Pope John Paul II, born Karol Jozef Wojtyla, was born on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, a small city near Krakow, Poland. He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla, Sr., a retired army officer and tailor, and Emilia Kaczorowska Wojtyla, a schoolteacher. During his childhood the Pope experienced many hardships, including the loss of his mother, Emilia, and his only brother, Edmund. His father died in 1941 when Karol was twenty.
As a teenager he enjoyed religion, poetry and theater. In 1938, he enrolled at Krakows Jagiellonian University to study literature and philosophy. However, the Nazi occupation closed the University in 1939, forcing him to work in a quarry and chemical factory, avoiding deportation to Germany.
Recognizing his call to the priesthood, Karol began courses in the Clandestine Seminary of Krakow in 1942. At the end of W.W.II, he resumed his studies at Jagiellonian University. He was ordained a priest on November 1, 1946 and later studied at Romes Angelicum Univeristy.
Upon his return to Poland from Rome, he was vicar of various parishes in Krakow as well as chaplain for university students until 1951, when he resumed his studies of philosophy and theology. Fr. Wojtyla became a professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin Catholic Univeristy.
Pope Pius XII appointed his as Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow in 1958. In 1964, he was nominated Archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who later elevated him a cardinal in 1967. Cardinal Wojtyla was one of the youngest cardinals in the Church and a moderate reformer, with a strategy that honored the beliefs and traditions of Catholicism.
On October 16, 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was chosen by the Sacred College of Cardinals as the successor of Pope John Paul I. He became the first Slavic pope and the youngest pope in 132 years. He immediately embarked on restoration of the Catholic Church, one grounded in the conservative tradition.
Pope John Paul II was a divine leader with sharp intellect, emotion and spirituality. He was welcome by Catholics and non-Catholics alike. He
was known for his political activism, most notably helping to end European Communism and defending human rights worldwide. The most traveled pope in history, he frequently used media and technology to communicate issues related to moral and ethical values and global affairs. Ultimately, Pope John Paul II’s strong belief in prayer, faith and traditionalism will be a legacy which will effect and inspire generations to come.
Note: The photograph used for the obituary was taken by Paul Diamond in April, 2004 at the weekly Papal Audience in Rome. Mr. Diamond was a member of a group led by Bishop George W. Coleman and Fr. Craig Preganna on a pilgrimage to Rome celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Diocese of Fall River.
Additional information may be found at: www.fallriver.diocese.org