Key Dates in the Life of Pope John Paul II

Part of the John Paul II For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II, did not allow anything to weaken his convictions. He lost both parents and his only brother before the age of 21, but Karol remained faithful to the Church and became a priest. Neither the German Nazis who invaded his homeland during World War II nor the Soviet Russians who occupied Poland throughout the Cold War could discourage his commitment to his religion. As pope, despite a would-be assassin's bullets and Parkinson's disease, John Paul II never succumbed to discouragement.

Here are the key dates in Pope John Paul II's life.

  • May 18, 1920: Karol Wojtyła, Jr., is born in Wadowice, Poland.

  • June 20, 1920: He is baptized in the Church of the Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

  • April 13, 1929: His mother, Emilia Kaczorowska, dies of kidney and heart failure.

  • December 5, 1932: His brother, Edmund, dies of scarlet fever.

  • February 18, 1941: His father, Karol Wojtyła, Sr., dies.

  • November 1, 1946: Karol is ordained a priest.

  • June 1948: He earns a doctorate in theology.

  • September 28, 1958: He is ordained auxiliary bishop of Krakow.

  • 1962–1965: He attends the Second Vatican Council.

  • June 26, 1967: He is elevated to cardinal.

  • October 16, 1978: He is elected Pope John Paul II.

  • May 13, 1981: Pope John Paul II is shot by Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca. John Paul II is taken to Gemelli Hospital, where he undergoes a six-hour operation.

  • April 1, 1982: He receives credentials of the first British ambassador to the Vatican since Henry VIII, an historic achievement.

  • January 25, 1983: He publishes Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, the revised Code of Canon Law.

  • December 27, 1983: Pope John Paul II visits Mehmet Ali Agca, the man who attempted to assassinate him, in prison.

  • January 10, 1984: Full diplomatic relations are established between the Holy See and the United States of America. (Previously, the U.S. had no ambassador to the Vatican and the Holy See had no embassy in America.)

  • February 18, 1984: The New Concordat between the Holy See and the Italian Republic on the revision of the 1929 Lateran Treaty is signed.

  • December 1, 1989: Official visit of Secretary General Mikhail Gorbachev of the U.S.S.R. to the Vatican. This marks the first time a pope met with the head of the Soviet Union.

  • October 18, 1990: John Paul II promulgates the Code of Canon Law for Oriental (Eastern or Byzantine) Churches.

  • December 7, 1992: He officially presents the revised Catechism of the Catholic Church to the College of Cardinals.

  • November 1, 1996: John Paul II marks 50 years of priestly ordination.

  • December 24, 1999: He opens the Holy Door at St. Peter's Basilica, inaugurating Jubilee Year 2000. (Jubilees were first begun in the 13th century and marked the passage of a century.)

  • January 6, 2001: He closes the Holy Door to conclude Jubilee Year 2000.

  • February 1, 2005: Pope John Paul II is admitted to Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic for breathing difficulties.

  • February 24, 2005: The pope is taken by ambulance to Gemelli Polyclinic with breathing difficulties. A tracheotomy is performed that evening. He spends 18 days in the hospital.

  • March 30, 2005: The pope receives a feeding tube through the nose.

  • April 2, 2005: At 9:37 p.m. Rome time, Pope John Paul II dies. He served 26 years, 5 months, 17 days.

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