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Priesthood of Saint Pope John Paul II

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The Student who became a Professor; the Pastor who became a Bishop

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Fr. Karol, Graduate Student

Fr. Karol Wojtyla first entered into graduate studies at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome. His intelligence was one of the many gifts, both natural and spiritual, which he offered to the Lord. While a student, he roomed with Fr. Starowieyski, another Polish priest at the Pontifical Belgian College, with whom he became friends. In 1947, he received his STL (License) which, in the European University system, is an absolute requirement to teach. That summer the two traveled to France, Belgium and Holland. In the area of Charleroi he carried out his pastoral activities with the Polish workers. Then, under the oversight of Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP, he began his studies toward a Doctorate.

The influence of Jan Tryanowski was still bearing fruit in the life and thought of Fr. Karol Wojtyla. He sought approval for a dissertation topic "The Problem of Faith in the Works of St. John of the Cross." He wrote the dissertation and successfully defended it. He later earned a master's degree in theology at the Jagiellonian University in Krakow's well as a doctorate in sacred theology in the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian Universiity. He was called to Krakow to be an assistant pastor at St. Florian's in Krakow and serve as a chaplain to university students and health workers.

A Sabbatical of Preparation

In 1951 Archbishop Baziak who had replaced Cardinal Sapieha gave Fr Karol a sabbatical in order to enable him to qualify as a University Professor. For two years he worked on this further academic position successfully completed his examinations. He also had to write and defend another thesis in order to qualify for a university professorship. This he diligently pursued for the next two years.

His philosophical interests lay in the area of phenomenology and he focused on a philosopher named Max Scheler. He began to see the limitations of the approach. As a result, the seeds were planted in Fr Karol the scholar, student and professor to begin what would later become his own contribution to the field of philosophical ethics and the renewal of Catholic Moral theology. He began his teaching experiences by offering a class on social ethics to fourth year theology students in the seminary.

Fr. Karol Becomes a Professor

As time passed, Jagellonian University merged its theology program with the archdiocesan seminary. In effect, the entire faculty of the theology school was eliminated. So Fr. Karol Wojtyla accepted what was originally a non-tenured professorship at the Catholic University of Lublin. In 1956 he was appointed to a Chair in Ethics and the next year he was approved as a full lecturer. For the next twenty years he taught and developed his thought in the field of Ethics and moral Theology.

From Priest to Bishop

In 1958 Fr Karol Wojtyla was called to another assignment in his continuing response to the vocation the Lord had given him. He was ordained to the fullness of Holy Orders and received his first Episcopal assignment as an auxiliary Bishop to assist Archbishop Eugeniusz Baziak of Krakow. His enormous gifts of both teaching and pastoral care continued to be offered to the Church of Poland. Bishop Karol Wojtyla taught at University and provided pastoral care to students.

Bishop Wojtyla Writes His First Book

Though he had already published many articles in areas of both philosophical and theological interest in his academic studies and early University research and teaching, it was during this period of time that he wrote his first major book entitled "Love and Responsibility." In it, the seeds of his rich understanding of the nature of the human person, created in the Image of God and called to love, began to form and be articulated. In addition his practical pastoral experience drew even more fully into consideration of the nature of human love in the Divine Plan.

Bishop, Cardinal, Contributor to the
Second Vatican Council and significant Church Leader

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Invited to Historic Vatican II Council

On October 5, 1962 Bishop Karol Wojtyla joined Bishops from around the world as the Second Vatican Council was convened in Rome. He attended every one of the sessions, contributing significantly and being deeply formed as well as changed by the experience. During this time of the Council, his life as a Bishop of the Church underwent a significant development. Archbishop Baziak of Krakow died and after the first session of the Council, Bishop Wojtyla was again called to say "yes" to the invitation of the Lord speaking through His Church.

Pope John XXIII appointed Bishop Wojtyla to become Bishop of Krakow. At the time of the appointment, his beloved Poland was under the oppression of another inhuman ideology, atheistic communism. As a result, he was not officially appointed until 1964 by Pope Paul VI and was formally installed on March 8, 1964. This son of Poland who had studied for his ordination in an underground seminary during the infamous oppression of the Nazi's was to live and lead through another era marked by an ideology which failed to recognize God and, as a result, failed to defend the dignity of human persons created in His Image. He would later be elevated to the office Cardinal by the same Pope Paul VI on May 29, 1967.

Significant Contributor to Council Documents

During the three years of the Second Vatican Council, Bishop Karol Wojtyla played a significant role at the Council. He actively participated in the debates and assisted in the drafting of the decrees which were produced by the Council Fathers. Of particular note, the future Pope was a participant on the commission which drafted the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes. The theological anthropology which emerged from that profound document would become one of the foundations of his extraordinary teaching magisterium when he assumed the chair of Peter many years later. He is known to have also contributed to the seminal Declaration on Religious Liberty, Dignitatis Humanae, and the Decree on the Instruments of Social Communications, Inter Mirifica.

Home to Poland to Implement the Council

After this historic Council, Bishop Karol Wojtyla returned to Poland to implement the teaching of the Council Fathers. He wrote one of the most significant books concerning the teaching of the Council entitled "Sources of Renewal" in 1972. It is the only book written by a Bishop who participated in the Council. In it one finds the seeds and themes which would later come to full flourishing as he wrote his encyclicals, apostolic letters and exhortations after being elected to the Chair of Peter.

Church Reformer

Among the many effects of the Second Vatican Council were structural reforms. Two of the institutions affected were the Synods of Bishops and the Conferences of Bishops. By then Karol Wojtyla had been named a Cardinal. He was elected to Vice-presidency of the Polish Bishops Conference. His courage was evident in the strong leadership he provided to the Church of Poland as she faced persecution under Communist Rule. Throughout the 1970's Karol Cardinal Wojtyla made significant contributions to the Bishops assemblies, serving in numerous leadership capacities. This Cardinal of Poland emerged as a courageous defender of the faith and an excellent theologian, helping to implement the reforms begun by the Second Vatican Council.

Seeds of the Council become Roots of a Magisterium

His papers and presentations continued to enrich the universal Church. The themes which would characterize his Papal magisterium sunk their roots deep and were watered by the wisdom he gained in providing pastoral care to the people of God in his beloved Poland. He was a light of truth throughout those turbulent years as he traveled to Rome for meetings. On August 11 -12, 1978, he traveled to Rome to attend the funeral of Pope Paul VI and the events which followed would mark another call from the Lord; one which would both surprise and change the whole world.

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Life of Saint Pope John Paul II

1920
1930
1940
1950
1960
1970
1980
1990
2000
1920's Early Years
  • Born in Wadowice (Kraków), Poland.
    Born in Wadowice (Kraków), Poland.
    Born in Wadowice (Kraków), Poland.
    May 18, 1920
  • Baptized by the military chaplain P. Franciszek Zak.
    Baptized into Christ and His Church by a Chaplain in the Polish Army, Fr. Franciszek Zak.
    Baptized by the military chaplain P. Franciszek Zak.
    June 20, 1920
  • Attended the elementary school for boys
    Attended the elementary school for boys, and then the prep years of secondary school "Marcin Wadowita" in which during all his classes he achieved the top grades.
    Attended the elementary school for boys
    September 15, 1926
  • His mother dies.
    Death of his mother due to heart and kidney problems.
    His mother dies.
    April 13, 1929
  • First Holy Communion
    First Holy Communion
    First Holy Communion
    October 1, 1929
1930's Early Years
  • Admitted to the State Secondary School for boys, "Marcin Wadowita".
    Admitted to the State Secondary School for boys, "Marcin Wadowita".
    Admitted to the State Secondary School for boys, "Marcin Wadowita".
    June 1, 1930
  • His brother Edmund dies.
    Loss of his childhood occurs with the death of his brother to scarlet fever.
    His brother Edmund dies.
    December 5, 1932
  • Participates in military training exercises at Hermanice.
    Participates in military training exercises at Hermanice.
    Participates in military training exercises at Hermanice.
    September 1, 1935
  • Admitted into the Society of Mary.
    Admitted into the Society of Mary.
    Admitted into the Society of Mary.
    December 14, 1935
  • Receives the Sacrament of Confirmation.
    Receives the Sacrament of Confirmation.
    Receives the Sacrament of Confirmation.
    May 1, 1938
  • Enrolls in the Faculty of Philosophy at Jagellonian University, Kraków.
    Enrolls in the Faculty of Philosophy (course of Polish Philosophy) at Jagellonian University, Kraków.
    Enrolls in the Faculty of Philosophy at Jagellonian University, Kraków.
    June 22, 1938
  • He and his father move to Kraków
    Young Karol and his father move to Kraków (Via Tyniecka 10).
    He and his father move to Kraków
    August 1, 1938
  • University military training
    University military training camp at Ozomla, near Sadowa Wiszna for Polish and Ukraine students.
    University military training
    July 1, 1939
  • Second World War begins.
    Second World War begins.
    Second World War begins.
    September 1, 1939
  • Registers for the second year university courses in Literature and Philosophy.
    Registers for the second year university courses in Literature and Philosophy.
    Registers for the second year university courses in Literature and Philosophy.
    November 2, 1939
1940's Priesthood
  • His father dies.
    His father dies.
    His father dies.
    February 18, 1941
  • Escaped Gestapo round by hiding in his uncle's basement.
    Escaped Gestapo round by hiding in his uncle's basement.
    Escaped Gestapo round by hiding in his uncle's basement.
    August 6, 1944
  • The Russian Armed Forces free Kraków from Nazi occupation.
    The Russian Armed Forces free Kraków from Nazi occupation.
    The Russian Armed Forces free Kraków from Nazi occupation.
    January 18, 1945
  • Ordained a priest.
    Ordained a priest. As on the preceding occasions, he received Holy Orders from the hands of Archbishop Metropolitan Adam Sapieha in his private chapel.
    Ordained a priest.
    November 1, 1946
  • Celebrates his first Mass in the crypt of St. Leonard at Wavel.
    Celebrates his first Mass in the crypt of St. Leonard at Wavel.
    Celebrates his first Mass in the crypt of St. Leonard at Wavel.
    November 2, 1946
  • Leaves Poland to begin studies in Rome.
    Leaves Poland to begin studies in Rome.
    Leaves Poland to begin studies in Rome.
    November 15, 1946
  • Earns a master's degree in theology at the Jagellonian University in Kraków
    Earns a master's degree in theology at the Jagellonian University in Kraków (1942-1946). Earns a doctorate in sacred theology in the Faculty of Theology at the Jagellonian University with highest marks.
    Earns a master's degree in theology at the Jagellonian University in Kraków
    December 16, 1948
  • Recalled to Kraków to be assistant pastor at St. Florian's.
    Recalled to Kraków to be assistant pastor at St. Florian's.
    Recalled to Kraków to be assistant pastor at St. Florian's.
    August 5, 1949
1950's Priesthood
  • Archbishop Baziak puts him on leave
    Archbishop Baziak puts him on leave (until 1953) to complete his qualifying exams for a university position. Up until now he served as a chaplain to the university students (in St. Florian's) and for health workers.
    Archbishop Baziak puts him on leave
    September 1, 1951
  • Gives course in Catholic social ethics for Jagellonian University students
    Gives a course in Catholic social ethics for the students of fourth year theology at the Jagellonian University.
    Gives course in Catholic social ethics for Jagellonian University students
    October 1, 1953
  • Completes qualifying exams with thesis on the "ethical system of Max Scheler".
    Completes his qualifying exams by presenting his thesis on the "ethical system of Max Scheler".
    Completes qualifying exams with thesis on the "ethical system of Max Scheler".
    December 1, 1953
  • Faculty of Theology at the Jagellonian University abolished,
    Faculty of Theology at the Jagellonian University abolished, this faculty is then organized at the Seminary of Kraków where he continues his studies. Catholic University of Lublin offers him a non-tenured professorship which he accepts.
    Faculty of Theology at the Jagellonian University abolished,
    January 1, 1954
  • Appointed to the Chair of Ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin.
    Appointed to the Chair of Ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin.
    Appointed to the Chair of Ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin.
    December 1, 1956
  • The Central Qualifying Committee approves his appointment as free docent.
    The Central Qualifying Committee approves his appointment as free docent.
    The Central Qualifying Committee approves his appointment as free docent.
    November 15, 1957
  • Appointed Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Baziak of Kraków.
    Appointed Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Mons. Eugeniusz Baziak of Kraków.
    Appointed Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Baziak of Kraków.
    July 4, 1958
  • Ordained Bishop in the Cathedral of Wavel.
    Ordained Bishop in the Cathedral of Wavel.
    Ordained Bishop in the Cathedral of Wavel.
    September 28, 1958
1960's Priesthood
  • After the death of Archbishop Baziak, named Vicar Capitular.
    After the death of Archbishop Baziak, named Vicar Capitular.
    After the death of Archbishop Baziak, named Vicar Capitular.
    July 16, 1962
  • Participates in the II Session of the Second Vatican Council.
    Participates in the II Session of the Second Vatican Council.
    Participates in the II Session of the Second Vatican Council.
    October 6, 1963
  • Designated Metropolitan Bishop of Kraków.
    Designated Metropolitan Bishop of Kraków.
    Designated Metropolitan Bishop of Kraków.
    December 30, 1963
  • Archbishop Wojtyla is made President of Apostolate of the Laity
    Episcopal Commission for the Apostolate of the Laity is established; Archbishop Wojtyla is made President.
    Archbishop Wojtyla is made President of Apostolate of the Laity
    December 29, 1966
  • Karol Wojtyla named Cardinal elect
    Paul VI announces the next Consistory. Among the names of the new Cardinals elect is that of Karol Wojtyla.
    Karol Wojtyla named Cardinal elect
    May 29, 1967
  • Consecrated Cardinal in the Sistine Chapel, by Pope Paul VI
    Consecrated Cardinal in the Sistine Chapel, by Pope Paul VI - titular S. Cesareo in Palatio.
    Consecrated Cardinal in the Sistine Chapel, by Pope Paul VI
    June 26, 1967
  • Takes possession of the titular Church, S. Cesareo in Palatio, Rome.
    Takes possession of the titular Church, S. Cesareo in Palatio, Rome.
    Takes possession of the titular Church, S. Cesareo in Palatio, Rome.
    February 18, 1968
  • Vice-President of the Episcopal Conference
    Approval of the statutes of the Episcopal Conference; Cardinal Wojtyla is Vice-President of the Conference.
    Vice-President of the Episcopal Conference
    March 15, 1969
  • The Polish Theological Society publishes "The Acting Person"
    The Polish Theological Society (PTT) of Krakow publishes "The Acting Person" (Osoba i cyzn).
    The Polish Theological Society publishes "The Acting Person"
    December 1, 1969
1970's Priesthood / Pope
  • Is elected to the Council of the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
    Is elected to the Council of the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
    Is elected to the Council of the Secretary General of the Synod of Bishops.
    October 5, 1971
  • Card. Wojtyla presides over the Polish delegation
    Card. Wojtyla presides over the Polish delegation at the international conference in Rome for the preparations of the new Apostolic Constitution for Ecclesiastical Studies.
    Card. Wojtyla presides over the Polish delegation
    November 22, 1976
  • Receives a doctorate "honoris causa" from Johannes Guttenberg University
    Receives a doctorate "honoris causa" from Johannes Guttenberg University, Mainz.
    Receives a doctorate "honoris causa" from Johannes Guttenberg University
    June 23, 1977
  • Present at the funeral of Paul VI.
    Present at the funeral of Paul VI.
    Present at the funeral of Paul VI.
    August 11, 1978
  • John Paul I is elected Pope
    John Paul I (Albino Luciani) is elected Pope.
    John Paul I is elected Pope
    August 26, 1978
  • Funeral of Pope John Paul I
    Leaves for the funeral of Pope John Paul I.
    Funeral of Pope John Paul I
    October 3, 1978
  • Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected 264th Pope at approximately 5:15 p.m
    Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected 264th Pope at approximately 5:15 p.m. He is the 263rd Successor of Peter.
    Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected 264th Pope at approximately 5:15 p.m
    October 16, 1978
  • Takes first trip abroad
    Takes first trip abroad, to Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas.
    Takes first trip abroad
    January 25, 1979
  • Pope says Mass at the site of the Birkenau concentration camp, Auschwitz
    The pope says Mass at the site of the Birkenau concentration camp, the largest of 36 camps in a complex known collectively as Auschwitz.
    Pope says Mass at the site of the Birkenau concentration camp, Auschwitz
    June 7, 1979
  • John Paul II visits the United States for the first time as pope.
    John Paul II visits the United States for the first time as pope and addresses the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
    John Paul II visits the United States for the first time as pope.
    September 29, 1979
1980's Pope
  • Pope is shot in the abdomen by a young Turk named Mehmet Ali Agca.
    Pope John Paul II is shot in the abdomen and hand in St. Peter's Square and seriously wounded. Mehmet Ali Agca, a Turk, is arrested. The pope spends 22 days in a hospital.
    Pope is shot in the abdomen by a young Turk named Mehmet Ali Agca.
    May 13, 1981
  • Spanish priest lunges at the pope with a bayonet in Fatima, Portugal
    A Spanish priest lunges at the pope with a bayonet during the first day of a papal trip to Fatima, Portugal. John Paul is unhurt.
    Spanish priest lunges at the pope with a bayonet in Fatima, Portugal
    May 12, 1982
  • Calls for the heads of government to end to the arms race
    Calls for the heads of government of the United States and the Soviet Union to negotiate an end to the arms race.
    Calls for the heads of government to end to the arms race
    September 29, 1983
  • Meets with and forgives his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca
    The pope meets with and forgives his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, in prison in Rome.
    Meets with and forgives his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca
    December 27, 1983
  • The United States and the Vatican establish full diplomatic relations.
    The United States and the Vatican establish full diplomatic relations.
    The United States and the Vatican establish full diplomatic relations.
    January 10, 1984
  • Historic visit to Rome's main synagogue
    John Paul II prays at Rome's main synagogue, the first ever recorded visit of a pope to a synagogue.
    Historic visit to Rome's main synagogue
    April 13, 1986
  • Official visit of U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
    Official visit of U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
    Official visit of U.S. President Ronald Reagan.
    June 6, 1987
  • Official visit of U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
    Official visit of U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
    Official visit of U.S. President George H.W. Bush.
    May 27, 1989
  • Receives Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Vatican
    Receives Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Vatican in the first ever meeting between a pope and a Kremlin chief.
    Receives Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev at the Vatican
    December 1, 1989
1990's Pope
  • Issues first encyclical on social issues.
    Issues first encyclical on social issues since the fall of communism in Europe, giving qualified approval to capitalism but warning rich against taking advantage of poor.
    Issues first encyclical on social issues.
    May 1, 1991
  • Agreement signed establishing formal diplomatic ties between Israel and Vatican.
    Agreement signed establishing formal diplomatic ties between Israel and Vatican.

    Agreement signed establishing formal diplomatic ties between Israel and Vatican.
    December 30, 1993
  • John Paul II reaffirms the church's opposition to female priests
    John Paul II reaffirms the church's opposition to female priests in a letter to bishops, writing that the church "has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the church's faithful."
    John Paul II reaffirms the church's opposition to female priests
    May 30, 1994
  • Publishes his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
    Publishes his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
    Publishes his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope.
    October 20, 1994
  • Issues encyclical "Gospel of Life," and condemns spreading "culture of death"
    Issues encyclical "Gospel of Life," and condemns spreading "culture of death," including abortion, euthanasia, experimentation on human embryos. The statement comes in the 11th encyclical -- a special letter reserved for matters of extreme importance to the church -- of John Paul's papacy.
    Issues encyclical "Gospel of Life," and condemns spreading "culture of death"
    March 25, 1995
  • Meets with Cuban President Fidel Castro.
    Meets with Cuban President Fidel Castro.
    Meets with Cuban President Fidel Castro.
    November 19, 1996
  • Vatican issues We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, or Holocaust
    Vatican issues We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, or Holocaust, expressing remorse for the cowardice of some Christians during World War II but defending the actions of wartime Pope Pius XII.
    Vatican issues We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah, or Holocaust
    March 16, 1998
  • Celebrates 20th anniversary as pope, asking for prayers to fulfill his mission
    Celebrates 20th anniversary as pope, asking for prayers to fulfill his mission "until the end."
    Celebrates 20th anniversary as pope, asking for prayers to fulfill his mission
    October 18, 1998
  • Gives permission to start the cause of beatification for Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
    Gives permission to start the cause of beatification for Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
    Gives permission to start the cause of beatification for Mother Teresa of Calcutta.
    March 1, 1999
2000's Pope
  • Mehmet Ali Agca is granted clemency & extradited to Turkey
    Mehmet Ali Agca, who attempted to assassinate John Paul II in 1981, is granted clemency by Italian President Carlo Ciampi, and extradited to his native Turkey.
    Mehmet Ali Agca is granted clemency & extradited to Turkey
    June 13, 2000
  • Receives U.S. President George W. Bush.
    Receives U.S. President George W. Bush.
    Receives U.S. President George W. Bush.
    May 28, 2002
  • A top Vatican official confirms pope has Parkinson's disease.
    A top Vatican official publicly acknowledges for the first time what observers have suspected for a decade -- that John Paul II suffers from Parkinson's disease. The pope had long showed signs of Parkingson's, including slurred speech and trembling.
    A top Vatican official confirms pope has Parkinson's disease.
    May 17, 2003
  • U.S. President George W. Bush awards pontiff the Medal of Freedom.
    U.S. President George W. Bush awards pontiff the Medal of Freedom.
    U.S. President George W. Bush awards pontiff the Medal of Freedom.
    June 4, 2004
  • The pope breathes heavily and gasps during an open-air Mass in Lourdes, France
    The pope breathes heavily and gasps during an open-air Mass in Lourdes, France, during one of just two foreign trips during the year.
    The pope breathes heavily and gasps during an open-air Mass in Lourdes, France
    August 15, 2004
  • Rushed to a hospital in Rome with flu and difficulties breathing.
    Rushed to a hospital in Rome with flu and difficulties breathing.
    Rushed to a hospital in Rome with flu and difficulties breathing.
    February 1, 2005
  • Returns to hospital after a relapse of the flu; undergoes a tracheotomy
    Returns to hospital after a relapse of the flu; undergoes a tracheotomy to ease his breathing.
    Returns to hospital after a relapse of the flu; undergoes a tracheotomy
    February 24, 2005
  • Vatican announces John Paul II has a high fever as a result of urinary tract infection
    The Vatican announces that John Paul II has a high fever as a result of a urinary tract infection. He later suffers septic shock, meaning that bacteria had spread from his urinary tract to his blood, poisoning his blood stream and causing his blood vessels to collapse. The pope receives the sacrament for the sick and dying, formerly known as the last rites.
    Vatican announces John Paul II has a high fever as a result of urinary tract infection
    March 31, 2005
  • Pope John Paul II dies at 84.
    Pope John Paul II dies at 9:37 p.m. of septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse. He was 84.
    Pope John Paul II dies at 84.
    April 2, 2005