Profiles in Time: Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II: Before his Papacy

Pope John Paul II’s rise to the papacy was history-making. Elected in 1978,  he was the first non-Italian pope in over 400 years. In the 27 years he served in the papacy, he steadfastly fought for human rights, yet he faced his own adversity. An assassin shot him twince in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City, four years into his term.

Pope John Paul II and the Dalai Llama

Pope John Paul II was born in Poland as Karol Jozef Wojtyla. He had a relatively typical childhood, and after graduating from high school, he enrolled in Krakow’s Jagiellonian University where he studied theater and poetry. After his first year,  the Nazis occupying Poland closed the school. It was then that John Paul II decided to devote his life to the Catholic faith. He began studying under the archbishop of Krakow at a secret seminary. After the Second World War came to an end, he completed his studies at the Krakow seminary. His ordination then occured in 1946 at the age of 26.

John Paul II: After his Ordainment

After his ordination, he relocated to the heart of the church in Rome, Italy. Here, he completed his doctorate in theology. He had a short-lived stint in Rome, and returned to Poland shortly after finishing his studies. Over the next decade, he served in several parishes around Krakow, and in 1958 at the age of 38, he became the bishop of Ombi. Just six years later he became the archbishop of Krakow and quickly became recognized as one of the Catholic Church’s leading thinkers.

In 1962, John Paul II was asked to take part in the opening session of the Second Vatican Council. This group addressed relations between the church and the modern world. The group took part in reviewing the church doctrine over the next several years. His contribution led to his advancement in the church hierarchy. Here in 1967, at the age of 47, he became a cardinal.

John Paul II: Rise to the Papacy

John Paul II served as a cardinal until 1978. That was the year he was voted into the papacy. He was 58-years-old. Following the death of Pope Paul VI, John Paul II and the other cardinals first elected Pope John Paul I. However, he passed away after only 33 days as Pope. So, they called another conclave to order. Cardinal Karol Jozef Wojtyla was elected the new Pope after several days of deliberation. He won with 99 out of 111 votes from the participating electors. A 400-plus year tradition of Italian Popes came to an end, and history was made.

During his reign as pope, John Paul II focused on human rights and political change. Most notably, he contributed to the fall of communism in his home country of Poland. Then after serving the church for over twenty years, Pope John Paul II’s health began to decline. After a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease in 2001, he died four years later at the age of 84. Pope John Paul II received a posthumous sainthood nine years after his death.

Pope John Paul II sitting with Ronald Reagan

Pope John Paul II: The Watch

So, it may come as a bit of a surprise that a religious figure who’s devoted his life to the poor and suffering around the world would own a luxury wristwatch. However, as one of the most traveled world leaders in history, visiting well over 100 countries during his papacy alone, perhaps Pope John Paul II just needed a loyal companion to help him keep time across infinite time zones. His two-tone Rolex Datejust with Jubilee bracelet was by his side throughout his 27-year reign, including that life-altering day an assassin attempted to take his life.

Pope John Paul II: Wearing a Rolex DateJust


Check out our other Profiles in Time, like Winston Churchill.

Image Credits:

Post Tags
Share Post
Written by

Caitlyn is the founder of Grey Ghost, a New York City-based boutique content marketing agency with a passion for artists, entrepreneurs, small businesses, and startups. She believes in quality over quantity, creative thinking, and, above all, using language as powerful tool to build lasting connections.

Latest comment
  • I really enjoyed and appreciated the article on pope John Paul II (now saint John Paul II). I have followed and admired him since childhood and have read many of his works as an adult; however, I never realized that he wore a Rolex Datejust. As a catholic, I have to believe the Jubilee bracelet had some meaning for him, as he declared the year 1983 an Extraordinary Jubilee year and 2000 was also a jubilee year (only 65 jubilee years in the church history).

    Thank you for the pictures of JPII with his watch–I won’t feel guilty for my love of fine watches any longer.