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Pope John Paul II (1920 - 2005)

THE 26 YEARS OF JOHN PAUL II: 3RD LONGEST PAPACY IN HISTORY
(source: Vatican Information Service)

At 4:45 in the afternoon of October 14, 1978, ten days after the funeral of Pope John Paul I, 110 cardinal electors, and 88 persons selected to assist them, entered into conclave, sealed off from the world, to elect his successor.

Il Papa
At 6:18 p.m., on October 16, white smoke appeared from the small chimney of the Sistine Chapel, thus signaling that the cardinal electors had chosen a new Roman Pontiff. Twenty-seven minutes later, Cardinal Pericle Felici appeared on the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica and announced the election of Pope John Paul II to the See of Peter with the words: "Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum Habemus Papam Carolum Wojtyla, qui sibi nomen imposuit Ioannem Paulum II."

At 7:15 p.m. the new pontiff, clad in the traditional papal white, appeared on the same balcony and spoke in Italian the words now familiar to tens of millions of people around the world: "Praised be Jesus Christ!"

"Dear brothers and sisters," he continued, "we are still all very saddened by the death of the very dear Pope John Paul I. And now the most eminent cardinals have called a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a far-away country, ... far, but always near in the communion of faith and the Christian tradition. I was afraid in receiving this nomination, but I did it in the spirit of obedience to Our Lord and with total trust in his Mother, the Most Holy Madonna.


"I don't know if I can express myself well in your - in our - Italian language. But if I make a mistake, you will correct me. And so I introduce myself to you all, to confess our common faith, our hope, our trust in the mother of Christ and of the Church, and also to begin again on this path of history and of the Church with the help of God and with that of men."


John Paul II, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, was elected as the 264th Pope on the second ballot of the second day of the second conclave of 1978, just five months after his 58th birthday.

Six days later, on October 22, 1978, his pastoral ministry was inaugurated. Today, April 2, 2005, marked the 9,664th day of his pontificate, calculating from October 22, 1978. His is the 3rd longest pontificate in the history of the papacy. The longest was that of St. Peter (precise dates unknown), followed by Pope Pius IX (1846-78: 31 years, 7 months, 17 days). In his 26 and a half years as Pope, John Paul II held nine consistories in which he has created 232 cardinals, of whom one is "in pectore." He has created all but three of the 117 cardinal electors who will enter into conclave. From the start of his pontificate, the Holy Father named over 3,500 of the world's nearly 4,200 bishops. He met each of them a number of times over the years, particularly when they fulfill their quinquennial obligation of a visit "ad limina Apostolorum." He has written 14 encyclicals, 14 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions, 42 apostolic letters and 28 Motu proprio in addition to hundreds of other messages and letters.

In preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul wrote the Apostolic Letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," dated November 10, 1994, and published four days later. He also created the Committee for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000. He wrote five books: Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), Gift and Mystery (1996), Roman Triptych (poetry, 2003), Arise, Let us Be Going (2004) and Memory and Identity (2005). The 84 year-old Pope presided over 15 synods of bishops: six ordinary (1980, 1983, 1987, 1990, 1994, 2001), one extraordinary (1985) and eight special assemblies (1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 (two synods) and 1999).

Over the years, the Holy Father undertook 104 pastoral visits outside Italy, the last of which was to Lourdes in August 2004. He made 143 trips within Italy and nearly 700 within the city and diocese of Rome, including visits to 301 of the 325 parishes of the diocese of which he is bishop, in addition to religious institutes, universities, seminaries, hospitals, rest homes, prisons and schools. With his 247 foreign and Italian pastoral visits, Pope John Paul II reached the 1,167,295 kilometer mark (700,380 miles), that is, over 28 times the earth's circumference or 3 times the distance between the earth and moon.


 Giovanni Paolo II

While in Rome, the Pope welcomed an average of one million people per year, including between 400,000-500,000 who attended the weekly general audiences in addition to those who came for special liturgical functions such as Christmas and Easter Masses, beatifications and canonizations. He also received approximately 150,000-180,000 people per year in audiences granted to particular groups, heads of state and governments.

At the start of John Paul's pontificate the Holy See had diplomatic relations with 85 countries. It now has relations with 174 countries, as well as with the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It has relations of a special nature with the Russian Federation and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).

According to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, over the past 26 years the Pope has proclaimed 1,339 Blesseds in 143 ceremonies and 483 Saints in 52 ceremonies.

He founded the John Paul II Institute for the Sahel in February of 1984, and the "Populorum Progressio" Foundation for the Indigenous Peoples of Latin America in February of 1992. He also founded the Pontifical Academies for Life and for Social Sciences. In addition, he instituted the World Day of the Sick (celebrated annually on February 11) and World Youth Day (WYD). The 20th youth day will be celebrated this August in Cologne, Germany. The Pope himself chose the themes and developed its contents in an annual Message to the Youth of the World.

Karol Jozef Wojtyla, known as Pope John Paul II since his election over 26 years ago, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, on May 18, 1920.

Karol Wojtyla He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died giving birth to a third child - stillborn - in 1929. His eldest brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army officer, died in 1941.

He made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at age 17. Upon graduation from Martin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.

The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had to work in a quarry and then in a chemical factory in Solvay to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow. At the same time, Karol Wojtyla was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theater," also clandestine.

After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of Krakow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University, until his priestly ordination in Krakow on November 1, 1946. Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology in 1948 with a thesis on the topic of faith in the works of St. John of the Cross. At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland. In 1948 he returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Krakow as well as chaplain for the university students until 1951, when he took up again his studies on philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on "Evaluation of the Possibility of Founding a Catholic Ethic on the Ethical System of Max Scheler" at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin.

On July 4, 1958, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow by Pope Pius XII, and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, by Archbishop Baziak. On January 13, 1964, he was named archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who elevated him to the cardinalate on June 26, 1967. Besides taking part in Vatican Council II with an important contribution to the elaboration of the Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," Cardinal Wojtyla participated in every assembly of the Synod of Bishops since it was created by Paul VI in 1967.