A Brief History:

- Born: May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland
Birth name: Karol Joseph Wojtyla (voy-tee-wah); renamed John Paul II when he took the office of pope in 1978

- Family: Mother Emilia, died in childbirth in 1929; father Karol, retired army recruiter; brother Edmund died of scarlet fever in 1932

- Education: At boys' school, studied German, Latin, Greek; has doctorate in philosophy, master's degree in theology

- Sports: In his youth, enjoyed playing soccer, skiing, kayaking and swimming in Poland's Swaka River

- Wrote: First poem in 1940, titled "The Ballad of the Gates of Wawel"

- Worked as: Actor, stone cutter, chaplain, teacher, bishop, archbishop, pope

- Languages: Fluent in eight diffrent languages

- Health: Had benign intestinal tumor removed in 1992; injured shoulder after falling in 1993; broke thigh bone in 1994

- Survived assassination: In 1981, shot in St. Peter's square by Turkish national Mehmet Ali Agca; later pope visited him in prison and publicly forgave him

- Ordained: In 1946; became professor of moral theology in Lublin and Kracow
Archbishop: Of Kracow, Poland,from 1964 to 1978; became a cardinal in 1967
Became pope: In 1978, after Pope John Paul I died two months after taking office; John Paul II is the first non-Italian pope since 1523, and 264th pope in history

- Authorized: New Catholic catechism -- a list of official Catholic beliefs -- in English, the first since the 16th century

- Travel: Having visited 117 countries and every continent but Antarctica, he is the most traveled pope in history; first visited United States in 1979; returned in 1987, 1993 and 1995 and will return again in 1999

- Solidarity: Supports human rights and democracy; Verbally supported the Polish anti-communist movement

- Against: abortion, birth control and euthanasia; In the   Persian Gulf War; in 1990 before war broke, wrote letters to both President George Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein urging a peaceful solution

- Time Magazine: Declared him 1994 "Man of the Year"