Pope John Paul II born Karol Józef Wojty³a (18 May 1920 – 2 April 2005) reigned as the 264th Pope of the Roman Catholic Church and Sovereign of the State of the Vatican City from 16 October 1978 until his death almost 27 years later. His was the second-longest pontificate after Pius IX's 32-year reign. He has been the only Polish pope, and was the first non-Italian pope since the Dutch Adrian VI in the 1520s.John Paul II was Pope during a period in which the Catholic Church's influence declined in developed countries but expanded in the Third World. During his reign, the pope traveled extensively, visiting over 100 countries, more than any of his predecessors. He remains one of the most-traveled world leaders in history. He was fluent in numerous languages: his native Polish and also Italian, French, German, English, Spanish, Croatian, Portuguese, Russian and Latin.
As part of his special emphasis on the universal call to holiness, he canonized a great number of people. He beatified 1,340 people (some listed here), more people than any previous pope. The Vatican asserts he canonized more people than the combined tally of his predecessors during the last five centuries, and from a far greater variety of cultures. Whether he had canonized more saints than all previous popes put together, as is sometimes also claimed, is difficult to prove, as the records of many early canonizations are incomplete, missing, or inaccurate. However, it is known that his abolition of the office of Promotor Fidei ("Promoter of the Faith") streamlined the process.
In August 1978 following Paul's death, he voted in the Papal conclave that elected Pope John Paul I, who at 65 was considered young by papal standards. However, John Paul I died after only 33 days as pope, thereby precipitating another conclave.
Voting in the second conclave was divided between two particularly strong candidates: Giuseppe Siri, the Archbishop of Genoa; and Giovanni Benelli, the Archbishop of Florence and a close associate of Pope John Paul I. In early ballots, Benelli came within nine votes of victory. However, Wojty³a secured election as a compromise candidate, in part through the support of Franz Cardinal König and others who had previously supported Cardinal Siri.
He became the 264th Pope according to the chronological List of popes. At only 58 years of age, he was the youngest pope elected since Pope Pius IX in 1846. Like his immediate predecessor, Pope John Paul II dispensed with the traditional Papal coronation and instead received ecclesiastical investiture with the simplified Papal inauguration on 22 October 1978. During his inauguration, when the cardinals were to kneel before him to take their vows and kiss his ring, he stood up as the Polish prelate Stefan Cardinal Wyszynski knelt down, stopped him from kissing the ring and hugged him (SABC2 "The Greatest souls" documentary 2005). As Bishop of Rome he took possession of his Cathedral Church, the Basilica of St. John Lateran, on 12 November 1978.