Karol Wojtyła’s family
07 sierpnia 2002 | 17:12 | Ⓒ Ⓟ
The Pope’s mother, Emilia nee Kaczorowska, died when Karol was only nine. Four years later the Pope’s elder brother, working in the Municipal Hospital in Bielsko since his graduation from medical school, died too; in the hospital he contracted scarlet fever from his patient and died at the age of 27. The Wojtyłas also had a daughter before Karol was born, but the girl died soon after birth.
The Pope’s father, Karol Wojtyła, Sr., was a non-commissioned officer of the Austrian army and then of the Polish army’s 12th Infantry Regiment stationing in Wadowice. The regiment made a name for itself during the Polish-Russian war of 1919-1920 and during WW II, fighting the Nazis in 1939. Following the death of Karol’s mother and brother, Wojtyła Sr. took care of the boy, doing his best to offer to him what a full family might have. The two would frequently take trips into the nearby mountains.
The Pope recalls his father in the book Gift and Mystery as follows: “I was able to observe his life on a daily basis; it was an austere kind of life. He was an army officer by profession, and when his wife died his life became even more centred on continuous prayer. I would often wake up at night and then I would invariably find my Father on his knees, just as I would always find him in our parish church.”
The Pope’s father died in Cracow in 1941. Both parents and the Pope’s brother are buried in the family grave at the Rakowicki Cemetery in Cracow.
The grave of the Kaczorowski and the Wojtyła families is the place of eternal rest of the Pope’s parents: his mother, Emilia nee Kaczorowska, father Karol and his brother Edmund. The cemetery archive does not provide information on the grave – it used to belong to the Kaczorowskis, and then the Pope’s father was buried there. John Paul II had his mother’s body exhumed from Wadowice to Cracow when he was Metropolitan of Cracow. The same happened with the body of the Pope’s brother Edmund, who died of scarlet fever as a young doctor in Bielsko in 1926. The grave was originally made of limestone, but was replaced by a more durable granite from the Strzegom quarry after the Pope’s first pilgrimage to Poland. The plaques from the original grave are preserved.
It is the oldest cemetery in Cracow. It was set up at the beginning of the 19th c. (around 1801) on the outskirts of the city on the plot bought out from the discalced Carmelites from Czerna. In the Cemetery are buried such famous Poles as Jan Matejko, Juliusz, Wojciech and Jerzy Kossak, Lucjan Rydel, Józef Mehoffer, Helena Modrzejewska, the Estreicher family, Stanisław Krzyżanowski, Maria Kolbe (St. Maksymilian’s mother), or Roman Ingarden.
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