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Remembering Pope John Paul-II

21 April, 2006

By Syed A. Mateen


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Karol Jozef Wojtyla, known as John Paul II since his October 1978 election to the papacy was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Cracow on May 18, 1920. He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer died in 1941.

He made his First Holy Communion at age of 9 and was confirmed when he was 18 years old. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Cracow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama. The Nazi occupation forces closed the University in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry from 1940-1944 and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

 

After the Second World War, Pope John Paul-II continued his studies in the major seminary of Cracow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University, until his priestly ordination in Cracow on November 1, 1946. Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the topic of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross. At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland.

In 1948 Pope returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Cracow as well as chaplain for the university students until 1951, when he took up again his studies on philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on "evaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler" at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Cracow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin.

On July 4, 1958, he was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Cracow by Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Cracow, by Archbishop Baziak. On January 13, 1964, he was nominated Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal on June 26, 1967. Besides taking part in Vatican Council II with an important contribution to the elaboration of the Constitution Gaudium et spes, Cardinal Wojtyla participated in all the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops.

Since the start of his Pontificate on October 16, 1978, Pope John Paul-II has completed 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy and 146 within Italy. As Bishop of Rome he has visited 317 of the 333 parishes. His principal documents include 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions and 44 apostolic letters. The Pope has also published five books: "Crossing the Threshold of Hope" (October 1994); "Gift and Mystery on the 50th Anniversary of My Priestly Ordination" (November 1996); "Roman Triptych - Meditations", a book of poems (March 2003); "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way" (May 2004) and "Memory and Identity" (Spring 2005).

Pope John Paul-II has presided at 147 beatification ceremonies and 51 canonization ceremonies during his pontificate. He has held 9 consistories in which he created 232 cardinals. He has also convened six plenary meetings of the College of Cardinals. Since 1978, Pope John Paul-II has presided at 15 Synods of Bishops, six ordinary, one extraordinary and eight special.

No other Pope has encountered so many individuals like John Paul-II. More than 17,600,000 pilgrims have participated in the General Audiences held on Wednesdays. Such figure is without counting all other special audiences and religious ceremonies held and the millions of faithful met during pastoral visits made in Italy and throughout the  orld.

Pope John Paul-II was the third longest-serving pope in history, the first non-Italian since 1952, and the first Slavic pope in history. In his message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, he said "today men and women, in the face of the tragedies that continue to afflict humanity, are tempted to yield to fatalism, as if peace were an unattainable". Pope calls it: "Peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty".

Pope also said that "War is not our fate. We must not be resigned, as though war were inevitable,". The Pope said to the Sant Egidio Catholic movement on March 8, 2003. "I think that when it is a question of peace, it is never too late to dialogue". On March 16, 2003, while a meeting in preparation for the invasion of Iraq took place in the Azores Islands between the United States, Britain, Spain and Portugal, Pope said, "I would also like to remind the member countries of the United Nations and in particular those that make up the Security Council that the use of force represents the last recourse, after having exhausted every other peaceful solution, in keeping with the well-known principles of the U.N. charter itself."

Pope added: "I say to all: There is still time to negotiate; there is still room for peace; it is never too late to come to an understanding and to continue discussions. To reflect on one's duties, to engage in energetic negotiations does not mean to be humiliated but to work with responsibility for peace."

Pope once said that "Force as a last resort must also take into account mankind's possibility of enhancing world peace. Through political and educational means the international community can promote the respect of human rights. There will be no peace on earth while the oppression of peoples, injustices and economic imbalances, which still exist".

 

Pope John Paul II will always be remembered for the contribution he has made in his life by all the peace loving citizens in the world, where ever they live, which ever religion they practice, as he was a living symbol of peace in the world. May God rest his soul in peace.

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