Pope John Paul II was born Karoi Jozef Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in
He was elected the 264th pope on Oct. 16, 1978, and at the age of 58, succeeded John Paul I. John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years and the churchs first pope of Slavic origin.
As a youngster, he was an athlete, actor and playwright. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in
The Nazis closed the university during the German invasion and occupation of
He managed in 1942 to begin studies in the seminary of
Wojtyla completed his doctorate in theology in
Pope Pius XII nominated him to be archbishop of
Wojtyla became a cardinal on June 26, 1967.
On May 13, 1981, John Paul II was wounded in the right arm and abdomen while he rode in an open car that was circling St. Peters Square before a general audience. He underwent six hours of surgery and remained hospitalized for 22 days before returning to celebrate mass at the 1600th anniversary of the Council of Constantinople. Four days after the shooting, he recited the Angelus, a devotion that is recited three times a day, and then said, Pray for the brother who shot me, whom I have sincerely forgiven.
Mehmet Ali Agca, a member of a Turkish militant group, was convicted of shooting John Paul II, but was pardoned by Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi in 2000 and returned to
John Paul II traveled more than any other pope in history, and made 104 foreign trips — more than all the previous popes combined. He made several trips to his Polish homeland, including a poignant return in 2003 at age 82. He addressed the United Nations, and visited
The pope presided at 147 beatification ceremonies, including the first beatification of a married couple in 2001.
It is estimated that more than 17 million have participated in general audiences in St. Peters Square during John Paul IIs tenure.