Pope John Paul the Second, who died Saturday at age 84, was known as a steadfast advocate of conservative social values and an unwavering defender of the poor and oppressed. Born in Poland as Karol Wojtyla in 1920, he was elected leader of the Roman Catholic Church at a conclave of cardinals in 1978 following the death of Pope John Paul the First. He was the youngest pope in the 20th century and the first non-Italian pontiff in 450 years. John Paul traveled extensively in his 26-year papacy, delivering the Church's message in numerous languages to millions of people throughout the world. His insistence on being in close contact with the faithful almost cost him his life when a Turkish gunman shot and seriously wounded him in Saint Peter's Square in 1981. One of the most influential figures of the 20th century, he will be remembered for his role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe and his unyielding opposition to rampant consumerism, contraception and abortion. John Paul was a robust 58-year old when he was chosen to become Pope but in his later years he was weighed down by ailments that included Parkinson's disease.