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The events of World War II forced Karol Wojtyla to discontinue studies at the Jagiellonian University and to start physical work in the chemical plant “Solvay” in Krakow in order to avoid deportation to the forced labour in Germany. In 1941 Karol lost his last close person – his father, who died after a long, serious illness.
A year later young Wojtyla began to study at the Metropolitan Higher Seminary in Krakow and on 1 November 1946 he was ordained a priest. Then he left for Rome to study at the Papal Athenaeum Angelicum (now the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas) where he also studied the faith issue of St. John of the Cross. He was granted a doctor’s degree at the Jagiellonian University.
In 1948, Karol Wojtyla served as a vicar and catechist in the parish Niegowic. Soon he was transferred to the parish of St. Florian in Krakow. There he met a group of students, which became his closest friends. One of the factors joining that group together was love for hiking and nature. During the summer they organized hiking to mountains and kayaking, and skiing in the winter. It happened that priest Karol separated from the group to pray and contemplate in peace. They remember those trips as a form of retreat or an opportunity to solve life problems.
At the beginning of the 50’s he was sent on holiday in order to complete his habilitation thesis. He was publishing in catholic press (monthly “Znak” and weekly “Tygodnik Powszechny”) and writing philosophical essays. From 1954, for almost 25 years, he was teaching theology and ethics at the Catholic University of Lublin. In the eyes of his students he was a demanding lecturer but at the same time fair and open to discussions.
In 1958 he was appointed an auxiliary Bishop and then Archbishop of Krakow (1964) becoming the youngest Archbishop in the world. He was visiting parishes, monasteries and he opened a beatification process of Faustyna Kowalska. He was meeting with artists and the scientists. His next step was joining the Cardinals College (1967), also as the youngest member of this body. He cooperated with the Polish Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, known as Primate of the Millennium and was visiting foreign parishes and universities. In 1976 he led the Vatican Lenten retreat.
On 16 October 1978 Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected Bishop of Rome. As Pope he assumed the name of John Paul II.