Pope John Paul II
Pope John Paul II (b. May 18, 1920, died April 2, 2005), born Karol Józef Wojtyła, in Wadowice, Poland succeeded John Paul I and preceded Benedict XVI. He held the second longest papacy in modern times and was the first non-Italian Pope in over 500 years. He became Vicar of Christ (the title given to the Pope) in 1978, the year of three Popes. He was fluent in ten languages and would often give his homilies in the local language of countries he visited. By using Godly Love, he stood up to the Nazis and the Communists and overcame them both. His pontificate was successful in keeping a vibrant modern Church in strict accordance with Apostolic traditions. He had Canonized more Saints than any other Pope. It is widely believed that John Paul II will be a Saint and have a title of "John Paul the Great."
Karol was born the last of three siblings to father Karol Wojtyła and mother Emilia Kaczorowska. At a young age, he was a known to be gentle and loving to all. In 1928, his mother died and 4 years later his older brother who was a doctor, died of a extreme fever. He lived with his father until he entered the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland. He was a very good futbol (soccer) player and his nickname was 'Goalie'. Karol loved the arts and was involved in poetry and drama. In 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland. At 21 years old, his father died. Occupied Poland was a tough life for Karol but he managed through this by hiding within the underground movement. He refused any armed struggle, was intent on keeping his freedoms and the Polish people's dignity alive through arts. He was known to help Jewish Poles from the wrath of Nazi persecution. In 1942, at the age of 24 he entered the underground seminary to study as a priest.
Election and Pontificate
The Conclave of Cardinals elected him Pope on October 1,1978. As Pope, John Paul II traveled to more places, visited more countries, and traveled more miles than any other previous Pope. He also conducted more public meetings with the faithful, as the total attendance of his Wednesday audiences alone eclipsed 17,600,000 people. Controversially, during his reign, as many new saints were created as had been created in the reigns of all previous popes combined.
On 22nd October 1996 Pope John Paul II made world headlines with his message1 delivered to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. It was entitled Magisterium Is Concerned with Question of Evolution for It Involves Conception of Man and resulted in headlines in many of the world's newspapers declaring that evolution and creation could coexist. His holiness stated his opinion on evolution that "In fact it is remarkable that this theory has had progressively greater influence on the spirit of researchers, following a series of discoveries in different scholarly disciplines. The convergence in the results of these independent studies—which was neither planned nor sought—constitutes in itself a significant argument in favor of the theory."
On May 9, 2005 John Paul II's successor, Pope Benedict XVI, waived the five year waiting period for beatification.
1 From the Vatican, 22 October 1996. Official translation published in L'Osservatore Romano, "Weekly Edition in English," 30 October 1996.
May 13, 1981
A Muslim assassin from Turkey, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot Pope John Paul II at St. Peter's Square. In critical condition, he was rushed to Gemelli Hospital. The recovered Pope would meet with Mehmet in prison to offer forgiveness. Years later, an Italian court ruled that the Soviets were involved in the plot, possibly done for his efforts in Poland's Solidarity movement. CIA reports have Warsaw Pact nation communist Bulgaria as a culprit. 
Speaking of Crossing The Threshold of Hope. God is always on the side of the suffering. His omnipotence is manifested precisely in the fact that he freely accepted suffering. He could have chosen not to do so. He could have chosen to demonstrate his omnipotence even at the moment of the Crucifixion. In fact, it was proposed to him: "Let the Messiah, the King of Israel come down now from the cross that we may see and believe." (Mark 15.32) But he did not accept that challenge. The fact that he stayed on the Cross until the end, the fact that on the Cross he could say, as do all who suffer, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15.34) If the agony on the Cross had not happened, the truth that God is Love would have been unfounded. Yes! God is Love and precisely for this he gave his Son, to reveal himself completely as Love. Christ is the One who "loved...to the end." (John 13.1) "To the end" means to the last breath.
- Italian Panel: Soviets Behind Pope Attack Ap, March 2, 2006