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John Paul II - reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death on 2 April 2005.

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 Kraków, on May 18, 1920. He was baptized on June 20, 1920 in the parish church of Wadowice by Franciszek Żak.
At the age of seven, Karol began attending the local primary school, and at age of eleven he went to the state high school. Kazimierz Figlewicz encouraged him to become an altar boy. He was the person who had a significant spiritual effect on young Wojtyła. Karol was an outstanding student and athlete. He enjoyed soccer, swimming, and canoeing, and later took up skiing and mountain climbing. He also loved poetry and had considerable interest and ability in acting. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a drama school.

On 18th February, after a long period of being sick, Karol's father died. In 1942 and 1943, being a representant of students, he went to Częstochowa to renew the vows in Jasna Góra.
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 deportation to Germany. Karol Wojtyła was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre" . They first performed on 1st  November 1941.

In October 1942, increasingly aware of his calling to the priesthood, he knocked on the door of the Archbishop's Palace in Kraków, and declared that he wanted to study priesthood. Soon after, he began courses in the clandestine underground seminary run by the Archbishop of Kraków, Adam Stefan Cardinal Sapieha.
On completion of his studies at the seminary in Kraków, Karol Wojtyła was ordained as a priest on 1st November 1946, by the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Sapieha.
Karol Jozef Wojtyla was an unknown Polish poet long before he became known to the world as Pope John Paul II.  Some of the poems were written when he was in his twenties. Others were written while he was a parish priest and auxiliary bishop of Kraków.

In March 1949, Wojtyła was transferred to the parish of Saint Florian in Kraków. He taught ethics at the Jagiellonian University and subsequently at the Catholic University of Lublin. While teaching, he gathered a group of about 20 young people.
They met for prayer, philosophical discussion, and helping the blind and sick. The group eventually grew to approximately 200 participants, and their activities expanded to include annual skiing and kayaking trips.

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).


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. 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.

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.

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 Thérese of the Child Jesus a Doctor of the Church.

John Paul II has been credited with being instrumental in bringing down communism in Central and Eastern Europe

As he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience on 13 May 1981, John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca.

John Paul II fully recovered from the first failed assassination attempt, and sported an impressive physical condition throughout the 1980s. In November 1993, he slipped on a piece of newly installed carpet and fell down several steps, breaking his right shoulder.Four months later he fell over in his bath, breaking his femur, resulting in a visit to the Gemelli hospital for a hip replacement.He rarely walked in public after this, and began experiencing slurred speech and difficulty in hearing. The frail pontiff was suspected of having Parkinson's disease, although it was only revealed in 2001 by Italian orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Gianfranco Fineschi.The Vatican administration eventually confirmed it in 2003, after keeping it secret for 12 years.
In February 2005, the pontiff was again taken to the Gemelli hospital with inflammation and spasm of the larynx, the result of influenza. He was readmitted a few days after release because of difficulty breathing. A tracheotomy was performed, which improved the Pope's breathing but limited his speaking abilities, to his visible frustration. The Vatican confirmed he was near death in March 2005, a few days before he died.
 
On 31 March 2005 following a urinary tract infection. Pope John Paul II developed septic shock, a widespread form of infection with a very high fever and profoundly low blood pressure, but was not taken to the hospital. Instead, he was offered medical monitoring by a team of consultants at his private residence. This was taken as an indication that the pope and those close to him believed that he was nearing death; it would have been in accordance with his wishes to die in the Vatican. Later that day, Vatican sources announced that John Paul II had been given the Anointing of the Sick by his friend and secretary Stanisław Dziwisz. During the final days of the Pope's life, the lights were kept burning through the night where he lay in the Papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. Tens of thousands of people assembled and held vigil in St. Peter's Square and the surrounding streets for two days.
On Saturday 2 April 2005, at about 15:30 CEST, John Paul II spoke his final words, "pozwólcie mi odejść do domu Ojca", ("Let me depart to the house of the Father"), to his aides, and fell into a coma about four hours later.The mass of the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter commemorating the canonisation of Saint Maria Faustina on 30 April 2000, had just been celebrated at his bedside, presided over by Stanisław Dziwisz and two Polish associates. Present at the bedside was a cardinal from Ukraine who served as a priest with John Paul in Poland, along with Polish nuns of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, who ran the papal household. He died in his private apartment, at 21:37 CEST of heart failure from profound hypotension and complete circulatory collapse from septic shock, 46 days short of his 85th birthday. John Paul had no close family by the time he died, and his feelings are reflected in his words, as written in 2000, at the end of his Last Will and Testament.