Undoubtedly, the most loved Pope worldwide (especially by Pinoys), John Paul II's beatification is set on May 1, 2011.
Pope Benedict XVI set the date after declaring that a French nun's recovery from Parkinson's disease was the miracle needed for John Paul to be beatified. A second miracle is needed for the Polish-born John Paul to be made a saint.
Though I have never seen JPII, I hold him in high regard. My father was very lucky to have attended a couple of masses that he officiated when he visited Rome in the 80s. My dad told me that seeing the Pope in person was a surreal experience. It still gives him goosebumps, just talking about it.
As for me, I always get teary-eyed when I watch stories about JPII. I remember crying while watching the World Youth Day celebration here in the Philippines in 1995.
Childhood in Poland
Born in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920, Karol Josef Wojtyla was the son of a retired army officer and a school teacher. He studied literature and philosophy and later was a playwright and poet.
A man of the cloth
Wojtyla secretly studied theology during the Nazi occupation of Poland. By age 34 he had two doctorates and was a professor of ethics. A cardinal at 47, he led the only moral and social force in Poland that could counter communism.
The highest order
In October 1978, Wojtyla became the first Slavic pope ever and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He took the name John Paul II.
Returning to Poland
Within months of his election, the pope went to Poland for a June 1979 visit that some historians say helped end the Cold War. He gave his blessing to an underground labor movement called Solidarity.
While the pope was circling St. Peter's Square before a general audience in May 1981, Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca opened fire. He returned to the Vatican after 22 days in Gemelli hospital in Rome.
In December 1983, the pope offered forgiveness to Agca during a meeting in prison. During the trial, Agca had claimed that East European communist agents had helped him set up the attack on the pope, but he later recanted.
Governing a world of spirit
By the 1980s, the pope had reaffirmed the church's position on controversial issues such as abortion, birth control and the ordination of women. He communicated his message in eight languages and traveled widely.
A recording of the pope reciting the rosary in Latin was set to music and sold commercially in 1994. An Italian journalist published the pope's responses to 20 questions; the book became a best-seller.
The pope's historic trip to Cuba in January 1998 celebrated Catholicism and urged Cubans everywhere to find "new paths" of reconciliation. He met with President Fidel Castro and condemned the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba.
Easter Mass at the Vatican
The pope wished a Happy Easter to the world in 58 languages as part of his "urbi et orbi" (to the city and the world) address in April 1998. Age and deteriorating health forced the most traveled pope to cut back on his visits.
The most widely traveled pope in history, age and deteriorating health forced John Paul II to cut back on his visits. He suffered from arthritis and Parkinson's disease. John Paul II also is the third-longest serving pope.