Karol Jozef Wojtyla, elected Pope on 16 October 1978, was born in Wadowice, Poland, on 18 May 1920.
He was nine years old when he received his First Communion and eighteen when he received the Sacrament of Confirmation. After completing high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in the Jagellonian University of Krakow in 1938. When the occupying Nazi forces closed the University in 1939, Karol worked (1940-1944) in a quarry and then in the Solvay chemical factory to earn a living and to avoid deportation to Germany.
Feeling called to the priesthood, he began his studies in 1942 in the clandestine major seminary of Krakow. After the war, Karol continued his studies in the major seminary, newly reopened, and in the school of theology at the Jagellonian University, until his priestly ordination in Krakow on 1 November 1946.
On 4 July 1958, Pope Pius XII appointed Father Wojtyla auxiliary bishop of Krakow, with the titular see of Ombi. Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak ordained him in Wawel Cathedral in Krakow on 28 September 1958.
On 13 January 1964, Pope Paul VI appointed Bishop Wojtyla as Archbishop of Krakow and subsequently, on 26 June 1967, created him a Cardinal. On 16 October 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla was elected Pope and on 22 October he began his ministry as universal Pastor of the Church.
Pope John Paul II made 146 pastoral visits in Italy and, as the Bishop of Rome, he visited 317 of the current 322 Roman parishes. His international apostolic journeys numbered 104 and were expressions of the constant pastoral solicitude of the Successor of Peter for all the Churches.
His principal documents include 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, 11 Apostolic Constitutions and 45 Apostolic Letters. He also wrote five books.
On 13 May 1981, an attempt was made on Pope John Paul II's life in Saint Peter's Square. Saved by the maternal hand of the Mother of God, following a lengthy stay in the hospital, he forgave the attempted assassin and, aware of having received a great gift, intensified his pastoral commitments with heroic generosity.
No other Pope met as many people as Pope John Paul II. More than 17.6 million pilgrims attended his Wednesday General Audiences, in addition to the millions more he met on domestic and foreign trips.
Pope John Paul II died in the Apostolic Palace at 9:37 p.m. on Saturday, 2 April 2005, the vigil of Divine Mercy Sunday, which he had instituted. On 8 April, his solemn funeral was celebrated in Saint Peter's Square and he was buried in the crypt of Saint Peter's Basilica.
John Paul II was beatified in Saint Peter's Square on 1 May 2011 by Pope Benedict XVI.
O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the blessed John Paul the Second should preside as Pope over your universal Church, grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching, we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ, the sole Redeemer of mankind.