, with the titular see of Ombi. Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak ordained him in Wawel Cathedral (Krakow) on September 28, 1958.
On January 13, 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Wojtyła as Archbishop of Krakow and subsequently, on June 26, 1967, made him a Cardinal.
Bishop Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and made a significant contribution to the drafting of the Constitution Gaudium et Spes. He also took part in the five assemblies of the Synod of Bishops prior to the start of his Pontificate.
On October 16, 1978, Cardinal Wojtyła was elected Pope and on October 22 he began his ministry as universal Pastor of the Church.
Pope John Paul II made 146 pastoral visits in Italy and, as the Bishop of Rome, he visited 317 of the current 322 Roman parishes. His international apostolic journeys numbered 104 and were expressions of the constant pastoral solicitude of the Successor of Peter for all the Churches.
His principal documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions and 45 Apostolic Letters. He also wrote five books: Crossing the Threshold of Hope (October 1994); Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination (November 1996); Roman Triptych, meditations in poetry (March 2003); Rise, Let Us Be on Our Way (May 2004) and Memory and Identity (February 2005).
Pope John Paul II celebrated 147 beatifications, during which he proclaimed 1,338 blesseds, and 51 canonizations, for a total of 482 saints. He called 9 consistories, in which he created 231 Cardinals (plus one in pectore). He also presided at 6 plenary meetings of the College of Cardinals.
From 1978, Pope John Paul II convoked 15 assemblies of the Synod of Bishops: 6 ordinary general sessions (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2001), 1 extraordinary general session (1985) and 8 special sessions (1980, 1991, 1994,1995,1997,1998 and 1999).
On May 13, 1981, an attempt was made on Pope John Paul II's life in Saint Peter's Square. Saved by the maternal hand of the Mother of God, following a lengthy stay in the hospital, he forgave the attempted assassin and, aware of having received a great gift, intensified his pastoral commitments with heroic generosity.
Pope John Paul II also demonstrated his pastoral concern by erecting numerous dioceses and ecclesiastical circumscriptions, and by promulgating Codes of Canon Law for the Latin and the Oriental Churches, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He proclaimed the Year of Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist as well as the Great Jubilee Year of 2000, in order to provide the People of God with particularly intense spiritual experiences. He also attracted young people by beginning the celebration of World Youth Day.
No other Pope met as many people as Pope John Paul II. More than 17.6 million pilgrims attended his Wednesday General Audiences (which numbered over 1,160). This does not include any of the other special audiences and religious ceremonies (more than 8 million pilgrims in the Great Jubilee Year of 2000 alone). He met millions of the faithful in the course of his pastoral visits in Italy and throughout the world. He also received numerous government officials in audience, including 38 official visits and 738 audiences and meetings with Heads of State, as well as 246 audiences and meetings with Prime Ministers.
Pope John Paul II died in the Apostolic Palace at 9:37 p.m. on Saturday, April 2, 2005, the vigil of Sunday in albis or Divine Mercy Sunday, which he had instituted. On April 8, his solemn funeral was celebrated in Saint Peter's Square and he was buried in the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica.
John Paul II was beatified in Saint Peter's Square on May 1, 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI, his immediate successor and for many years his valued collaborator as Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.
He was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, 2014.
We can see that St. John Paul II is a Eucharistic saint when we consider his fervent devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament. The videos of him in the Corpus Christi processions during his pontificate speak for themselves; it is clear that he had a very personal relationship with Jesus in the Eucharist.
It would be difficult to select a paragraph or specific text by the saint about the Eucharist because they are so numerous. The most fundamental work would be his encyclical letter “Ecclesia de Eucharistia.”
He also gave many homilies about the Eucharist, especially on Holy Thursday and Corpus Christi, which can be read on the official Vatican website.
In addition to being a Eucharistic saint, John Paul II is also very Marian. Since his youth, he submerged himself in the Marian spirituality of St. Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort and St. Alphonsus Marie Liguori. He related to Mary like a son to his mother. On many occasions, he encouraged us to enter into what he called “the school of Mary,” that is, to penetrate into the depths of Our Mother’s Heart to learn from her how to see like she did, how to act like she did, how to think like she did, how to love like she did.
Among the numerous Marian writings of St. John Paul II, we can highlight the encyclical letter “Redemptoris Mater” and the series of catechesis he dedicated to the Virgin Mary during Wednesday audiences, from September 6, 1995 to September 17, 1998, and which can be found on the official Vatican website.
St. John Paul II’s body is buried in St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican.
In Poland, there are several places to visit:
-Wadowice, where the house in which John Paul II was born, along with a museum with items from his childhood and youth. The baptismal font used for his baptism is conserved in the Basilica of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary
-Cracow, where John Paul II lived as a student when he was 18 years old, and later, as an archbishop. He celebrated his first mass in that city in the Church of St. Stanislaw of Kostka. He collaborated in the Basilica of St. Florin as the Parish Vicar.
-Shrine of Czestochowa: John Paul II often visited this Marian shrine to venerate Our Lady.
From the Saint:
St. John Paul II’s magisterial interventions are very numerous. They have been published by many editorials in all the major languages and can be found on the official website of the Vatican: encyclicals, homilies, speeches, apostolic exhortations, catechesis, etc.
In addition to his magisterium, John Paul II wrote several books before and during his pontificate, such as:
-Love and Responsibility: a study about sexual morals written when he was an archbishop.
-Gift and Mystery: written on his 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination. He writes about his vocation and his experience of the priesthood.
-Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way: written on his 25th anniversary of his Episcopal ordination. He reflects upon his ministry as a bishop.
-Memory and Identity: a reflection upon several crucial topics for humanity in the beginning of the third millennium.
-Crossing the Threshold of Hope: an interview of John Paul II by a journalist named Vittorio Messori.
From the Popes:
-Homily of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI) during the funeral Mass of John Paul II on April 8, 2005.
-Homiliy of Pope Benedict XVI on the beatification of Pope John Paul II, May 1, 2011.
-Homily of Pope Francis on the canonization of Pope John Paul II, April 27, 2014.
From other authors:
Why He Is a Saint: The Life and Faith of Pope John Paul II and the Case for Canonization by Slawomir Oder (Ed. Rizzoli).