Nine Little-Known Facts About Pope John Paul II’s Personal Life | by Sal | August 2022

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Her views on abortion and sexuality were quite controversial.

John Paul II | Photo credits : Wikimedia Commons (James G. Howes) | Public domain

JJhe Catholic Church is the oldest institution in the Western world, ranging back to 2000 years. It has had many great popes over its long history, St. Peter being one of the best known. Another figure who ascended to the papacy and is held in high esteem by many is John Paul II. He was born in 1920 and his birth name was Karol Jozef Wojtyla.

Wojtyla was Polish and was to become John Paul II. He became pope in 1978 and his tenure lasted until his death in 2005! He earned the admiration and respect of many during his tenure, as his passion for human rights and hardworking nature made him hard to hate. While his accomplishments as pope are well known, his private life is less often discussed.

In his youth, Paul II began acting, writing poems and even composing plays. His penchant for the performing arts was so strong that he almost chose a theatrical career! He was eventually carried into the priesthood but his fate played out differently; Paul II may have been famous for quite different reasons! He even has a IMDb page who credits his accomplishments to television.

Paul II had two encounters with the Nazis, both of which nearly changed his life. In February 1944 he was run over by a Nazi truck and lost consciousness due to the collision. The truck stopped and delegated a nearby vehicle to transport the future pope to the hospital. His injuries were serious, but Paul II managed to make a full recovery.

The Pope on an airplane | Photo credits : Wikimedia Commons (Quirinale.it) | Public domain

Later that year, a Polish uprising against Nazi occupation prompted the Nazis to search the city of Paul II. During this search, the Nazis were ordered to detain all the young men. Paul II narrowly avoids capture by hiding behind a door! Thereafter, he fled to the Archbishop’s house, where he remained until the end of the war.

Paul II was a remarkable polyglot with an impressive command of several languages. He was a native Polish speaker and was fluent in Italian, Spanish, French, English and Latin. In addition, he possessed functional ability in Slovak, Russian, Ukrainian and Japanese. Some sources suspect that the pope’s language skills may have expanded further, but the consensus is that Paul II spoke between eight and eleven languages!

Few can say they’ve graced the covers of a Marvel comic book, and even fewer can say they’ve written an entire issue on it. Pope John Paul II is one of them! Published in 1983, The life of Pope John Paul II is a Marvel comic that chronicles the life of Paul II from his childhood until the assassination attempt in 1981. The comic was a remarkable success, with millions of copies sold worldwide! It seems that Paul II had a certain geeky appeal about him.

John Paul II at Yankee Stadium | Photo credits : Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)

According to biographer George Weigel, Paul II was almost accidentally shot when he was 15 years old. The event happened when the future pope’s friend jokingly pointed a gun at him and didn’t realize it was loaded. The friend even pulled the trigger but just missed Paul II. This was only the first of many near death experiences Paul II would have!

In his youth, Paul II was quite the athlete. He liked to play football and swim. Apparently, he was quite the goalkeeper during his youth and a big fan of FC Barcelona as well as his local team Cracovia Krakow. His love for football never faded, even as he matured into the priesthood and eventually ascended to the papacy. He was a lifelong Cracovia Krakow fan and believed that sport was an activity that could unite even the most disparate people.

Paul II had no particularly happy childhood. His early years were plagued by death. His mother died in 1929 due to heart and kidney complications. Paul II was then only nine years old. Her brother, Edmund, died of scarlet fever three years later. His father died in 1941. So by the time Paul II was 21, his immediate family was all dead. His father would not live to see his son enter the priesthood, which had been his lifelong wish.

Pope John Paul II in Germany | Photo credits : Wikimedia Commons (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International)

In 1942, at the height of World War II, Paul II would have a chance encounter with an escapee from a Nazi concentration camp. Aged only 13 at the time, Edith Zierer had escaped from a Nazi labor camp to Czestochowa, from where she was able to sneak onto a train and arrived in a small village called Jedrzejow. Here Paul II would meet the girl and accompany her on a cattle train en route to Krakow. There, she would flee from the future pope out of fear for his safety. However, she would later recount how Paul II’s actions had saved her life.

Although John Paul II had remarkably liberal ideas in some respects, such as those relating to popular anti-Semitic sentiments in some Catholic circles, he was much more conservative in some respects. His views on sexuality, for example, were quite traditional. He believed that same-sex relationships were an attack on the family and outright condemns same-sex marriages. Moreover, he categorized abortion in the same category as infanticide and declared it a heinous crime.

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