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An iconic journey: From village priest to Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, who started out as a priest in a Polish village, will be beatified Sunday, marking the third of four steps to sainthood. It's the fastest beatification in the history of the Roman Catholic Church, even beating Mother Teresa. These photos show iconic snapshots of his journey to beatification.

"[He] was bigger than other popes," says Robert Sullivan, editor of LIFE Book's "Pope John Paul II: Toward Sainthood." "His reign was more significant, and the honor bestowed on him at his death was totally symbolic of his stature."

The book is an illustrated biography of John Paul II's life from his childhood in Poland to the legacy he left behind after his death.

"John Paul II's pontificate was by any measure, extraordinary," Sullivan says. "The work he did politically, helping with the fall of communism, the evangelist mission and the spread of the Catholic Church in the third world, this was not just another tenure on St. Peter's throne, it was a remarkable one."

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