The life of Karol Wojtyla would be remarkable even if he never became the Millennium Pope, revered by millions worldwide. From a Polish schoolboy who loved outdoor pursuits and quietly coped with family tragedy, he matured into a talented linguist, actor, and author, and experienced Nazi occupation, the Iron Curtain, and Solidarity's overthrow of Communism. His rise through the ranks of the Catholic Church was accelerated upon recognition of his gifted mind, combined with his behind-the-scenes activism and rapport with parishioners, especially youths. The reign of John Paul II has transcended the Vatican and the Catholic sphere, as he has worked to heal the rift between Catholics and Jews, and Catholics and the Eastern Orthodoxy. He has also served as an ambassador to the world, traveling relentlessly to reach out to the masses, even as he battles Parkinson's disease and old age. This balanced narrative conveys the poignancy of his family ties and his admirable character and intellect, yet it also acknowledges criticism of conservative papal positions. A bibliography of print and electronic resources and a timeline complete the volume.