Pope John Paul II: An Oral History

With the canonisation today of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican, we take a look back at video archive footage telling the oral history of his life and, below, a timeline and fact file.

Click the link to see a timeline of Pope John Paul II’s life.

  • 1920: Born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland, to an army officer and schoolteacher
  • 1938: Began his studies at Jagiellonian University in Kraków – he read philology and languages
  • 1941: Left as the only remaining member of his family after his father died of a heart attack. Mother, older sister and older brother had already passed away too
  • 1942: Joined an underground seminary led by the Archbishop of Kraków
  • 1944: Recovered from being hit by a truck and escaped capture from the Gestapo – for him, this confirmed his religious vocation
  • 1946: Ordained a priest and went to study in Rome
  • 1954: Received a doctorate in Sacred Theology
  • 1958: Became Auxiliary Bishop of Kraków and later (1964) Archbishop
  • 1967: Appointed to the Sacred College of Cardinals
  • August 1978: Voted in conclave to elect John Paul I, who died 33 days later
  • October 1978: Chosen to be the new Pope, the first non-Italian in almost 500 years: With obedience in faith to Christ, my Lord, and with trust in the Mother of Christ and the Church, in spite of great difficulties, I accept.”
  • 1981: Survived first of two assassination attempts. The next one would be just a year later
  • 2001: Diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease
  • 2005: Died aged 84
  • 2011: Beatified by his successor Pope Benedict XVI
  • 2014: Canonised by Pope Francis. Pope John Paul II is one of the only people in history to become a saint so quickly
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