Timeline: Life and times of Pope John Paul II

Thu Apr 28, 2011 10:52am EDT

(Reuters) - The Vatican is preparing to elevate the late pontiff, John Paul II, one step closer to sainthood on Sunday in a ceremony of beatification.

Here is a timeline of the pontificate of John Paul.

October 16, 1978 - Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow in Poland elected as first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

June 2-10, 1979 - Returns to his communist-ruled homeland, a trip seen as a factor in the rise of the Solidarity movement.

May 13, 1981 - Shot by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in St Peter's Square. Surgery saves his life.

April 13, 1986 - First pope since the times of the apostles to visit a synagogue; calls Jews "our beloved elder brothers."

December 1, 1989 - Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev visits the Vatican and invites Pope John Paul to make a trip to the Soviet Union, an offer the pope was never able to take up because of resistance by the powerful Russian Orthodox Church.

April 21, 1990 - Flies to Czechoslovakia to hail collapse of communism with President Vaclav Havel.

October 31, 1992 - After 359 years, Pope rehabilitates Galileo, condemned by the Church for saying earth turns around the sun.

December 7, 1992 - Issues the Roman Catholic Church's new universal Catechism -- the first in nearly five centuries.

December 28, 1993 - Vatican and Israel forge full diplomatic ties after 2,000 years of Christian-Jewish hostility.

October 31, 1997 - Says Christians failed during the Holocaust.

March 13, 2000 - Asks pardon for the Church's sins against Jews, heretics, women and minorities.

March 20-26, 2000 - Visits Holy Land, calls for peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

May 8, 2001 - In Syria, becomes first pope to enter mosque.

November 22, 2001 - Makes apology for sexual abuse by priests.

August 2002 - Makes last poignant visit to Polish homeland.

Jan-March 2003 - Campaigns to avert U.S. invasion of Iraq.

April 2, 2005 - Pope John Paul dies.

April 8, 2005 - Funeral is global media event.

May 2005 - Successor Pope Benedict XVI eases timing rules, putting John Paul on fast-track to sainthood.

June 2005 - Sister Marie Simon-Pierre Normand, a French nun, prays to late pope and says it cures her of Parkinson's disease.

January 14, 2011 - Benedict declares Normand case a miracle and sets John Paul's beatification for May 1. A further miracle after that date is needed for canonization, which would make him a saint.

April 30, 2011 - A prayer vigil will be held at Rome's Circus Maximus.

May 1, 2011 - Pope John Paul is to be beatified in a ceremony in St Peter's Square.

-- John Paul's wooden coffin will be exhumed from its current place in the crypts below St Peter's Basilica. It will be placed before the main altar inside the basilica. The closed coffin will remain there for viewing and veneration non-stop until everyone who wants to can see it.

May 2, 2011 - A mass of thanksgiving is to be held in St Peter's Square. Once everyone who wants to view the coffin has done so, his remains will be moved to their new resting place in a side chapel of St Peter's Basilica.

(Writing by David Cutler, London Editorial Reference Unit; Editing by Maria Golovnina)

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