Pope John Paul: 1920-2005

A Long Life In Eventful Times

Pope John Paul II was born Karol Josef Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. When he finished high school, he spoke Latin, Greek and German, and he later learned Italian, Spanish and French. His mother died when he was 8. At 12, he lost his older brother, Edmund, and at 20, his father. At 22, he began studies for the priesthood at a clandestine seminary in Nazi-occupied Poland. His rise in the church hierarchy was steady, capped by his selection as pope in 1978.

The Washington Post

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