John Paul II

The Vatican elected a new pope, Pope John Paul I in 1978, he died 33 day later. His successor, (JP2) Pope John Paul II, was young, athletic, charismatic, and from Poland.

Born Karol Józef Wojtyła (JP2) was 19 yrs old, Poland was being invaded by a combination of German and Russian presence. Millions of Jews would be murdered in the months and years ahead. Karol was active and studious, and worked in a chemical plant. ‘Witness to Hope’ biographer, George Weigel writes, “Fellow workers remember Karol
praying on his knees at the plant, unafraid of ridicule and seemingly able to tune out the racket around him to concentrate on his conversation with God”.  During this time he also learned new lessons about the dignity of labor and those who perform it.

At age 20, he lost his last family member, his Dad died at age 62. His Mom died when he was just 8 and his brother died when Karol was 13 yrs old. He felt called to the Priesthood. The seminary that Karol would now be attending had to be kept secret from the Nazi occupiers. Anyone rumored to be involved with it – much less attending it – could
be put to death.

After the German occupation, in 1945, Karol would become an assistant instructor in theology.  One class, in particular, a moral theology study on the right to life would have a profound effect on  Karol’s personal philosophy in the years ahead.  He also noticed that material wealth often went hand in hand with spiritual poverty.

In 1960, Karol was 40, he published his first book ‘Love & Responsibility’, essentially stressing the beauty of love & sex with in God’s boundaries of marriage. On the other hand, Poland’s communist government encouraged young people to have pre-marital sex, specifically to cause them to break from the church.

Karol became a cardinal in 1967 and became a good friend and confidant to Pope Paul.  In 1978, Pope Paul died. David Aiken set the scene,

“Part of the confusion, after they named Karol Wojtyla Pope, was that he was mostly unknown beyond church leadership.  But his vitality, his humor & his openness caused people to like him immediately. After his inaugural speech, he waded into the crowd, something popes didn’t do.

In 1981, the pope was shot as he entered St. Peter’s Square in Rome. The 61 yr old pontiff was shot 4 times, spent weeks in the hospital, but recovered.  He thanks God, not only for saving his life, but also for allowing him to join the community of the sick who were suffering in the hospital.

The gunman, Mehmet Ali Ağca was caught and restrained by a nun and other bystanders until police arrived. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. Two days after Christmas in 1983, John Paul II visited Ağca in prison. JP2 and Ağca spoke privately for about twenty minutes. JP2 said, “What we talked about will have to remain a secret between him and me. I spoke to him as a brother whom I have pardoned and who has my complete trust.″

On December 27, 2014, 33 years after his crime, Mehmet Ali Ağca publicly showed up at the Vatican to lay white roses on the recently canonized Saint John Paul II’s tomb and said he wanted to meet Pope Francis, a request which was denied.

Even though JP2 suffered with Parkinson’s late in life, he took an unyielding stand against the use of human embryonic stem cells in medical research.  A human being is sacred in God’s eyes. We are all God’s children. He was a picture of courage and of heroic consistency, a man practiced what he preached.

Shared by Doug Ross
Next week Charles Colson