Pope Saint John Paul II (May 18th, 1920 – April 2nd, 2005) served as Pope of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City from 1978 to 2005. He is called Saint John Paul the Great by some Catholics.

He was elected by the second Papal conclave of 1978, which was called after Pope John Paul I, who had been elected in August to succeed Pope Paul VI, died after thirty-three days. Cardinal Wojtyła was elected on the third day of the conclave and adopted his predecessor's name in tribute to him. John Paul II is recognized as helping to end Communist rule in his native Poland and eventually all of Europe. John Paul II significantly improved the Catholic Church's relations with Judaism, Islam, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and the Anglican Communion. He upheld the Church's teachings on such matters as artificial contraception and the ordination of women, but also supported the Church's Second Vatican Council and its reforms.

John Paul II was the second longest-serving pope in modern history after Pope Pius IX, who served for nearly 32 years from 1846 to 1878. Born in Poland, John Paul II was the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Pope Adrian VI, who served from 1522 to 1523. John Paul II's cause for canonisation commenced in 2005 one month after his death with the traditional five-year waiting period waived. On 19 December 2009, John Paul II was proclaimed Venerable by his successor Pope Benedict XVI and was beatified on 1 May 2011 (Divine Mercy Sunday) after the Congregation for the Causes of Saints attributed one miracle to his intercession, the healing of a French nun from Parkinson's disease. A second miracle attributed to John Paul II's intercession was approved on 2 July 2013, and confirmed by Pope Francis two days later (two miracles must be attributed to a person's intercession to be declared a saint).

John Paul II was canonised on 27 April 2014 (again Divine Mercy Sunday), together with Pope John XXIII. On 11 September 2014, Pope Francis added John Paul II's optional memorial feast day to the worldwide General Roman Calendar of saints, in response to worldwide requests. It is traditional to celebrate saints' feast days on the anniversary of their deaths, but that of John Paul II (22 October) is celebrated on the anniversary of his papal inauguration.

Early Life

Karol Józef Wojtyła was born in the Polish town of Wadowice.He was the youngest of three children born to Karol Wojtyła (1879–1941), an ethnic Pole, and Emilia Kaczorowska (1884–1929), whose mother's maiden surname was Scholz.Emilia, who was a schoolteacher, died from a heart attack and Kidney failure in 1929 when Wojtyła was eight years old. His elder sister Olga had died before his birth, but he was close to his brother Edmund, nicknamed Mundek, who was 13 years his senior. Edmund's work as a physician eventually led to his death from scarlet fever, a loss that affected Wojtyła deeply.

As a boy, Wojtyła was athletic, often playing soccer as goalkeeper. During his childhood, Wojtyła had contact with Wadowice's large Jewish community. School football games were often organised between teams of Jews and Catholics, and Wojtyła often played on the Jewish side. "I remember that at least a third of my classmates at elementary school in Wadowice were Jews. At elementary school there were fewer. With some I was on very friendly terms. And what struck me about some of them was their Polish patriotism." It was around this time that the young Karol had his first serious relationship with a girl. He became close to a girl called Ginka Beer, described as "a Jewish beauty, with stupendous eyes and jet black hair, slender, a superb actress."

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. He performed with various theatrical groups and worked as a playwright.[31] During this time, his talent for language blossomed, and he learned as many as 12 languages — Polish, Latin, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French, English, German, Ukrainian, Serbo-Croatian, Slovak and Esperanto, nine of which he used extensively as pope.

In 1939, Nazi German occupation forces closed the university after invading Poland. Able-bodied males were required to work, so from 1940 to 1944 Wojtyła variously worked as a messenger for a restaurant, a manual labourer in a limestone quarry and for the Solvay chemical factory, to avoid deportation to Germany. In 1940 he was struck by a tram, suffering a fractured skull. The same year he was hit by a lorry in a quarry, which left him with one shoulder higher than the other and a permanent stoop. His father, a former Austro-Hungarian non-commissioned officer and later officer in the Polish Army, died of a heart attack in 1941, leaving Wojtyła as the immediate family's only surviving member. "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."

Presbyterate

After finishing his studies at the seminary in Kraków, Wojtyła was ordained as a priest on All Saints' Day, 1 November 1946, by the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal Sapieha. 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. The Angelicum preserves the original copy of Wojtyła's typewritten thesis. Among other courses at the Angelicum, Wojtyła studied Hebrew with the Dutch Dominican Peter G. Duncker, author of the Compendium grammaticae linguae hebraicae biblicae.

According to Wojtyła's schoolmate the future Austrian Cardinal Alfons Stickler, in 1947 during his sojourn at the Angelicum Wojtyła visited Padre Pio, who heard his confession and told him that one day he would ascend to "the highest post in the Church". Cardinal Stickler added that Wojtyła believed that the prophecy was fulfilled when he became a Cardinal.

Wojtyła returned to Poland in the summer of 1948 for his first pastoral assignment in the village of Niegowić, fifteen miles (24 kilometres) from Kraków, at the Church of the Assumption. He arrived at Niegowić at harvest time, where his first action was to kneel and kiss the ground. He repeated this gesture, which he adapted from the French saint Jean Marie Baptiste Vianney, throughout his papacy.

In March 1949, Wojtyła was transferred to the parish of Saint Florian in Kraków. He taught ethics at Jagiellonian University and subsequently at the Catholic University of Lublin. While teaching, he gathered a group of about 20 young people, who began to call themselves Rodzinka, the "little family". They met for prayer, philosophical discussion, and to help the blind and sick. The group eventually grew to approximately 200 participants, and their activities expanded to include annual skiing and kayaking trips.[60]

In 1953, Wojtyła's habilitation thesis was accepted by the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University. In 1954, he earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology, evaluating the feasibility of a Catholic ethic based on the ethical system of the phenomenologist Max Scheler with a dissertation titled "Reevaluation of the possibility of founding a Catholic ethic on the ethical system of Max Scheler" (Ocena możliwości zbudowania etyki chrześcijańskiej przy założeniach systemu Maksa Schelera). Scheler was a German philosopher who founded a broad philosophical movement that emphasised the study of conscious experience. However, the Communist authorities abolished the Faculty of Theology at the Jagellonian University, thereby preventing him from receiving the degree until 1957. Wojtyła developed a theological approach, called phenomenological Thomism, that combined traditional Catholic Thomism with the ideas of personalism, a philosophical approach deriving from phenomenology, which was popular among Catholic intellectuals in Kraków during Wojtyła's intellectual development. He translated Scheler's Formalism and the Ethics of Substantive Values.[64]

During this period, Wojtyła wrote a series of articles in Kraków's Catholic newspaper, Tygodnik Powszechny ("Universal Weekly"), dealing with contemporary church issues. He focused on creating original literary work during his first dozen years as a priest. War, life under Communism, and his pastoral responsibilities all fed his poetry and plays. Wojtyła published his work under two pseudonyms—Andrzej Jawień and Stanisław Andrzej Gruda —to distinguish his literary from his religious writings (under his own name), and also so that his literary works would be considered on their merits In 1960, Wojtyła published the influential theological book Love and Responsibility, a defence of traditional Church teachings on marriage from a new philosophical standpoint.

While a priest in Kraków, groups of students regularly joined Wojtyła for hiking, skiing, bicycling, camping and kayaking, accompanied by prayer, outdoor Masses and theological discussions. In Stalinist-era Poland, it was not permitted for priests to travel with groups of students. Father Wojtyła asked his younger companions to call him "Wujek" (Polish for "Uncle") to prevent outsiders from deducing he was a priest. The nickname gained popularity among his followers. In 1958, when Wojtyła was named auxiliary bishop of Kraków, his acquaintances expressed concern that this would cause him to change. Wojtyła responded to his friends, "Wujek will remain Wujek," and he continued to live a simple life, shunning the trappings that came with his position as Bishop. This beloved nickname stayed with Wojtyła for his entire life and continues to be affectionately used, particularly by the Polish people.

Episcopate and Cardinalate

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 Bishopof Kraków. He was then summoned to Warsaw to meet the Primate of Poland, Stefan Cardinal Wyszyński, who informed him of his appointment. He agreed to serve as Auxiliary Bishop to Kraków's Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak, and he received episcopal consecration (as Titular Bishop of Ombi) on 28 September 1958. Baziak was the principal consecrator. Principal co-consecrators were Bishop Boleslaw Kominek (Titular 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. The following year, 1959, Wojtyla held Nowa Huta's first ever Mass, a Midnight Mass on Christmas Day. Baziak died in June 1962 and on 16 July Wojtyła was selected as Vicar Capitular (temporary administrator) of the Archdiocese until an Archbishop could be appointed.

In October 1962, Wojtyła took part in the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965), where he made contributions to two of its most historic and influential products, the Decree on Religious Freedom (in Latin, Dignitatis humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World(Gaudium et spes). Wojtyła and the Polish bishops contributed a draft text to the Council for Gaudium et spes. According to the historian John W. O'Malley, the draft text Gaudium et spes that Wojtyła and the Polish delegation sent "had some influence on the version that was sent to the council fathers that summer but was not accepted as the base text". According to John F. Crosby, as pope, John Paul II used the words of Gaudium et speslater to introduce his own views on the nature of the human person in relation to God: man is "the only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake", but man "can fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself".

He also participated in the assemblies of the Synod of Bishops. On 13 January 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop of Kraków. On 26 June 1967, Paul VI announced Archbishop Karol Wojtyła's promotion to the Sacred College of Cardinals. Wojtyła was named Cardinal-Priest of the titulus of San Cesareo in Palatio.

In 1967, he was instrumental in formulating the encyclical Humanae vitae, which dealt with the same issues that forbid abortion and artificial birth control.

In 1970, according to a contemporary witness, Cardinal Wojtyła was against the distribution of a letter around Kraków, stating that the Polish Episcopate was preparing for the 50th anniversary of the Polish–Soviet War.

In 1973 Cardinal Wojtyła met philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, the wife of Hendrik S. Houthakker, Professor of Economics at Stanford University and Harvard University, and member of President Nixon's Council of Economic Advisers Tymieniecka collaborated with Wojtyła on a number of projects including an English translation of Wojtyła's book Osoba i czyn (Person and Act). Person and Act, one of Pope John Paul II's foremost literary works, was initially written in Polish. Tymieniecka produced the English-language version. They corresponded over the years, and grew to be good friends. When Wojtyła visited New England in the summer of 1976, Tymieniecka put him up as a guest in her family home. Wojtyła enjoyed his holiday in Pomfret, Vermont kayaking and enjoying as he had done in his beloved Poland.Photos of the two friends on holiday together, skiing, camping, and picnicking, show Cardinal Wojtyła in his shorts, in his most relaxed state.

During Wojtyła's visits to Pomfret, Tymieniecka also organised his meeting with the American Cardinals through her husband’s connections. These same Cardinals would be the ones who would give him most support at his eventual election to the papacy

Papacy

Election

In August 1978, following the death of Pope Paul VI, Cardinal Wojtyła voted in the papal conclave, which elected Pope John Paul I. John Paul I died after only 33 days as pope, triggering another conclave.

The second conclave of 1978 started on 14 October, ten days after the funeral. It was split between two strong candidates for the papacy: Giuseppe Cardinal Siri, the conservative Archbishop of Genoa, and the liberal Archbishop of Florence, Giovanni Cardinal Benelli, a close friend of John Paul I

Supporters of Benelli were confident that he would be elected, and in early ballots, Benelli came within nine votes of success. However, both men faced sufficient opposition for neither to be likely to prevail. Giovanni Colombo, the Archbishop of Milan was considered as a compromise candidate among the Italian cardinal-electors, but when he started to receive votes, he announced that, if elected, he would decline to accept the papacy. Franz Cardinal König, Archbishop of Vienna, suggested to his fellow electors another compromise candidate: the Polish Cardinal Karol Józef Wojtyła. Wojtyła won on the eighth ballot on the third day (October)—coincidentally the day that evangelical preacher Billy Graham had just concluded a 10-day pilgrimage to Poland—with, according to the Italian press, 99 votes from the 111 participating electors.

Among those cardinals who rallied behind Wojtyła were supporters of Giuseppe Siri, Stefan Wyszyński, most of the American cardinals (led by John Krol), and other moderate cardinals. He accepted his election with the words: "With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept." The pope, in tribute to his immediate predecessor, then took the regnal name of John Paul II, also in honor of the late Pope Paul VI, and the traditional white smoke informed the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square that a pope had been chosen. There had been rumors that the new pope wished to be known as Pope Stanislaus I in honor of the Polish saint of the name, but was convinced by the cardinals that it was not a Roman name. When the new pontiff appeared on the balcony, he broke tradition by addressing the gathered crowd:[84]

Wojtyła became the 264th pope according to the chronological list of popes, the first non-Italian in 455 years. At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest pope since Pope Pius IX in 1846, who was 54. Like his predecessor, 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.

Teachings

As pope, John Paul II wrote 14 papal encyclicals and taught about sexuality in what is referred as the "Theology of the Body". Some key elements of his strategy to "reposition the Catholic Church" were encyclicals such as Ecclesia de EucharistiaReconciliatio et paenitentia and Redemptoris Mater. In his At the beginning of the new millennium (Novo Millennio Ineunte), he emphasised the importance of "starting afresh from Christ": "No, we shall not be saved by a formula but by a Person." In The Splendour of the Truth (Veritatis Splendor), he emphasised the dependence of man on God and His Law ("Without the Creator, the creature disappears") and the "dependence of freedom on the truth". He warned that man "giving himself over to relativism and scepticism, goes off in search of an illusory freedom apart from truth itself". In Fides et Ratio (On the Relationship between Faith and Reason) John Paul promoted a renewed interest in philosophy and an autonomous pursuit of truth in theological matters. Drawing on many different sources (such as Thomism), he described the mutually supporting relationship between faith and reason, and emphasised that theologians should focus on that relationship. John Paul II wrote extensively about workers and the social doctrine of the Church, which he discussed in three encyclicals: Laborem exercensSollicitudo rei socialis, and Centesimus annus. Through his encyclicals and many Apostolic Letters and Exhortations, John Paul II talked about the dignity of women and the importance of the family for the future of humanity.Other encyclicals include The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae) and Ut Unum Sint (That They May Be One). Though critics accused him of inflexibility in explicitly re-asserting Catholic moral teachings against abortion and euthanasia that have been in place for well over a thousand years, he urged a more nuanced view of capital punishment. In his second encyclical Dives in misericordia he stressed that divine mercy is the greatest feature of God, needed especially in modern times.

Moral stances

John Paul II was considered a conservative on doctrine and issues relating to human sexual reproduction and the ordination of women.

While he was visiting the United States in 1977, the year before becoming pope, Wojtyla said: "All human life, from the moments of conception and through all subsequent stages, is sacred."

A series of 129 lectures given by John Paul II during his Wednesday audiences in Rome between September 1979 and November 1984 were later compiled and published as a single work titled Theology of the Body, an extended meditation on human sexuality. He extended it to the condemnation of abortion, euthanasia and virtually all capital punishment, calling them all a part of a struggle between a "culture of life" and a "culture of death" . He campaigned for world debt forgiveness and social justice. He coined the term "social mortgage", which related that all private property had a social dimension, namely, that "the goods of this are originally meant for all." In 2000, he publicly endorsed the Jubilee 2000 campaign on African debt relief fronted by Irish rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono, once famously interrupting a U2 recording session by telephoning the studio and asking to speak to Bono.

Pope John Paul II, who was present and very influential at the 1962–65 Second Vatican Council, affirmed the teachings of that Council and did much to implement them. Nevertheless, his critics often wished that he would embrace the so-called "progressive" agenda that some hoped would evolve as a result of the Council. In fact, the Council did not advocate "progressive" changes in these areas; for example, they still condemned abortion as an unspeakable crime. Pope John Paul II continued to declare that contraception, abortion, and homosexual acts were gravely sinful, and, with Joseph Ratzinger (future Pope Benedict XVI), opposed liberation theology.

Following the Church's exaltation of the marital act of sexual intercourse between a baptised man and woman within sacramental marriage as proper and exclusive to the sacrament of marriage, John Paul II believed that it was, in every instance, profaned by contraception, abortion, divorce followed by a 'second' marriage, and by homosexual acts. In 1994, John Paul II asserted the Church's lack of authority to ordain women to the priesthood, stating that without such authority ordination is not legitimately compatible with fidelity to Christ. This was also deemed a repudiation of calls to break with the constant tradition of the Church by ordaining women to the priesthood.In addition, John Paul II chose not to end the discipline of mandatory priestly celibacy, although in a small number of unusual circumstances, he did allow certain married clergymen of other Christian traditions who later became Catholic to be ordained as Catholic priests.

Apartheid In South Africa

Pope John Paul II was an outspoken opponent of apartheid in South Africa. In 1985, while visiting the Netherlands, he gave an impassioned speech condemning apartheid at the International Court of Justice, proclaiming that "No system of apartheid or separate development will ever be acceptable as a model for the relations between peoples or races." In September 1988, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to ten Southern African countries, including those bordering South Africa, while demonstratively avoiding South Africa. During his visit to Zimbabwe, John Paul II called for economic sanctions against South Africa's government. After John Paul II's death, both Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised the pope for defending human rights and condemning economic injustice.

Capital Punishment

Pope John Paul II was an outspoken opponent of the death penalty, although previous popes had accepted the practice.

During a visit in St. Louis, John Paul II convinced the then governor of Missouri, Mel Carnahan, to reduce the death sentence of convicted murderer Darrell J. Mease to life imprisonment without parole. John Paul II's other attempts to reduce the sentence of death-row inmates were unsuccessful. In 1983, John Paul II visited Guatemala and unsuccessfully asked the country's president, Efraín Ríos Montt, to reduce the sentence for six left-wing guerrillas sentenced to death.

In 2002, John Paul II again travelled to Guatemala. At that time, Guatemala was one of only two countries in Latin America (the other being Cuba) to apply capital punishment. John Paul II asked the Guatemalan president, Alfonso Portillo, for a moratorium on executions.

European Union

Pope John Paul II pushed for a reference to Europe's Christian cultural roots in the draft of the European Constitution. In his 2003 apostolic exhortation Ecclesia in Europa, John Paul II wrote that he "fully (respected) the secular nature of (European) institutions". However, he wanted the EU Constitution to enshrine religious rights, including acknowledging the rights of religious groups to organise freely, recognise the specific identity of each denomination and allow for a "structured dialogue" between each religious community and the EU, and extend across the European Union the legal status enjoyed by religious institutions in individual member states. "I wish once more to appeal to those drawing up the future European Constitutional Treaty so that it will include a reference to the religion and in particular to the Christian heritage of Europe," John Paul II said. The pope's desire for a reference to Europe's Christian identity in the Constitution was supported by non-Catholic representatives of the Church of England and Eastern Orthodox Churches from Russia, Romania, and Greece. John Paul II's demand to include a reference to Europe's Christian roots in the European Constitution was supported by some non-Christians, such as Joseph Weiler, a practising Orthodox Jew and renowned constitutional lawyer, who said that the Constitution's lack of a reference to Christianity was not a "demonstration of neutrality," but, rather, "a Jacobin attitude".

At the same time, however, John Paul II was an enthusiastic supporter of European integration; in particular, he supported his native Poland's entry into the bloc. On 19 May 2003, three weeks before a referendum was held in Poland on EU membership, the Polish pope addressed his compatriots and urged them to vote for Poland's EU membership at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City State. While some conservative, Catholic politicians in Poland opposed EU membership, John Paul II said:

The Polish pope compared Poland's entry into the EU to the Union of Lublin, which was signed in 1564 and united the Kingdom of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania into one nation and created an elective monarchy.

Role in the collapse of Communism

John Paul II has been credited with being instrumental in bringing down Communism in Central and Eastern Europe, by being the spiritual inspiration behind its downfall and catalyst for "a peaceful revolution" in Poland. Lech Wałęsa, the founder of Solidarity and the first post-Communist President of Poland, credited John Paul II with giving Poles the courage to demand change. According to Wałęsa, "Before his pontificate, the world was divided into blocs. Nobody knew how to get rid of Communism. In Warsaw, in 1979, he simply said: 'Do not be afraid', and later prayed: 'Let your Spirit descend and change the image of the land … this land'." It has also been widely alleged that the Vatican Bank covertly funded Solidarity.

US President Ronald Reagan's correspondence with the pope reveals "a continuous scurrying to shore up Vatican support for U.S. policies. Perhaps most surprisingly, the papers show that, as late as 1984, the pope did not believe the Communist Polish government could be changed."

In December 1989, John Paul II met with the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the Vatican and each expressed his respect and admiration for the other. Gorbachev once said "The collapse of the Iron Curtain would have been impossible without John Paul II." On John Paul II's death, Mikhail Gorbachev said: "Pope John Paul II's devotion to his followers is a remarkable example to all of us."

On 4 June 2004 US President George W. Bush presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States' highest civilian honour, to John Paul II during a ceremony at the Apostolic Palace. The president read the citation that accompanied the medal, which recognised "this son of Poland" whose "principled stand for peace and freedom has inspired millions and helped to topple communism and tyranny". After receiving the award, John Paul II said, "May the desire for freedom, peace, a more humane world symbolised by this medal inspire men and women of goodwill in every time and place."

Assassination attempts and plots

As he entered St. Peter's Square to address an audience on 13 May 1981, Pope John Paul II was shot and critically wounded by Mehmet Ali Ağca, an expert Turkish gunman who was a member of the militant fascist group Grey Wolves. The assassin used a Browning 9 mm semi-automatic pistol, shooting the pope in the abdomen and perforating his colon and small intestine multiple times. John Paul II was rushed into the Vatican complex and then to the Gemelli Hospital. On the way to the hospital, he lost consciousness. Even though the two bullets missed his mesenteric artery and abdominal aorta, he lost nearly three-quarters of his blood. He underwent five hours of surgery to treat his wounds. Surgeons performed a colostomy, temporarily rerouting the upper part of the large intestine to let the damaged lower part heal. When he briefly regained consciousness before being operated on, he instructed the doctors not to remove his Brown Scapular during the operation. One of the few people allowed in to see him at the Gemelli Clinic was one of his closest friends philosopher Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka, who arrived on Saturday 16 May and kept him company while he recovered from emergency surgery. The pope later stated that Our Lady of Fátima helped keep him alive throughout his ordeal.

Ağca was caught and restrained by a nun and other bystanders until police arrived. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days after Christmas in 1983, John Paul II visited Ağca in prison. John Paul II and Ağca spoke privately for about twenty minutes. John Paul II said, "What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust."

Numerous other theories were advanced to explain the assassination attempt, some of them controversial. One such theory, advanced by Michael Ledeen and heavily pushed by the United States Central Intelligence Agency at the time of the assassination but never substantiated by evidence, was that the Soviet Union was behind the attempt on John Paul II's life in retaliation for the pope's support of Solidarity, the Catholic, pro-democratic Polish workers' movement. This theory was supported by the 2006 Mitrokhin Commission, set up by Silvio Berlusconi and headed by Forza Italiasenator Paolo Guzzanti, which alleged that Communist Bulgarian security departments were utilised to prevent the Soviet Union's role from being uncovered, and concluded that Soviet military intelligence (Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije), not the KGB, were responsible. Russian Foreign Intelligence Service spokesman Boris Labusov called the accusation "absurd". The pope declared during a May 2002 visit to Bulgaria that the country's Soviet-bloc-era leadership had nothing to do with the assassination attempt. However, his secretary, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, alleged in his book A Life with Karol, that the pope was convinced privately that the former Soviet Union was behind the attack. It was later discovered that many of John Paul II's aides had foreign-government attachments; Bulgaria and Russia disputed the Italian commission's conclusions, pointing out that the pope had publicly denied the Bulgarian connection.

A second assassination attempt was made on 12 May 1982, just a day before the anniversary of the first attempt on his life, in Fátima, Portugal when a man tried to stab John Paul II with a bayonet. He was stopped by security guards. Stanisław Dziwisz later said that John Paul II had been injured during the attempt but managed to hide a non-life-threatening wound. The assailant, a traditionalist Catholic Spanish priest named Juan María Fernández y Krohn, had been ordained as a priest by Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre of the Society of Saint Pius X and was opposed to the changes made by the Second Vatican Council, claiming that the pope was an agent of Communist Moscow and of the Marxist Eastern Bloc.Fernández y Krohn subsequently left the priesthood and served three years of a six-year sentence. The ex-priest was treated for mental illness and then expelled from Portugal to become a solicitor in Belgium.

The Al-Qaeda-funded Bojinka plot planned to kill John Paul II during a visit to the Philippines during World Youth Day 1995 celebrations. On 15 January 1995 a suicide bomber was planning to dress as a priest and detonate a bomb when the pope passed in his motorcade on his way to the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City. The assassination was supposed to divert attention from the next phase of the operation. However, a chemical fire inadvertently started by the cell alerted police to their whereabouts, and all were arrested a week before the pope's visit, and confessed to the plot.

In 2009 John Koehler, a journalist and former army intelligence officer, published Spies in the Vatican: The Soviet Union's Cold War Against the Catholic Church. Mining mostly East German and Polish secret police archives, Koehler says the assassination attempts were "KGB-backed" and gives details. During John Paul II's papacy there were many clerics within the Vatican who on nomination, declined to be ordained, and then mysteriously left the church. There is wide speculation that they were, in reality, KGB agents.

Death and funeral

Final months

Pope John Paul II was hospitalised with breathing problems caused by a bout of influenza on 1 February 2005. He left the hospital on 10 February, but was subsequently hospitalised again with breathing problems two weeks later and underwent a tracheotomy.

Final illness and death

On 31 March 2005, following a urinary tract infection, he developed septic shock, a form of infection with a high fever and low blood pressure, but was not hospitalised. Instead, he was monitored by a team of consultants at his private residence. This was taken as an indication by the pope, and those close to him, that he was nearing death; it would have been in accordance with his wishes to die in the Vatican. Later that day, Vatican sources announced that John Paul II had been given the Anointing of the Sick by his friend and secretary Stanisław Dziwisz. The day before his death, one of his closest personal friends, Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka visited him at his bedside.During the final days of the pope's life, the lights were kept burning through the night where he lay in the Papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. Tens of thousands of people assembled and held vigil in St. Peter's Square and the surrounding streets for two days. Upon hearing of this, the dying pope was said to have stated: "I have searched for you, and now you have come to me, and I thank you."

On Saturday, 2 April 2005, at approximately 15:30 CEST, John Paul II spoke his final words in Polish, "Pozwólcie mi odejść do domu Ojca" ("Allow me to depart to the house of the Father"), to his aides, and fell into a coma about four hours later. The Mass of the vigil of the Second Sunday of Easter commemorating the canonisation of Saint Maria Faustina on 30 April 2000, had just been celebrated at his bedside, presided over by Stanisław Dziwisz and two Polish associates. Present at the bedside was a cardinal from Ukraine, who served as a priest with John Paul in Poland, along with Polish nuns of the Congregation of the Sisters Servants of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, who ran the papal household. Pope John Paul II died in his private apartment at 21:37 CEST (19:37 UTC) of heart failure from profound hypotension and complete circulatory collapse from septic shock, 46 days before his 85th birthday. His death was verified when an electrocardiogram that ran for 20 minutes showed a flatline. He had no close family by the time of his death; his feelings are reflected in his words written in 2000 at the end of his Last Will and Testament. Stanisław Dziwisz later said he had not burned the pontiff's personal notes despite the request being part of the will.

Aftermath

The death of the pontiff set in motion rituals and traditions dating back to medieval times. The Rite of Visitation took place from 4 April 2005 to 7 April 2005 at St. Peter's Basilica. John Paul II's testament, published on 7 April 2005, revealed that the pontiff contemplated being buried in his native Poland but left the final decision to The College of Cardinals, which in passing, preferred burial beneath St. Peter's Basilica, honouring the pontiff's request to be placed "in bare earth".

The Requiem Mass held on 8 April 2005 was said to have set world records both for attendance and number of heads of state present at a funeral. (See: List of Dignitaries.) It was the single largest gathering of heads of state in history, surpassing the funerals of Winston Churchill (1965) and Josip Broz Tito (1980). Four kings, five queens, at least 70 presidents and prime ministers, and more than 14 leaders of other religions attended alongside the faithful. It is likely to have been the largest single pilgrimage of Christianity ever with numbers estimated in excess of four million mourners gathering in and around Vatican City.Between 250,000 and 300,000 watched the event from within the Vatican's walls.

The Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, conducted the ceremony. John Paul II was interred in the grottoes under the basilica, the Tomb of the Popes. He was lowered into a tomb created in the same alcove previously occupied by the remains of Pope John XXIII. The alcove had been empty since John XXIII's remains had been moved into the main body of the basilica after his beatification.

Posthumous recognition

Title "the Great"

Upon the death of John Paul II, a number of clergy at the Vatican and laymen began referring to the late pontiff as "John Paul the Great" — in theory only the fourth pope to be so acclaimed. Cardinal Angelo Sodano specifically referred to John Paul as "the Great" in his published written homily for the pope's funeral Mass of Repose. The South African Catholic newspaper The Southern Cross has referred to him in print as "John Paul II the Great". Some Catholic educational institutions in the US have additionally changed their names to incorporate "the Great", including John Paul the Great Catholic University and schools called some variant of John Paul the Great High School.

Scholars of canon law say that there is no official process for declaring a pope "Great"; the title simply establishes itself through popular and continued usage, as was the case with celebrated secular leaders (for example, Alexander III of Macedon became popularly known as Alexander the Great). The three popes who today commonly are known as "Great" are Leo I, who reigned from 440–461 and persuaded Attila the Hun to withdraw from Rome; Gregory I, 590–604, after whom the Gregorian Chant is named; and Pope Nicholas I, 858–867, who consolidated the Catholic Church in the Western world in the Middle Ages.

John Paul's successor, Benedict XVI, has not used the term directly in public speeches, but has made oblique references to "the great Pope John Paul II" in his first address from the loggia of St. Peter's Basilica, at the 20th World Youth Day in Germany 2005 when he said in Polish: "As the great Pope John Paul II would say: Keep the flame of faith alive in your lives and your people"; and in May 2006 during a visit to Poland where he repeatedly made references to "the great John Paul" and "my great predecessor".

Beatification

Inspired by calls of "Santo Subito!" ("[Make him a] Saint Immediately!") from the crowds gathered during the funeral Mass that he performed, Benedict XVI began the beatification process for his predecessor, bypassing the normal restriction that five years must pass after a person's death before beginning the beatification process. In an audience with Pope Benedict XVI, Camillo Ruini, Vicar General of the Diocese of Rome, who was responsible for promoting the cause for canonisation of any person who died within that diocese, cited "exceptional circumstances", which suggested that the waiting period could be waived. This decision was announced on 13 May 2005, the Feast of Our Lady of Fátima and the 24th anniversary of the assassination attempt on John Paul II at St. Peter's Square.

In early 2006, it was reported that the Vatican was investigating a possible miracle associated with John Paul II. Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun and member of the Congregation of Little Sisters of Catholic Maternity Wards, confined to her bed by Parkinson's disease, was reported to have experienced a "complete and lasting cure after members of her community prayed for the intercession of Pope John Paul II". As of May 2008, Sister Marie-Simon-Pierre, then 46,was working again at a maternity hospital run by her religious institute.

"I was sick and now I am cured," she told reporter Gerry Shaw. "I am cured, but it is up to the church to say whether it was a miracle or not."

On 28 May 2006, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Mass before an estimated 900,000 people in John Paul II's native Poland. During his homily, he encouraged prayers for the early canonisation of John Paul II and stated that he hoped canonisation would happen "in the near future".

In January 2007, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz announced that the interview phase of the beatification process, in Italy and Poland, was nearing completion. In February 2007, second class relics of Pope John Paul II—pieces of white papal cassocks he used to wear—were freely distributed with prayer cards for the cause, a typical pious practice after a saintly Catholic's death.On 8 March 2007, the Vicariate of Rome announced that the diocesan phase of John Paul's cause for beatification was at an end. Following a ceremony on 2 April 2007—the second anniversary of the Pontiff's death—the cause proceeded to the scrutiny of the committee of lay, clerical, and episcopal members of the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints, to conduct a separate investigation. On the fourth anniversary of Pope John Paul's death, 2 April 2009, Cardinal Dziwisz, told reporters of a presumed miracle that had recently occurred at the former pope's tomb in St. Peter's Basilica. A nine-year-old Polish boy from Gdańsk, who was suffering from kidney cancer and was completely unable to walk, had been visiting the tomb with his parents. On leaving St. Peter's Basilica, the boy told them, "I want to walk," and began walking normally. On 16 November 2009, a panel of reviewers at the Congregation for the Causes of Saints voted unanimously that Pope John Paul II had lived a life of heroic virtue. On 19 December 2009, Pope Benedict XVI signed the first of two decrees needed for beatification and proclaimed John Paul II "Venerable", asserting that he had lived a heroic, virtuous life.The second vote and the second signed decree certifying the authenticity of the first miracle, the curing of Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, a French nun, from Parkinson's disease. Once the second decree is signed, the positio (the report on the cause, with documentation about his life and writings and with information on the cause) is complete. He can then be beatified.Some speculated that he would be beatified sometime during (or soon after) the month of the 32nd anniversary of his 1978 election, in October 2010. As Monsignor Oder noted, this course would have been possible if the second decree were signed in time by Benedict XVI, stating that a posthumous miracle directly attributable to his intercession had occurred, completing the positio.

The Vatican announced on 14 January 2011 that Pope Benedict XVI had confirmed the miracle involving Sister Marie Simon-Pierre and that John Paul II was to be beatified on 1 May, the Feast of Divine Mercy. 1 May is commemorated in former communist countries, such as Poland, and some Western European countries as May Day, and John Paul II was well known for his contributions to communism's relatively peaceful demise. In March 2011 the Polish mint issued a gold 1,000 Polish złoty coin (equivalent to US$350), with the Pope's image to commemorate his beatification.

On 29 April 2011, John Paul II's coffin was exhumed from the grotto beneath St. Peter's Basilica ahead of his beatification, as tens of thousands of people arrived in Rome for one of the biggest events since his funeral. John Paul II's remains (in a closed coffin) were placed in front of the Basilica's main altar, where believers could pay their respect before and after the beatification mass in St. Peter's Square on 1 May 2011. On 3 May 2011 his remains were reinterred in the marble altar in Pier Paolo Cristofari's Chapel of St. Sebastian, where Pope Innocent XI was buried. This more prominent location, next to the Chapel of the Pietà, the Chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, and statues of Popes Pius XI and Pius XII, was intended to allow more pilgrims to view his memorial.

In July 2012, a Colombian man, Marco Fidel Rojas, the former mayor of Huila, Colombia, testified that he was "miraculously cured" of Parkinson's disease after a trip to Rome where he met John Paul II and prayed with him. Dr. Antonio Schlesinger Piedrahita, a renowned neurologist in Colombia, has certified Fidel's healing. The documentation has been sent to the Vatican office for sainthood causes.

Canonization

To be eligible for canonization (being declared a saint) by the Catholic Church, two miracles must be attributed to a candidate.

The first miracle attributed to John Paul was his healing a case of Parkinson's disease, which was recognized during the beatification process. According to an article on the Catholic News Service (CNS) dated 23 April 2013, a Vatican commission of doctors concluded that a healing had no natural (medical) explanation, which is the first requirement for a claimed miracle to be officially documented. 

The second miracle was deemed to have taken place shortly after the late pope's beatification on 1 May 2011; it was reported to be the healing of Costa Rican woman Floribeth Mora of an otherwise terminal brain aneurysm. A Vatican panel of expert theologians examined the evidence, determined that it was directly attributable to the intercession of John Paul II, and recognized it as miraculous. The next stage was for Cardinals who compose the membership of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to give their opinion to Pope Francis to decides whether to sign and promulgate the decree and set a date for canonization.

On 4 July 2013, Pope Francis confirmed his approval of John Paul II's canonization, formally recognizing the second miracle attributed to his intercession. He was canonized together with Pope John XXIII. The date of the canonization was on 27 April 2014, Divine Mercy Sunday.

The canonization Mass for Blessed Popes John Paul II and John XXIII, was celebrated by Pope Francis (with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI), on 27 April 2014 in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican (Pope John Paul had died on vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday in 2005). About 150 cardinals and 700 bishops celebrated the Mass, and at least 500,000 people attended the Mass, with an estimated 300,000 others watching from video screens placed around Rome.

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