Sunday, April 03, 2005

John Paul II

I am not religeous but there are lots to say about John Paul, as a controversial figure and a man with ambition, determination and accomplishment.

Friends in Wadowice, a town of 8,000 Catholics and 2,000 Jews 35 miles southwest of Krakow, called Wojtyla "Lolek." Lolek was born in 1920, the second son of a retired army officer and tailor, and a schoolteacher of Lithuanian descent.

The Wojtylas were strict Catholics, but did not share the anti-Semitic views of many Poles. Indeed, Wojtyla became the first pope to visit a synagogue and the first to visit the memorial at Auschwitz to victims of the Holocaust.

As a schoolboy, Wojtyla was both an excellent student and an athlete who skied, hiked, kayaked and swam in the Skawa River. But death hovered over the family, making itself felt first when an infant sister died before Lolek was born. It struck again in 1929 when his mother died of heart and kidney problems, just a month before Lolek's 9th birthday. And when he was 12, Lolek's 26-year-old brother Edmund, a physician in the town of Bielsko, died of scarlet fever. Lolek, himself, was hit once by a streetcar and again by a truck in 1944 while a college student. The injuries left the otherwise robust pope -- 5-foot-10 1/2 inches, 175 pounds in his prime -- with a slight stoop to his shoulders that is particularly noticeable when he is tired.

After graduating from secondary school in 1938, he and his father moved to Krakow where he enrolled at Jagiellonian University to study literature and philosophy. Friends say he was an intense and gifted actor, and a fine singer.

After the Germans invaded Poland, he escaped deportation and imprisonment in late 1940 by taking a job as a stone cutter in a quarry. A few months later, in February of 1941, Wojtyla's 61-year-old father died, leaving his dream of seeing his son commit to the priesthood unfulfilled. 18 months later, Wojtyla began studying at an underground seminary in Krakow and registered for theology courses at the university.

He continued his studies, acted and worked in a chemical plant until August of 1944. But when the Germans began rounding up Polish men, Wojtyla took refuge in the archbishop of Krakow's residence, and remained there until the end of the war. He was ordained in 1946 in Krakow, and spent much of the next few years studying -- he earned two masters degrees and a doctorate -- before taking up priestly duties as an assistant pastor in Krakow in 1949.

He wrote a treatise in 1960 called "Love and Responsibility" that laid out the foundation for what Weigel calls "a modern Catholic sexual ethic." His second doctoral thesis -- "Evaluation of the possibility of Constructing a Christian Ethic based on the System of Max Scheler" -- was published that same year. In 1969, the Polish Theological Society published Wojtyla's "The Acting Person," a dense philosophical tract on phenomenology that Wojtyla discussed during a U.S. visit in 1978.

John Paul II may be the only Pope whose life was portrayed in a comic book. In 1983, Marvel Comics published a Pope biography.

He made more than 170 visits to over 115 countries over the past 20 years and spoke eight languages, learning Spanish after he became the pope. In the early years of his papacy, he steered the Vatican into satellite transmissions and producing video cassettes.

His support for the Solidarity movement in Poland was a key to the downfall of communism in Poland. During his first triumphal visit to the United States, he warned his hosts about the dangers of materialism, selfishness and secularism, and suggested lowering the standard of living and sharing the wealth with the Third World. - John Christiansen, CNN


At 6:52 p.m., Blogger Looking for treasure said...

John Paul was not only a spiritual leader, but also a better politician than most of our elected ones can ever hope to be. He was the first pope to ever visit a synagogue and a mosque and he told christians that religion is about uniting people, not separating them. We lost an important leader...


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