VATICAN CITY, APR 2, 2005 (VIS) - At 4:45 in the afternoon of October 14, 1978,
ten days after the funeral of Pope John Paul I, 110 cardinal electors, and 88
persons selected to assist them, entered into conclave, sealed off from the
world, to elect his successor.
At 6:18 p.m., on October 16, white smoke appeared from the small chimney of
the Sistine Chapel, thus signaling that the cardinal electors had chosen a new
Roman Pontiff. Twenty-seven minutes later, Cardinal Pericle Felici appeared
on the central loggia of St. Peter's Basilica and announced the election of
Pope John Paul II to the See of Peter with the words: "Annuntio vobis gaudium
magnum Habemus Papam Carolum Wojtyla, qui sibi nomen imposuit Ioannem Paulum
At 7:15 p.m. the new pontiff, clad in the traditional papal white, appeared
on the same balcony and spoke in Italian the words now familiar to tens of millions
of people around the world: "Praised be Jesus Christ!"
"Dear brothers and sisters," he continued, "we are still all
very saddened by the death of the very dear Pope John Paul I. And now the most
eminent cardinals have called a new bishop of Rome. They called him from a far-away
country, ... far, but always near in the communion of faith and the Christian
tradition. I was afraid in receiving this nomination, but I did it in the spirit
of obedience to Our Lord and with total trust in his Mother, the Most Holy Madonna.
"I don't know if I can express myself well in your - in our - Italian language.
But if I make a mistake, you will correct me. And so I introduce myself to you
all, to confess our common faith, our hope, our trust in the mother of Christ
and of the Church, and also to begin again on this path of history and of the
Church with the help of God and with that of men."
John Paul II, Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, archbishop of Krakow, was elected as the
264th Pope on the second ballot of the second day of the second conclave of
1978, just five months after his 58th birthday. Six days later, on October 22,
1978, his pastoral ministry was inaugurated.
Today, April 2, 2005, marked the 9,664th day of his pontificate, calculating
from October 22, 1978.
His is the 3rd longest pontificate in the history of the papacy. The longest
was that of St. Peter (precise dates unknown), followed by Pope Pius IX (1846-78:
31 years, 7 months, 17 days).
In his 26 and a half years as Pope, John Paul II held nine consistories in which he has created 232 cardinals, of whom one is "in pectore." He has created all but three of the 117 cardinal electors who will enter into conclave.
From the start of his pontificate, the Holy Father named over 3,500 of the world's
nearly 4,200 bishops. He met each of them a number of times over the years,
particularly when they fulfill their quinquennial obligation of a visit "ad
He has written 14 encyclicals, 14 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions,
42 apostolic letters and 28 Motu proprio in addition to hundreds of other messages
and letters. In preparation for the Jubilee Year 2000, Pope John Paul wrote
the Apostolic Letter "Tertio Millennio Adveniente," dated November
10, 1994, and published four days later. He also created the Committee for the
Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.
He wrote five books: Crossing the Threshold of Hope (1994), Gift and Mystery
(1996), Roman Triptych (poetry, 2003), Arise, Let us Be Going (2004) and Memory
and Identity (2005).
The 84 year-old Pope presided over 15 synods of bishops: six ordinary (1980,
1983, 1987, 1990, 1994, 2001), one extraordinary (1985) and eight special assemblies
(1980, 1991, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1998 (two synods) and 1999).
Over the years, the Holy Father undertook 104 pastoral visits outside Italy, the last of which was to Lourdes in August 2004. He made 143 trips within Italy and nearly 700 within the city and diocese of Rome, including visits to 301 of the 325 parishes of the diocese of which he is bishop, in addition to religious institutes, universities, seminaries, hospitals, rest homes, prisons and schools.
With his 247 foreign and Italian pastoral visits, Pope John Paul II reached
the 1,167,295 kilometer mark (700,380 miles), that is, over 28 times the earth's
circumference or 3 times the distance between the earth and moon.
While in Rome, the Pope welcomed an average of one million people per year,
including between 400,000-500,000 who attended the weekly general audiences
in addition to those who came for special liturgical functions such as Christmas
and Easter Masses, beatifications and canonizations. He also received approximately
150,000-180,000 people per year in audiences granted to particular groups, heads
of state and governments.
At the start of John Paul's pontificate the Holy See had diplomatic relations
with 85 countries. It now has relations with 174 countries, as well as with
the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It has relations
of a special nature with the Russian Federation and the Palestine Liberation
According to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, over
the past 26 years the Pope has proclaimed 1,339 Blesseds in 143 ceremonies and
483 Saints in 52 ceremonies.
He founded the John Paul II Institute for the Sahel in February of 1984, and
the "Populorum Progressio" Foundation for the Indigenous Peoples of
Latin America in February of 1992. He also founded the Pontifical Academies
for Life and for Social Sciences. In addition, he instituted the World Day of
the Sick (celebrated annually on February 11) and World Youth Day (WYD). The
20th youth day will be celebrated this August in Cologne, Germany. The Pope
himself chose the themes and developed its contents in an annual Message to
the Youth of the World.
Karol Jozef Wojtyla, known as Pope John Paul II since his election over 26 years
ago, was born in Wadowice, a small city 50 kilometers from Krakow, on May 18,
1920. He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska.
His mother died giving birth to a third child - stillborn - in 1929. His eldest
brother Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned army
officer, died in 1941.
He made his First Holy Communion at age 9 and was confirmed at age 17. Upon
graduation from Martin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, he enrolled in Krakow's
Jagiellonian University in 1938 and in a school for drama.
The Nazi occupation forces closed the university in 1939 and young Karol had
to work in a quarry and then in a chemical factory in Solvay to earn his living
and to avoid being deported to Germany.
In 1942, aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the clandestine
seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow.
At the same time, Karol Wojtyla was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic
Theater," also clandestine.
After the Second World War, he continued his studies in the major seminary of
Krakow, once it had re-opened, and in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian
University, until his priestly ordination in Krakow on November 1, 1946.
Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance
of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange. He finished his doctorate in theology
in 1948 with a thesis on the topic of faith in the works of St. John of the
Cross. At that time, during his vacations, he exercised his pastoral ministry
among the Polish immigrants of France, Belgium and Holland.
In 1948 he returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Krakow as
well as chaplain for the university students until 1951, when he took up again
his studies on philosophy and theology. In 1953 he defended a thesis on "Evaluation
of the Possibility of Founding a Catholic Ethic on the Ethical System of Max
Scheler" at Lublin Catholic University. Later he became professor of moral
theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty
of Theology of Lublin.
On July 4, 1958, he was appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow by Pope Pius XII,
and was consecrated September 28, 1958, in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow, by Archbishop
On January 13, 1964, he was named archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who
elevated him to the cardinalate on June 26, 1967.
Besides taking part in Vatican Council II with an important contribution to
the elaboration of the Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," Cardinal Wojtyla
participated in every assembly of the Synod of Bishops since it was created
by Paul VI in 1967.