DAILY CATHOLIC    MONDAY     May 18, 1998     vol. 9, no. 96


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          No Pope in the history of the holy pontiffs has a more varied background, or is more in-touch with the needs of all his flock than Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the 263rd successor of Peter who took the name John Paul II on October 16, 1978. Below is a capsule look by years of his life from the cradle Catholic years of his ethnic background to the tumultuous time of the Third Reich in his own backyard; to his involvement in preserving the faith not only his own but those of other faiths; to being ordained a priest of God and his further education after the war at the world renowned Angelicum in Rome where he would return numerous times as an active participant in the Second Vatican Council II, then as member of the College of Cardinals where he would eventually find himself the chosen one by his peers. Below, in honor of his 78th Birthday is a trip down memory lane with highlights of his life as young boy, a seminarian, priest, Bishop, Archbishop, Cardinal and finally Head of the Holy Roman Catholic Church. No Pope has traveled as extensively and reached out to so many millions of people of all faiths as our present pontiff. He truly is the "Pilgrim Pope". He truly is formed in the Immaculate Heart of Mary and Totus Tuus - Totally Yours. He is the man God has carefully chosen to lead us all in these troubled times.

Your Holiness, this is your life!


May 18, 1920

    Karol Jozef Wojtyla is born in Wadowice, Poland during the sixth year of the reign of Pope Benedict XV, 258th Pontiff. Wadowice in southern Poland is 20 pius miles southwest of Krakow and 20 miles from the Czech border. He is born in a three room flat at 7 Church St. a block away from the Parish Church of Our Lady on the square where he is baptized on June 20. His father, Karol Sr., a retired officer in the Austro-Hungarian army, is a Lieutenant in the Polish Army.


    Karol's mother Emelia Kaczorowska Wojtyla dies during the 7th year of the reign of Pius XI, 259th successor of Peter. Emelia is taken at the age of 45 during childbirth. She was a school teacher of Lithuanian descent.


    Karol receives his First Holy Communion at the Parish of Our Lady and begins serving as an Altar Boy. He had hoped his mother would have lived to see this. Two years later his brother Edmond, 15 years older, would die of Scarlet Fever contracted while a Medical School intern.


    Karol enters the Boys High School in Wadowice where he excels as a talented student and athlete. One of his teachers is quoted as saying: "He was the nearest to genius that I ever had."


    Karol graduates High School in the 15th year of the reign of Pope Pius XI, 259th Pontiff. He is anxious to pursue a career in drama and acting as he is encouraged by his teachers.


    Karol is confirmed in Krakow on May 3 during the 18th year of the reign of Pius XI. Karol moves with his father to Krakow where he would reside for the next 40 years. Here he enrolls in the department of philosophy at the same university where Copernicus studied - Jagiellonian University, 2nd oldest University in central Europe. He also joins the "Rhapsodic Theatre."


    Nazis invade Poland in September six months after Pius XII is proclaimed the 160th Pope in the succession of Peter. The University is closed and Karol is sent to a rock quarry and later to a chemical plant as a manual laborer. While reflecting on the evils of totalitarianism, Karol begins writing plays which to this day are still being published and produced.


    Karol is laid up in the hospital due to a trolley accident. During this time he contemplates on the priesthood but opts for continuing as an actor. A while later he is again struck, this time by a Nazi truck and while laid up in recuperation, his vocation is fostered in part from reading Saint John of the Cross' "Dark Night of the Soul".


    Karol's father dies of a heart attack in February leaving him alone in a war-torn country. He becomes active in underground movement with members of the Christian Resistance (UNIA) in helping protect Jewish families. Under the guidance of prayer group leader Jan Tyranowski, who, when Karol became Pope, would later refer as "a real master of the spiritual life", he fostered a vocation to Karol's priesthood.


    Karol enters underground seminary organized by Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha, who had been recruiting Karol for some time. Earlier, when informed Karol wanted to be an actor first, the Archbishop had said: "What a pity. We could use a man like that in the Church." As it would turn out, Karol would lead the Church during her most difficult times.


    Karol eludes the Nazis. Because of his participation with the underground resistance he is now on the Nazi blacklist and becomes a hunted man. Along with his fellow seminarians, Karol is hidden at the Archbishop's palace until the war is over.



    Karol Wojtyla is ordained to the priesthood by Archbishop Sapieha on the Feast of All Saints in the 8th year of the reign of Pius XII. Karol is then sent to Rome to study advanced Theology at the Angelicum and there develops his long-standing interest in Christian mysticism, doing a doctoral dissertation on St. John of the Cross.


    Karol returns to Poland, assigned to Parish work as a deacon in Niegowic and then at St. Florian's where, as pastor he pursues working with the youth, a special interest and bond he would always have which ultimately would lead to establishing World Youth Days in 1984.


    Father Karol receives his second doctorate, this time in Philosophy, centered on the work of Max Scheler, an early German proponent of phenomenology. He is assigned to teach part time at the Catholic University of Lublin behind iron curtain and where later he would be named Chairman of the Philosophy Department.


    Father Karol Wojtyla becomes the youngest bishop in Poland when, on September 8th he is consecrated auxiliary bishop of Krakow in Warsaw. He is elevated to the Episcopacy during the 20th and final year of the reign of Pius XII. He's notified of this while on a backpacking and canoeing trip with some youth from the university.



    Bishop Karol, in the inaugural year of the reign of Pope John XXIII, 261st successor of Peter, is named to the Polish Academy of Sciences in recognition of his work in philosophy. He is a major force in the intellectual life o his country.


    Bishop Wojtyla becomes an active participant of the Second Vatican Council called by Pope John XXIII, 261st Pontiff in the 4th year of his reign. His major contribution is his Dignitalis Humanae, the Declaration on Religious Freedom. It proves the false humanistic tendencies of Marx and Lenin and modernism in the west.


    Bishop Karol Wojtyla is elevated to Archbishop of the See of Krakow on January 13th during the 2nd year of the reign of Pope Paul VI, 262nd Supreme Pontiff. He contributes to concilliar documents: Lumen Gentium and Gaudium et Spes to name a few while emphasizing his Declaration which would have far-reaching effects on human rights and for the persecuted Church in communist countries.


    Archbishop Wojtyla is elevated to Cardinal on June 26th by Pope Paul VI during the fifth year of his reign. He is instrumental in diplomacy with the Polish government in allowing worship to continue in Poland and he takes an active role in the International Synod of Bishops.


    Cardinal Wojtyla publishes his book "Foundations of Renewal" during the 9th year of the Paul VI's reign. The book reflects his efforts to educate the people of his archdiocese on Vatican II.


    Upon the death of Paul VI on August 6th, Cardinal Wojtyla is called to Rome to elect John Paul I the 263rd Pontiff on August 26th. He interrupts a camping trip with some youth to travel to Rome and returns to Poland to resume his excursion with them.



    Upon the unexpected death of John Paul I on September 28th, Cardinal Wojtyla rejoins the College of Cardinals in the Sistine Chapel to elect another Pope. John Paul I whose reign lasted on 33 days, was the first pope to choose a double name. Known as the "smiling Pope", John Paul I declined to have a coronation ceremony.

    On October 16th White Smoke curls up over the Vatican: Cardinal Wojtyla is elected the 163rd successor to St. Peter and chooses the name John Paul II. He becomes the first Polish Pope, the first non-Italian Pope since Adrian VI in 1523, and the youngest pontiff since Pope Pius IX one hundred years ago. Like his predecessor, John Paul II declines the papal tiara and is installed in an outdoor Mass in St. Peter's Square.


    John Paul II begins an odyssey that would identify him as the "Pilgrim Pope": with the most extensive travel itinerary in the history of the papacy. He first visits the Dominican republic, the Bahamas, and Mexico then returns to his native Poland, then to Ireland and the USA (NY, Boston, Phil., Des Moines, Chicago and Was. D.C.) and Turkey. On March 4th he issues his first encyclical Redemptor Hominis, on redemption and the dignity of the human race.


    The Holy Father travels the globe to various provinces of Africa (Zaire, Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Volta, and Ivory Coast); then to France, Brazil, and W. Germany. In the Fall he presides over his first Synod of Bishops and the 5th Synod Assembly, "The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World" and then issues his 2nd encyclical - on the mercy of God: Dives in Misericordia.


    John Paul II is shot in the abdomen on May 13th, Feast of Our Lady of Fatima in St. Peter's Square by would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Agca who John Paul would later forgive. During recovery, he reads about Fatima and Sister Faustina's Diary on Divine Mercy. Prior to the incident, he travels to the Philippines, Guam, and Japan with stopovers in Pakistan and Alaska. He issues his 3rd encyclical, (on human work); Laborem Exercens.


    John Paul II resumes his world visits traveling to Africa, Portugal, Great Britain, Brazil, Argentina, Switzerland, and Spain. He re-establishes credentials with Britain with first ambassador to Vatican since Henry VIII, 450 years ago and meets with Anglican Archbishop Runcie at Canterbury. Also meets with Ronald Reagan and later Yassir Arafat.


    John Paul II formally approves revision of the Code of Canon Law for the Latin Rite, replacing a code of 1918. Unseals the Holy Door in St. Peter's and calls for study of decline of vocations in the U.S. since Vatican II and calls on the super powers to negotiate an end to the arms race. The Shroud of Turin is bequeathed to the Pope by King Umberto. Travels include Central America, Poland again, Lourdes, and Austria.


    John Paul II holds first international gathering of young people at the Vatican. He establishes diplomatic relations with the USA and meets President and Nancy Reagan again. He issues Gift of Redemption: Redemptionis Donum on religious life and condemns anti-Semitism and Apartheid. Visits South Korea, New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Thailand, Canada, Spain, and Puerto Rico.


    John Paul II inducts 28 new members into the College of Cardinals (an all-time high of 152). Encyclical on death of Saint Methodius: Slavorum Apostoli; opens secret archives of St. Pius X and Benedict XV; Fr. Junipero Serra, OFM declared venerable, and second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on 20th Anniversary of Vatican II. He travels to South America (Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Trinidad and Tobago); Africa, Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein.


    John Paul II establishes World Youth Day in Buenos Aires on Palm Sunday. Two encyclicals: Redemptoris Mater, on the Blessed Mother and the pilgrim Church for Marian Year (June 7, 87 to Aug. 15, 1988); and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, on social concerns. Calls for unity with Orthodox Church. Visit's South America, W. Germany, Poland, and 2nd time in US (Miami; Columbia, SC; New Orleans; San Antonio, Phoenix, LA; Monterey; SF; and Detroit and Canada.


    John Paul II takes active interest in the communist countries issuing an Apostolic letter Euntes in Mundum commemorating 1000 years of the baptism of Saint Vladimir of Kiev and the Russian Church. His travels take him to Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Paraguay, Austria, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa, and France.


    John Paul II attends 2nd international World Youth Day at Shrine of Santiago de Compostela in Spain. Meets with President George Bush and Mikal Gorbachev separately and establishes official diplomatic relations with Poland while restoring a bishop in the Minsk, Byelo-Russia for the first time since WWII. Visits Madagascar, Reunion, Zambia, Malawi, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden, Spain, Korea, Indonesia, East Timor, and Mauritius.


    John Paul II names 12 Bishops for 11 Dioceses in Romania, re-instating the Church (the first time in 42 years). He establishes diplomatic relations with Czechoslovakia, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria. He visits Cape Verde, Guinea, Bissau, Mali, Burkina, Czechoslovakia, Mexico, Curacao, Malta, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, and the Ivory Coast.


    John Paul II attends World Youth Day at Polish Shrine of our Lady of Czestochowa on August 15 celebrating with an estimated 1.5 million people at the closing Mass. He issues 9th encyclical: Centesimus Annus in honor of centenary of Pope Leo XIII's Rerum Novarum (on capital and labor). Meets with bishops and President Bush to assess Church's role at end of Gulf War. Convenes European Synod of Bishops. He visits his homeland of Poland again as well as Hungary, Brazil, and gives thanks personally to Our Lady at Fatima for her intercession ten years prior when he was shot on her feast day.


    John Paul II undergoes surgery for removal of a benign intestinal tumor in July but recovers to begin 500th anniversary of the beginning of Christianity at Santa Domingo in the Dominican Republic. Approves publication of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, first such in over 400 years. He makes visits to Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Angola, and Sao Tome and Principe.


    On Divine Mercy Sunday the Holy Father beatifies the "Apostle of Mercy" - Blessed Sister Faustina Kowalska. John Paul II meets with European leaders of all faiths at Assisi for a prayer summit for peace and travels to Denver to preside at World Youth Day 1993 culminating with Holy Mass on August 15th. The Holy Father conducts Ad limina visits for all U.S. bishops. He also travels to Benin, Uganda, and Sudan in Africa; Madrid, Huelva and Seville, Spain for close of International Eucharistic Congress; Jamacia and makes his first trip to Albania while continuously pleading for an end to the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina. On the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord - August 6 he issues his tenth encyclical Veritatis Splendor - The Splendor of Truth which deals with moral teaching.


    After delays in the translation, the new Catechism of the Catholic Church is finally released. The Holy Father proclaims 1994 the "Year of the Family" and issues a special Letter to Families in February. John Paul calls the Synod of African Bishops as well as conducting a Synod on Religious Life. He visits Zagreb in Croatia where millions cheer him and he shares their grief over the war in their homelands. Towards the end of the year he receives countless petitions requesting him to proclaim Mary as Coredemptrix, Advocate and Mediatrix of all graces. The surgery John Paul II had on his hip earlier in the year forces him to cancel trip to U.S. where he was to address the United Nations Assembly.


    Recovered from his surgery, the Holy Father visits the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland again then the Philippines where a record four million turn out for his Papal Mass. On March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation he issues his eleventh encyclical Evangelium Vitae called the Gospel of Life. Two months later, on the Solemnity of the Ascension, he releases his twelfth encyclical Ut Unum Sint - "That They May All Be One" on the Church's commitment to ecumenism. He expresses grave concern for the slaughters in Rwanda and Sudan on his trip to Cameroon, Kenya and South Africa. He beatifies Edith Stein. He finally makes it to the U.S. eastern seaboard in October where he addresses the UN and draws record crowds in the pouring rain in stadiums in New York and Baltimore. He plays a major influence from afar in the Beijing UN Conference for Women. He wraps up the year in December by debuting the Vatican on the Internet at Christmas.


    The Holy Father issues an Apostolic Constitution on the Vacancy of the Apostolic See and the election of the Roman Pontiff with Universi Dominici Gregis. He visits Guatamala, Venezuela, El Salvador, and Nicaragua, as well as Tunis. He releases another book "Gift and Mystery" that would rise to the bestseller list just as "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" had. He calls for unity with the Orthodox and condemns President Clinton for his late-term abortion veto as he assails the United States for their stance on abortion and plays a major pivotal role at the UN Conference on World Population in Egypt by rallying the third world countries to vote down mandatory abortion and population control. Score one for the Culture of Life! In October he undergoes an appendectomy operation and celebrates his 50th year - his Golden Anniversary - as a priest on the solemnity of All Saints with a special concert at the Vatican as they tell him: "It is your song that unites the Church."


    The Pope begins the year by dedicating it to Jesus Christ the Son for the first year of Jubilee 2000 as the countdown to the millennium begins. The Holy Father visits Sarajevo in Bosnia, the Czech Republic again, and Lebanon before jetting to Brazil to celebrate the "World Family Meeting." Despite consistent rumors that the Holy Father has Parkinson's Disease, John Paul II confounds all the so-called medical and media experts by just going and going and going. Even in the summer heat of Paris he outlasts the youth who clamor for shade at World Youth Day in August where the tremendous unexpected turnout astounds prognosticators and local clergy who expected far fewer people. The Pope meets with Mother Teresa and her successor Sister Nirmala in the Spring. It would be their last meeting, these two modern-day saints, for the Holy Father would mourn her death along with the entire world in the Fall. He caps the year by declaring Saint Therese of Lisieux a Doctor of the Church - the third woman to be granted such an honor, and closes the year with the Synod of the American Bishops combining North, Central and South America for what was called the Synod of the Americas.


    The Holy Father dedicates the second year of the Jubilee to the Holy Spirit and makes his first ever trip to Cuba where he is wildly received by the faithful as a stern and cautious Fidel Castro looks on. John Paul II calls for greater freedom for the people religiously and politically and calls for an end to the U.S. Embargo. Returning to Rome he conducts another Consistory where he elevates 22 new Cardinals including Cardinal James Francis Stafford, former Archbishop of Denver who hosted World Youth Day and now a member of the curia, and Cardinal Francis George, OMI the new head of the Chicago archdiocese, replacing the departed Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. In early May he is shocked and saddened by the murder of his loyal Swiss Guard Alois Estermann and his wife by a disgruntled underling Swiss Guard. Alois was the young man who cradled and protected the Holy Father as the Popemobile sped away in St. Peter's Square in 1981. The Holy Father had just granted Estermann the highest honor of Commandant of the Guard and was to have been installed a few days later. John Paul II again gives thanks on the seventeenth anniversary of his near-death shooting episode and enjoy a quiet, relaxed 78th Birthday at the Vatican as he looks forward to bringing Holy Mother Church into the glorious third millennium. Happy Birthday, your holiness. May you have many more!!!

Prayers and Blessings for a very Happy Birthday
to our beloved John Paul II the Great!

May 18, 1998       volume 9, no. 96


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