Pope John Paul II: 1920-2005

Look at the life of the beloved and controversial cleric who led the Vatican for more than 25 years


Pope John Paul II was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. His schoolteacher mother died when he was 8; an infant sister passed away before he was born; and an older brother succumbed to scarlet fever. His father was a tailor who served in the Polish military. Karol Sr. "tried to develop the same discipline in his son that he instilled in his soldiers," said a childhood friend of the Pope's.