John Paul II, the Papacy, and the Roman Catholic Church

Updated July 13, 2023 | Infoplease Staff
compiled by Borgna Brunner

Pope John Paul II

(Karol Józef Wojtyla)
1920–2005, pope (1978–2005)
Birthplace: Wadowice, Poland

Pope John Paul II

Update: Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger becomes Pope Benedict XVI

Biography: Pope John Paul II

His life, teachings, and legacy

Pope John Paul II was the first Polish pope and the first non-Italian since Adrian VI (1522–1523). The third longest reigning pope—26 years—he spoke eight languages and traveled more than any pope in history, visiting 129 countries. He was a champion of the poor, and many credit him with hastening in the fall of communism in Poland and other eastern bloc countries. On social issues, such as birth control, women's roles in the church, and homosexuality, he was staunchly traditional, which was a source of disappointment among the more liberal elements of the world's 1 billion–strong Catholic population. John Paul canonized 482 saints and beatified 1,338 people, believed to be more than all his predecessors combined. He also appointed nearly every member of the College of Cardinals, who will choose his successor.
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