As soon as the banner was unveiled, St. Peter's Square broke out in applause. On May 2, 2011, John Paul II was beatified.
Six years before, more than 1.5 million people gathered to bid him a final farewell in Rome. The date was April 8, 2005. Winds turned the pages of the Gospel, sitting atop his casket. John Paul II had passed away six days earlier, and the world reacted with cries of "santo subito,” saint now.
Sickness consumed his life bit by bit, but it was never an obstacle to continue preaching the Word of God, even in his last moments, when he didn't have a voice.
John Paul II was Pope for 26 years and five months, one of the longest pontificates. Racking up the miles from his extensive travels around the world, he could have made three trips to the Moon. With each visit, he was able to touch the hearts of people.
In 1978, after a three-day conclave, his peers elected Karol Wojtyla as successor of Peter. They said he was the last cardinal to arrive in Rome, because his car broke down, and he even had to hitchhike to make it on time.
The Polish cardinal came from Krakow, a city he lived in for more than four decades. He had served as archbishop from 1962, and as a cardinal since 1967. But he started out as a seminarian, then a priest, then auxiliary bishop, until eventually becoming archbishop. His time as a seminarian was especially tough. Wojtyla had to finish his studies in an underground seminary the current Krakow cardinal established. John Paul II recalled those times, that ended with his ordination as priest in 1946.
JOHN PAUL II
"This experience as a worker, and at the same time as an underground seminarian, has stayed with me my whole life. In the factory, to complete my eight-hour shift, day or night, I would take several books. My fellow workers were a bit puzzled, but didn't give me trouble.”
In 1943, during the day he worked eight hours at a quarry, and at night, he studied to become a priest. During this period, Communism had taken away any remaining freedom Poles had. It was the country's second successive totalitarian government.
Nazi forces has invaded Poland four years earlier, when Karol Wojtyla was a student at Krakow's Jagiellonian University. In this environment, along with many Jewish friends, he took part in one of his passions, theater. Hitler's arrival in Poland cut short his college days.
By then, Karol was alone. His father had died in 1941. They had lived together since the death of his brother Edmund, and his mother, in 1932, when he was eight years old.
With Emilia's death, his mother, Karol's father took him and his brother to a Marian sanctuary and pointed out Our Lady, saying she would be their mother. This moment gave way to his strong devotion to Mary. When all this happened, the family still lived in Wadowice, the same place where Lolek, as his family affectionately called him, was born on May 18, 1920.