Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Karol Wojtyla... who?

Pope John Paul II, an influential, yet humble and quiet man, is slowly recuperating in hospital. Millions of faithful Catholics around the world pray for him daily; many afraid that he is living his last days. John Paul II, Pope from 1978, is considered one of the most influential pontiffs of modern history and the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI in 1522. (Catholic Encyclopedia)Who is the man behind the Church and why is he considered one of the most influential popes in papal history?

Born on May 18, 1920 in Poland, Karol Wojtyla was a gifted student and had a love for sports, as well as a fondness for poetry and acting. Many friends thought Karol would eventually end up choosing acting as his career.

In 1942, Karol showed an interest in the priesthood. After ordination on Nov. 1, 1946, he was sent to Rome, earning a doctorate in theology in June, 1948. He returned to Poland and served for three years as a parish priest, but returned to religious studies, earning another doctorate, this time in philosophy.

In 1956, he was named a professor of ethics at Lublin, where he continued his passion for sports. Through the years, he rose in the hierarchy eventually becoming a cardinal in 1967. In 1976, he was given the honor of delivering a series of Lenten sermons before the pope and the papal household. By 1978, he was quietly being advanced as a possible papal candidate, receiving this election on October 16, 1978, to succeed John Paul I.

His election was historical, ending four centuries of Italian domination of the papacy. The youngest pope since Pius IX (1846-1878), John Paul made it clear that a new direction for the Church will begin. With his energy, the Pope became the most widely traveled pontiff in papal history.

Some of his accomplishments include: extensive reforms to the Curia; fostered ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, especially with the Orthodox Church; broadened the international nature of the College of Cardinals; has authored a number of encyclopedias; and has taken a strong and unapologetic stance against the most important modern and moral questions of abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and fetal research.

Perhaps one of his greatest accomplishments was the revision of the Code of Canon Law and the issue of the first revised Catechism since the 16th century.

John Paul’s reign has witnessed some of the most significant events of the century. His election and policies were the source of deep concern to the Kremlin, so much that they may have motivated the attempted assassination of the pontiff on May 13, 1981, by Mehmet Ali Agca in St. Peter’s Square. Recovering, the pope continued his work in resisting communism in Eastern Europe. Many scholars recognize the extensive role he played in the final collapse of the Soviet empire. (Catholic Encyclopedia) John Paul also began formal relations with Israel in 1994, negotiated new agreements or diplomatic ties with Italy, Mexico, Spain, and the U.S.

A poet, playwright, philosopher, mystic, and theologian, John Paul is the author of numerous books and writings beyond his papal duties. Two of his most famous books are “Love and Responsibility”, a study on human sexuality, and “Crossing the Threshold of Hope”, a 1994 international bestseller and the first work by a pope expressing his personal thoughts on the existence of God, human suffering, dignity, the nature of evil, the Church, and his own office.

Rumors about his health surfaced briefly in 1994, (at 74), after a hip injury during a skiing retreat, but were dismissed when he began traveling in 1995. He was named, “Man of the Year” by Time magazine in 1995. His motto has always been, “Totus Tuus” (“Everything for You”).


Blogger Maria said...

Thanks for the post. Nice to see that his efforts are recognized.

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