Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II

The Venerable Pope John Paul II Latin: Sevorum Dei Ioannes Paulus P.P. II), born Karol Józef Wojtyla (May 18 1920 - April 2 2005), was (The head of the Roman Catholic Church) Pope of the (The Christian Church based in the Vatican and presided over by a pope and an episcopal hierarchy) Roman Catholic Church for almost 27 years, from 16 October 1978 until his death.

He was the first non-Italian to serve in office since the (The West Germanic language of the Netherlands) Dutch- (A person of German nationality) German Pope Adrian VI died in 1523. John Paul II's reign was the third-longest in the history of the Papacy, after those of (Disciple of Jesus and leader of the apostles; regarded by Catholics as the vicar of Christ on earth and first Pope) Saint Peter (about 35 years) and Blessed Pius IX (31 years). This is in a distinctive contrast with that of his predecessor Pope John Paul I, who died suddenly after only 33 days in office, and in whose memory John Paul II named himself. The reign was marked by a continuing decline of Catholicism in industrialized nations and expansion in the (Underdeveloped and developing countries of Asia and Africa and Latin America collectively) third world.

Pope John Paul II emphasized what he called the universal call to holiness and attempted to define the Catholic Church's role in the modern world. He spoke out against ideologies and politics of (A political theory favoring collectivism in a classless society) communism, (A doctrine that advocates equal rights for women) feminism, (A policy of extending your rule over foreign countries) imperialism, ((philosophy) the philosophical doctrine that all criteria of judgment are relative to the individuals and situations involved) relativism, ((philosophy) the philosophical theory that matter is the only reality) materialism, (A political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism)) fascism (including (A form of socialism featuring racism and expansionism) nazism), (The prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races) racism and unrestrained (An economic system based on private ownership of capital) capitalism. In many ways, he fought against (A feeling of being oppressed) oppression, (A doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations) secularism and (The state of having little or no money and few or no material possessions) poverty. Although he was on friendly terms with many Western heads of state and leading citizens, he reserved a special opprobrium for what he believed to be the corrosive spiritual effects of modern Western (A movement advocating greater protection of the interests of consumers) consumerism and the concomitant widespread secular and hedonistic orientation of Western populations.

He affirmed, explained and defined Catholic teachings on life by opposing (Termination of pregnancy) abortion, (Birth control by the use of devices (diaphragm or intrauterine device or condom) or drugs or surgery) contraception, (Putting a condemned person to death) capital punishment, embryonic (Research on stem cells and their use in medicine) stem-cell research, human cloning, (The act of killing someone painlessly (especially someone suffering from an incurable illness)) euthanasia, (The waging of armed conflict against an enemy) war and accepted ((biology) the sequence of events involved in the evolutionary development of a species or taxonomic group of organisms) evolution. He also defended traditional teachings on (The state of being a married couple voluntarily joined for life (or until divorce)) marriage and (The overt expression of attitudes that indicate to others the degree of your maleness or femaleness) gender roles by opposing (The legal dissolution of a marriage) divorce, (Two people of the same sex who live together as a family) same-sex marriage and the ordination of women. Defending Roman Catholic positions on sexual orientation he affirmed that all humans are naturally heterosexual, rejecting mainstream (A particular branch of scientific knowledge) science and opposing gay-rights. He dissented from the modern understanding of separation of church and state by calling upon Catholics to vote according to their beliefs, even if they were based on their religion and suggested that politicians who strayed be denied the (A Christian sacrament commemorating the Last Supper by consecrating bread and wine) eucharist.

John Paul became known as the "Pilgrim Pope" for having travelled greater distances than had all his predecessors combined. According to John Paul II, the trips symbolized bridge-building efforts (in keeping with his title as "Pontifex Maximus", literally "Master Bridge Builder") between nations and religions, attempting to remove divisions created through history.

It is reported that as of October 2004, he had beatified 1,340 people, more people than any previous pope. The Vatican asserts he canonized more people than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries, and from a far greater variety of cultures. Whether he had canonised more saints than all previous popes put together, as is sometimes also claimed, is difficult to prove, as the records of many early canonisations are incomplete, missing or inaccurate. However, it is known that his abolition of the office of Promotor Fidei (Promoter of the Faith, a.k.a. Devil's Advocate) streamlined the canonisation process.

Pope John Paul II died on 2 April, 2005 after a long fight against Parkinson's disease and other illnesses. Immediately after his death, many of his followers demanded that he be elevated to (Saints collectively) sainthood as soon as possible, shouting "Santo Subito". Both L'Osservatore Romano and Pope Benedict XVI, Pope John Paul II's successor, referred to John Paul II as "great". Six weeks later, on May 13, Pope Benedict formally opened the cause for ((Roman Catholic Church) an act of the Pope who declares that a deceased person lived a holy life and is worthy of public veneration; a first step toward canonization) beatification for his predecessor, which now allows Catholics to refer to Pope John Paul as "Servant of God".

John Paul was succeeded by the Dean of the ((Roman Catholic Church) the body of cardinals who advise the Pope and elect new Popes) College of Cardinals, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger of (A republic in central Europe; split into East German and West Germany after World War II and reunited in 1990) Germany, the former head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith who had led the funeral mass for John Paul.

Biography of Pope John Paul II.

Early life

Karol Józef Wojtyla was born on 18 May, 1920 in Wadowice in southern (A republic in central Europe; the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939 started World War II) Poland. His mother died in 1929, and his father supported him so that he could study. His youth was marked by intensive contacts with the then thriving (A person belonging to the worldwide group claiming descent from Jacob (or converted to it) and connected by cultural or religious ties) Jewish community of Wadowice.

Karol enrolled at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. He worked as a volunteer librarian and did compulsory military training in the Academic Legion. In his youth, he was an (A person trained to compete in sports) athlete, (A theatrical performer) actor, and (Someone who writes plays) playwright, and he learned as many as eleven (A systematic means of communicating by the use of sounds or conventional symbols) languages.

During the Second World War, academics of the Jagiellonian University were arrested and the university suppressed. All able-bodied males had to have a job. He variously worked as a messenger for a restaurant and a manual labourer in a limestone quarry.

Church careerIn 1942, he entered the underground seminary run by the Archbishop of (An industrial city in southern Poland on the Vistula) Kraków, Cardinal Sapieha. Karol Wojtyla was ordained a (A clergyman in Christian churches who has the authority to perform or administer various religious rites; one of the Holy Orders) priest on 1 November 1946.

On 4 July 1958, Pope Pius XII named him titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary to Archbishop Baziak, apostolic administrator of the Archdiocese of (An industrial city in southern Poland on the Vistula) Kraków. Karol Wojtyla found himself, at thirty-eight, the youngest (A clergyman having spiritual and administrative authority; appointed in Christian churches to oversee priests or ministers; considered in some churches to be successors of the twelve apostles of Christ) bishop in (A republic in central Europe; the invasion of Poland by Germany in 1939 started World War II) Poland.

In 1962, Bishop Karol Wojtyla took part in the Second Vatican Council, and in December 1963,) Pope Paul VI appointed him (A bishop of highest rank) Archbishop of (An industrial city in southern Poland on the Vistula) Kraków. Pope Paul VI elevated him to ((Roman Catholic Church) one of a group of more than 100 prominent bishops in the Sacred College who advise the Pope and elect new Popes) cardinal in 1967.

A Pope from PolandIn August 1978, following Paul's death, he voted in the Papal Conclave that elected Pope John Paul I, who, at 65, was considered a young man by papal standards. Nobody could have expected that his second conclave would come so soon, for on 28 September 1978, after only 33 days as Pope, (The first Pope to assume a double name; he reigned for only 34 days (1912-1978)) John Paul I was discovered dead in the papal apartments.

Voting in the second conclave was divided between two particularly strong candidates: Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, the Archbishop of (A seaport in northwestern Italy; provincial capital of Liguria) Genoa, and Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, the Archbishop of (A town in northeast South Carolina; transportation center) Florence and a close associate of Pope John Paul I. In early ballots, Benelli came within nine votes of victory. However Wojtyla secured election as a compromise candidate, in part through the support of Franz Cardinal König and others who had previously supported Giuseppe Cardinal Siri.

He became the 264th Pope according to the Vatican (265th according to sources that count Pope Stephen II). At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest pope elected since Pope Pius IX in 1846.

Like his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II dispensed with the traditional Papal Coronation and instead received ecclesiastical investiture with the simplified Papal Inauguration.

Assassination attempts On 13 May 1981, John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca, a (A Turkic language spoken by the Turks) Turkish gunman, as he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience. Agca was eventually sentenced to (A sentence of imprisonment until death) life imprisonment. Two days after (A Christian holiday celebrating the birth of Christ; a quarter day in England, Wales, and Ireland) Christmas 1983, John Paul visited the prison where his would-be assassin was being held. The two spoke privately for some time. John Paul II said "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust".

Another assassination attempt took place on 12 May, 1982, in Fatima, Portugal when a man tried to stab John Paul II with a (A knife that can be fixed to the end of a rifle and used as a weapon) bayonet, but was stopped by security guards. The assailant, an ultraconservative Spanish (A clergyman in Christian churches who has the authority to perform or administer various religious rites; one of the Holy Orders) priest named Juan María Fernández y Krohn, reportedly opposed the reforms of the Second Vatican Council and called the pope an "agent of Moscow". He served a six-year sentence, followed by his expulsion from Portugal.

Health John Paul II entered the papacy as a healthy, relatively young man of 58, who hiked, swam and went skiing. However, after over twenty-five years on the papal throne, two assassination attempts (one of which resulted in severe physical injury to the Pope), and a number of (Type genus of the family Cancridae) cancer scares, John Paul's physical health declined.

The 1981 assassination attempt was costlier to his overall health than was generally known by the public at the time. On the operating table his blood pressure fell dangerously low and his heartbeat was extremely weak, prompting a doctor to advise administration of the (A Catholic sacrament; a priest anoints a dying person with oil and prays for salvation) Anointing of the Sick (formerly known as "(Rites performed in connection with a death or burial) Last Rites"). There were difficulties with blood transfusions and it is believed (Any of a group of herpes viruses that enlarge epitheltial cells and can cause birth defects; can affect humans with impaired immunological systems) cytomegalovirus (CMV) was transmitted, complicating recovery. The bullet had passed completely through the body, puncturing the stomach and necessitating a (A surgical operation that creates an opening from the colon to the surface of the body to function as an anus) colostomy. Seven weeks later, discussions were held about reversing the colostomy and eight of nine doctors voted against it, arguing the Pope was still too weak from the CMV infection. Saying "I don't want to continue half dead and half alive", the Pope effectively overruled his physicians and the reversal was done successfully on August 5, 1981.

An orthopaedic surgeon confirmed in 2001 that Pope John Paul II was suffering from Parkinson's disease, as international observers had suspected for some time; this was acknowledged publicly by the Vatican in 2003. Despite difficulty speaking more than a few sentences at a time, trouble hearing and severe (Inflammation of a joint or joints) arthritis, he continued to tour the world, although rarely walking in public. Those who met him late in his life said that although physically he was in poor shape, mentally he remained fully alert.

However that claim was disputed by among others Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mary McAleese, the (Click link for more info and facts about President of Ireland) President of Ireland, in their accounts of meetings with him in 2003. After John Paul II's death, Williams told the Sunday Times of a meeting with the Pope, during which he had paid tribute to one of John Paul's (A letter from the pope sent to all Roman Catholic bishops throughout the world) encyclicals. According to Williams, John Paul II showed no recognition. An aide whispered in the pope's ear, but was overheard reminding John Paul about the encyclical. However the Pope still showed no recognition. Papal historian John Cornwell recounted from other sources that, after Williams and his entourage left, the Pope turned to an aide and asked "tell me, who were those people". Mary McAleese told the British Catholic newspaper The Universe of a visit as President of Ireland to John Paul where he struggled to talk about the Irish College in Rome, where Irish seminarians in the city are trained and to which the Pope prior to his election had often travelled".He wanted to be reminded of where the Irish College was, and when he heard that it was very close to St. John Lateran's basilica he wanted to be reminded where that was too".

On 1 February, 2005, the Pope was taken to the Gemelli Hospital in (Capital and largest city of Italy; on the Tiber; seat of the Roman Catholic Church; formerly the capital of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire) Rome suffering from acute inflammation of the (A cartilaginous structure at the top of the trachea; contains elastic vocal cords that are the source of the vocal tone in speech) larynx, brought on by a bout of (An acute febrile highly contagious viral disease) influenza. He was released, but in late February 2005 he began having trouble breathing, and he was rushed back. A (A surgical operation that creates an opening into the trachea with a tube inserted to provide a passage for air; performed when the pharynx is obstructed by edema or cancer or other causes) tracheotomy was performed. His doctors advised him not to try speaking.

On Palm Sunday (20 March) the Pope made a brief appearance at his window and silently waved an olive branch to pilgrims. Two days later there were renewed concerns for his health after reports stated that he had taken a turn for the worse and was not responding to medication. By the end of the month, speculation was growing, and was finally confirmed by the Vatican officials, that he was nearing death.

Death On 31 March, 2005 the Pope developed a "very high fever" (BBC News, 1 April, 2005), but was neither rushed to the hospital, nor offered life support, apparently in accordance with his wishes to die in the Vatican. Later that day, Vatican sources announced that John Paul II had been given the (A Catholic sacrament; a priest anoints a dying person with oil and prays for salvation) Anointing of the Sick. During the final days of the Pope's life, the lights were kept burning through the night where he lay in the Papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace.

Thousands of people rushed to the Vatican, filling St Peter's Square and beyond, and held vigil for two days. In his private apartments, at 21:37 CEST (19:37 (Greenwich Mean Time updated with leap seconds) UTC) on 2 April, Pope John Paul II died 46 days short of his 85th birthday.

A crowd of over two million within Vatican City, over one billion Catholics world-wide, and many non-Catholics mourned John Paul II. The Poles, who had a deep sense of devotion towards the pontiff and referred to him as their "father" were particularly devastated by his death. The massive gathering of young people at the funeral of Pope John Paul II was referred to on the BBC as Holy Woodstock. The public viewing of his body in St. Peter's Basilica drew over four million people to Vatican City and was one of the largest (A journey to a sacred place) pilgrimages in the history of Christianity. Many world leaders expressed their condolences and ordered flags in their countries lowered to half-mast. Numerous countries with a Catholic majority, and even some with only a small Catholic population, declared mourning for John Paul II.

Funeral of Pope John Paul II.

The death of Pope John Paul II set into motion (Any customary observance or practice) rituals and traditions dating back to medieval times. The Rite of Visitation took place from 4 April and extended through the morning of 8 April at St. Peter's Basilica. So many people came to see him in state that the line had to be cut off with many people still waiting. On 8 April, the Mass of Requiem was conducted by the Dean of the College of Cardinals, Josef Cardinal Ratzinger (who would become the next pope).

John Paul II was interred in the grottoes under the basilica, the Tomb of the Popes. He was lowered into the (A place for the burial of a corpse (especially beneath the ground and marked by a tombstone)) tomb that had been occupied by the remains of Blessed Pope John XXIII, but which had been empty since his remains had been moved into the main body of the basilica after his ((Roman Catholic Church) an act of the Pope who declares that a deceased person lived a holy life and is worthy of public veneration; a first step toward canonization) beatification by John Paul II in 2003.