St. Pope John Paul II

Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Cracow was elected to the papacy on Oct. 16, 1978, the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI (1522-23) and the first Polish pope ever. He chose the name John Paul II in honor of his predecessor, Pope John Paul I, and Popes John XXIII and Paul VI. He began his papacy on Oct. 22 by telling the world, "Be not afraid"; his life showed everyone that to change the world, we must "cast into the deep for a great catch." Pope John Paul II died April 2, 2005, and he was declared blessed on May 1, 2011. He was declared a saint on April 27, 2014 along with Pope John XXIII. His feast day is October 22.

Read a detailed biography by Russell Shaw.

John Paul II Fast Facts

Name: Karol Josef Wojtyla
Date of birth: May 18, 1920
Birthplace: Wadowice, an industrial town near Cracow, Poland
Parents: Karol Wojtyla (administrative officer in Austrian army and lieutenant in Polish army) and Emilia Kaczorowska Wojtyla


Studied philosophy at the Jagiellonian University of Cracow
Underground seminary maintained by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha of Cracow and then at the Archbishop’s Residence
Advanced studies in Rome at the Angelicum University (the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas)
Doctorates in theology and philosophy

coat of arms

Papal Information

Name: Pope John Paul II
263rd successor of St. Peter
Motto: “Totus Tuus” (Totally yours)
Major themes: integrity of Catholic doctrine, Code of Canon Law, ecumenical and interreligious relations, women’s concerns, life issues, youth, Marian devotion, world affairs, administration
Promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church

Significant Events during Papacy

Fall of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989
Shot by Turkish terrorist on May 13, 1981
Visited 133 different countries
Proclaimed 1,338 blesseds and 482 saints
Wrote 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 45 Apostolic Letters

From Karol to John Paul II

Oct. 1942: Began studying for the priesthood at underground seminary
Nov. 1, 1946: Ordained a priest
Nov. 15, 1946: Left Poland to begin advanced studies in Rome
1948: Completed doctorate in theology
1948: Returned to Poland and served as vicar of various parishes in Cracow and university chaplain
1951: Returned to philosophy and theology studies
1953: Defended thesis at Lublin Catholic University
July 4, 1958: Appointed titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary of Cracow by Pope Pius XII
Sep. 28, 1958: Consecrated in Wawel Cathedral, Cracow, by Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak
1960: Published “Love and Responsibility”
1962: Became Vicar Capitular following Archbishop Baziak’s death
Jan. 13, 1964: Appointed Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI
1962-1965: Attended all four sessions of the Second Vatican Council
June 26, 1967: Made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI
1969: Participated in first extraordinary assembly of the Synod of Bishops
1971: Participated in second general assembly of the synod and was elected to council of secretary general
1972: Published “Foundations of Renewal: A Study on the Implementation of the Second Vatican Council”
Aug. 26, 1978: Participated in conclave that elected Pope John Paul I
Oct. 16, 1978: Elected to the papacy
Oct. 22, 1978: Inaugurated as pope

Saint Pope John Paul II Prayer Card
John Paul II Two Servants Two Saints
Blessed John Paul II Pope of Divine Mercy

Fun Facts

First non-Italian pope since Adrian VI (1522-23)
First Polish pope ever
Youngest pope since Pius IX (1846-78)
Third longest pontificate in history of the Church (nearly 27 years)
Most-traveled pope in history
First pope to visit a synagogue
First pope to visit a mosque
First pope to call for a day of pardon
First pope to add five new mysteries to the Rosary

Books as Pope

"Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (October 1994)
"Gift and Mystery: On the Fiftieth Anniversary of My Ordination" (November 1996)
"Roman Triptych" poetic meditations (March 2003)
"Arise, Let us Be Going" (May 2004)
"Memory and Identity" (February 2005)

Totus Tuus Listening to God John Paul II and the Meaning of Suffering John Paul II's Book of Saints