Pope John Paul II – Election as Pope

Actions as Cardinal

At age 47, Wojtyla was made a cardinal on June 28, 1967. As the cardinal archbishop of Kraków, he worked closely with Poland’s powerful primate cardinal, Stefan Wyszynski , archbishop of Warsaw, who declared that Christianity not communism was the true protector of the poor and oppressed.

Election as pope

Paul VI died in August 1978. The College of Cardinals, divided between two powerful Italians, chose Albino Luciani from Venice. However, 34 days after his election, Pope John Paul I died. Upon learning of the new pontiff’s death, Wojtyla penned his last published poem, “Stanislaw.” It portrays the saint’s martyrdom and religion as wellsprings of Polish nationhood. Describing Poland as “The land of hard-won unity… torn on the maps of the world,”Wojtyla alsoevoked the tradition of Poland as “the Christ of nations” whose suffering saves the world. He told friends he wrote the poem as a way of paying his debt to Kraków.
When 111 cardinals entered the second conclave that gathered in 1978 to elect a new pope, the world did not know that Wojtyla had received votes in the first conclave, nor that he was aware of a movement to elect him which, if strong enough, would mean his departure from Kraków. He was in some ways a perfect compromise candidate for the College of Cardinals, who knew the next pope would have to hold together a divided church. Liberal interpretations of religious life that followed the Second Vatican Council had created rifts and defections; religious conservatives were digging in, claiming the council had betrayed the church. Wojtyla appeared to be conservative in church discipline but progressive in his acceptance of Vatican Council reforms. The cardinals also hoped his youthfulness would attract young people to the church. Still, Wojtyla’s election on the conclave’s eighth ballot, at the end of its second full day, astonished a world that had not seen a non-Italian pope since Adrian VI (who reigned 1522-23).
On October 22, 1978, Wojtyla was installed as John Paul II, the 264th bishop of Rome and the vicar (the representative on earth, according to the church) of Christ. In taking this name, which his predecessor said honoured the two popes of the Second Vatican Council, John Paul signaled his intention to continue with that council’s reforms.
From the moment of his inauguration in which his homily repeated the refrain “Be not afraid!” John Paul presented an exuberant image that would be amplified by his travels abroad. Parading his message through many cultures and speaking in many languages, the vigorous and handsome 58-year-old John Paul II quickly became a media icon. The new pope and his Vatican officials, who saw themselves in a global competition for souls with the officially atheist Soviet Union, seized the opportunity to isolate the Soviets through a worldwide touring campaign for universal human rights that insisted on national and religious freedom.