Timeline: Life and times of Pope John Paul II

Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:45am EDT
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(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.   Continued...