John Paul II is elected Pope

he Venerable Pope John Paul II (Polish: Jan Paweł II, Latin: Ioannes Paulus PP. II, Italian: Giovanni Paolo II), born Karol Józef Wojtyła; 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.
John Paul II has been widely acclaimed as one of the most influential leaders of the twentieth century. It is widely held that he was instrumental in ending communism in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe as well as significantly improving the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. Though criticised for his opposition to contraception and the ordination of women, as well as his support for the Second Vatican Council and its reform of the Liturgy, he has also been praised for his firm, orthodox Catholic stances in these areas.
He was one of the most-travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. He was fluent in many languages: Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Ukrainian, Russian, Croatian, Esperanto, Ancient Greek and Latin as well as his native Polish. He was also known to speak some Asian languages like Tagalog and Papuan. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he beatified 1,340 people and canonised 483 Saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries. On December 19th 2009 John Paul II was proclaimed "Venerable" by the Pope Benedict XVI.

He revolutionized the modern papacy. Where previous pontiffs remained distant, never straying far from the Vatican, John Paul maintained a busy travel schedule. He completed 102 pastoral visits outside of Italy, and 144 within, visiting almost 130 countries during his 26 years as Pope. He logged more kilometres of travel than all other popes combined.

Elected at only 58 – on Oct. 16, 1978 – John Paul II was the youngest pope of the 20th century, and the first non-Italian pope since the 15th century. His charisma - people who met him described it as a "luminescence" - and common touch drew adoring crowds wherever he went.

On March 14, 2004, John Paul became the longest-serving pope after Pius IX and St. Peter, when his pontificate overtook that of Leo XIII.

Karol Józef Wojtyła, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy, was born in the Polish town of Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, on May 18, 1920. He was the youngest of three children born to Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer died in 1941. A sister, Olga, had died before he was born.

He was baptized on June 20, 1920 in the parish church of Wadowice by Fr. Franciszek Zak, made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at 18. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.

The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry (1940-1944) and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyła was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre," also clandestine.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. He was ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Sapieha in Krakow on November 1, 1946.

Shortly afterwards, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the subject of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross (Doctrina de fide apud Sanctum Ioannem a Cruce). At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland.

In 1948 he returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Krakow as well as chaplain to university students. This period lasted until 1951 when he again took up his studies in philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on "evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler" at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin.

On July 4, 1958, he was appointed titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary of Krakow by Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, by Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak.

On January 13, 1964, he was appointed archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal June 26, 1967 with the title of S. Cesareo in Palatio of the order of deacons, later elevated pro illa vice to the order of priests.

Besides taking part in Vatican Council II (1962-1965) where he made an important contribution to drafting the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyła participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

The Cardinals elected him Pope at the Conclave of 16 October 1978, and he took the name of John Paul II. On 22 October, the Lord's Day, he solemnly inaugurated his Petrine ministry as the 263rd successor to the Apostle. His pontificate, one of the longest in the history of the Church, lasted nearly 27 years.

Driven by his pastoral solicitude for all Churches and by a sense of openness and charity to the entire human race, John Paul II exercised the Petrine ministry with a tireless missionary spirit, dedicating it all his energy. He made 104 pastoral visits outside Italy and 146 within Italy. As bishop of Rome he visited 317 of the city's 333 parishes.

He had more meetings than any of his predecessors with the People of God and the leaders of Nations. More than 17,600,000 pilgrims participated in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays (more than 1160), not counting other special audiences and religious ceremonies [more than 8 million pilgrims during the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000 alone], and the millions of faithful he met during pastoral visits in Italy and throughout the world. We must also remember the numerous government personalities he encountered during 38 official visits, 738 audiences and meetings held with Heads of State, and 246 audiences and meetings with Prime Ministers.

His love for young people brought him to establish the World Youth Days. The 19 WYDs celebrated during his pontificate brought together millions of young people from all over the world. At the same time his care for the family was expressed in the World Meetings of Families, which he initiated in 1994.

John Paul II successfully encouraged dialogue with the Jews and with the representatives of other religions, whom he several times invited to prayer meetings for peace, especially in Assisi.

Under his guidance the Church prepared herself for the third millennium and celebrated the Great Jubilee of the year 2000 in accordance with the instructions given in the Apostolic Letter Tertio Millennio adveniente. The Church then faced the new epoch, receiving his instructions in the Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio ineunte, in which he indicated to the faithful their future path.

With the Year of the Redemption, the Marian Year and the Year of the Eucharist, he promoted the spiritual renewal of the Church.

He gave an extraordinary impetus to Canonizations and Beatifications, focusing on countless examples of holiness as an incentive for the people of our time. He celebrated 147 beatification ceremonies during which he proclaimed 1,338 Blesseds; and 51 canonizations for a total of 482 saints. He made Thérèse of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church.

He considerably expanded the College of Cardinals, creating 231 Cardinals (plus one in pectore) in 9 consistories. He also called six full meetings of the College of Cardinals.

He organized 15 Assemblies of the Synod of Bishops - six Ordinary General Assemblies (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2001), one Extraordinary General Assembly (1985) and eight Special Assemblies (1980,1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 (2) and 1999).

His most important Documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions, 45 Apostolic Letters.

He promulgated the Catechism of the Catholic Church in the light of Tradition as authoritatively interpreted by the Second Vatican Council. He also reformed the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law, created new Institutions and reorganized the Roman Curia.

As a private Doctor he also published five books of his own: "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (October 1994), "Gift and Mystery, on the fiftieth anniversary of my ordination as priest" (November 1996), "Roman Triptych" poetic meditations (March 2003), "Arise, Let us Be Going" (May 2004) and "Memory and Identity" (February 2005).

In the light of Christ risen from the dead, on 2 April a.D. 2005, at 9.37 p.m., while Saturday was drawing to a close and the Lord's Day was already beginning, the Octave of Easter and Divine Mercy Sunday, the Church's beloved Pastor, John Paul II, departed this world for the Father.

From that evening until April 8, date of the funeral of the late Pontiff, more than three million pilgrims came to Rome to pay homage to the mortal remains of the Pope. Some of them queued up to 24 hours to enter St. Peter's Basilica.

On April 28, the Holy Father Benedict XVI announced that the normal five-year waiting period before beginning the cause of beatification and canonization would be waived for John Paul II. The cause was officially opened by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar general for the diocese of Rome, on June 28 2005.