Sunday, May 1, 2011

Pope John Paul II: a profile

Benedict XVI, in his homily on the steps of St Peter's during the beatification ceremony, called him "beloved and revered".

In an apparent reference to John Paul's bold defiance of Communism and support for the Polish Solidarity movement, Benedict said his predecessor "turned back with the strength of a titan ... a tide which appeared irreversible."

The first non-Italian Pope in 455 years when he was elected in 1978, John Paul brought new vitality to the Vatican but alienated many Roman Catholics with his conservative social views.

Baptised Karol Wojtyla, he was born in a small town near Kraków, in southern Poland, the son of an army officer, in 1920.

His childhood was marred by the premature death of his mother when he was nine, and by the death of his older brother three years later.


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