Pope John Paul II is Born

The Venerable Pope John Paul II (Polish: Jan Paweł II, Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II), born Karol Józef Wojtyła (pronounced [ˈkaɾɔl ˈjuzɛv vɔi̯ˈtɨwa] ( listen); 18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) served as Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death almost 27 years later. His was the second-longest pontificate; only Pope Pius IX served longer (St Peter the Apostle is reputed to have served for more than thirty years as the first pontiff; however documentation is too sparse to definitively support this). He has been the only Polish Pope to date, and was the first non-Italian Pope since Dutch Pope Adrian VI in the 1520s.

Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on 18 May 1920 in Wadowice near the city of Kraków in southern Poland, son of a former officer in the Austrian Habsburg army whose name was also Karol Wojtyła, and Emilia Kaczorowska. According to a now very popular Wadowice legend, Emilia used to tell fellow townsfolk that her Karol would be "a great man one day." As a child Karol was called Lolek by friends and family.

His mother died in childbirth in 1929. On hearing of her death, he composed himself and said, "It was God's will." After Emilia's death, his father, an intensely religious man who did most of the housework, brought up Karol so that he could study.