Source: Inquirer News
VATICAN CITY, AFP —From his rise to the papacy as the first non-Italian pope in more than 400 years to his prolonged agony played out in front of the world, there was nothing ordinary about John Paul II's life.
As the Vatican prepares to confer "blessed" status -- one step from full sainthood -- on the late pope at a solemn ceremony on May 1, here are some of the most important events that marked John Paul's remarkable papacy.
1978: A virtually unknown Polish cardinal, Karol Wojtyla, becomes the leader of the world's Catholics at the age of 58 -- the youngest pope of the 20th century. He salutes the crowd and asks to be corrected if he gets things wrong.
1979: John Paul II visits Poland -- the first of many foreign trips that drew millions of faithful around the world in his 27-year papacy. His visit and his words against atheist Communism help inspire dissent against the regime.
1981: A Turkish nationalist fanatic, Mehmet Ali Agca, shoots the pope in Saint Peter's square as he was waving to the crowds. John Paul, who came close to death, later visited Agca in prison and forgave him for his actions.
1986: John Paul becomes the first pope to visit a synagogue, and would later be the first to visit a mosque in a Muslim country. The same year he holds a conference in Assisi that includes religious leaders from around the world.
2000: He offers a sweeping and unprecedented apology for the sins and errors committed during the Catholic Church's 2,000 years of existence, implicitly invoking the Crusades, the Inquisition and the Holocaust.
2005: John Paul dies on April 2 at the age of 84 after years of health problems and agony caused by Parkinson's disease. His curved body and faltering voice are seen by millions around the world and he becomes a model of stoical faith.