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  • Karol Joseph Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II)
    May 18, 1920 - April 2, 2005

    by Anthony Parente

    On May 18, 1920 Karol Joseph Wojtyla was born in Wadowice Poland. Little did anyone know that he would become the most recognized person in the world. You are probably asking yourself who is this man and how could he be the most recognized person in the world. That was made possible on October 16, 1978 when the College of Cardinals selected Karol, the first to hail from Poland and the first non Italian in 456 years, to lead the Roman Catholic Church and that is when he became known as Pope John Paul II.

    It wasn't so much his selection as Pope that gave him the distinction as the most recognized person in the world. It is his many accomplishments, countless journeys throughout the world, and his humane attitude that has made him such a popular and loved person.

    • Since 1978 the Pope has traveled to over 110 countries, which is far more than any other Pope has traveled.
    • When he offered his first blessing on October 16, 1978 he apologized to the people of Italy for not speaking the language well.
    • He has broken away from traditions and opened the morning mass, which has always been private, to the public.
    • He is more open to women embracing them or kissing them on the forehand instead of placing his hand out for them to kiss his ring.
    • He called out to the youth of the world and asked them to join him in the first World Youth Day in 1985.
    • In April of 1986 he became the first pope to visit a Jewish synagogue and in May of 2001 he became the first pope to enter a mosque.
    • It was with his insistence that a creche and Christmas tree be placed in St. Peter's Square.
    • He went on a skiing vacation in the alpine countryside.
    • On December 1, 1989 he met with President Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR. This was the first meeting ever between a pope and the head of the Soviet government.
    • In 1994 he was Time Magazine's Man of the Year.
    The Pope has endured much during his Papacy. In 1981 there was an assassination attempt on his life in which he received severe wounds. In 1992 he had a benign intestinal tumor removed. In 1993 he injured his shoulder and in 1994 he broke his thighbone. His health has deteriorated over the years and in 2001 he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. With all that has happened to him he has never let it stop him from traveling and meeting new people.

    Pope John Paul II made himself accessible to the people. He opened his heart and his body to allow us to enter into his world. He has shown us to care, love, and pray for one another. It is these qualities that make him so revered and so loved. His generosity and love for people gave my Mother an opportunity to meet the Pope and to hold and kiss his hand. I will never get to say this in person so I am saying it here. Thank You!

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