When the news that Cardinal Karol Wojtyła had been elected Pope John Paul II reached the community of the Catholic University of Lublin (KUL) on October 16, 1978, it was welcomed with joy and pride. These feelings were manifested in the inscription on a banner, placed above the main entrance to the university building, which read: "Our Professor has become Pope." Indeed, from 1953 until 1978, Karol Wojtyła had been Professor of Ethics in the Faculty of Philosophy at KUL.  For twenty four years the Catholic University of Lublin provided the intellectual milieu within which Cardinal Wojtyła developed his unique philosophy of person. The growth of  his ideas took place as a result of the continual and lively dialogue he engaged in both with his fellow professors and with his students.

In 1981, Karol Wojtyła's former students and followers founded the John Paul II Institute at the Catholic University of Lublin. To date, the Institute, among its other activities, has published and popularized over one hundred books by Polish and foreign authors committed to the research on the theological, philosophical, social, and cultural aspects of the teaching of John Paul II. A distinguishing feature of  these numerous publications is that they present various interpretations of the universal, intellectual, moral, and spiritual heritage of the Polish Pope in the light of his deep philosophical, humanistic and theological thought, which he developed during his academic work at KUL.

The John Paul II Institute, together with the School of Polish Language and Culture, co-organizes the program John Paul II in His Polish Context, and is particularly responsible for the lecture series entitled: The Thought of Karol Wojtyła. Through this seminar, course participants will be presented with the sources and the fundamental areas of thought held by John Paul II. The originality of his teaching consists in the fact that he was equally a theologian, philosopher, and poet, all of which must be taken into account while presenting his life and thought. Moreover, it is also necessary to consider the historical context in which Karol Wojtyła's deep thought on man and God was shaped, namely, that of Polish history after 1945. During that era, humanistic and Christian values were being destroyed by the totalitarian communist regime that occupied Poland. Today, one cannot overestimate the impact that the activity and the teaching of John Paul II had upon the breakdown of communism in Central and Eastern Europe.

During the lectures and discussions offered in the program, the personality of John Paul II will be described against the background of  Polish history during the 20th century. The heritage of Polish culture, with its specific ideas and experience, will be portrayed as the inspiration for the ideas fostered by the Pope. Particular attention will be given to the discussion of  Karol Wojtyła's philosophy of the person and freedom. His poetry, in turn, will be presented in the broader context of Polish poetry from the second half of the 20th century and in relation to his creative accomplishments as a playwright and actor. Another aspect of John Paul II's teaching to be discussed will be his attitude toward the political and economic systems prevalent in the 20th century, along with the anthropological and ethical foundations of his social teaching. In the rich field of  theological thought left to us by John Paul II, the most significant motifs will become the subject of scrutiny. Included among them are: the vision of man as the way for the Church (cf. Redemptor hominis, section 14), the theology of the body, the theology of life, and the relationship between science and faith.