Karol Wojtyła / Pope John Paul II

Kuba Orłoś
Author: Kuba Orłoś
Young Talent Management

The Millennial Pope



So far John Paul II has been the first and the only pope descending from Poland. His pontificate, which lasted, is the third longest one on the record. However, what makes it significant is not just its length, but also what was achieved during its time. Arguably, what contributed to John Paul II becoming one of the most influential and well-recognized Popes of all time, was not only his skill to communicate and work well with various world leaders, but also his ability to fulfill his apostolic duty in an era when faith is very often abandoned by the young generation.


Many years before John Paul II, there was a man called Karol Wojtyła. Wojtyła was born on 18th May 1920 in Wadowice, where he was raised by his parents, Karol and Emilia. It was his father who brought his son up in a religious tone, as he was very committed to faith himself. Wojtyła had lived in Wadowice until 1938, when he graduated from the local  high  school and decided to move to Cracow to study Polish literature. Unfortunately he never finished his studies  due to outbreak of the Second World War in September 1939, which forced him to abandon higher education, which he had begun a year earlier. To survive amidst the hardships of the occupied Poland, in 1940 Wojtyła started to work as a physical worker in a stone pit, among other places. However,  he would not limit himself to work only , as he had many fields of interest. For example he got involved in so-called “Rhapsody Theatre” – established by Mieczysław Kotlarczyk. He also deepened his faith by attending the Living Rosary group. The group, run by Jan Tyranowski, eventually led the future pope to the decision of becoming a cleric in 1942.


In August 1946 Wojtyła finished four-year-long  theological studies with the best grade possible. Nevertheless it was not the end of his theological education. After finishing the first stage of education and getting ordained, he headed to Rome to take up studies at the Papal University – Angelicum. After finishing his Italian education, Wojtyła returned to his motherland, where he was appointed to run his first parish in a small town called Niegowica. Very soon he was moved to a much bigger parish in Cracow, where he was to stay for many years to follow, living an extremely busy life. A pastor of the academics, a lecturer of Philosophy  at the Jagiellonian University , a poet and playwright, a friend of intellectuals, a boatman and a skier, he showed the way of combining a modern lifestyle with active faith.


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John Paul II with Ronald Reagan

An important factor, which  led to the Wojtyła’s election as Pope, was his participation in the 2nd Vatican Council  between 1962-1963, 5 years after his promotion to office of a bishop . Thanks to his great fluency in Latin  as well as outstanding theological knowledge Wojtyła was able to contribute significant part in discussion, earning much recognition within the Christian community around the world.


Subsequently he began  to climb up the ladder of the Polish church structure as well. His excellent expertise and great commitment within Cracow’s Christian community resulted in the   election of Wojtyła as a new Archbishop in 1964, and later, as a Cardinal  in 1967. Since then Wojtyła had constantly been reasserting his position, joining  numerous  high-rank international church organizations.


Wojtyła was elected Pope on 16th of October 1978, adopting John Paul II as his new name, which was a tribute to his predecessor – John Paul I, who had died after serving only 33 days as a Holy Father. John Paul II has made a name for himself as a patron of youth, establishing World Youth Days, which gathered over 23 million attendants during 15 events all around the world between 1989-2016. Despite having loads of friends, he could not run from his enemies – on 13th May 1981 John Paul II was shot by an assassin. The lucky escape allowed Wojtyła to continue his pontificate as an for many upcoming years.

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John Paul II during his visit to Chicago (1979)


In 1989 he saw the crowning glory of his life’s work: the fall of Berlin Wall and the defeat  of Communism.


John Paul II died on 4th May 2005. After his death he has been called by many commentators “The Great” or “The Traveler” – as, during his pontificate, the Pole has held over 100 pilgrimages outside Italy. John Paul II was beatified in 2011 and announced saint 3 years later.




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