Karol Wojtyla was born in Poland on May 18 1920. His mother Emilia Kaczorowska died in 1929, his brother Edmund in 1932 and his father in 1941. He made his first Holy Communion at the age of nine, the very same year that his mother passed away, and was confirmed at the age of eighteen. Karol Wojtyla's secretly pursued his calling to the priesthood in 1942 and was ordained after the Second World War in Krakow, Poland, on November 1 1946. Karol Wojtyla went to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Legrange.
He completed a doctoral in theology in 1948, while excercising his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland during his vacations. On his return to Poland, Karol Wojtyla continued his studies in theology, eventually becoming of moral theology and social ethics.
Pope Pius XII appointed him Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow on July 4 1958. Karol Wojtyla was annointed by Pope Paul VI, declaring him the Archbishop of Krakow and made him a Cardinal on June 26 1967.
As a Cardinal he became very active in Vatican Council II and all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. In October 16 1978, he became the Pope and adopted the name John Paul II. He became the first non-Italian pope elected since 1523 and history's first Slavic pope.
He spoke eight different languages, learning Spanish after becoming Pope. He the champion of human rights particular the rights of children.
On May 13 1981, Pope John Paul was shot by a 22 year-old extremist, Mehmet Ali Agca, and was gravely wounded in the abdomen and underwent emergency surgery. Five days later he announced that he was praying for Agca's soul. Pope John Paul II was hospitalized for 77 days. On December 23 1983, the Pope visited Ahmet Ali Agca who attempted to kill him in 1981, in Rome's Rebibbia prison . The Pope personally forgave his would-be assassin.
He criticized Western nations and Communist nations, viewing communism and capitalism as flip sides of the coin, neither of which would lead to happiness. He restored conservative stances on abortion, contraception, biotechnology, and the place of women in church.
He has several publications. Love and Relationships in 1960, Crossing the Threshold of Hope in 1994, Gift and Mystery: On the 50th Anniversary of my Priestly Ordination in 1996 and his autobiography Get Up and Let Us Go in May 2004.
On September 16 1995, Pope John Paul II made a pastoral visit to South Africa for the celebration phase of the African Synod and was welcomed by then South African President Nelson Mandela, the Bishops ,government officials and people at large. (Click here to read Papal's arrival speech at the airport in Johannesburg, South Africa).) On June 18 1998, Pope John Paul II welcomed then-South African President Nelson Mandela to the Vatican. Nelson Mandela thanked the Pope for the Catholic Church's help with the education and health care of Black South Africans during Apartheid era. He also met several world leaders.
In later years Pope John Paul II developed Parkinson's desease, and increasingly began to rely on his Cardinals to carry out some of his ceremonial duties. During 2002 Easter, he was unable to carry out the washing of the feet ceremony, which is symbolic of the Last Supper. It was the first time the role has been carried out by the Cardinals.
He publicly apologized for the past misdeeds of the Catholic Church.
Pope John Paul II dealt with the sex abuse scandal that was engulfing the Catholic Church in the United States, calling an emergency meeting with US Cardinals in Rome. He asked them to give more guidance to Catholic priests in their country to prevent another child sex scandal.
He also called on the clergy to work for greater dialogue with other faiths in the wake of the September 11 2001 attacks in the United States.
In 2003, he travelled to Slovakia, Pompei, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Spain. He visited Switzerland in June 2004 and Lourdes in August 2004 on a pilgrimage to one of the Roman Catholic world's most revered shrines. It was his second pilgrimage to the shrine in southern France.
In early 2005 his health deteriorated further, and the Pontiff spent 28 days in hospital and underwent a surgery. His condition deteriorated further and eventually suffering a heart attack and septic shock from a urinary tract infection.
The Vatican announced that the Pontiff died at 9:37pm on Saturday 2 April 2005. The Funeral Mass was held on friday 8 April 2005 at St. Peter's Square.