St. John Paul II
Feast Day: Oct. 22
Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in Wadowice, Poland, May 18, 1920. He lost his mother in 1929, an elder brother in 1932 and his father in 1941. After completing high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in the Jagellonian University of Krakow in 1938. When the occupying Nazi forces closed the university in 1939, Karol worked in a quarry and then in the Solvay chemical factory (1940-1944) to earn a living and to avoid deportation to Germany.
Feeling called to the priesthood, he began his studies in 1942 in an underground seminary of Krakow. During that time, he was one of the organizers of the clandestine “Rhapsodic Theatre.”
After the war, he was ordained Nov. 1, 1946. After studies in Rome, Fr. Wojtyła was appointed a curate in Niegowić, near Krakow, and later at St. Florian in the city. He was a university chaplain until 1951, when he again undertook studies in philosophy and theology. Later he became professor of moral theology and ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the theology faculty of Lublin.
Pope Pius XII appointed Fr. Wojtyła auxiliary bishop of Krakow July 4, 1958. Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak ordained him in Wawel Cathedral (Krakow) Sept. 28 of that year. Bishop Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) and made a significant contribution to the drafting of the Constitution “Gaudium et Spes.” On Jan. 13, 1964, St. Paul VI appointed Bishop Wojtyła as archbishop of Krakow and subsequently, elevated him to the cardinalate in 1967.
Cardinal Wojtyła was elected pope Oct. 16, 1978, and he began his ministry Oct. 22. Pope John Paul II made 146 pastoral visits in Italy, and his international apostolic journeys numbered 104. His principal documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions and 45 Apostolic Letters. He also wrote five books.
On May 3, 1981, an attempt was made on Pope John Paul II’s life in St. Peter’s Square. Saved by the maternal hand of the mother of God, following a lengthy stay in the hospital, he forgave the attempted assassin and, aware of having received a great gift, intensified his pastoral commitments with heroic generosity.
Pope John Paul II also demonstrated his pastoral concern by erecting numerous dioceses and ecclesiastical circumscriptions, and by promulgating Codes of Canon Law for the Latin and the Oriental Churches, as well as the Catechism of the Catholic Church. He also attracted young people by beginning the celebration of World Youth Day.
Pope John Paul II died in the Apostolic Palace on Saturday, April 2, 2005, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, which he had instituted. On April 8, his solemn funeral was celebrated in St. Peter’s Square and he was buried in the crypt of St. Peter’s Basilica.
His former adviser Pope Benedict XVI beatified him in 2011, and Pope Francis canonized him, along with St. John XXIII, in 2014. His feast day marks the anniversary of when he formally assumed the papacy.
Impact on the Diocese of Phoenix
On Sept. 14, 1987, St. John Paul II came to Phoenix for a one-day apostolic visit as a part of his whirlwind tour through the United State.
“Like all of America’s Southwest, Arizona faces challenges of amazing growth. I am told that the motto of your state is ‘Ditat Desu,’ ‘God enriches,’” the pontiff said from the plaza at St. Mary’s Basilica during his apostolic visit to Arizona. “And indeed, you have all around you ample proof of this enrichment: in the majesty and beauty of your landscape and especially in the diversity and giftedness of your people. Your state and the ever-growing number of its citizens have been greatly blessed and enriched by God. In the past 40 years, in particular, you have experienced remarkable progress and development. And this brings with it increased obligations and responsibilities.”
He is the patron of St. John Paul II Catholic High School in Avondale and the John Paul II Theology of the Body Resource Center. He is also a patron of the diocese’s “Together Let Us Go Forth ~ Juntos Sigamos Adelante” campaign.