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John Paul II (Karol Jozef Wojtyla) (1920–)

Subject History

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631209379.1999.x


Pope (1978–). The son of a Polish army officer, he was ordained a priest in 1946 and studied philosophy and moral theology at Rome before returning to Poland in 1948, when the Roman Catholic Church was being persecuted by the communist state. A brilliant student, he became professor of moral theology at the Catholic University Lublin, a bishop in 1958 and Archbishop of Krakow in 1964. Three years later he was made a cardinal and in 1978 was elected pope, the first non-Italian to hold this office for 456 years and the first Slav to be pope. He saw his mission as that of restoring the moral authority of the Church in a chaotic and increasingly secular world and in re-establishing a common Christian heritage across the political boundaries of Europe. An indefatigable worker and traveller, he visited 74 countries in the first ten years of his papacy and travelled 375,000 miles (600,000 km). His emotional return to Poland, when a million people gathered in Warsaw for his first pontifical mass in 1979, was followed by a further visit in 1987, when his strong anti-communism and support for reform were manifest. John Paul II is an uncompromising upholder of the Church's traditional doctrines: he condemned divorce, abortion, sexual relations outside marriage, in-vitro fertilization and artificial contraception. His attitude to other social issues is conservative: he condemns homosexuality, ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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