This Saturday, 22nd October, is the (optional) Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, who was pope from 1978-2005. When he was elected in 1978, he was the first non-Italian pope for over four centuries. It was also politically sensational, as Poland at that time was a communist country behind the Iron Curtain. A native of Wadowice, born in 1920, Karol Wojtyla’s life has been retold many times. His mother died when he was nine years old, and his older brother Edmund died three years later. Growing up, John Paul was athletic and enjoyed skiing and swimming. He went to the Jagiellonian University in 1938 in Krakow where he was interested in theatre and poetry. The school was closed in 1939 thanks to the German occupation. John Paul began studying for the priesthood, at a secret seminary run by the Archbishop. After the war, he finished his studies at the seminary and was ordained in 1946. He then spent two years in Rome completing a doctorate in theology. In 1948, he returned to Poland and served in several parishes in and around Krakow. He also became university chaplain. In 1964 he was appointed the archbishop of Krakow. A leading moral theologian, he took part in the Second Vatican Council and was especially involved in the writing of Gaudium et Spes, the document on the Church’s relationship with the modern world. position in the world. Pope St. Paul VI made him a cardinal in 1967, then in 1978 he was elected Pope after the short-lived Pope John Paul I. Among his many accomplishments as pope he made 104 apostolic journeys outside Italy and promulgated a new catechism. Inaugurated world youth Day and the world meeting of families. In 1981, an assassin shot him twice in St. Peter’s Square, although he was able to recover from his injuries and later forgave his attacker. Pope John Paul II died on April 2, 2005, at the age of 84. More than 3 million people waited in line to say good-bye to him at St. Peter’s Basilica before his funeral on 8th April. He was canonised by Pope Francis on 30th September 2013.