A Brief History

Born: May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland

Birth name: Karol Joseph Wojtyła (voy-tee-wah); took the name John Paul II when he was elected Pope in 1978

Patron Saint: St. Charles (Karol) Borromeo, whose feast day is 4 November.

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

Education: At boys' school, studied German, Latin, Greek. In the underground seminary of Krakow, during World War II, he studied philosophy and theology. At the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, he received his Doctorate in Philosophy.

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.

Ordained Priest: On 1 November 1946, he was ordained a priest by Cardinal Adam Sapieha of Kraków.

Bishop: Elected titular bishop of Ombi and auxiliary of Kraków on 4 July 1958. Consecrated on 28 September 1958.

Archbishop: Promoted to Archbishop of Kraków on 13 January 1964 by Pope Paul VI. Created a cardinal in the consistory of 26 June 1967.

Pope: On 16 October 1978, at 6:18 p.m. Rome time (1:18 Eastern), the white smoke from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel announced the election of John Paul II. Some short time earlier, upon acceptance of his election, he had becomes the 264th pope. The solemn entry upon his ministry,  or installation, as Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church took place on 22 October 1978.

Reign: John Paul II's pontificate was the third longest in history (16 October 1978 - 2 April 2005) at 26 years, 5 months, 17 days (9,664 days). The longest was that of St. Peter (precise dates unknown), followed by Pope Pius IX (1846-78: 31 years, 7 months, 17 days).

Magisterial Documents: He has written 14 encyclicals, 14 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 42 apostolic letters and 28 letters issued "motu proprio" (on his own initiative), in addition to hundreds of other messages and letters. Of special note are the Code of Canon Law (1983), the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches(1990), and the universal catechism Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the first official list of Catholic beliefs since the 16th century's Roman Catechism.

Synods: The Pope has presided over 15 synods of bishops: six ordinary (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994 and 2001), one extraordinary (1985), seven special assemblies (1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, two in 1998, and 1999) and a particular assembly for the Netherlands (1980).

Apostolic Journeys: He has undertaken 104 pastoral visits outside Italy and made 146 trips within Italy. In addition he has made over 700 pastoral visits within the city and Diocese of Rome, including 317 of the 333 parishes of the diocese, as well as monasteries and convents, universities, seminaries, hospitals, rest homes, prisons and schools. In the course of these apostolic journeys, Pope John Paul II has traveled over 698,310 miles (1,163,865 km.), which is 28 times around the earth or 3 times the distance between the earth and moon.

Canonizations and Beatifications: The Pope has proclaimed 1,342 blesseds in 147 ceremonies, and 482 saints in 51 ceremonies.

Jubilees: Pope John Paul II called for only the second millennial celebration in the history of the Church, the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, celebrating the Incarnation and Birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. He also presided over the Marian Year 1988, celebrating the 2000th anniversary of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Audiences: During his pontificate, Pope John Paul II has received over 17.6 million people at 1160 general audiences. In addition he has received between 2 and 4 million others at audiences granted to particular groups, and heads of state and government. To this can be added the tens, maybe hundreds, of millions who have attended liturgical events in Rome and throughout the world presided over by the Pope, especially during the Great Jubilee year, when about 8 million attended papal liturgies and events.

Special Annual Celebrations: Among Pope John Paul II's pastoral initiatives is World Youth Day. Celebrated alternately by the Pope in Rome (with the other bishops celebrating in their home dioceses) and in some international city (Denver, Manila, Paris, Rome, Toronto etc.), the Pope himself chooses the theme and develops its contents in an annual Message to the Youth of the World. Less known is the World Day of the Sick, celebrated annually on Feb. 11, the Feast Day of Our Lady of Lourdes.

Diplomatic Relations: During his pontificate Pope John Paul II has expanded the number of nations with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations from 85 countries (1978) to 174 countries (2005). These include the United States (which preciously only granted delegation status), the European Union, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and most of the nations of the former Communist block. Achieved mutual diplomatic recognition with Israel. In addition, he has established "relations of a special nature" with the Russian Federation and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Languages: Fluent in eight different languages.

Health: Had benign intestinal tumor removed in 1992; injured shoulder after falling in 1993; broke thigh bone in 1994. Was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a disease of the nervous system, which, complicated by an infection and breathing difficulty, led to his decline in health. In February 2005 he was hospitalized twice for conditions related to breathing difficulties, having a tracheotomy during the second stay. In the last week of March he had noticeably difficult breathing, and could not speak to be heard during his appearances at his apartment window for the Palm Sunday Angelus and the General Audience of Wednesday of Holy Week. Having developed a urinary tract infection and high fever during Easter Week he steadily declined until Saturday 2 April, the vigil of the Feast of Divine Mercy, going to the Lord at 9:37 Rome time.

Survived assassination: On 13 May 1981, he was shot in St. Peter's Square by Turkish national Mehmet Ali Agca. The Pope attributed his survival to the Blessed Virgin Mary, whose feast day, under the title of Our Lady of Fįtima, it was. Later, the Pope visited Agca in prison and forgave him. On 12 May 1982, in Fįtima, Portugal, where the Pope had gone to give thanks for his survival a year earlier, a schismatic priest tried to stab him with a knife, but was stopped a few feet away. At least one other attempt is known, that of Moslem terrorists to blow up the plane he was traveling on during a visit to the Philippines. Philippino authorities thwarted the elaborate plot.

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

Nobel Peace Prize: Despite his personal intervention in the Falklands War, in the territorial dispute between Chile and Argentina, his role in the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Block, and his ceaseless efforts on behalf of human rights, he never received it. This is largely due to the opposition of the Catholic Church to the feminist and population control agendas which most international organizations support.