Feast day: October 22
Saint John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland. His mother, father, and older brother passed away before he turned 21. Karol attended Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Poland, but had to abandon his studies when World War II broke out.
During the war, Karol worked in a quarry, at a chemical factory, and joined an “underground” seminary. He was ordained a priest in 1946 and was sent to Rome to resume his studies, earning a doctorate in theology. After acting as assistant pastor in a rural parish and as a university chaplain, Wojtyla was selected auxiliary bishop of Kraków.
He was present at all four sessions of Vatican II and was an active contributor to its “Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World.” He was elected Pope in 1978 and took the name John Paul II. Pope John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope elected in 455 years.
He was a very active pope and made pastoral visits to 124 countries. During his papacy, Pope John Paul II wrote 14 encyclicals and five books, canonized 482 saints, and beatified 1,338 people. Notable events in his papacy include the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, his backing of the Solidarity movement in Poland, the start of World Youth Day, and his conversation with Mehmet Ali Agca, who had previously attempted to assassinate him. In his advanced age, Pope John Paul II suffered from Parkinson’s disease and had to limit his activities.
He was canonized on April 27, 2014.
(Image in public domain)