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December 18, 2017
Servant of God, John Paul II
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Servant of God and the father of WYDs, who  visited Australia  in 1986 and 1995, John Paul II is the still much loved inspiration for a  generation of young people who will feel his presence and seek his intercession  during WYD08. It was he who entrusted the Cross and the Icon of Our Lady to the  youth of the world and who defied age by trusting and hoping in the young  people, staying forever young, seeing in them the presence of Christ and the  future of the Church.

Karol Józef Wojtyla was born on 18 May,  1920 in Wadowice in southern Poland.  He was the youngest of three children to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska.  His carefree childhood was cut short with his mother's death when he was just  nine years of age, leaving his father to raise him.

During Karol's youth, he was a keen  athlete, actor, philosopher and playwright. He began pursuing his interests at  the Jagiellonian University, in Kraków. During the Nazi  occupation in 1939, Karol's studies were abruptly halted when the university  professors and academics were arrested and deported to Sachsenhausen,  triggering him to begin clandestine studies and Nazi resistance activities.


From 1940-1944 Karol worked as a manual laborer  in a limestone quarry, and then as a salesman to earn his living and to avoid  being deported to Germany.  In 1941, Karol's father, the last remaining Wojtyla family member, died when  Karol was 20.

A year after his father's death, Karol  entered the underground seminary run by the Archbishop of Kraków, Cardinal  Sapieha. He was ordained a priest on 1 November, 1946. On 28 September, 1958 he  became the youngest bishop in Poland  at 38 years of age and in December 1963 Pope Paul VI appointed him Archbishop  of Kraków. In 1967 he was elevated to Cardinal and in 1978 he was elected the  264th Pope, the first non-Italian pope since Adrian VI (Dutch, 1522-1523) and  the youngest, age 58 at election, since Pius IX in 1846.

Certain themes surround John Paul II's  papacy: belief in the universal call to holiness, hope in the young, devotion  to Mary Mother of God, diligent defense of the dignity of human life from  conception to natural death, all presented with humor, 'stage-presence' and a  loveable nature.

In 2003 Pope John Paul II was nominated for  the Nobel Peace Prize for his life's work in opposing Communist oppression and  helping to reshape the world. He travelled more than one million kilometers  outside of Italy  during his papacy, visiting over 126 countries. He spoke ten languages fluently  and is known as the Father of World Youth Days. He wrote more words of teaching  and recognized more saints and blesseds than any other pope in history.

Surviving an assassination attempt in 1981,  this strong man was eventually much reduced by Parkinson's disease. On 2 April  2005 at 9:37pm local time, Pope John Paul II died in the Papal Apartments with  tens of thousands of people holding vigil in Saint Peter's Square below. A  crowd of over two million within Vatican    City, over one billion Catholics worldwide, and many  non-Catholics mourned his death. The public viewing of his body in St Peter's  Basilica drew over four million people to Vatican City and was one of the largest  pilgrimages in the history of Christianity. He is now commonly referred to as  John Paul the Great!

Servant of God John Paul II's life is  wonderful example for all young people on whom he counted; his message to them  remains 'Do not be afraid'. He was able to inspire hope in human hearts having  been through the crucible of darkness and death, yet still flourishing. He  teaches us how to repay good for evil, how to choose life. WYD08 pilgrims can  confidently come to him and ask him to be able to know the truth, and through  this to be set free.

Servant of God, John Paul II, father of World  Youth Day - pray for us

The original article can be found at World  Youth Day Sydney 2008: