St. Pope John Paul II Essay

It would not be a mistake to suggest that there is a category of people who are known all over the world. This is particularly true today when means of communication evolved so much that it literally takes seconds for a news to enter the public attention. However, there are some prominent figures that are known to a wide audience even though their significance is limited to a particular group. A good example is the Pope. Though he is considered to be the head of the Catholic Church and, therefore, bears significance only for this group, it is clear that numerous people all over the world pay attention to his actions. Another point that should be mentioned is that if a truly charismatic person holds this position, he is likely to be remembered around the world even after his death. This was true in the case of St. Pope John Paul II the Great. This paper will provide an overview of his life and the legacy that he left.


To begin with, it may be useful to develop a broad perspective on his figure. Karol Jozef Wojtyla, future St. Pope John Paul II the great was born in Poland in 1920. He was an ethnic Pole which makes him exceptional since not so many Slavic priests were able to reach the highest place in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church (Behnke 132). He decided to become a priest in 1942 when he lost his family and felt that he could devote his life to God. He quickly climbed up the ladder of position, becoming a deacon in 1946, a priest later same year, a bishop in 1958, a cardinal in 1967, and the Pope in 1978. Speaking of his papacy, it is essential to mention that he become a Pope thirty-three days after his predecessor, John Paul I, was ordained. In his honor St. Pope John Paul the Great took similar Regency name.


Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born to a family of three children. His mother died in childbirth when he was just eight years old (Stanley 23). In the childhood, Karol was very close with his older brother who was 13 years older. When his brother died, this loss struck him deeply. Growing up, Karol was quite athletic: he enjoyed playing football and would often participate in school sports events. In his school, there was evident division into Jews and Catholics on the field and surprisingly Karol, though not being a Jew, often played in the team of the former. Another point that should be mentioned about his childhood is that the future Pope was a talented linguist: he learned 12 languages when he was young. He continued using nine of them when he became a priest and, ultimately, the Pope. When the Nazi-occupied Poland, Karol had to take some minor jobs. Several times he was able to escape police raid by hiding. From the young age, Karol proved himself to be a pacifist, for example, by refusing to fire a gun.


When it comes to discussing the family of St. Pope John Paul II the Great, one should note that he suffered a serious personal tragedy. As it was mentioned he was born to a family of three children, but he ultimately outlived each of his close relatives. His mother dies in 1929, which was the first serious loss that he experienced in the early childhood. Later each of his family members died, but Karol was not able to attend their funeral for various reasons (Szulc 51). His older brother with whom he was quite close became a physician and died of scarlet fever. This was another loss that left a scar on his soul. In 1941, his father who was living with Karol in Krakow died of a heart attack. At that point, the future Pope understood that there was no longer any immediate relative left. Given the difficult conditions that Poland suffered at the time, Karol felt that he could devote his entire life to God.

Important dates

One would make no mistake suggesting that 1942 was the first important date in the life of the future Pope, Thus, we went to the bishop of Krakow and asked to study for the priesthood. In order to study, he had to go to underground seminary (Paul and Chiffolo 48). In 1944, Karol barely escaped death after being hit by a truck. The same year he escapes a police raid. In 1945, he and another volunteer from the underground seminary started restoring the building of the seminary after the Germans left the city. A year later he was ordained a priest. Thus began his long career to the position of the Pope. In 1978, he was elected because his candidacy was seen as the best compromise among the available. After being ordained, he started traveling the world with his first visit being to the Dominican Republic and Mexico in 1979. In 1981, he survived his first assassination attempt. A gunman affiliated with a far-right group in Turkey shot the Pope and the latter had to undergo a serious surgery. In less than a year after, a single day before the anniversary of this first assassination attempt, a man tried to kill him with a bayonet.

Important locations

 It is rather difficult to identify important locations in the life of St. Pope John Paul II the Great since he is considered to be one of the most-traveled Popes in recent history. There is no doubt that Poland remains an important place for him since a considerable number of life-changing events happened there: the loss of his family, the Nazi occupation, the first years as a priest. After all, he was a Pole and felt a deep connection with this motherland (Tollefsen 59). The Vatican became another important location: St. Pope John Paul II the Great worked there and a lot of his activities are closely related to that city. Turkey and Portugal are two countries were assassination attempts were performed. The Pope visited 129 countries of the world which mean that in the course of his papacy he was able to visit a lot of locations.

Cause of death

In spite of the fact that St. Pope John Paul II the Great used to be an able-bodied young man, over the years his health deteriorated greatly. Before becoming a priest he was hit by a truck and by a tram which resulted in serious medical consequences. In addition that one should note that the Pope survived two assassination attempts. In spite of the fact that the assassins were not able to take his life, they damage his health greatly. In 2001, the first signs of Parkinson’s disease appear, though it took the Vatican several years to acknowledge the problem. Even though the Pope could not speak more than several sentences at a time, have troubles with hearing and suffered from osteoarthrosis, he did not give up on traveling. In February 2005, he suffered from a severe case of influenza. On March 31, 2005, he suffered from a septic shock that was caused by urinary tract infection. He used in the evening that day.


Speaking of the legacy that St. Pope John Paul II the Great left, one should note that there are several points that should be mentioned. On the one hand, many praised him for adhering to the traditional values of the Catholic Church and resisting the global trend of liberalization. In addition to that, the Pope was an active opponent of authoritarian regimes and armed conflicts, condemning every conflict that began in the course of his papacy. In addition to that, he made a lot to turn the Catholic Church into a religious group that would be coherent with the contemporary times: he apologized for the misdeeds of the Church of the past, worked hard to facilitate contacts with other religions, including Islam and Judaism. On the other hand, he was criticized for rejecting scientific knowledge regarding the positive aspects of contraception, reforming the religious practices, and not acting on the scandals regarding various church officials.


Having examined all the points that were mentioned in the paragraphs above, one is able to come to the following conclusion: the life of St. Pope John Paul II the Great was quite interesting. Born in Poland, he soon lost all his immediate family and had to suffer the German occupation. He realized that he could devote his life to God and was particularly successful in doing so ever since. He learned many languages when he was young and continued using the majority of them when he becomes the Pope. In addition to that, he traveled around the world, trying to build bridges with other denominations and religious groups. He survived several assassination attempts, but forgave each his assassin. St. Pope John Paul II the Great will be remembered as an iconic religious leader who did his best to make sure that the Catholic Church is able to adapt to the new role in the modern world. 

Works Cited

Behnke, Alison. Pope John Paul II. London: Lerner , 2005. Print.

Paul, John, and Anthony F. Chiffolo. Pope John Paul II: in my own words. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2012. Print.

Stanley, George E. Pope John Paul II: Young Man of the Church. New York, NY: Fitzgerald , 2010. Print.

Szulc, Tad. Pope John Paul II: the biography. London: Pocket, 2016. Print.

Tollefsen, Christopher. John Paul IIs contibution to catholic bioethics. Dordrecht: Springer, 2005. Print.

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