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Did You Know - Pope John Paul II

April 01, 2005

Compiled by Robert Strybel, Warsaw Correspondent
- Karol Wojtyla, one of Christendom's longest-serving popes was born in Wadowice on May 18, 1920. He was ordained on Nov. 1, 1946, appointed bishop on July 4, 1958, named archbishop of Krakow on Jan. 16, 1964, raised to the rank of cardinal on June 26, 1967 and elected pope on Oct. 16, 1978.
- John Paul II's ninth pilgrimage to Poland (Aug. 16-19, 2002) was one of his shortest, but his previous 13-day, 22-city homecoming to Poland in June 1999 was the longest papal visit in the history of his pontificate.
- To mark the silver anniversary of Karol Wojtyla's election as pope, a post-graduate research center devoted to his life and work has been set up in Krakow. It will conduct classes and seminars and include a multi-media library of JPII's writings and other works documenting his entire pontificate.
- One of John Paul's most fervent hopes was fulfilled when at the age of 80 he was able to preside over Jubilee Year 2000, ringing in the Third Millennium of Christianity.
- One "nice" Polish joke asks: "How many Poles does it take to change the world?" The answer: "Two - an archbishop from Krakow and a shipyard electrician from Gdansk (Lech Walesa)." JPII's 1979 visit to Poland was widely believed to have inspired his countrymen to challenge communist rule. The peaceful Solidarity revolution that erupted a year later eventually led to the collapse of the iron curtain and the end of the cold war.
- John Paul II began his first papal pilgrimage to Poland (1979) by falling to his knees and kissing the tarmac of Warsaw Airport, the soil of his native land. That gesture became his trademark around the world. Due to failing health, he now blesses the native soil presented to him on a tray.
- During the Nazi occupation, Karol Wojtyla worked from the time he turned 20 in 1940 to 1944 as a common laborer in a stone quarry of the Solvay Chemical Works near Krakow and later in the factory itself.
- In at least 76 Polish cities and towns there are 64 streets and 12 squares named after Jan Pawel II; at least 58 elementary schools across Poland, seven high schools and four vocational schools also bear his name.
- In 1969 and again in 1976 (two years before being elected pope), Poland's Cardinal Karol Wojtyla toured Polonian communities across the U.S. and Canada, meeting thousands of Polonians at Masses, banquets and other gatherings.
- John Paul II authored more than a dozen encyclicals on various aspects of Catholic doctrine and morals. In them he has reaffirmed his strong belief in Christian altruism, solidarity, forgiveness, peace, charity and the strong, loving, supportive Christian family as the cornerstone of any nation's well-being.
- He consistently preached against hatred, violence, egoism, run-away materialism, pornography, abortions, divorce, genetic tampering, same-sex "marriages", dangerous cults and subcultures, substance abuse and the many supposedly "cool" and "trendy" fads that only leave twisted minds, broken hearts, shattered lives and unhappy children in their wake.
- The pope not only publicly forgave Turkish gunman Ali Agca, who nearly assassinated him in May 1981 in St. Peter's Square, but later met with his would-be killer in his Italian prison cell and keeps him in his daily prayers.
- There are at least 36 statues of John Paul II across Poland, including two in Warsaw and two in the southern town of O?awa. The biggest is more than 30 feet tall and stands outside the recently constructed basilica in Lichen (Wielkopolska voivodship), Poland?s biggest church.
- An actor, poet and playwright in his youth, Karol Wojtyla produced many of his writings under the pen-name of Andrzej Jawien and Andrzej Gruda.
- John Paul II recently canonized the stigmatic, miracle-healing Italian monk, Padre Pio, but denied rumors that the mystic had predicted he would become pope the first time he met him in 1947.
- Karol Wojtyla's only brother Edmund (born in 1906), a medical doctor, died at the age of 26 in 1932 in a hospital in Bielsko (southern Poland) after contracting scarlet fever from a patient he was treating.
- Romania was the first predominantly Eastern Orthodox country visited by the Polish-born pontiff. He later made pilgrimages to other Orthodox strongholds including Greece, Ukraine and Bulgaria, but has so far been prevented from visiting Russia by that country's paranoid religious leaders.
- Following the pope's 1980 visit to Detroit's once predominantly Polish enclave-suburb of Hamtramck, a vacant corner store on the town's main street was torn down to make way for a papal mini-park. A statue of John Paul II looms above the enclosure whose wall sports traditional Polish motifs.
- Soviet boss Leonid Brezhnev was opposed to the pope's first (1979) visit to Poland and urged Polish communist leader Edward Gierek to have John Paul II cancel the trip for reasons of health. Gierek got Brezhnev to consent to this visit after arguing that a refusal would have generated much anti-communist publicity in the world media.
- John Paul opposed all forms of killing, including war, and taught that God's gift of life is only His to take. He thus differs from one-sided liberals who oppose capital punishment but support abortion and euthanasia, and equally biased conservatives, who favor the death penalty and warfare but oppose "mercy killing" and the murder of unborn babies.
- Following the pope's homecoming to Wadowice, the kremowki (cream cakes) he publicly recalled from his youth became an instant market hit. Kremowki papieskie (papal cream cakes) are now a major Wadowice tourist attraction, although many are imported by local retailers from Poznan and Krakow.
- Pope John Paul II was granted honorary citizenship of several dozen Polish cities including Bialystok, Bydgoszcz, Czestochowa, Krakow, Krosno, Legnica, Lublin, Lomza, Nowy Targ, Poznan, Rzeszow, Sandomierz, Siedlce, Torun, Warsaw, Wroclaw and Zywiec.
- As an ethics professor at the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL), Karol Wojtyla often held seminars with his students in the Tatra Mountains and took them hiking, canoeing and camping. They affectionately referred to him as wujek (uncle).
- The pope rarely had time to watch television, but he occasionally enjoyed a televised soccer match which reminded him of his own soccer-playing youth.
- Karol Wojtyla's nearly lifelong good health began to falter following a near-fatal 1981 assassination attempt. He later underwent colon surgery, had his appendix removed and suffered a hip fracture.
- The Polish-born pope beatified more "blesseds" and canonized more saints during his 24-year pontificate than all the popes of the past four centuries combined. They include Kateri Tekawitha, the first American Indian ever beatified (1980).
- Wojtyla was called Lolek (short for Karol) by family, friends and schoolmates. His mother called him Lolus (an endearing diminutive) and told her friends she had a premonition that her son would one day achieve greatness.
- Due to his frail health later in life, the Polish-born pontiff was a very light eater but still occasionally enjoyed Polish pierogi (especially the meat-filled variety), flaki (tripe soup) and sernik (cheesecake) as well as Italian pizza and pasta dishes. They were prepared by several Sercanki (Sacred Heart Sisters) from Krakow.
- Like most Poles, who celebrate namedays (imieniny) rather than birthdays (urodziny), the pope celebrated the feastday of his patron saint, St. Charles Borromeo, on Nov. 4.

Posted by Am-Pol Eagle at April 1, 2005 04:04 PM
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