1920-1978 | 1978-2005

Karol Józef Wojtyla: Before Becoming Pope

May 18: Karol Józef Wojtyla is born in Wadowice, Poland, outside of Krakow; the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska.

April 13: His mother Emilia, who suffers from a chronic kidney ailment, dies while delivering a stillborn daughter.

Dec. 5: His brother Edmund dies of scarlet fever.

Sept.: Karol, aged 13, begins Latin studies. Also studies German and Greek.

May: Karol receives the sacrament of Confirmation. Following his graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, Karol enrolls in Krakow's Jagiellonian University.

Summer: He and his father, the only surviving members of the family, move to Krakow. Eighteen-year-old Karol Wojtyla joins "Studio 38," an experimental theater group founded by Kudlinski, and begins to work on his poem "The Ballad of the Gates of Wawel," which he will complete in 1940.

Sept.1: The Nazis invade Poland from the west, the Soviets from the east. The Nazis close Jagiellonian University;

To earn his living and avoid deportation to Germany as a laborer, Wojtyla goes to work in a quarry, and then later the Solway chemical factory.

Feb. 18: The elder Karol Wojtyla dies.

Aug.: The younger Wojtyla receives into his house his former German teacher and the man's wife, who were driven from their home by the Nazis.

Oct.: Begins studies for the priesthood in Krakow's underground seminary, run by Archbishop Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha. He registers in the Faculty of Theology of the Jagiellonian University.

Wojtyla is one of the pioneers of the underground "Rhapsodic Theater."

Feb. 29-Mar. 12: He is hit by an automobile and is hospitalized.

Nov. 1: Karol Wojtyla is ordained a priest. The next day, he celebrates his first Mass in the crypt of St. Leonard at Wawel.

Nov. 15: Leaves Poland to begin studies in Rome.

Nov. 26: Registers at the Angelicum University (the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas), where he studies under the guidance of the conservative French Dominican theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange. During school vacations, Wojtyla ministers to Polish immigrants in France, Belgium and Holland.

June 14: Wojtyla defends his thesis, "The Problems of Faith in the Works of St. John of the Cross." He earns a doctorate in philosophy.

Oct. 24: Receives a master's degree in theology from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow.

He defends another thesis, "Evaluation of the Possibility of Constructing a Christian Ethic Based on the System of Max Scheler," at Lublin Catholic University. He later becomes professor of moral theology and social ethics in the major seminary of Krakow and in the Faculty of Theology of Lublin

July 4: Wojtyla is appointed Auxiliary Bishop to Archbishop Baziak of Krakow.

Sept: 28: He is consecrated at the Cathedral at Wawel.

Jan.: Wojtyla's dissertation on Max Scheler is published by the Academy of Sciences (Towarzystwo Naukowe) of the Catholic University of Lublin.

Jan. 13: He succeeds Baziak as Archbishop of Krakow.

June 28: Wojtyla is consecrated as a cardinal in the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

Jan. 5: Wojtyla writes an article for the Vatican periodical L'Osservatore Romano: "The Truth of the Encyclical Humanae Vitae."

Aug. 28-Sept. 1: He visits Canada and the United States.

Sept: 19: Wojtyla visits East Germany.

March 7-13: Wojtyla gives the spiritual exercises at the Vatican; the meditations from which were later published as "A Sign of Contradiction".

Aug. 11: Wojtyla attends the funeral of Pope Paul VI.

Aug. 25: The conclave to choose the successor to Paul VI begins.

Aug. 26: John Paul I (Albino Luciani) is elected Pope.

Sept. 1: Wojtyla visits Torino to see the Shroud of Turin.

Sept.: He attends the inauguration ceremony of the pontificate of John Paul I.

Oct. 3: Wojtyla leaves Krakow for the funeral of Pope John Paul I.

Oct. 14: The conclave to choose the successor to John Paul I begins.

Oct. 16: Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected pope at approximately 5:15 p.m.

The Papacy of John Paul II

Oct. 16: Cardinal Karol Wojtyla is elected successor to Pope John Paul I. He is the 264th pope of the Catholic Church, the first non-Italian since 1523, and takes the name John Paul II.

Jan. 24: John Paul II accepts the request to mediate in a border conflict between Argentina and Chile.

Jan. 25: John Paul II makes his first pastoral visit outside Italy to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas.

Mar. 4: He issues his first papal encyclical: "Redemptor Hominis" ("On the Redemption and Dignity of the Human Race").

Oct. 2: John Paul II addresses the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York.

June 2: John Paul II addresses UNESCO in Paris.

June 21: U.S. President Jimmy Carter pays a call on the Pope at the Vatican.

Oct. 17: Official visit of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

May 13: At 5:19 p.m., Turkish escaped prisoner Mehmet Alì Agca, who has ties to both Bulgarian intelligence and Turkish neofascist groups, shoots the pope in St. Peter's Square. A six-hour operation saves John Paul's life.

June 3: John Paul II returns to the Vatican after 22 days of recovery at Gemelli Hospital.

June 20: John Paul II is newly hospitalized for a "cytomegalo" virus infection.

June 7: John Paul II meets U.S. President Ronald Reagan for the first time; they pledge to work for world peace and justice.

Sept. 15: He has a private meeting with Yasser Arafat on the prospects for peace in the Middle East, and also renews his appeal for peace in the Lebanese civil war after the assassination of president-elect Bashir Gemayel, a Maronite Catholic leader.

Nov. 24: Publication of the "Charter of Rights of the Family."

Dec. 27: John Paul II visits the Rebibbia prison and meets with Alì Agca.

Feb. 19: He holds an audience with then-Israeli Prime Minister Shimon Peres.

Feb. 27: Official visit of Andrei Gromyko, longtime foreign minister of the USSR.

Mar. 30-31: First International Youth Meeting in Rome.

Nov. 17: Sends personal messages to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev as they meet for arms-reduction talks in Geneva.

May 27: Official visit of U.S. President George Bush.

Dec. 1: Official visit of Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev.

Aug. 26: During his Angelus message, John Paul makes an appeal for peace in the Persian Gulf following the recent Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Jan. 15: Letter to George Bush and Saddam Hussein in an attempt to avert the Gulf War.

Oct. 5: For the first time since the Reformation, two Lutheran bishops pray in St. Peter's Basilica with the Pope and the Catholic bishops of Stockholm, Sweden, and Helsinki, Finland.

Jan. 13: The Holy See recognizes sovereignty of Croatia and Slovenia, two mainly Catholic republics of Yugoslavia which had just declared independence from Belgrade.

Feb. 8: The Vatican establishes diplomatic relations with Croatia, Slovenia and Ukraine.

July 15: John Paul II undergoes colic resection surgery.

Aug. 22: As the Serbian minority in Croatia rises up against Zagreb, and forces from the Yugoslav army are drawn in, the pope makes an appeal for peace in the Balkans during the Angelus message.


Nov. 11: John Paul II dislocates his right shoulder during a fall at the end of an audience in the Hall of Benediction. He spends one day at Gemelli Hospital, and his shoulder is immobilized for one month.

Dec. 30: Signs the accord on basic principles regulating diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Israel.

Mar. 17: Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin visits the pope.

Apr. 8: John Paul II celebrates Mass in the Sistine Chapel for the unveiling of Michelangelo's restored frescoes.

Apr. 28: The pope falls and breaks his femur. He is released from the hospital on May 27, 1994.

June 2: John Paul receives U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Oct. 20: His book, "Crossing the Threshold of Hope", is published.

Oct. 25: John Paul begins working contacts of a "permanent and official character" between the Holy See and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

December: Time magazine names Pope John Paul II Man of the Year.

Oct. 4-9: In his 68th pastoral foreign visit, John Paul II leaves for the U.S., to visit New York, Baltimore and Newark, N.J.

Dec. 25: Gives his "Urbi et Orbi" Christmas message and blessing on the Internet.

Oct. 8: John Paul II undergoes an appendectomy at Gemelli. He remains hospitalized until Oct. 15.

Nov. 1: He celebrates Holy Mass at St. Peter's Basilica on the 50th anniversary of his priestly ordination.

Dec. 19: Yasser Arafat visits the pope again.

Feb. 3: John Paul II receives Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mar. 24: Launches the Holy See's Web Site.

Jan. 23 : Delivers a speech at the University of Havana.

Oct. 18: Celebrates his 20th anniversary of his pontificate.

March 11: John Paul II receives Iranian President Mohammad Khatami.

April 26: The pope receives Ariel Sharon, then Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Nov. 14: Inauguration of the recently finished mosaic work and restoration of Redemptoris Mater Chapel, which is located inside the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

Dec. 24: The opening of the Holy Door of St. Peter's Basilica, marking the start of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

March 4: Visit of State of the President of Korea, Kim Dae-jung, the first Korean head of state ever to be received by John Paul II and the first Catholic Korean president to visit the Vatican.

June 5 : John Paul II receives Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Sept. 3: Beatification of Popes Pius IX and John XXIII.

Oct. 17: Another official visit by Queen Elizabeth II of England and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

Nov. 18: Following the terrorist attacks of September 11 and the beginning of the war in Afghanistan, John Paul II invites Catholics to a day of fasting for peace (December 14, 2001) and invites leaders of the world's religions to a Day of Prayer for Peace in the World (24 January 2002).

John Paul II accepts the resignation of Boston archbishop Cardinal Bernard Law, who was under fire for his role in the sex-abuse scandal that rocked the Roman Catholic church in the U.S.

May 17: Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re acknowledges that Pope John Paul II suffers from Parkinson's disease.

June 5-9: John Paul II beatifies a nun during his 100th foreign trip as pope -- to Croatia.

Sept. 11-14. A frail pope struggles to celebrate Mass for tens of thousands of pilgrims in Slovakia.


Aug. 15: The pontiff has trouble breathing during an open-air Mass, gasping at times in Lourdes, France.

Nov. 4: The pope meets with Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi.


Feb. 1: John Paul II is rushed to a Rome hospital with flu and difficulties breathing. He leaves the hospital 9 days later.

Feb. 23: The pope's fifth book, "Memory and Identity: Conversations Between Millenniums," is published.

Feb. 25: The pope is again rushed to hospital after suffering from flu symptoms. Doctors perform a successful tracheotomy to relieve his breathing difficulties, and he returns to the Vatican March 13.

March 20: John Paul II is unable to preside over Palm Sunday Mass for the first time in his 26-year papacy, but he makes an appearance at his apartment window.

April 2: John Paul II dies at age 84 after suffering heart and kidney failure following two hospitalizations in as many months.

(Sources: The Holy See and The Associated Press)