Pope John Paul II

John Paul II in 1988 Pope John Paul II (; ; ; born Karol Józef Wojtyła; ;.}} 18 May 19202 April 2005) was head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 until his death in 2005.

In his youth, Wojtyła dabbled in stage acting. He graduated with excellent grades from an all-boys high school in Wadowice, Poland, in 1938, soon after which World War II broke out. During the war, to avoid being kidnapped and sent off to a German forced labour camp, he signed up for work in harsh conditions in a quarry. Wojtyła eventually took up acting and developed a love for the profession and participated at a local theatre. The linguistically skilled Wojtyła wanted to study Polish at university. Encouraged by a conversation with Adam Stefan Sapieha, he decided to study theology and become a priest. Eventually, Wojtyła rose to the position of Archbishop of Kraków and then a cardinal, both positions held by his mentor. Wojtyła was elected pope on the third day of the second papal conclave of 1978, and became one of the youngest popes in history. The conclave was called after the death of John Paul I, who served only 33 days as pope. John Paul I had been elected in an August papal conclave to succeed Pope Paul VI. Wojtyła adopted the name of his predecessor in tribute to him.

John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in the 16th century, as well as the third-longest-serving pope in history after Pius IX and St. Peter. John Paul II attempted to improve the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, and the Eastern Orthodox Church in the spirit of ecumenism, holding atheism as the greatest threat. He maintained the Church's previous positions on such matters as abortion, artificial contraception, the ordination of women, and a celibate clergy, and although he supported the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, he was seen as generally conservative in their interpretation. He put emphasis on family and identity, while questioning consumerism, hedonism and the pursuit of wealth. He was one of the most travelled world leaders in history, visiting 129 countries during his pontificate. As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, John Paul II beatified 1,344 people, and canonised 483 saints, more than the combined tally of his predecessors during the preceding five centuries. By the time of his death, he had named most of the College of Cardinals, consecrated or co-consecrated many of the world's bishops, and ordained many priests.

He has been credited with fighting against dictatorships for democracy and with helping to end communist rule in his native Poland and the rest of Europe. Under John Paul II, the Catholic Church greatly expanded its influence in Africa and Latin America and retained its influence in Europe and the rest of the world. On 19 December 2009 John Paul II was proclaimed venerable by his successor, Benedict XVI, and on 1 May 2011 (Divine Mercy Sunday) he was beatified. On 27 April 2014 he was canonised together with John XXIII. He has been criticised for allegedly, as archbishop, having been insufficiently harsh in reacting against the sexual abuse of children by priests in Poland, though the allegations themselves have been criticised. Posthumously he has been referred to by some Catholics as Pope St. John Paul the Great, though that title has no official recognition.

Under John Paul II, the two most important constitutions of the contemporary Catholic Church were drafted and put in force: the 1983 Code of Canon Law, which, among many things, began an effort to curb sexual abuse in the Catholic Church; and the ''Catechism of the Catholic Church'', which among other things clarified the Church's position on homosexuality. Provided by Wikipedia
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