About this Famous Person

JEAN-PAUL II

Pole JEAN-PAUL II

born Karol Józef WOJTYLA

Supreme Pontiff of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of Vatican City from 1978 until 2005

Source :  Richard CLAUDON

Born: on May 18, 1920 in Wadowice, Poland
Died: on April 02, 2005 in Apostolic Palace, Vatican City


Biography

Karol Józef Wojtyla was born in the Polish town of Wadowice and was the youngest of three children of Karol Wojtyla, an ethnic Pole, and Emilia Kaczorowska, who was of Lithuanian ancestry. His mother died on 13 April 1929, when he was eight years old. Karol's elder sister, Olga, had died in infancy before his birth, thus, Karol grew close to his brother Edmund, who was 14 years his senior, and whom he nicknamed ‘Mundek’. However, Edmund's work as a physician led to his contraction and death of scarlet fever, profoundly affecting Karol.

As a youth, Wojtyla was an athlete and often played football (soccer) as a goalkeeper; he was also a supporter of Polish club Cracovia Kraków. His formative years were influenced by numerous contacts with the vibrant and prospering Jewish community of Wadowice. School football games were often organised between teams of Jews and Catholics, and Wojtyla would voluntarily offer himself as a substitute goalkeeper on the Jewish side if they were short of players.

In the summer of 1938, Karol Wojtyla and his father left Wadowice and moved to Kraków, where he enrolled at the Jagiellonian University. While studying such topics as philology and various languages at the University, he worked as a volunteer librarian and was forced to do compulsory military training in the Academic Legion, but he refused to hold or fire a weapon. He also performed with various theatrical groups and worked as a playwright. During this time, his talent for language blossomed and he learned as many as 12 foreign languages, nine of which he later used extensively as Pope.

In 1939, Nazi German occupation forces closed the Jagiellonian University after the invasion of Poland. All able-bodied males were required to work, and, from 1940 to 1944, Wojtyla variously worked as a messenger for a restaurant, a manual labourer in a limestone quarry, and for the Solvay chemical factory to avoid being deported to Germany. His father, a non-commissioned army officer, died of a heart attack in 1941, leaving Karol the sole surviving member of his immediate family. “I was not at my mother's death, I was not at my brother's death, I was not at my father's death,” he said, reflecting on these times of his life, nearly forty years later, “At twenty, I had already lost all the people I loved.”

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See Also :

- Category Pope