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Biography of Pope John Paul II Essay

I. Early Life

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

Fr. Franciszek Zak baptized Karol Józef Wojtyła on The 20th of June in 1920 in the parish church of Wadowice. He was nine (9) years old when he took his First Holy Communion and was a confirmed Catholic at the age of eighteen at eighteen (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.” (Short Biography, 2005) A year after, the university was closed by the Nazi forces. The young Karol instead had to work in a quarry from 1940 until 1944 and after in the factory of chemicals, Solvay, to earn his living and to keep away from being deported to Germany.

Karol was always aware of his religious callings, and it was in 1942 when he started courses of becoming a priest in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, managed by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, the archbishop of Krakow at that time. “At the same time, Karol Wojtyła was one of the pioneers of the “Rhapsodic Theatre,” also clandestine.” (Short Biography, 2005)

II. Post World War II Life with the Church

Karol Józef Wojtyła pursued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow when it had reopened after the Second World War. At the same time he was a faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University. It was in 1946, at the first day of November when he was ordained to the priesthood in Krakow. Archbishop Sapieha did the honor to ordain him. Thereafter, the same cardinal sent Father Karol Wojtyła to Rome to work under the direction of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange

It was in 1948 when Father Wojtyła finished his doctorate in theology having a thesis on the “subject of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross (Doctrina de fide apud Sanctum Ioannem a Cruce)”. (Short Biography, 2005).  Even then, he was a good catholic and a person because that time after having his doctorate degree, while he was on vacations, he applied his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland. During the same year he returned to his home country and became a vicar of many parishes in Krakow as well as chaplain to young students in the university and these roles and activities lasted until 1951.

Beginning 1951 he pursued his studies again to widen his knowledge on philosophy and theology and two years after he was to defend a thesis on “evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler at Lublin Catholic University.” (Short Biography, 2005) After this event he became a professor teaching about moral theology and social ethics in the key seminary of Krakow as served as a Faculty of Theology of at the same time. He was appointed as a titular bishop of Ombi on the 4th of July in 1958. The Pope Pius XII also appointed him as an auxiliary of Krakow on that same moment. On the 28th of September of the same year he was consecrated as a bishop by Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak in Wawel Cathedral located in Krakow.

Bishop Wojtyła had a lot of meaningful religious activities before he became the pope in October 1978. Among these are the publication of his dissertation in 1960, “Evaluation of the Possibility of Constructing a Christian Ethic based on the System of Max Scheler” and the publication of “Love and Responsibility”; and in 1965 he made his Letter of Reconciliation of the Polish Bishops to the German Bishops, containing the famous words “We forgive and ask forgiveness” (Pre-Pontificate, 2005)

III. And He Became the Pope John Paul II

It was October 16, 1978 when Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected successor to Pope John Paul I, the 264th Pope of the Catholic Church and takes the name John Paul II. (Pontificate, 2005) During his election as the pope, “there were three surprises: that the new pope should be so young — 58; that he should be a non-Italian; and that he should come from an Eastern European country. Though there has been noticeably less talk about the Holy Spirit, once again the cardinals have said how satisfied they are with their choice.” (Hebblethwaite 3)

During his first year in the papal seat in 1978, he made numerous and notable activities and encouragement to the whole Catholic world. Among these are the Urbi et Orbi radio message, John Paul II’s historic embrace of Cardinal Wyszyński, the visits to the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Mentorella, Rome and to Assisi to venerate the tomb of St. Francis, patron of Italy, and to the Basilica of Santa Maria sopra Minerva to venerate the tomb of St. Catherine, patroness of Italy,

The preceding year of his papacy and the years after it, Pope John Paul II simply inspired the whole Catholic community with his leadership. In 1979, the Pope accepted the request made by Argentina and Chile for the Holy See’s mediation in solving the controversy that was on going between the two nations. He also made the Pastoral Visit to Santo Domingo in Dominican Republic, to Mexico for the Third General Conference of the Latin American Bishops and the Bahamas on January 25th to February 1st 1979 for his 1st Apostolic Voyage. (Pontificate, 2005) This voyage was succeeded by the second, third and fourth, all happening in the same year, 1979. These were the visits or voyages to Poland in June, in Ireland, the U.N. and the United States of America in September and in Turkey in November.

During his voyage to his homeland, he had a very specific message to his countrymen. “The pope’s letter on the purpose of his visit, in which he stressed that he hoped to serve “the unity of the Poles.” (Hebblethwaite 3)

During the 1980s, among the outstanding activities of Pope John Paul II involve Pastoral Voyages to Zaire, Republic of Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Upper Volta and Ivory Coast, France, Brazil, and West Germany. His pastoral visit to Naples, Potenza, Balvano and Avellino was made after the earthquake. The apostolic voyages, which obviously result to greater acceptance among the Catholics of the respective visited nations, also serve as reminders to each and every one to restore their faith and be better followers of God. The pope never missed in reinstating this message anywhere he visits. At the year 1980 was ending the pope made his Apostolic Letter Egregiae virtutis in which he proclaimed Sts. Cyril and Methodius, together with St. Benedict, Patrons of Europe.

As the leader, teacher and model of millions of Catholic followers, John Paul II made and performed his papal responsibilities dutifully. The Pope’s 1988 encyclical, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, which is about social justice threading a middle ground between the sides of capitalists and socialists and putting arguments on both economic developments and placing the needs of those millions of poors over the wants of the selected wealthy. This Sollicitudo Rei Socialis is in fact believed to be “one of his most substantial documents.” (John Paul II)

A new catechism was approved by Pope John Paul II in 1992. This contained comprehensive statements of devotion meant to unify the entire Catholic It was in October of this year when the Pope was able to publish a large encyclical on moral issues fairly “inspired by the pedophilia or the sexual attraction of adults to children crisis” (John Paul II) that was rampant in the United States. It was called Veritatis Splendor or The Resplendence of Truth.

In 1994 the Pope was with the Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of Bishops on the theme:” The Church in Africa and Her Evangelizing Mission Towards the Year 2000: ‘You Shall Be My Witnesses’. On that same year however, on the month of April the Pope had an accidental fall on the evening of the 28th causing a fracture on his right femur. Thereafter the Holy Father recovered at the Gemelli Polyclinic Hospital and undergone an operation and was hospitalized until the 27th of May. (Pontificate, 2005)

Fulfilling the promise of his apostolic letter Tertio Millennio adveniente (As the Third Millennium Draws Near, 1994 the pope entered the year 2000, which he greeted by a proclamation of this year as the year of the Great Jubilee.  The Pope carried on this year “with a series of epoch-making activities calling for dialogue and brotherhood among the faiths.” (Pope John Paul) In February of the new millennium, John Paul II was the first pope to make a visit to Egypt, where he celebrated a mass in Cairo, stirring on discrimination against Christians in Egypt and other countries of Africa.

On March 12, 2000, the pope also asked for forgiveness for many of the Catholic Church’s past sins, such as its treatment of Jews, heretics, women, and native peoples. “This was believed to be the first time in the history of the Catholic Church that one of its leaders sought such a sweeping pardon.” (John Paul II Biography)

In the beginning of 2004, the Pope made his appeal to everyone regarding World Peace. “All of you, hear the humble appeal of the Successor of Peter who cries out: today too, at the beginning of the New Year 2004, peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty!”(John Paul II, 2004)

A year before his death, Pope John Paul II was conferred the International Charlemagne Prize, a prestigious award given annually by the city of Aachen, Germany, in recognition “of the Pope’s personal commitment, and that of the Holy See, in favor of unity among the peoples of Europe on the basis of the values rooted in the common human nature and efficaciously promoted by Christianity” (Pontificate, 2005)

On February, at least a month before his death the Memory and Identity was published. This book was all about the Pope John Paul II, his life, and his legacy to the world. With his great contribution to the Catholic Church and in humanity in general, Pope John Paul II died in Vatican on April 2, 2005 at 9:37 in the evening. He was a great pope, leader, teacher and a person who gave much inspiration and teachings to his followers.


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