Karol Józef Wojtyła was born on 18 May 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. His parents were Karol Wojtyła and Emilia Kaczorowska. He was the youngest of three children. He was nine years old when his mother died in 1929. His father supported him so that he could study. His brother was a doctor. He died when Wojtyła was twelve. He lost everyone in his family - a sister, brother, mother, and father - before he became a priest. He played sports. He liked football (soccer) as a goalkeeper.
Wojtyła went to Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice. In 1938, he studied drama at the Jagiellonian University in Kraków. He worked as a volunteer librarian. He was an athlete, actor, and playwright. He did two months military training in the Academic Legion. This training was compulsory. He would not hold or fire a weapon.
When he was young, he met many Jewish people. They lived in that area. In 1939, Nazi forces closed the Jagiellonian University. All men, except for the disabled, had to have a job. From 1940 to 1944, Wojtyła worked in a restaurant. He also worked in a limestone quarry, and then as a salesman for a chemical factory. He did not want to be sent to Germany. If he was sent, he would be made to join the German army. His father died of a heart attack in February 1941.
On 29 February 1944, Wojtyła was knocked down by a German truck (lorry). He thought he would be badly treated. The German officers sent him to a hospital. He spent two weeks there with head and shoulder injuries. It was at this time that he decided that he must become a priest. When he left hospital, the young Polish men were being sent to Germany for training. He escaped to the house of the Archbishop. He hid there till after the war. On the night of 17 January 1945, the Germans left the city. The priests and teacher and students went back to the seminary. There was a big clean-up to be done. Wojtyła offered to clean out the lavatories.
That month, Wojtyła found a fourteen-year-old Jewish refugee named Edith Zierer. She was trying to reach her parents. She had collapsed from hunger. He gave her food and helped her go to the railway station. She did not hear of him again until the day came when he was elected Pope.
First pope to visit the White House. First modern pope to visit a synagogue.
First pope to visit Cuba.
The most widely traveled pope in history.
Canonized more saints than any other pope.
Created 232 cardinals.
Re-established diplomatic relations with Great Britain after a 450-year break.
In January 1984, re-established diplomatic relations with the United States which had been broken since 1867.
Established diplomatic relations with Israel and with the PLO.
Pope John Paul II died in April 2005 at the age of 84. His official cause of death was septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse. He had suffered from Parkinson's disease, arthritis and other ailments for several years before his death.
Upon his election in 1978, John Paul II was the first non-Italian Pope in 455 years. His official title was: Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Western Church, Patriarch of the West, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Province of Rome, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City.