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Old 12-22-2008, 09:38 AM   #1456
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Unhappy April 2, 2005: Pope John Paul II dies.

In 2005, the world lost a champion of peace and freedom when Pope John Paul II, the leader of the largest Christian denomination in the world, died on April 2 in Rome at the age of 84, just a month and a half before his 85th birthday. He was the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian pope since the
Dutch Adrian VI in the 1520's. John Paul's reign was one of the longest (27 years), which began in 1978 shortly after the death of Pope John Paul I, who died only one month after becoming pope.

Pope John Paul II was born Karol Józef Wojtyła (pronounced Karol Yosef Vai-teewa) on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice (pronounced Vado-vitza), Poland. His family life was marked by tragedy early on, as his nearly all of his family and siblings had all died before he reached his early teens. Fortunately, he had received much help from the Jewish community during this time. His major interest in his youth was sports, as he wanted to play soccer as a goalkeeper. His other interest was religion, as he became president of the Society of Mary during his high school years. in 1938, he enrolled the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and in a school for drama. He worked as a volunteer librarian and did compulsory military training in the Academic Legion, but refused to hold or fire a weapon. In his youth he was an athlete, actor and playwright and he learned as many as ten languages during his lifetime, including Latin, Ukrainian, Croatian, Greek, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, German, English, Yiddish, Hebrew, and a little Russian, as well as his native Polish.

In 1939, as German forces invaded Poland, Wojtyla was forced to hold several menial jobs to avoid deportation to Germany. His father had died in 1941, making him completely without living family members. It was during this time that he decided to pursue the priesthood by joining a makeshift seminary in Krakow. Also during his training, he also helped Jewish citizens find refuge from the Nazis. In early 1944, he was accidentally hit by a passing German truck and the Germans were amazingly kind enough to help transport him to a hospital, in spite of the general contempt many Germans, especially those in the Wehrmacht, had felt toward the Poles. While being treated for a concussion and an injured shoulder, Wojtyla felt this incident confirmed his goal to become a priest, as if this was a sign from God. OnAugust 6, 1944, "Black Sunday", just after the Warsaw uprising began, the Gestapo rounded up young men in Kraków to avoid a similar uprising. Wojtyła escaped by hiding in the basement of his home as it was searched, then escaped to the Kraków Archbishop's residence, where he stayed until after the war.
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Old 12-23-2008, 09:02 AM   #1457
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Unhappy RIP Pope John Paul II.

In early 1945, the Germans left the city of Krakow, and Wojtyla and the other students began work to restore the seminary which was nearly destroyed by the Nazis. He and some other seminarians began the ever-so-delightful task of cleaning out frozen excrement from the lavatories of the building. Such was the life of many struggling students studying for the priesthood or ministry, and the future pope was no different than countless others before or after him who had an undignified job story to tell. That month, while in another town, Woytyla had rescued a young girl named Edith Zierer, who was on the run from a Nazi labor camp to find her family. She was sick from cold and exhaustion, and he alone helped her by feeding her and serving her tea and food before carrying her to the train station and accompanying her to Krakow. She claimed that he had saved her life, and she would not hear of him again until 33 years later, when she read he had become Pope in 1978.

Woytyla had entered the underground seminary in Krakow in 1942, and had become ordained in the priesthood in 1946. He went to study theology at the Pontifical International Athenaeum Angelicum[13] in Rome, where he earned a licentiate and later a doctorate in sacred theology. This doctorate, the first of two, was based on the Latin dissertation Doctrina de fide apud S. Ioannem a Cruce (The Doctrine of Faith According to Saint John of the Cross). Even though his doctoral work was unanimously approved in June 1948, he was denied the degree because he could not afford to print the text of his dissertation (an Angelicum rule). In December of that year, a revised text of his dissertation was approved by the theological faculty of Jagiellonian University in Kraków, and Wojtyła was finally awarded the degree.

In 1948, Wojtyla returned to Poland where he served as a priest in a small town outside of Krakow. He taught ethics at the Jagiellonian University there and subsequently at the Catholic University of Lublin. He formed a group of around twenty people who gathered for prayer, philosophical discussion, and ministering to the blind and sick. The group soon grew to about 200, and they would all go out for skiing and kayaking trips. Father Wojtyla also wrote columns for a Catholic newspaper in Krakow where he discussed philosophical issues, and even wrote pieces of literature where he touched on his life during the war and under communism. He used pseudonyms for his literary works to distinguish them from his religious works. He also earned a doctorate
on Catholic ethics based on the writings of phenomenology philosopher Max Scheler. He was denied the degree when the communist authorities had forbidden the university to grant them, but in conjunction with his habilitation at Catholic University of Lublin, Poland, he finally obtained the doctorate of philosophy in 1957 from that institution, where he had assumed the Chair of Ethics in 1956.


Father Wojtyla in 1948:
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Old 12-24-2008, 09:30 AM   #1458
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Unhappy RIP Pope John Paul II.

In the late 50's Father Wojtyla moved up in position in the Catholic church in his native Poland. In 1962, he took part in the Second Vatican Council, which had sought to find new ways for the Church to remain relevant and dynamic in a rapidly changing world. In December 1963, Pope Paul VI appointed him to be the Archbishop of Krakow. On June, 26 1967, Paul VI announced Archbishop Wojtyła's promotion to the Sacred College of Cardinals with the title of Cardinal Priest of San Cesareo in Palatio.He made contributions to two of the most historic and influential products of the council, the Decree on Religious Freedom (in Latin, Dignitatis Humanae) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes). In 1960, Wojtyła had published the influential book Love and Responsibility, a defense of the traditional Church teachings on sex and marriage from a new philosophical standpoint. In 1967, he was instrumental in formulating the encyclical Humanae Vitae which deals with those same issues and forbids abortion and artificial birth control.

Over ten years later, Pope Paul VI died in 1978 at the age of 80, and Wojtyla voted, with many other bishops, to elect Albino Luciani, more known as John Paul I as the new pope. Tragically, 31 days into his reign as pope, John Paul I died from a heart attack at the age of 65 (which lead to a number of conspiracy theories about the death of the popular, warm-hearted new pope). A second papal conclave, so soon after the one following the passing of Pope Paul VI, was brought together to choose a successor to John Paul I. Wojtyla
was chosen, and he now officially became known as Pope John Paul II at the age of 58. John Paul II dispensed with the traditional papal coronation traditions of clergy bowing before him and instead hugged those who welcomed his ascendancy to the papacy in the ceremony. Immediately, he became a much-loved figure worldwide, a smiling, kind-hearted icon to many everywhere. He also became the first Polish pope as well. "I have a sweet tooth for song and music," he was known to have said. "This is my Polish sin.”
Pope John Paul II was also very fond of skiing, but as his duties as pope increased, he found that he had to severely curtail this activity.

In 1979, Pope John Paul II returned to Poland to meet enthusiastic crowds. He became a symbol of freedom and hope in a country withering under communist oppression. In 1980, his visit inspired the formation of the Solidarity movement in Poland, a trade union which refused to obey communist orders for conducting business. The Solidarity movement became a symbol of freedom from communist tyranny in the Iron Curtain country. John Paul travelled the world extensively and spoke out against violations of human rights everywhere.

However, the new pope found that he was not universally loved by all. The
world was horrified to learn that, on May 13, 1981, he was shot and critically wounded in an assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Ağca, a Turkish gunman who belonged to a Turkish radical group called the Grey Wolves. Ağca had escaped from prison following the murder of a left-wing journalist in 1979, and
apparently wanted to bring attention to his causes by assassinating the pope and creating a massive tumult as a result. Fortunately, he was caught by and restrained by a nun and bystanders who had come to see the pope during an appearance at the Vatican. The pope was hit twice in the lower intestine and in the arm and side. The pope lost three quarters of blood and lost consciousness en route to the hospital. Fortunately, he survived the attack, with John Paul claiming that Our Lady of Fatima helped keep him alive and giving strength during the ordeal.

"Could I forget that the event [Ali Ağca's assassination attempt] in St. Peter’s Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over sixty years at Fátima, Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet. ”

Ağca was sentenced to life in a Turkish prison. The incident prompted Vatican officials to develop new security measures for the pope.

Wojtyla during his kayaking days:

The Pope in Poland in 1979:

The Pope with Turkish president Fahri Koruturk:

The Pope's would-be assassin Mehmet Ali Ağca:

Pope John Paul I:
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Old 12-25-2008, 02:31 PM   #1459
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Unhappy RIP Pope John Paul II.

When John Paul II became pope in 1978, he was in excellent physical health, very fit and active in sports and outdoor activities, which was a far cry from previous popes who were rather ill in the old age. However, his health went on a serious decline after his assassination attempt in 1981. For the remainder of his reign, his health was closely watched, though he remained very active and kept a busy schedule touring all over the world and making appearances.

In 1983, just right after Christmas, John Paul II paid a visit to his would-be assassin in prison. He had completely forgiven Ağca and developed his trust. He spoke with Ağca for twenty minutes, but refused to discuss the details of his conversation with former attacker: "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."

But in 1982, the attacks did not end there: Just one day before the first anniversary of the first assassination attempt, a right-wing ex-priest named Juan María Fernández y Krohn struck the pope with a bayonet. Though the former priest drew blood, John Paul was not harmed seriously. The ex-priest was upset over changes proposed by the Second Vatican Council in the 60's, in which John Paul had participated some years before becoming pope. Krohn called the pope an agent of Communist Moscow and of the Marxist East bloc. Fernández y Krohn subsequently left the Roman Catholic priesthood and served a six-year sentence in prison.

Regardless of the displeasure of some with his teachings, it was clear that Pope John Paul II was a charismatic figure and held much sway over much of the Catholic population, and even other members of different faiths worldwide. He was widely championed for his opposition to Soviet tyranny, but not everyone shared his views, particularly in regards to sexuality and women's roles. Many in the West balked at his ultra-conservative stance for traditionalism, as well his opposition to abortion, contraception, gay rights, divorce, and the ordination of women. The world was changing, but the Vatican was resolved to maintain its rigid position. Many Catholics, particularly in America, Britain, and Europe, ignored the pope's statements, while more traditional Catholics claimed that those who blew them off did so at their own peril of their good standing in the church. Meanwhile, as the Church lost much influence in the West, Catholicism flourished in Third World countries. Many in the West were appalled at the Church's prohibition of contraceptives and birth control where birthrates were skyrocketing in impoverished regions which could not afford to feed or sustain those already alive.

Another development the pope opposed was Liberation Theology, a movement popular in Central and South America which, according to its critics, equated and assimilated Christianity with socialist and Marxist principles. Liberation theologians claimed that sin was the cause of poverty in society, and urged social justice. Pope John Paul II strongly condemned the movement as it seemed to equate Christ with simply being a political, subversive figure rather than being the divine center of the Faith. The movement, which was strong during the 80's, dropped significantly after the pope's harsh admonishment.

But Pope John Paul II was not simply an old man stuck in the past with fun-killing prohibitions and taboos, he was a man who, according to many, made Catholic teachings accessible and dynamic. He wanted to make Catholicism a little more in touch with the times, while at the same time retaining its orthodox position. He wanted to speak it in such a way that would sound fresh and inviting. He urged holiness and a commitment to the Person of Christ. There was very much a strong philosophical and academic basis to his teachings as well.

With America and Russia at cross-hairs over nuclear proliferation, the Pope condemned the rise of militarism in the mid-80's. He knew that the escalation to a possible nuclear war would be devastating to the planet, and called for a new direction in the way to peace. In 1987, he gathered representatives of many of the world's religions and sects for a summit on praying for peace, a move which was criticized by more traditional and conservative religious leaders as a "selling out" to ecumenical groups, a sign of "impending apostasy". Regardless, it was rare that such a major figure in Christianity could amass so many from the world's faiths for such an important matter which threatened the survival of civilization. The Pope realized the solution of the world's problems was a spiritual one.

The Pope in 1985:

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Two pictures of the Pope with Ağca:
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