May 18, 1920: Born Karol Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland, to Karol Wojtyla Sr., an army lieutenant, and Emilia Kaczorowska.
April 13, 1929: His mother dies of heart disease.
Dec. 4, 1932: His brother, Edmund, a doctor, dies of scarlet fever.
1938: He moves to Krakow with his father, enrolls in the Jagiellonian University as a literature student and joins a theater group.
Sept. 1, 1939: Germany invades Poland. A few days later, German troops occupy Krakow, closing the university and shutting down activities such as theater groups. Karol Wojtyla takes his acting career and his studies underground.
February 1940: He meets Jan Tyranowski, organizer of a religious group called the Living Rosary, which meets in secret for fear of the Nazis.
September 1942: He decides to enter priesthood, and the next month begins his studies underground.
Nov. 1, 1946: Ordained as a priest. Soon after he departs for further studies in Rome, where he also begins learning more foreign languages.
Sept. 28, 1958: Ordained as bishop of Krakow.
1962: Publishes "Love and Responsibility," a book pondering the ethics of sexuality within marriage and offering practical advice on matters such as fertility cycles. It becomes a surprise best seller in Poland.
October 1962: The landmark Second Vatican Council convenes in Rome under the leadership of Pope John XXIII. During the council's four sessions over the following three years, Karol Wojtyla emerges as an important voice in doctrinal matters, especially on the issue of religious freedom.
June 3, 1963: Pope John dies. He is succeeded by Pope Paul VI, who oversees the final work of the Second Vatican Council. Recognizing an important voice in Bishop Wojtyla, Pope Paul will come to seek his counsel on important doctrinal matters.
March 3, 1964: Installed as archbishop of Krakow.
May 29, 1967: Elevated to cardinal by Pope Paul.
July 1968: Pope Paul issues his "Humanae vitae" encyclical banning artificial contraception for the world's Catholics. Helping Pope Paul make that decision was Cardinal Wojtyla. This ruling would loom even larger in his own papacy.
Sept. 28, 1978: Pope Paul's successor, Pope John Paul I, dies after a heart attack - 33 days after his election.
Oct. 16, 1978: Karol Wojtyla is elected pope on the second day and eighth ballot of the conclave of Cardinals. He takes the name John Paul II.
June 1979: On his first papal trip to Poland, Pope John Paul electrifies the world by drawing millions during his nine-day journey. It is the beginning of the end of East Bloc communism.
October 1979: Pope John Paul makes his first papal trip to the United States, drawing huge crowds as he travels to Boston; New York; Philadelphia; Des Moines, Iowa; Chicago; and Washington, D.C.
May 13, 1981: While greeting a crowd in St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul is shot by Mehmet Ali Agca, a 23-year-old Turkish prison escapee. The pope is wounded in the right shoulder, the )) intestine and the left hand, losing large amounts of blood and falling unconscious before reaching the hospital. Last rites are administered, but he recovers to resume a vigorous schedule and later visits Agca in prison to personally forgive him.
April 7, 1994: The Vatican pays tribute to the memory of 6 million Jews killed by the Nazis at a papal concert tocommemorate the Holocaust.
April 1994: The pope breaks his leg in a fall in his private chambers. Surgery is needed.
Sept. 11, 1994: Hoping to heal the wounds of the ethnic war in the Balkans, Pope John Paul visits the Croatian capital of Zagreb, where he is warmly received by the predominantly Catholic population. But his offer to visit the rival Serbian capital, Belgrade, is refused at the urging of the Christian Orthodox Church to which most Serbs belong, and his hopes of visiting the besieged Bosnian capital of Sarajevo and its mostly Muslim population are dashed by worries for his safety.
September 1994: After seeming frail and shaky in Zagreb, the pope's October trip to the United States, including a stop in Baltimore, is canceled. The Vatican cites the aftereffects of hip surgery, but rumors of the pope's worsening health persist. The U.S. trip is rescheduled for October 1995.