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Pontificate of Pope John Paul II: An Overview (1980-1989)

VATICAN CITY, (VIS) - John Paul II was elected Pope on October 16, 1978, and his pontificate was solemnly inaugurated on October 22. What follows is a year-by-year overview of his papacy in the 1980s, listing its major events.

Annual Messages (Lent, to Youth, for World Mission Day, etc.) and events, such as the Holy Father's January address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and his Christmas and Easter liturgical celebrations, are not listed.

For more overviews, visit 1978-79, 1990-1999, and 2000-present.

Vatican Information Service has compiled a brief summary of the 102 foreign apostolic trips made by Pope John Paul II in the past 25 years of his papacy. The summary is available at this link.

A list of encyclicals written by Pope John Paul II is available at this link.

Click on a year for the major events.
1980 1981 1982 1983 1984  1985  1986  1987  1988  1989


Jan. 14 - Opening of the Special Assembly for the Netherlands of the Synod of the Bishops on: "The pastoral action of the Church in Holland in the present situation" (January 14-31).

April 4 - Good Friday: John Paul II hears confessions of the faithful for the first time in St. Peter's Basilica.

May 2 - Fifth pastoral visit of John Paul II outside Italy: Zaire, Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Ghana, Upper Volta, Ivory Coast (May 2-12).

May 30 - Sixth pastoral visit of John Paul II outside Italy: France (May 30-June 2).

June 2 - John Paul II's address to UNESCO in Paris.

June 21 - Visit of President Jimmy Carter of the United States.

June 30 - Seventh foreign pastoral visit: Brazil (June 30-July 12).

Aug. 8 - For the first time John Paul II alludes to the events happening in Poland regarding Solidarnosc.

Sept. 26 - Fifth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme: "The Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World."

Sept. 28 - Pastoral visit to Subiaco and meeting with the European bishops.

Oct. 17 - Official visit of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and of H.R.H. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Nov. 15 - Eighth pastoral visit outside Italy: West Germany (November 15-19).

Nov. 25 - Pastoral visit to Capodichino (Naples), Potenza, Balvano, Avellino, after the earthquake.

Nov. 30 - Second papal Encyclical "Dives in misericordia" (On the mercy of God), published December 2.

Dec. 19 - Official visit of President Cviyetin Mijatovic of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Dec. 30 - Apostolic Letter proclaiming Sts. Cyril and Methodius, together with St. Benedict, co-patrons of Europe.


Feb. 2 - John Paul II meets with Rome's Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff, during his pastoral visit to the parish of Sts. Carlo and Biagio in Catinari.

Feb. 16 - Ninth foreign pastoral visit: Pakistan, the Philippines, Guam (U.S. A.), Japan, and Anchorage (U.S.A.) (February 16-27).

May 13 - At 5:19 p.m. Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca makes an attempt on the Pope's life while he was circling St. Peter's Square in a jeep before his Wednesday general audience. The Pope is brought to Gemelli Hospital where he undergoes a six-hour operation.

May 17 - The Holy Father recites the angelus at Gemelli hospital: "Pray for the brother who shot me, whom I have sincerely forgiven."

May 31 - John Paul II creates the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See, following a meeting of the Sacred College, November 5-9, 1980.

June 3 - The Pope returns to the Vatican after 22 days of recovery at Gemelli Hospital.

June 20 - John Paul II is newly hospitalized for a cytomegalovirus infection. On August 5 he undergoes a second operation; leaves hospital definitively on August 14, returns to the Vatican, then goes to Castelgandolfo on August 16. Spends a total of 78 days in the hospital between May 13 and August 14.

July 13 - First meeting of the Council of Cardinals for the Study of Organizational and Economic Problems of the Holy See.

Sept. 14 - Third papal Encyclical "Laborem exercens" (On human work).

Nov. 13 - In an address to the 21st conference of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization John Paul II urges the elimination of "absolute poverty, ... a condition in which life is so limited ... as to be beneath any rational definition of human decency."

Nov. 22 - Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation "Familiaris Consortio" (On the Family), published on December 15.

Nov. 25 - Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger appointed prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Dec. 12 - John Paul II sends delegates from the Pontifical Academy of Sciences to the presidents of the U.S.A., USSR, Great Britain, France, and to the United Nations, to explain their document on the eventual consequences of the use of nuclear arms in Europe and the world.

Dec. 13 - John Paul II requests prayers for the Polish nation, calling the situation a state of emergency.


Jan. 6 - Apostolic Letter "Caritatis Christi," for the Church in China.

Feb. 12 - 10th foreign pastoral visit: Nigeria, Benin, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea (February 12-19).

March 21 - Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the Church in China.

April 1 - John Paul II receives credentials of the first British ambassador to the Vatican since the reign of Henry VIII.

May 12 - 11th pastoral visit outside Italy: Portugal, one year after the assassination attempt in St. Peter's Square (May 12-15).

May 22 - Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for justice and peace, and for peace between Argentina and Great Britain (over the Falkland Islands/Malvinas).

May 28 - 12th pastoral visit outside Italy: Great Britain (May 28-June 2).

May 29 - Joint statement of John Paul II and the archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Robert Runcie, at the end of the ecumenical celebration in the Anglican Canterbury Cathedral. New Catholic-Anglican theological commission is announced.

June 7 - John Paul II meets U.S. President Ronald Reagan for the first time; they pledge to work for world peace and justice.

June 10 - 13th pastoral visit outside Italy: Argentina, in relation to the war between Argentina and Great Britain (June 10-13).

June 15 - 14th pastoral visit outside Italy: one-day trip to Geneva, Switzerland. John Paul II addresses the 68th session of the International Labor Conference.

Aug. 2 - The Holy See announces diplomatic relations with Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

Aug. 29 - 15th pastoral visit outside Italy, and 28th within Italy: one-day trip to the Republic of San Marino and to Rimini, Italy.

Sept. 15 - Private meeting with Yasser Arafat on the prospects for peace in the Middle East. Renewed appeal for peace in Lebanon, after the murder of president-elect Bechir Gemayel.

Oct. 10 - Canonization of Fr. Maximilian Kolbe. Present at the canonization ceremony is Mr. Franciszek Gajownizek, the man for whom Fr. Maximilian offered his life in the concentration camp at Auschwitz.

Oct. 19 - Meeting with Italian President Sandro Pertini, at Castelporziano.

Oct. 28 - Official visit of President Karl Carstens of the Federal Republic of Germany.

Oct. 31 - 16th pastoral visit outside Italy: Spain, for the closure of the 4th Centenary of the death of St. Teresa of Avila (October 31-November 9).

Nov. 9 - Message to the peoples of Europe from the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.

Nov. 23 - Second plenary session of the College of Cardinals: principle topic is the reform of the Roman Curia (November 23-26).

Nov. 26 - John Paul II announces the Holy Year of Redemption: from Lent 1983 to Easter 1984.


Jan. 6 - Papal Bull "Aperite Portas Redemptori," announcing the Jubilee for the 1950th anniversary of the Redemption.

Jan. 25 - John Paul II's Pastoral Constitution "Sacrae Disciplinae Leges," for the promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law.

Jan. 25 - Promulgation of the new Code of Canon Law by John Paul II.

Feb. 2 - Second consistory of John Paul II for the creation of 18 cardinals.

March 2 - 17th pastoral visit outside Italy: Lisbon, Portugal, and Central America - Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Haiti (March 2-10).

March 24 - John Paul II accepts credentials of the ambassador from Sweden, re-establishing diplomatic relations after 456 years.

March 25 - Opening of the Holy Year of the Redemption (March 25, 1983-April 22, 1984).

March 25 - The Shroud of Turin is bequeathed to the Pope by the deposed King Umberto of Savoy, whose family owned it since the Middle Ages.

June 16 - 18th pastoral visit outside Italy: Poland (June 16-23).

Aug. 14 - 19th pastoral visit outside Italy: Lourdes, France (August 14-15).

Sept. 10 - 20th foreign pastoral visit: Austria (September 10-13).

Sept. 29 - Sixth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on: "Penance and Reconciliation in the Mission of the Church" (September 29-October 29). At the final session Pope discloses his message to the heads of government of the U.S.A. and USSR calling for negotiations aimed at ending the arms race.

Oct. 16 - Act of entrustment and consecration of the world to Our Lady of Fatima by John Paul II, together with the cardinals and bishops participating in the Synod of Bishops.

Nov. 5 - Letter for the 500th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther.

Nov. 24 - Publication of the "Charter of the Rights of the Family."

Dec. 11 - First papal visit to a Lutheran congregation, participating in a prayer service at the evangelical Lutheran Church of Rome.

Dec. 27 - Visit to Rebibbia prison and meeting with Ali Agca, the Turk who made an attempt on his life on May 13, 1981.


Jan. 10 - Full diplomatic relations at the level of apostolic nunciature and embassy between the Holy See and the United States of America.

Feb. 11 - Pastoral Letter "Salvific Doloris" (On the Christian Meaning of Suffering).

Feb. 18 - Agreement between the Holy See and the Italian Republic on the revision of the Lateran Concordat: new Concordat signed.

Feb. 22 - John Paul II erects the Foundation for the Sahel.

March 25 - In spiritual union with all the bishops of the world John Paul II repeats the act of entrustment of mankind and all peoples to Mary Most Holy, made at Fatima on May 13, 1982.

March 25 - Apostolic Exhortation "Redemptionis Donum," to all men and women religious, published on March 29.

April 9 - Additional appointments to the Roman Curia: broad restructuring of responsibilities of dicasteries and commissions.

April 20 - Apostolic Letter "Redemptionis Anno" (on the City of Jerusalem, sacred patrimony of all believers and crossroads of peace for the peoples of the Middle East).

April 22 - Conclusion of the Holy Year of Redemption 1983/84.

May 2 - 21st pastoral visit outside Italy: Korea, Papua-New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Thailand (May 2-12).

May 5 - Apostolic Letter "Les Grands Mysteres," on the problem of Lebanon.

May 21 - Official visit of Italian President Sandro Pertini to John Paul II.

June 2 - Official visit of John Paul II to the president of Italy.

June 12 - 22nd pastoral visit outside Italy: Switzerland (June 12-17).

July 7 - John Paul II denounces apartheid in South Africa.

July 16 - Visit of John Paul II to the massif of Adamello and meeting with Italian President Pertini (July 16-17).

Sept. 3 - Publication of the Instruction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on Certain Aspects of Liberation Theology.

Sept. 9 - 23rd foreign pastoral visit: Canada (September 9-2).

Oct. 2 - John Paul II tells the Pontifical Academy of Sciences that space belongs to all humanity and that satellites and other space vehicles should be regulated by just international agreements.

Oct. 11 - 24th pastoral visit outside Italy: Zaragoza, Spain; Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and San Juan, Puerto Rico (October 10-13).

Nov. 2 - 46th Italian trip: northern Italy (Milan, Varese, Pavia, Varallo, Arona) for the 4th centenary of the death of St. Charles Borromeo (November 2-4).

Dec. 11 - Publication of the Post-Synodal Pastoral Exhortation "Reconciliatio and Poenitentia."


Jan. 26 - 25th pastoral visit outside Italy: Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Trinidad-Tobago (January 26-February).

Feb. 11 - John Paul II establishes Pontifical Commission for the Apostolate of Health Care Workers.

Feb 19 - Special audience with Israeli Prime Minister Simon Peres.

Feb. 27 - Second official visit of USSR Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko.

March 26 - Apostolic Letter "To the Youth of the World" on the occasion of the United Nation's International Year of Youth.

March 30 - First International Youth Meeting in Rome (March 30-31).

April 11 - Pastoral visit of John Paul II to Loreto and meeting with Italian Bishops.

May 9 - John Paul II declares venerable Fr. Junipero Serra (1713-1784), Franciscan missionary in California.

May 11 - 26th pastoral visit outside Italy: Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium (May 11-21).

May 25 - Third consistory of John Paul II for the creation of 28 new cardinals.

June 2 - Fourth papal Encyclical "Slavorum Apostoli," published on July 2.

July 7 - Mass in the Pauline Chapel of the Vatican for the people of Czechoslovakia, in remembrance of Sts. Cyril and Methodius.

Aug. 8 - 27th pastoral visit outside Italy: Togo, Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Republic of Central Africa, Zaire, Kenya, Morocco (August 8-19).

Aug. 29 - John Paul II announces the opening to historians of the secret archives of the papacies of St. Pius X (1903-14) and Benedict XV (1914-22).

Sept. 9 - 28th pastoral visit outside Italy: Kloten, Switzerland, and Liechtenstein.

Oct. 4 - Official visit of President Francesco Cossiga of Italy.

Nov. 17 - Personal message of the Pope to Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbaciov for the Geneva summit.

Nov. 21 - Third Plenary Meeting of the College of Cardinals on the reform of the Roman Curia (November 21-23).

Nov. 25 - Second Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on: "The Twentieth Anniversary of the Conclusion of the Second Vatican Council" (November 25-December 8).


Jan. 18 - Official visit of Italian President Francesco Cossiga.

Jan. 31 - 29th pastoral visit outside Italy: India (January 31- February 10).

Feb. 19 - Private audience with President Amin Gemayel of Lebanon.

March 6 - Official visit of Governor General Jeanne Sauve of Canada.

April 5 - Publication of the Instruction "Libertatis conscientia" of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on Christian freedom and liberation.

April 13 - John Paul II makes an unprecedented visit to Rome's main synagogue, the oldest Jewish group in the Diaspora; prays with Rabbi Elio Toaff and Giacomo Saban, president of Rome's Jewish community.

May 18 - Fifth Papal Encyclical "Dominum et Vivificantem" (On the Holy Spirit), published on May 30.

June 3 - The international "John XXIII Award for Peace" is given by John Paul II to the Catholic Office for Emergency Relief and Refugees of Thailand.

July 1 - 30th pastoral visit outside Italy: Colombia and Santa Lucia (July 1-8).

July 15 - Publication of the new "Enchiridion Indulgentiarum" (manual of indulgences).

Aug. 4 - John Paul II presides over funeral for Cardinal Carlo Confalonieri, dean of the College of Cardinals, who died on August 1.

Aug. 26 - Apostolic Letter "Augustinum Hipponensem" for the 16th centenary of the conversion of St. Augustine.

Oct. 4 - 31st pastoral visit outside Italy: France (East-Central region, October 4-7).

Oct. 27 - John Paul II attends the First World Day of Prayer for Peace which he convened in Assisi with some 60 representatives of the main Christian and non-Christian religions.

Oct. 31 - Official visit of President Paul Biya of the Republic of Cameroon.

Nov. 18 - 32nd pastoral visit outside Italy: Bangladesh, Singapore, Fiji Islands, New Zealand, Australia and Seychelles (November 18-December 1).


Jan. 13 - Special audience with President of the Council of the People's Republic of Poland, General Wojciech Jaruzelski.

Jan. 19 - Private meeting with Jordan's King Hussein about the situation in the Middle East.

Feb. 22 - Instruction of the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith on respect for human life.

March 25 - Sixth Papal Encyclical "Redemptoris Mater," (Mother of the Redeemer), describing the Virgin Mary's life as an image of obedience and a model of "femininity with dignity."

March 31 - 33rd pastoral visit outside Italy: Uruguay, Chile, and Argentina: celebration in Buenos Aires of the Second World Youth Day (March 31- April 13).

April 30 - 34th pastoral visit outside Italy: Federal Republic of Germany (April 30-May 4).

June 6 - Official visit of U.S. President Ronald Reagan.

June 6 - On the vigil of Pentecost: Solemn opening of the Marian Year (June 7- August 15).

June 8 - 35th pastoral visit outside Italy: Poland (June 8-14).

June 25 - Official visit of President Kurt Waldheim of the Federal Republic of Austria.

June 28 - Celebration of the 7th centenary of the evangelization of Lithuania.

July 8 - First visit of John Paul II to the Dolomites (Lorenzago di Cadore), in northern Italy, for a rest (July 8-14).

Sept. 10 - 36th pastoral visit outside Italy: U.S.A. and Canada (Fort Simpson) (September 10-21).

Oct. 1 - Seventh Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on: "The Vocation and Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World".

Dec. 3 - His Holiness Dimitrios, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, visits John Paul II (December 3-7).

Dec. 11 - Official visit with President Raul Ricardo Alfonsin of the Republic of Argentina.

Dec. 30 - Seventh Papal Encyclical "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis" (On Social Concerns), published February 19, 1988. It criticized economic and political ideologies of the West and the East.


Jan. 25 - John Paul II's Apostolic Letter "Euntes in Mundum," for the millennium of the Baptism of Kievan RuÑ', published March 22.

March 3 - First publication of the financial report of the Holy See (for the year 1986) and the estimated budget for the year 1988.

May 7 - 37th pastoral visit of John Paul II outside Italy: Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Peru (May 7-19).

May 21 - Inauguration of the "Dono di Maria" shelter in the Vatican, entrusted to Mother Teresa's Missionary Sisters of Charity.

June 13 - Delegation to Moscow led by Secretary of State Cardinal Casaroli for the celebrations of the Millennium of Kievan RuÑ'.

June 18 - Official visit of President Corazon Aquino of the Republic of the Philippines.

June 23 - 38th foreign trip: Austria (June 23-27).

June 28 - Apostolic Constitution "Pastor Bonus" for the reform of the Roman Curia.

June 28 - Fourth consistory of John Paul II for the creation of 25 new cardinals.

July 2 - Motu Proprio "Ecclesia Dei," establishing a commission "to be instituted ... to collaborate with the bishops, with the Departments of the Roman Curia, ... for the purpose of facilitating full ecclesial communion of priests, seminarians, religious communities or individuals until now linked to the Fraternity founded by Msgr. Lefevbre, who may wish to remain united to the Successor of Peter in the Catholic Church."

July 4 - Special audience with the prince and grand master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, H.H. Fra Andrew W.N. Bertie.

July 10 - Solemn liturgy in the Byzantine-Ukrainian Rite in St. Peter's Basilica for the Millennium of the Baptism of Kievan Rus'.

Aug. 15 - Solemn conclusion of Marian Year in St. Peter's Basilica.

Sept. 10 - 39th pastoral visit outside Italy: Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland (September 10-20).

Sept. 30 - Publication of the Apostolic Letter "Mulieris Dignitatem" (On the Dignity and Vocation of Women).

Oct. 8 - 40th pastoral visit outside Italy: to the European Institutions in Strasbourg and to the dioceses of Strasbourg, Metz and Nancy, France (October 8-11).

Nov. 19 - Visit with President Ciriaco De Mita of the Council of Ministers of the Italian Republic.

Dec. 30 - Apostolic Exhortation "Christifideles Laici."


March 8 - Meeting of John Paul II and members of the Roman Curia with the metropolitan archbishops of the United States of America on the theme: "Evangelization in the Context of the Culture and Society of the United States with particular emphasis on the Role of the Bishop as Teacher of the Faith" (March 8-11).

March 10 - Reorganization of the pastoral government of the dioceses in Lithuania.

April 20 - Official visit of President Patrick J. Hillery of Ireland.

April 28 - 41st pastoral visit outside Italy: Madagascar, La Reunion, Zambia and Malawi (April 28-May 6).

May 27 - Official visit of U.S. President George Bush.

June 1 - 42nd pastoral trip outside Italy: Norway, Iceland, Finland, Denmark, Sweden (June 1-10).

July 17 - Restoration of diplomatic relations between Poland and the Holy See.

Aug. 15 - Angelus message in which the Pope reveals his wish to personally go to Lebanon as soon as possible and makes yet another heartfelt appeal for peace in that nation.

Aug. 19 - 43rd papal trip abroad: Santiago de Compostela, Spain for Fourth World Youth Day, and Asturias (August 19-21).

Aug. 27 - Apostolic Letter on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second World War.

Sept. 7 - In an address to a symosium organized by the Pontifical Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies, Pope traces a "charter" for fruitful coexistence between Christians and Muslims.

Sept. 7 - Apostolic Letter to all Bishops of the Catholic Church on the situation in Lebanon. World Day of Prayer for Peace in Lebanon.

Sept. 29 - Official visit of Archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie.

Oct. 2 - Joint statement of John Paul II and Archbishop Runcie.

Oct. 6 - 44th foreign pastoral visit: Seoul, Korea, Indonesia and Mauritius (October 6-10).

Nov. 13 - Meeting of the diocesan bishops of the Federal Republic of Germany with the Holy Father on the theme: "Handing the faith to the next generation and the pastoral work of catechesis."

Dec. 1 - Official visit of President Mikhail Gorbaciov of the USSR: marks the first time a Pope has met with the head of the Soviet government.

Dec. 21 - New appointment of bishops in Czechoslovakia.

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