Pope John Paul II


• The direct successor of St. Peter, Pope John Paul II was born in Wadowice, Diocese of Krakow, May 18, 1920.

• Ordained priest Nov. 1, 1946.

• Appointed titular bishop of Ombi on July 4, 1958.

• Promoted to archbishop of Krakow on Jan. 13, 1964.

• Proclaimed and created cardinal on June 26, 1967.

• Elected pope on Oct. 16 1978. Installed Oct. 22, 1978 at the age of 58.

• First Polish pope and also the first non-Italian pope since Pope Adrian VI in 1522. He can speak eight languages.


At the time of a pope's death, only one person in the Vatican close to the pope is appointed to declare him dead. The Catholic community spends 10 days in mourning.

The pope is then laid in a state of rest at St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.

In a process set up centuries ago, a call is made to all cardinals of the world - there are 184 - to go into seclusion to vote on a successor.

Cardinals over the age of 80 are not eligible to vote; therefore, the number of cardinal electors is 120.

The cardinals go into a conclave, to pray the Holy Spirit will tell them who is to be pope. The cardinals take two votes a day based on prayer; seldom is a successor named the first day.

The room is secured with guards, and the cardinals remain in the room until a choice is made. They have no outside communications.

After ballots are turned in and counted each day, if no pope is chosen the ballots are burned in wet straw so black smoke rises into the sky. This signifies no selection has been made. The new pope must be elected with a two-thirds majority vote.

If a pope is elected, the ballots are then burned in dry straw, which will send white smoke into the air. This is the first sign to the outside world a new pope has been elected.

If the position is accepted, the cardinals gather around and swear their obedience and loyalty to the new pope. A special celebration and Mass is held.

During the time of the election, a smaller group of cardinals is appointed to run the church on a day-to-day basis. Basically, every matter of the church comes to a halt.

The new pope is clothed in one of three vestments and taken to the big window of the papal apartment, where he is shown to and speaks to the people. The community celebrates.

The pope also chooses the name he will take. The pope can never be removed for any reason, but he may resign. Few have resigned from the position.


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