Pope Johannes Paul II

God’s representative on earth, he extended the papal hand to more people than almost anyone before him. A pope whose influence extended far beyond the confines of the Catholic church.

Karol Józef Wojtyla was born in Poland on 18 May 1920. He was a lively child, literary-loving adolescent and a student who performed his own works in experimental theatre groups. And a person who simply was not prepared to accept the injustices of war. It was only joining a seminary that spared him from deportation to Germany. After the war, Wojtyla impressed his congregation and soon made a name for himself at the Vatican Council.

His popularity and profile helped him on his way to becoming pope in 1978. Pope John Paul II – to use the papal moniker he chose for himself – was very comfortable among his flock, even though from time to time members turned out to be wolves in sheep’s clothing. A prolific traveller, he made numerous official trips abroad and survived two attempts on his life. His determination to bring people together was at the heart of his unique character. On 1 May 2011 he was beatified.