BETTY ANN BOWSER: Most young Catholics have never known another pope. John Paul II, the spiritual head of the Catholic Church for more than a quarter century, longer than any pontiff of the last 100 years.
He will be remembered as the most-traveled pope in history, as a man who helped his Polish homeland end Communism, and as a religious conservative who preserved tradition in his church.
Karol Joseph Wojtyla was born in 1920 in Wadowice, Poland. In 1946, he was ordained a priest. Some years later, at age 38, he became the youngest bishop in Poland. In 1964, he was named archbishop of Krakow. And three years after that was inducted into the College of Cardinals.
In 1978, Wojtyla made history when the College of Cardinals elected him pope. He was the first Pole ever named pontiff and the first non-Italian in modern times. Wojtyla took the name of John Paul in memory of John Paul I, who died suddenly after just one month at the Vatican.
From the start, John Paul II thrust himself and his church into international politics. He met with nearly 1,000 heads of state and other world leaders and addressed the United Nations.
POPE JOHN PAUL II: Men and women are made in the image and likeness of god. So people may never be regarded as mere objects nor may they be sacrificed for political, economic or social gain.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: One of the issues he stressed again and again was disarmament. He called for the eventual elimination of all weapons of mass destruction.
His visits to his native country in 1979 and 1983 brought support to the budding solidarity movement and encouraged the growing anti-communist fervor there. In 1979, less than a year after becoming pope, John Paul celebrated Mass in Victory Square in Warsaw and ended his sermon with a call to "renew the face" of Poland.
By 1989, the Polish human rights movement had grown so dramatically that it led to the end of Communism and the emergence of democracy in Eastern Europe. John Paul returned to his native land several times during his tenure, most recently in 2002.
In 1981 the pope narrowly escaped death when he was shot by a Turk, Mehmet Ali Agca, in Saint Peter's Square. Ali Agca said he shot John Paul because he represented capitalism. Two years later, the pontiff visited Vli Agca in prison to forgive him.
Throughout his tenure, John Paul defended the sanctity of human life and was a staunch opponent of abortion and capital punishment. The number of baptized Catholics has grown nearly 40 percent during John Paul's tenure to over one billion worldwide. But the percentage of Catholics in the world population actually decreased slightly.
JOHN PAUL II: Santa Juan Diego.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: When it came to saints, John Paul was prolific. He canonized nearly 500, more than all his 17 predecessors combined. Throughout his papacy the pontiff always sought to repair relations between people of different religions.
He was the first pope to enter a mosque in Syria in 2001. He was also the first pope to go to a concentration camp, Auschwitz, and the first modern pope to go to a synagogue, in 1986 in Rome.
Although he sought better relations with Jews, he angered many of them when he met with Austrian President Kurt Waldheim at the Vatican. Waldheim served with a German army unit that committed atrocities against Jews during World War II, but he was later cleared of any connection with the crimes. In an effort to examine the role of Catholics in the Holocaust, John Paul commissioned a study in 1986. Released in 1998, the study found that the Holocaust was a crime that "remains an indelible stain on the history of the century," and it apologized for Catholics not doing more to save the lives of Jews in World War II.
No pontiff in history met with as many of the faithful as John Paul. Over the years millions of people came on Wednesdays to Vatican Square to see him at his general audiences. During those appearances, indeed for much of the last decade, the pope appeared frail. His left hand often would shake, and his speech was slurred. And after much speculation in 2003, the Vatican confirmed he had Parkinson's Disease. He frequently cut his speeches short or had one of his cardinals read them for him.
In his final years, the pope's signature method of getting around was on the specially outfitted vehicle often referred to as the "Popemobile." Even though in failing health, John Paul II continued to travel; before his death he visited more than 120 countries, leaving a legacy: The most extensive travels in the history of the papacy. And everywhere he went, he drew enormous crowds.
SPOKESPERSON: His holiness, Pope John Paul II.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: He came to the United States four times and met five American presidents.
BILL CLINTION: As they say in your native Poland, "stolate wiensay," may you live 100 years and more.
POPE JOHN PAUL II: Are you interested in what I said to the president before? I said to him, -- a hundred years - slowly, slow.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: In 1998, in an historic trip to Cuba, he pressed President Fidel Castro for greater freedoms for the Cuban people.
POPE PAUL II (Translated): Yes, free. The pope wants you to be free. That's the way Christ intended you to be.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Many of the pope's trips were to the developing world, including several trips to Africa, where he called for an end to poverty. He was often critical of western nations for their materialism and secularism.
John Paul II adhered to strict Catholic doctrine and disappointed some American Catholics with edicts prohibiting women from being ordained, forbidding priests from marrying, and condemning the use of contraceptives.
When the pedophilia scandal broke in the United States and elsewhere, the Vatican called on all American cardinals to deal with the problem.
BETTY ANN BOWSER: Addressing the victims of what he called "an appalling sin in the eyes of God," the pope said, "I express my profound sense of solidarity and concern."
As part of the 25th anniversary of his papacy, John Paul beatified Mother Teresa, moving her one step closed to sainthood. He also elevated more than 30 bishops to cardinals, including one American.