, Formerly Karol Józef Wojtyla
Born: 18th May 1920 in Wadowice, Poland
Died: 2nd April 2005 in Vatican City
Pope: 16th October 1978 - 2nd April 2005
Youth of Pope John Paul II
Wojtyla was born and raised in Poland during a rare period of national freedom which ended, initially, under Nazi occupation, and then Communist rule. Instilled with a firm religious belief by his father, Wojtyla attended school and then Jagiellonian University, where he balanced studies with an interest in acting and religiously inspired poetry. Although Wojtyla's family initially fled during World War II, the Russian invasion prompted him to return home and study in secret, taking a labourer's job to avoid deportation. A firsthand witness to the cruelty of Nazi occupation, Wojtyla joined a cultural resistance movement, where be began studying for the priesthood.
Early Church Work
Wojtyla was ordained in 1946 and over the next few years wrote doctrinal texts, pursued a higher level of education, taught Catholicism and encouraged religious freedom. The result was a professorship in Lublin, a body of work that influenced the reforms of Pope Paul VI and a reputation for promoting and supporting his church in an oppressive Soviet regime. Elevation to auxiliary bishop soon followed, and while contributing to the 'Second Vatican Council' in 1963 he was made archbishop of Krakow. Four years later, in 1967, he was made a cardinal. During the next few years Wojtyla worked ceaselessly in Poland, gaining concessions from the communist government and widespread support from the public whilst also contributing to Vatican policy.
Pope John Paul II
Karol Wojtyla was elected as Pope in 1978, bocamming the third that year, and the first non-Italian to hold the office since Hadrian VI, 455 years earlier. The short rule of John Paul I may have figured heavily in the conclave's choice of Wojtyla - who was a comparatively young 58 - but Karol had received votes in 1978's...