Pope John Paul II
First Polish Popeby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Crying his way into a nation which had just regained her independence, the little baby would one day make his country swell with pride. He would grow from a young man who admired the virgin Mary to one who would lead the entire Catholic Church in affirmation of her divine status.1
The day was May 18, 1920; the place, Wadowice, Poland.2 Poland had just regained her independence after World War I,3 and Polish army officer and former schoolteacher Karol and Emilia Wojtyla had just witnessed the arrival of their second son, whom they named Karol Joseph Wojtyla4, later to be nicknamed Lolek by playmates.5
As a boy, Karol enjoyed sports and was very athletic. He enjoyed playing as goalie on a soccer team and swimming in flooded rivers. As a model student, Wojtyla developed a love of literature and theater, and it became his goal to one day study literature and become a professional actor. 6
Wojtyla would receive much of his early religious training as a member of an underground Catholic society during the six horror-filled years of Nazi occupation of Poland during WWII. During the war, the priesthood of the Polish Church warred for religious freedom from the Communism with was being strictly enforced by the Soviet Army. Wojtyla lived a fairly normal life; spending much of it in outdoor activities, working in a coal mine, and, though it was unpopular, helping the heavily persecuted Jews of Poland.7
A series of deaths in Karol Wojtyla's immediate family are seen as perhaps the greatest impetus for beginning in religious fervor. His mother's death from heart and kidney problems8 occurred when he was but eight years old, and was followed by the death of his older brother Edmund when he was eleven.. A decade later, his father also passed away. He himself suffered from two near-death incidents--being hit by both a streetcar and a truck by 1944, which lead to a slight stoop of the shoulders which would remain with him throughout his lifetime. Perhaps because of such an omnipresent threat of immortality, Wojtyla developed a strong attraction to the Virgin Mary, and throughout his life would declare that her "motherly hand"9 had saved him from danger many a time.
After the death of Wojtyla's mother, his father took over his care. Raising his son with diligence and trying to instill the same dutifulness and character as in his soldiers, Karol's father sewed his son's clothes and made him study in a cold room to improve his concentration and discipline. However, his father also provided ample time for play, often playing soccer with his son.
Noticing the sharp mind of Karol Wojtyla, the archbishop of Krakow ordained him as a priest in 1946, at the age of 26. Quickly sent to the Angelicum University in Rome, Wojtyla studied there, and became fluent in French and Italian, only two of the eight languages he would master throughout his lifetime. Observing the Western European religiosity, he noted that it was "shallow and materialistic."10 Returning to Poland as a parish priest, he became the youngest bishop in Poland at age 38. Five years later, he became archbishop of Krakow.
Climbing the ladder of Catholic positions to be held in the church, Wojtyla was ordained as a Cardinal in 1967. After the death of Pope John Paul I, Karol Wojtyla was chosen as his successor. At the age of 58, he became the first Polish Pope in the history of the Catholic church.
During John Paul's reign, he was repeatedly criticized as conservative and markedly right-wing in political disputes. Placing a high value on life, he strove to keep the Catholic Church pure from any anti-life activities, including "abortion, contraception, capital punishment, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning, euthanasia, and war."11 He also fought against liberal ideologies on the role of men and women in marriage and the church. His refusal to ordain women to positions in the church left many seeking for a new pope whose dogmas would conform to their liberalistic viewpoints. He also stood by his convictions that divorce and same-sex marriage violated the law of God. As Catholicism lost its massive grip on some industrializing nations, it increasingly moved into 3rd world countries where it often flourished.12
Entering Saint Peter's Square for a public audience, John Paul sat in a white jeep, greeting children. A few moments after 5 p.m., on May 13, 1981, 13 shots rang out as the Pope began to cry for Mary and exclaim "I feel great pain." Mehmet Ali Agca, whose reasons still have not been determined, had shot the Pope in an assassination attempt. In a very close call with death, the Pope finally recovered, and eventually visited his assassin in prison to impart his forgiveness.14 Another attempt at assassination was made on May 12, 1982, in Portugal when a Spanish priest tried to stab John Paul II with a bayonet. However, security guards stopped the attempt before any harm was done.15
On April 2, 2005 John Paul II died, after intense battles with Parkinson's disease and other ailments.16 He had developed a high fever on March 31, 2005, but according to his wishes, was not taken to a hospital nor offered life support. The world mourned his death as four million flocked to glimpse his body.17 Cries for immediate sainthood echoed around the globe.
Hailed by the world as a godly man and leader of a church, one would expect John Paul's actions to follow the commands of the Bible. Some of his actions followed the Bible closely, as he obeyed the words of Exodus 20:13 - "You shall not murder."18 By fighting for the lives of young, old, disabled and weak, he showed the world that all life is precious in the sight of God, for it is He that created it and likewise can take it away in His timing. Agreeing with Romans 1:26-27, he fought against the popular idea that homosexuality was not a sin.19 Yet at the same time, Pope John Paul II would adore Mary, idolizing her as the mother of God and worshiping at her statues, despite the scriptures that teach "You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God"20 Accordingly, one must wonder what kind of legacy John Paul II left for the Catholic Church. While he held to strict morality, he allowed continued compromise in the Church, as idols of saints continued to be used in worship.
1) Pope John Paul II was named ___________
b. Karol Wojtyla
c. "Lemon" by his playmates
d. Edmund Wojtyla
2) He became Pope in _____________, as successor of _________________
a. 2005, Pope Benedict XVI
b. 1254, Innocent IV
c. 2001, Bill Clinton
d. 1967, John Paul I
3) During John Paul II's papal rule, he held all of the following policies EXCEPT
a. Continued endorsement of embryonic stem cell research
b. Spoke out against abortion, euthanasia, and contraception
c. Rejected homosexuality as a sin
d. Refused to ordain women to positions in the church
e. A pursuit of the worship and adoration of Mary
4) Evidence of the wrongness of saint-worshipping is found in
a. Romans 1
b. Psalm 23
c. Exodus 20
d. Vatican 2
Answers:1b, 2d, 3a, 4c
1 Stille, Alexander. A Call To Serve. U.S. News and World Report. Commemorative Edition, Pope John Paul II. pg. 12.
2 Stille, Alexander. A Call To Serve. U.S. News and World Report. Commemorative Edition, Pope John Paul II. pg. 12.
3 Stille, Alexander. A Call To Serve. U.S. News and World Report. Commemorative Edition, Pope John Paul II. pg. 12.
4 A Short Biographical Sketch of Pope John Paul II. <http://www.zpub.com/un/pope/unpope-bio.html> May 24, 2005.
5 Christensen, John. The Early Years: An Unhappy Childhood.
May 30, 2005. <http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/pope/bio/early/>
6 A Short Biographical Sketch of Pope John Paul II. <http://www.zpub.com/un/pope/unpope-bio.html> May 24, 2005.
7 Stille, Alexander. A Call To Serve. U.S. News and World Report. Commemorative Edition, Pope John Paul II. pg. 12.
8 Christensen, John. The Early Years: An Unhappy Childhood.
May 30, 2005. <http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/1999/pope/bio/early/>
9 Stille, Alexander. A Call To Serve. U.S. News and World Report. Commemorative Edition, Pope John Paul II. pg. 12.
10 Stille, Alexander. A Call To Serve. U.S. News and World Report. Commemorative
Edition, Pope John Paul II. pg. 13.
11 Pope John Paul II. May 30, 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II>
12 Pope John Paul II. May 30, 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II>
13 Ewers, Justin. "I Fell Great Pain". U.S. News and World Report. Commemorative Edition, Pope John Paul II. pg. 40.
14 Pope John Paul II. June 6, 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II>
15 Pope John Paul II. May 30, 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II>
16 Pope John Paul II. May 30, 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II>
17Pope John Paul II. May 30, 2005. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pope_John_Paul_II>
18 See "Exodus 20:13." The New King James Version Bible.
19 Romans 1:26-27 "For this reason God gave them up to vile passions.
For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.
Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in
their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful,
and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due."
20 See "Exodus 20:4-6." The New King James Version Bible.