1920-05-18 to 2005-04-02
Poland, Italy, Vatican CityKarol Józef Wojtyła (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) was the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 1978 to 2005.
In mid-1938, Wojtyła 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, he worked as a volunteer librarian and was required to participate in compulsory military training in the Academic Legion, but he refused to fire a weapon.
In October 1942, while the war continued, he knocked on the door of the Bishop's Palace in Kraków and asked to study for the priesthood. Soon after, he began courses in the clandestine underground seminary run by the Archbishop of Kraków, Adam Stefan Cardinal Sapieha.
On 6 August 1944, a day known as "Black Sunday", the Gestapo rounded up young men in Kraków to curtail the uprising there, similar to the recent uprising in Warsaw. Wojtyła escaped by hiding in the basement of his uncle's house at 10 Tyniecka Street, while the German troops searched above. More than eight thousand men and boys were taken that day, while Wojtyła escaped to the Archbishop's Palace, where he remained until after the Germans had left.
On the night of 17 January 1945, the Germans fled the city, and the students reclaimed the ruined seminary. Wojtyła and another seminarian volunteered for the task of clearing away piles of frozen excrement from the toilets. Wojtyła also helped a 14-year-old Jewish refugee girl named Edith Zierer, who had escaped from a Nazi labour camp in Częstochowa.
Sapieha sent Wojtyła to Rome's Pontifical International Athenaeum Angelicum, the future Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas, to study under the French Dominican Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange beginning on 26 November 1946.
He resided in the Belgian Pontifical College during this time, under presidency of Mgr Maximilien de Furstenberg. Wojtyła earned a licence in July 1947, passed his doctoral exam on 14 June 1948, and successfully defended his doctoral thesis titled Doctrina de fide apud S. Ioannem a Cruce (The Doctrine of Faith in St. John of the Cross) in philosophy on 19 June 1948.
On 4 July 1958, while Wojtyła was on a kayaking holiday in the lakes region of northern Poland, Pope Pius XII appointed him as the Auxiliary Bishop of Kraków. He was then summoned to Warsaw to meet the Primate of Poland, Bishop of Sophene and Vågå, auxiliary of the Catholic Archdiocese of Wrocław, and future Cardinal and Archbishop of Wrocław) and then-Auxiliary Bishop Franciszek Jop of the Catholic Diocese of Sandomierz (Titular Bishop of Daulia; later Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Wrocław and then Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Opole). At the age of 38, Wojtyła became the youngest bishop in Poland.
John Paul II dispensed with the traditional Papal coronation and instead received ecclesiastical investiture with a simplified Papal inauguration on 22 October 1978. During his inauguration, when the cardinals were to kneel before him to take their vows and kiss his ring, he stood up as the Polish prelate Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński knelt down, stopped him from kissing the ring, and simply hugged him.