Pope John Paul II

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The Early Years

Pope John Paul's original name before he became Pope was Karol Joseph Wojtyla. Karol Wojtyla was born on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice Poland. Emilia, Karol's mother died on April 13, 1929 and with no mother he began a spiritual devotion to the Virgin Mary. Karol and his father, Karol Wojtyla Sr., had become closer and they lived off the small military pension. The winter of 1930, Karol's older brother Edmund died. Karol was educated in a school with less anti-Semitism and was a popular student. Karol realized that he was more interested in acting than priesthood, but his father sent him to Jagiellonian University to study philosophy. In 1939, Karol's university years were interrupted by the Nazi invasion of Poland. Life was more brutal than before as Karol lived under Nazi occupation and his father died February 18, 1941. Karol was now 20 years old and lost his mother, brother as well as his father leaving Karol with no family.

After the death of Karol's father, Karol wanted to fulfill his father's wish by becoming a priest. Karol shocked his acting friends by entering an underground seminary run secretly by the Archbishop of Krakow, a talented cardinal. Karol chose to study priesthood even though the Nazi's would kill priests. It was risky, at 23, he was hit by a tram and later he was hit by a military truck that left him for death. He was only saved from a woman that noticed he was unconscious and took him to the hospital. Once Karol got out of the hospital, for the next two years he was a factory worker, underground actor and clandestine seminarian. In 1946, Karol Wojtyla had become a priest.

Rising to the Top

On January 13, 1964, Wojtyla was named the archbishop at...