Sunday, 21 October 2012

34th Anniversary of the Installation Mass of Pope John Paul II - The Road to Sanctity

34th Anniversary of the Installation Mass of
Pope John Paul II

22.10.1978  -  22.10.2012


The Blessed Pope John Paul II 'The Great'

The Road to Sanctity

Frank Zammit

His Election to the Petrine Ministry

Is there anyone who does not remember his message in his first homily: “Do not be afraid. Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ. On 22nd October 1978, the late Pope John Paul II began his pontificate with these words. 

This call to a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ is as urgent and necessary today as it was over thirty four years ago, and the occasion of his beatification on Sunday, May 1, 2011 offered us an opportunity to remind ourselves, and others about the witness of John Paul II's life and message.

One needs to start with the outcome of his election: after centuries of Italian Popes, the first non-Italian. And to the enthusiastic acclaim of the faithful in Rome and around the world. A new Pope from Poland, a young Pope full of life, enormously capable and very well prepared. This certainly was an extraordinary event.

The Church lost her second shepherd in just 45 days

It all took place in the year of the three popes. At dawn on the 29th of September 1978 the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church was in deep mourning for the loss of its second spiritual leader in just 45 days. The Feast of the Transfiguration had seen the passing of Paul VI, now the Feast of the Angels announced the end of John Paul I short reign.

The Cardinals entering the Sistine for the October conclave

Once more, in mid-October, the Cardinals were summoned to Rome to ponder under the gaze of the Almighty in Michaelangelo's Last Judgment whom they would choose to step into the Shoes of the Fisherman, Prince of Apostles.

Cardinal Woytyla was elected Pope on the 16th of October 1978 at precisely 17.17 on the feast of St Edwiga, a Queen of Cracow in the early middleages who had died in labour.

Once again Proto-Deacon Cardinal Pericle Felici announced the election of a pope……. His hesitation over the name perplexed the crowd gathered in St Peter's Square. It was clearly a foreigner who had been elected, perhaps from Africa.

"When his name was announced I was at the Polish College. I was with a number of students watching television when all at once Cardinal Felici came on screen to announce that a pope had been elected. I noticed immediately that something unusual had happened…… I had known Cardinal Felici for several years He was the Prefect of the Aposolic Segnatura where I used to work. He was usually goodhumoured and smiling but (on television) he appeared to be very serious indeed. He seemed to be concerned about this extraordinary election. He was a Roman, he wrote poems in Latin….His second appearance on the balcony in two months! Yes, the first time he had been all smiles…but the second time he was serious and when he spoke (the words) 'Annuntio Vobis Gaudium Magnum Habemus Papaem 'Carolum' we exploded in joy and cried 'Wojtyla' as he continued Sanctae Romana Ecclesiae Cardinalem Wojtyla..It was an immense joy… all the students….” H.E. Card. Zenon Grocholewski – 26.2.2011

He was elected on the eight ballot

However even as he emerged onto the central loggia of St Peter's Basilica, Karol Wojtyla immediately eluded the strict Vatican protocol by going beyond the customary urbi et orbi blessing and addressing the crowd gathered in the square in Italian. He won over the Italians immediately when he encouraged them to correct his Italian if he made any mistakes.

"The Italians welcomed him heartily…heartily”!  - H.E. Card. Zenon Grocholewski – 26.2.2011

The Iron Curtain

"When  he was elected to the throne of St Peter, he was well aware of the drama unfolding in the countries of the East (Eastern Europe), of the massive Iron Curtain raised after the Second World War and therefore felt a personal commitment to strive for freedom of worship. 'States do not own their citizens…but exist to serve their citizens' Freedom of worship is as essential as all other freedoms".  H.E. Card. Angelo Sodano – 25.2.2011

Through this decision the College of Cardinals had shown its intention to change the Church's course…. It was a brave decision and intended to bear much fruit.

The Pontificate of the New Evangelization

Pope  John Paul II - 22.10.1978

"Do not be afraid! 
Open your doors to Christ! 
To His saving power. 
Open state borders, 
economic systems as well as political ones, 
the vast fields of culture, 
civilisation, development. 
Do not be afraid!" 
Pope John Paul II 22.10.1978

Frank Zammit interviewing His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano

This great pope evangelized the world through his writings, through the encyclicals he wrote during his pontificate, through the messages given during audiences he held, through visits to over a hundred countries as well as through his example.

His evangelization was Christo-centric, based exclusively on Christ and the Gospels.

His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Sodano

"Above all else, it was for me the Pontificate of the New Evangelization. He had realised that in Europe, in America and other Western countries, the Gospel of Christ had to be proposed anew….Hence the New Evangelization….Announcing Christ to the world today.” H.E. Card. Angelo Sodano 25.2.2011

This was evident in his inaugural speech on the 22 of October 1978 when he had invited us 'To open, indeed to open wide our doors to Christ and not to be afraid of His power. To open also the doors of our states, to open also the doors of the economic, political, cultural and development systems of the world to Jesus Christ.' He had ended his speech recalling that only Christ knows human hearts and minds. Only He has the words of life, indeed of eternal life!

Pope John Paul II signing "Centesimus Annus"

In all his encyclicals his commitment to Christological humanism radiates unmistakeably, a love for Jesus Christ and a profound respect for human dignity. His passion to plumb the depths of human profundity allowed him to encounter and engage directly with modernity. Among the 14 encyclicals which are his legacy to us one cannot fail to mention four which articulate this omnipresent theme to a higher degree: ‘Redemptoris Hominis’, ‘Veritatis Splendor’, ‘Evangelium Vitae’, as well as ‘Centesimus Annus’ which expresses his social doctrine.

Wojtyla’s Marian Devotion

Our Lady of Lourdes

'I used to see in him the profound thought of the theologian and at the same time the simple spontaneity of child. At the same time he was the person who prayed to Mary and trusted in her,  familiar as he was with all of Mariological theology, confident in her love and care as a son in his mother. It was beautiful, splendid.'  - H.E. Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls 29.9.2011

John Paul II had a great devotion to Mary of Nazareth. He founded his Pontificate on devotion to Mary.

Karol Wojtyla stated it in this way: "From the first days following my election to the papacy, I felt that I ought to imitate the Apostle Peter who in his time liked to visit everybidy to confirm and consolidate life in the Church through faith in the World.

To respond to this call John Paul II made 246 journeys outside the Vatican, 144 of them in various Italian dioceses as well as over 100 journeys outside Italy. During many of these journeys he included visits to Marian shrines where he would halt to pray to the Holy Virgin of Nazareth and seek her aid in dealing with the challenges he faced.

Frank Zammit interviewing His Eminence Cardinal Camillo Ruini

"In fact in a poetic composition from his youth entitled Magnificat, Mary's prayer, which Karol Wojtyla had written when he was 18 and later published, he says that God is great in carving out saints. God had carved a saint out of a tree trunk and that saint was him. He was the boy who said that he had miraculously preserved his youth. We can make out at once that John Paul II felt that his devotion wto Mary was a gift through which he felt his call to sanctity. We can also say that he became aware of his call to sanctity before his call to the priesthood."  H.E. Card. Camillo Ruini  25.2.2011

The Servant of God Jan Tyranowski

Wojtyla's Marian devotion stems from his childhood from is parents' example. It developed further and continued to grow thanks to the help of a lay person, a tailor by the name of Jan Tyranowski, whom the Pope later described a a man of great spiritual wealth.  

The Black Madonna

Karol Wojtyla had developed a bond with the Virgin of Nazareth which became an essential part of his personality.  He began to love the Madonna when he was just a child thanks to his mother, who, like many Poles, felt a strong devotion to the Mother of God.

In his book 'Crossing the Treshold of Hope', John Paul II explains that he was drawn to Marian shrines from his childhood. He would be taken to these holy places by his mother. He recalls the Madonna of Perpetual Succour at Wadowice, the sanctuary at Kalwaria and the Jasna Gora shrine of the Black Madonna.

After the loss of his mother his devotion to Mary continued to intensify. According to some observers it was then that he prayed the Madonna to grant him the affection he had just lost through his mother's death.

Speaking of his youth he points out that his vocation to the priesthood itself had a strong Marian element.

Marian devotion was a principal element of Karol Wojtyla's clerical activities. When we was appointed bishop at the age of 38, he was asked to choose a motto for his crest. The one he chose was "Totus Tuus" over a cross and the letter M meaning 'utterly yours' and giving expression to the Marian devotion inculcated in him by Jan Tyranowski who had told him of the writings of St Louis Marie Grignon de Montfort and of his motto Totus Tuus. Id-devozzjoni Long before he was called to be bishop Wojtyla had already made this phrase a common place in his writings, in correspondence, in his exhorations.

His Eminence Cardinal Camillo Ruini

"This phrase expresses the Pope's profound soul. The Pope believed that when he gave himself to Mary and accepted her gift , through whom God had brought about the humanity of Christ, he could gain a better approach to God. In this way he established a better relationship with the Son of God, the Son of Mary who is Jesus Christ. In this way he achieved his preparation for his destination, the Christian vocation." H.E. Card. Camillo Ruini 25.2.2011

Totus Tuus: He inscribed it on the walls of the Vatican

Once he was elected pope he inscribed it on the walls of the Vatican by the crest of his pontificate.

He consecrated the World to the Sacred Heart of Mary

It was 33 months after his election that he consecrated the world to the Sacred Heart of Mary precisely in Pentacoste, on the 7th of June, 1981.

He had offered her all that that humanity could offer her: 

The innocence of children;
The generosity and the enthusiasm of youth;
The pain of the sick;
The collective good example of families;
The weariness of those who labour and the anxiety of the unemployed;
The solitude of the elderly;
The sadness of those who seek the true meaning of existence;
The sincere contrition of sinners;
The meaning and hope of those who discover the love of the Father;
The faithfulness and dedication of those who expend their energies in apostleship.
On this occasion he had written a prayer which he had entitled 'The Act of Entrustment of the World to Our Lady '. This event was celebrated in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in the 1600th anniversary fo the first Council of Constantinople and of the 1550th anniversary of the Council of Ephesus.

All his life he prayed to the Madonna:

To transform humanity into courageous witnesses of Christ;
To let civil society to experience the progress of solidaity;
So that civil society strive with a keen sense of justice and that it continues to grow in brotherhood;
To help us all to raise our hope horizon to Heaven's eternal reality.;
John Paul II also entrusted the Church into the care of Our Lady;
For it to be a worthy witness in proclaiming the Gospel;
To brighten the face of her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Months later he had obliged the Secretariat of State to reveal the Third Secret of Fatima….Wojtyla was also utterly grateful to the Mother of God who saved his life on the 13th of May 1981 when Mehmet Ali Agca shot at him while he was meeting the faithful before the Wednesday Audience in St Peter's Square.

He had donated the bullet which Agca shot at him and which had been surgically extracted from him to Our Lady of Fatima. It was eventually placed in her crown.

All his life he lived the spiritual reality of Our Lady as though it was a physical reality. For him Our Lady was a physical person and thought of her as though she were a member of his family. He was not only devoted to her but enamoured of her personality and he lived this thought most intensely.

Terror in St Peter’s Square – 13th May 1981

‘Nobody thought an attempt would be made on the life of an innocent man, a man of peace and above all in St Peter's Square.

Yes, I remember because I certainly can never forget it! It has entered my mind, my memory, my head. Above all Providence! What could Man have done?'  H.E. Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz 7.9.2011

Frank Zammit with His Eminence Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz

Thirty years have gone by since the attempted assasination of John Paul II. It was precisely on the 13th of May 1981 when Pope Wojtyla emerged onto St Peter's Square for the General Audience which used to be held at five in the afternoon. The white car he was in moved slowly on a narrow path between two barricades. The Pope was standing pleased to greet the crowd which had come that day.

He shook the hands outstreched towards him. At one point he even lifted a little blonde girl, embraced an kissed her before giving her back to her mother.

The attack on the Pope: 13th May, 1981

Suddenly a pistol was seen above the crowd pointed at the Pope and two shots were heard. The sound of frightened pigeons taking flight occupied the first few seconds of complete disbelief at what had just happened.

The first shot broke one of the Pope's fingers and entered his abdomen while a second shot struck his jaw and ricocheted to wound two bystanders.

It was nineteen minutes past five of an afternoon to be recorded in the history of humanity.

The Pope being assisted by his secretary and faithful friend Don Stanislaw

‘It was impressive that he was seriously wounded. He was going to die. As he started his journey to the hospital I heard him forgive his assailant. He forgave him! And prayed for him for as long as he could because on reaching the Gemelli Hospital he lost consciousness.'  H.E. Card. Stanislaw Dsiwisz 7.9.2011

The operation lasted over five hours. The shot had damaged several of his internal organs.

‘He lost a lot of blood….the plan had been to kill him. There were very difficult moments during the operation. Hist doctor came to tell that the situation was very delicate.. his heartbeat was hardly audible. His blood pressure dropped drastically and he had bled profusely. Many many problems.’ H.E. Card. Stanislaw Dsiwisz 7.9.2011

The arrest of Mehmet Ali Agca

Within minutes of the attack, the would-be assassin was caught by a nun who was assisted by the crowd. He was a Turk, Ali Agca, involved with the Grey Wolves, an extreme Left terrorist group also involved in drug trafficing.

Agca had already been condemned to death in his absence by a Turkish court after being found guilty of the murder of the editor of the Turkish newspaper Milliyet which two years previously had published a letter from Agca threatening to kill the Pope if he did not cancel a proposed visit to Turkey.

Two years later two days after Christmas 1983 John Paul II visited Agca in prison to grant forgiveness to one who had wanted to eliminate him from this earth. The two men spoke alone for a long time and it remains unknown to this day what was said.

‘The attempt was intended to kill him. The bullet went right through his body. He was a man of mysteries…great mysteries but protected. Guarded by God an Our Lady to whom he was so devoted.

He was saved by God through the intervention of Our Lady of Fatima as he later said.'  H.E. Card. Stanislaw Dsiwisz 7.9.2011

Agca was subsequently condemned to life imprisonment by the Italian courts for having attempted to kill a foreign Head of State. In 2000 Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi had granted an amnesty to Agca who was immediately extradited to Turkey where he continued to serve another prison sentence.

Pope John Paul II visited Mehmet Ali Agca in Rebibbia Prison

On two separate occasions, the first of which five days after the attempt on his life while he was recovering at the Gemelli Hospital and reciting the Angelus broadcast to St Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II had said; "I pray for my brother who attacked me and whom I have sincerely forgiven".

He repeated these words of forgiveness to Agca when he visited him in Rebibbia prison in Rome, on the 27th of December 1983.

For several years investigations were carried out in order to establish who had been behind the cowardly attempt on the Pope's life. The prime suspects were the secret services of a number of Eastern European countries.

Wojtyla : Christ's Wanderer   


Throughout his pontificate John Paul II served a pilgrim's vocation, he was the Catholic Church's globetrotter. All it takes is a few statistics to realise the extent of this part of his earthly mission:

In 104 journeys outside Italy, leaving aside the 144 voyages within Italy, Pope Wojtyla visited 129 countries in just over 26 of his Pontificate, a distance equivalent to three times for the Earth to the Moon or 30 times around the earth.

According to precise Vatican statistics, John Paul II travelled for 1,247,613 Km

Frank Zammit interviewing His Eminence Cardinal Ennio Antonelli

"Certainly his Apostolic journeys at once so numerous and stimulating drawing the Christianity towards the Pope pass into history, don't they? He is the shepherd of the whole Church but it became a stirring experience,,,,, I once heard at a dinner at Orvieto that his plan was, as Bishop of Rome to visit all the parishes in his diocese, s Primate of Italy to visit al Italian Dioceses and then  all the nations of the world. ….And he hoped to complete this in a further three of four years. He did not quite succeed….only nearly. So this has great importance for unity in the Church and for the missionary momentum which he managed to transmit in local Churches”. H.E. Card. Ennio Antonelli  25.2.2011

A stamp commemorating the visit of John Paul II visit to the Domenican Republic

His first journey coming just 3 months from the commencement of his Petrine Service on 25th January 1979 was to the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas.

His final voyage, a little over a year before his death, took him to Lourdes for two days, the 14th and 15th of August 2004.

Between these two voyages John Paul II had made close acquaintance with much of the world. From Pakistan to S.Africa, from Papua New Guinea to the Solomon Islands, to Alaska, Bangladesh, Armenia, the Seychelles several times revisiting Latin America, Europe and the United States.

His last journey in Berne, Switzerland 2004

Some destinations remained off limits to the globetrotter Pope who on returning to Muaritius once said that he travelled so much in response to the challenge to the Church made by the Holy Spirit in Vatican Council II. His journeys had two contrasting sides to them. He was glad to respond to the crowds who flocked to meet him but then found the occasion for profound solitary prayer as at the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem or at Lourdes when he asked those who journeyed with him to allow him a time of silent prayer in the cave of the apparitions to be alone before the Mother of God.

However John Paul II never managed to visit Russia and meet the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow. Tensions between the Christian families prevented him from bringing about a meeting he very much desired, a desire he never concealed.

China too remained an unexplored continent for Wojtyla's Church which only today can make a few tentative approaches. Also in Asia, Vietnam has only just acknowledged the accreditation of the Vatican's first Apostolic Nuncio in 2011.

John Paul II will be remembered particularly for his personal style. He always expressed himself by seeking direct contact with people. He visited every country that invited him including thise where Christians are in a minority such as Thailand where he brought an evangelical message of courage and persuasion.

He did so because he wished to share with the world's people his vital conviction, his faith in Jesus Christ.

Pope John Paul II during a flight

He wanted to stay in touch with local Churches in order to urge them to respond to the call to sanctity. He wanted to spread the Good News particularly in the continents which had not yet heard it especially in Asia and Africa. While it is true that Christianity has a historical tradition in the West thus should not be taken to mean that His following is still numerous.

The world's population has reached the 6 billion mark. So far 2 billion have heard the Good News, another 4 billion await it still.

Pope John Paul II and Social Communication  

The preaching of Jesus to his apostles

Just as Jesus Christ had urged his Apostles to use the means available to them to comunicate his message, pastoral service today requires the Lord's servants to make use of available technologies and instruments to reach all humanity.

Pope John Paul II made it clear from the first days of his pontificate that he had understood that the proclamation of the Gospels demanded effective and respectable forms and strategies of communication which could stir hearts and lead human consciousness just as the Risen Christ when accompanying the apostles towards Emmaus had made them realise the joy in their hearts through the gentleness of his words and ultimately who He was.

The Polish Pope therefore decided that the proclamation of the Gospels should be done in new ways even if they did not please everybody.

In fact one of the major revolutions John Paul II brought about in the early years of his pontificate, was his own and the Church's opening up to the international media. He chose and was assisted in this task for more than 22 years by a Spanish surgeon.

What did Pope John Paul II  do?

He had made his choice. He had cast his eye of the special correspondent for the Eastern Mediterranean of the Spanish newspaper ABC. He want his assistance inimproving the communication of the Church. How did he contact him.

Frank Zammit interviewing H.E.Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls

“One day I had a telephone call, I was at work at my office. The message was clear: I was to dine with the Pope between midday and half past one. I asked my secretary to check it up because I suspected that someone may be playing a trick on me. I was wrong. It was true.

We dined together. He asked me to make some suggestions, to give him some ideas on how he could improve the system, the communication mechanism I of the Holy See in the media in order to allow him to communicate better the universality of human and Christian values for which the Pope felt responsible.
That's how it all started. Some time later I was informed that the Pope had nominated me Director of Information to the Holy See. I hesitated to accept because I was aware of the heavy responsibility which was knocking on my door. But in the end I accepted it. I thought that I would work for two or three years but instead it lasted 22 years. But that's how it all started”.  H.E. Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls 29.9.2011

Pope John Paul II with Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls

During his pontificate Pope John Paul II became a global figure also due to the fact that he knew how to maximise his use of the media whether television, radio or internet.

In Poland, Malta or other countries, wherever the Pope set foot, media activity would be altered. The combination of technology and theology made him the Pope closest to the media community in the history of the papacy.

Instead of antagonizing the media as some public personalities do, this Pole used the media to transmit his message.

Undoubtedly previous popes used various means of communication but John Paul II was the first pope to understand completely that the Church had a great opportunity to reach everybody through the media.

In 1987 about one billion people in 16 countries II by means of 23 satellites followed John Paul in what was entitled 'A Prayer for World Peace.'

Later that year he stole the show when from a theatre in Hollywood he held a conversation with thousdands of young people from 4 cities thanks to satellite communication.

Navarro-Valls: Assisting the Pope during a flight

What was Professor Navarro-Valls's strategy?

‘In communication you are either proactive or you are restricted to a purely informative reaction policy… this is a losing strategy.

Public opinion is a highly complex subject and at the same time simply a large empty container. What is important is who first places ideas in it since afterwards others will follow. So the big issue was Do we have something to say? And this pontificate had plenty to say. So let us say it proactively!' The result was the fascination public opinion had for John Paul II anf for the values of this pontificate which accompanied him to the end, right up to his funeral’!  H.E. Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls  29.9.2011

A collaborated that lasted twenty three years

During his pontificate he published several books which were bestsellers. The Vatican also went online and he had his web address.

Among his many achievements Pope John Paul II will be remembered as the media friendly pope thus setting new standards for his successors.

The Blessed Pope John Paul II and Ecumenism 
Quoting from the Vatican Council II decree ‘Unitatis Redintegratio’ Pope John Paul II decalres in his encyclical ‘Ut Unum Sint’ “the change of heart, the sanctity of life as well as public and private prayer for the unity of Christians should be considered the soul of the whole ecumenical movement and may also be called spiritual ecumenism. He also says that love builds unity between individuals and communities. If we love one another, we continue to deepen our union and to perfect it. There can be no worthwhile ecumenism without a change of heart said the Pope.

Pope John Paul II's encyclical: Ut Unum Sint

In the same ‘Ut Unum Sint’ encyclical published in 1995 speaking of the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople he writes that the process he referred to could not have commenced without the valuable work of his predecessors John XXIII and Paul VI on one hand and of the ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I and his successors on the other.

On the 31 of October 1999 the Catholic Church led by John Paul II also signed an important declaration with the Lutheran Church after long years of ecumenical meetings and theological discussions about the declaration of justification.

St Cyril and St Methodius

I cannot fail to mention here two ecumenical events in which John Paul II was a protagonist: the Jubilee of 1984 celebrating the eleventh centenary from the evangelization of St Cyril and St Methodius co patrons of Europe and the proclamation of St Benedict as patron of Europe together with the other two saints. The pope was undoubtedly instrumental in in the continuation of dialogue between the Churches of East and West.

The second event was the most telling gesture by Pope John Paul II for ecumenism during his pontificate. It was addressed to non-Catholic Christians in the year of the Great Jubilee when he had opened the door of the Basilica of St Paul Fuori le Mura which door had been assigned the symbolic role of ecumenic door of the Great Jubilee. Anglikan Primate John Carey and Metropolitan Athanasios of the Ecumenic Patriarchate of Constantinople had helped the Pope open the door in a novel liturgy which had never benn followed in any prior Roman Holy Year. Twenty-two Churches and Confessional Denominations and Christian Organizations from all over the world were represented on this occasion.

Pope John Paul II and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I

During the celebration Pope John Paul II had repeatedly asked for union among these Churches. He said that he had heard the call several times during his pontificate such as at Bucharest when he had been convinced that union betweenChristian, Catholic, Orthodox, protestant and evangelical Churches was possible….That day Wojtyla three times invoked the phrase 'unitate, unitate' with great conviction that such a union need not remain on the far horizon.

John Paul II's fervent search for Christian unity cannot be described without mention of the jouneys he made to countries where the Christian Orthodox faith drew him in an effort to re-open or consolidate the exchange with the sister Churches of Catholicism.
Ecumenism was in integral part of Wojtyla's Petrin Ministry. He spoke of ecumenism in his Wednesday General Audiences, in his recitals of the Angelus on Sundays, in meetings with bishops making their ad limina visits, in letters of accreditation he would write to new ambassadors meeting him for the first time as well as with members of other Churches he met in private audience.

Pope John Paul II was the pilgrim of ecumenism. For him ecumenism was a permanent vocation of the Catholic Church. Making personl meetings with orther Chuerches and their religious leadership was always on the Pope's agenda when he made his pastoral visits around the world.

The Blessed Pope John Paul II and Inter-Religious Dialogue

Assisi 1986

In April of the following year he had met in private audience with the members and counsellors of the Secretariat for non-christian Denominations. He had later renamed this this Secretariat The Pontificial Council for Inter-religious dialogue.

‘I also include the dialogues, the inter-religious dialogues, especially the inter-religious meeting at Assis. It was a new activity, it was not a meeting to pray together but a time together for prayer. Turning to God according to our various traditions..He saw in this the possibilitiy of a collaborative dialogue, an imperfect union but respectful of the diversity of the vaious traditions. Clearly thr Church proposed the Gospels as it proposes to all the conversion to Our Lord Jesus Christ but in all religions, in all men of goodwill the Lord is already at work.' -  H.E. Card. Ennio Antonelli 25.02.2011

That day, he said: "Pope Paul VI who had established this Secretariat thereby demonstrating his love for non-Christians, was no longer visibly amongst us. I am convinced that there among you who wonder whether the new pope is inclined to devote a similar level of attention to the world on n-n-Christian religions." He answered this question emphatically in his first encyclical redemptor Hominis which he published a month later in April 1979.

In this encyclical he note that Vatican Council II had given is view of the world as a map of various religions. He also spoke of the respect shown by Vatican Council II towards other religions and there underscored his own thoughts on the subject; that the non-Christian world is constantly before the Church and before the pope. "We want to serve it (the non-Christian world) well.

In various islamic countries and others of a different faith which he visited he always showed the love he had for them when:

In Turkey in 1979 he had recalled the teachings of Vatican Council II on islam.

In 1985 at the Casablanca Stadium he had addressed 80,000 muslim youth: "I believe that we, Christians and Muslims should acknowledge joyfully the common religious values we share and thank God for them.

In January a year later, he had visited the monument to Mahatma Gandhi in New Delhi. For a long time we was seen kneeling in prayer before the monument and when he stood up he described Gandhi as the Apostle of Peace.

The historic visit to the Jewish Synagogue: 13th April 1986

On April 13th 1986 he made a historic visit to the Jewish Synagogue in Rome where he was welcomed by the Chief Rabbi of the Jewish Community in Rome, Elio Toaf.

On the 27th October that year, Pope John Paul II had had hosted in Assisi several religious leaders, of whom some from non-Christian religions, to pray for peace.. These religious leaders had gathered around the pope in great friendship, fasted together and at the end of the gathering shared a meal together. The Pope had again met with these religious leaders in Assisi in 1993 when they had prayed for peace in the Balkans and again in 2002 when they had prayed following the events of the 11, September 2001.

In Sudan, in Benin, in Uganda in 1993. In Sudan John Paul II had said:" It is necessary to talk about the problems concerning our relations with the followers of a religion as numerous great as Islam." He had approached them with an open mind seeking possible solutions. 

In 2000 on arriving in Cairo: "The advent of islam brought with it things of great beauty in art and learning that had a determining influence on the Arab world and Africa.

In 2001 when visiting the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, Syria : ‘ As members of a unique human family and because we believe that we have an obligation to the common good, to justice and solidarity, inter-religious dialogue can lead us towards several instances of cooperation principally in helping the poor and the suffering."

In al this, this son of Poland always sought ways of building bridges towards union with everyone.

‘Another bridge he built regarding inter-religious dialogue was the dialogue he loved to have with all humans of goodwill…… I count this among the most important brindges he managed to build.’ H.E. Card. Ennio Antonelli 25.2.2011

Pope John Paul II and the Youth

Tor Vergata, Rome, 19th August2000: the Pope prays with 2 million young people from all over the world at times he appeared to be moved greatly during that Roman summer evening. As it drew to a close Karol Wojtyla sand and danced with them despite the onset of Parkinsons disease. The Pope was clearly ill but still full of a youthful enthousiasm.

This was one of the most powerful images of the Polish Pope who always kept a special place in his heart for young people whom he described as 'humanity's anchor of salvation.

"Why was he the Pope of young people? Because throughout his earthly life he understood young people. He loved them very much and trusted them. And young people understood this. He became more a point of reference for them and not only a focus of their sympathy and enthousiasm. One recalls tha World Youth Days….but not only the World Youth Days… even now six years after his passing away I believe that Pope John Paul II can be a great help to young people today… primarily helping them to meet Christ and by meeting Christ to look forward with hope and not fall prey to nostalgia.” -  H.E. Card. Camillo Ruini 25.2.2011

How can anyone forget, for example, the thousands of young people who flocked to St Peter's Square on 2nd April 2005 to sing and pray when John Paul II was travelling to his Father's house?

John Paul II and the Fall of Communism

Frank Zammit with Cardinal Zenon Grocholewski

"In Poland they say that the Pope used to talk of communism but didn't understand it. He had never understood how communism worked. But now a Pope from a communist country had been chosen who knew how communism worked. From a theoretical as well as a day-today perspective. he had lived it. There was a time when they had denied him a passport, at the time the political authorities were very much concerned. In truth this was only the beginning of a rebellion against communism and it was practically the only workers' revolution carried out not through negative words but through the Mass, through Our Lady, with the Pope….I believe that Polish workers gave a splendid example. ".
"it was the most important journey. Because a direct confrontation with communist doctrine had taken place. The communists used to say that religion was alienation oppressing the individual. They used to try to separate the individual from religion to free him. Nevertheless, in Warsaw, the Pope decalred that man withut Christ understood nothing…only Christ freed us…Christ allowed us to perceive our individual personality.

Afterwards at Gniezno, a historic and primary city of Poland, the first metropolis and once more direct confrontation with all history." H.E. Card. Zenon Grocholewski 25.02.2011

Just months after his election to the Papacy, in 1979 john Paul II had returned to his homeland in pilgrimage, to Poland where he was given a memorable welcome by millions of Poles.

June 1979: His first journey to Poland

That day, although he had tried to avoid confrontation with the Polish authorities, political observers noticed that from his first step towards his native land he had begun to overcome the censorship policy maintained by the Polish authorities.

He had ubderscored the need for cooperation between the Church and State and that the State had to begin to respect individual dignity.

Frank Zammit with Cardinal Jose' Saraiva Martins, C.M.F.

"One thing which used to impress me in John Paul II was his closeness to people. People were to him the path of the Church. In his first encyclical 'Redemptor Hominis' hes says that Man is the path of the Church….in fact John Paul II throughout his pontificate was always close to people, next to people, to defend their dignity, to defend their fundamental rights…inalienable and non-negotiable rights.” H.E. Card. Jose’ Saraiva Martins’ C.M.F.

In that first 9-day voyage to Poland, he ws often heard to invite the Holy Spirit to renew the face of the earth!

During the 80s the Pope kept a close watch on what was going on in the countries of E.Europe under communist rule, while giving his unfailing support to the trde union Solidarnosc let by Lech Walesa which acted as the opposition to the communist government of Poland.

Pope John Paul II with Lech Walesa

"We had been saying that we did not demand much, we wanted to be free, to work hard, we wanted to feel that were were at home.”  H.E. Lech Walesa President Emeritus of Poland

It was a time of great political drama! Who would have guess what the future held for the Soviet Union.

The seed of all this drama had been planted when the Cardinal of Cracow, 58 –years-old, relatively unknown compared to other cardinals who had entered the conclave as potential candidates, was elected Pope.

Meanwhile towards the second half of the 80s, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachov, there appeared the first signs of what the Pope had told the Umbria bishops when they were making their ad limina visit to him some years before.

"In my first meeting with him, a more private one, when I was making my first ad limina visit to him as bishop of Gubbio, in 1985, I believe, Iwas very impressed by an answer he gave to one of us, one of the Umbria Bishops(there were seven or eight of us)..The Bishop of Perugia asked him what he thought of Russia, the Soviet Union and with a serious face and great conviction told him something like this:" the economic crisis will constrain Russia to change its path so quickly and so profoundly that you cannot imagine". This was in 1985 and several years before the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall."  H.E. Card. Ennio Antonelli 25.2.2011

"The next day I received a telephone call. They told me what had happened. I told them: 'You have made the right choice because how can you shoot a German who is crossing a frontier to meet Germans on the other side?" H.E. Mikhail Gorbachov President Emeritus of Soviet Union

“I remember Gorbachov’s personal intervention....he ordered the Red Army
Stationed in East Germany not to intervene. I remember that the Head of the
KGB station in East Berlin was a certain Vladimir Putin. There was no
intervention by the Soviets so the fall of the Berlin Wall took place normally.”
H.E. Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls 29.9.2011

There began to show the first cracks in the Russian leadership. Also thanks to the wisdom of President Gorbachov the antagonism between Russia and the Holy See began to fade away.

One cannot forget when on the 20th of February 1988, a red Army Choir had sung the Ave Maria in the Vatican before a Polish Pope.

In 1988 Mikhail Gorbachov had permitted and promoted the celebration in remembrance of the 1000 years of Christianity in Russia and the Ukraine.

Although he was an atheist, Mikhail Gorbachev had decided to legitimate the right to private worship in the Soviet Union.

Pope John Paul II with President Mikhail Gorbachov

Meanwhile Pope John Paul II began to show an interest in meeting the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachov. It is said that first contacts made to bring this meeting about were done by the former secretary of State of the Holy See cardinal Agostino casaroli and the Principal Spokesperson to the Holy See Professor Joaquin Navarro Valls.

'I was sent to Moscow a yesr before in 1988, with Cardinal Casaroli to deliver a personal letter from the Pope to Mikhail Gorbachov. Gorbachov received us in the kremlin when he was 'Absolute Power', President of the Soviet Union, President of the Politburo and secretary General of the Communist Party. I remember reading the Pope's message to Gorbachov, a a long message covering several themes. He had promised to reply to the Pope… Months later he had sent his reply, a long letter of seven pages to the Pope in which he mentioned the possibility of him travelling to Rome to visit him. They had a long meeting of two and a half hours which they began alone speaking in Russian but then called in interpreters to help them. They both looked happy and relaxed after this meeting.'  - H.E. Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls 29.9.2011

Gorbachov says that at this meeting there had been an emotional exchange. The Pope's first words were that he was very critical of communism. The Soviet leader tells that the Pope alsi tried to discuss the Fall of the Berlin wall at the meeting.

The Pope also asked Gorbachov to tell him what he thought of the possibility of European unification and of the possibility of the end of the Cold War.

John Paul II: "Europe needed to breathe from both its lungs"

Gorbachov says that he cannot forget what the Pope told him about Europe;

The Pope told him that Europe needed to breathe from both its lungs and could not continue to breathe from just one lung as it had done until then.

'That evening I was dining with the Pope and I asked him: 'Holy Father what impression did u make of Gorbachov? He told me:'Gorbachov seems to be a man of principle. Naturally I asked again:"What is a man of principle?" and he replied: "A man of principle is a man who believes in a number of principles which he respects such that he bears all their consequences even when these consequences are not to his liking.

That is how the Pope saw Gorbachov. Naturally we all know that it was thanks to this that the world changed, a historic change which changed the lives of millions of people and above all what was miraculous was that this change came about without bloodshed!' H.E. Prof. Joaquin Navarro-Valls 29.9.2011

At that meeting the Pope had expressed concern and criticised capitalism.

John Paul II ended his message to the Soviet Leader by saying that he served no political party but God and that his aim was to achieve the objectives he wanted to attain through his perestroika.

Gorbachov, at the end of his exchange with the Pope said that he too had a criticism to make.

When the Pope and Gorbachov had come to the end of their meeting, John Paul II told Gorbachov that he was praying hard for him.

the day after the meeting Mikhail Gorbachev had flown to Malta to meet US President George H.W. Bush in the summit at which the US and Russia had declared that they no longer considered one another as antagonists and thus ended the Cold War.

The Berlin Wall

Regarding the fall of the Berlin wall I also have the testimony of Cardinal Angelo Sodano who served John Paul II as his Secretary of State.

Cardinal Sodano once told me that President Gorbachov had told him that among the causes of the fall of the Berlin wall was the work of Pope John Pual II in defence of human rights.

"The fall of the Berlin wall, the fall of communism were thanks to him. I was always impressed by the statement of the former Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachov who had told me that among the causes of the fall of the communism were the efforts of Pope John Paul II mostly regarding human rights." H.E. Card. Angelo Sodano 25.2.2011

 ‘I remember....I remember indeed I was rather surprised that his reaction was that he was not surprised by what had taken place!'  H.E. Prof Joaquin Navarro-Valls 29.9.2011

When he heard of the Pope's death, former Soviet President Gorbachov, in sorrow at his great loss, had recalled how brave this Pole had been in their first meeting. He also said that all that had taken place had occurred through the will of God. Gorbachov had ended by saying that Wojtyla had set a great example to everyone.

Pope John Paul II and the Feast of Divine Mercy

Among the thousands of personalities from every social level whose sainthood the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church has recognised, during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, we find that of Sr Faustina Kowalska a Polish nun from Cracow.

The Feast of the Divine Mercy

‘St Faustina Kowalska was one of the most extraordinary figures, the most significant, the most fascinating of contemporary Christian hagiography. Sr Faustina was defined in various ways, such as the Apostle of Divine Mercy, as the prophet of our times, as a mystic and teacher of spirituality.

The writing of Sr Faustina for the depth of her union with God and also for the mystery of Divine Mercy for mankind.'  - H.E. Card. Jose’ Saraiva Martins, C.M.F.

St Faustina Kowalska

”After almost two thousand years almighty God chose to remind the world of His Mercy. I believe that through this devotion which today is worldwide, The Pope, today the Blessed John Paul II wanted to remind us of hope. Not only of hope on this Earth but also of hope in the next world. Tha God forgives all our sins; that God through His Son prepared a place for us in Heaven. To receive this place we must be saints in this world. Close to God we are baptised.” H.E. Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski 29.9.2011

Karol Wojtyla first heard the name of this nun from a seminarist colleague of his at the clandestine seminary they attend years before he was ordained priest. He had been told about Sr Faustina, the Polish mystic who received messages directly from Jesus Christ about his mercy.

This young seminarist would later be known as Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur, who was a close frined of Pope Wojtyla and one of his closest collaborators during his pontificate.

Deskur who passed away in September2011 ,  and who lived at the Vatican was a primary source of information about Sr Faustina and was instrumental in her cause for sainthood.

In evidence given many years ago by the Superior General of the Congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy, Sr Pauline Slomka had revealed that when he was a priest and also when he was Bishop of Cracow, Karol Wojtyla would often visit the convent where Sr Faustina had died and was buried.

A very young Wojtyla and Deskur

‘The relationship between Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Deskur was one of close friendship, of profound mutual respect.'  H.E. Card. Jose’ Saraiva Martins, C.M.F. 29.9.2011

‘Because we know that Sr Faustina was not a theologian but had been given the grace to be a mystic, to talk to Jesus Christ and Pope John Paul II who had such a devotion for Sr Faustina proclaimed he Blessed and sainted her. All this saint had said in simple words, the Pope wrote with thieological profundity in the document 'Salvifici Doloris'. It is the first document in history dealing with this sense of suffering.' -  H.E. Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski 29.9.2011

But what was John Paul II's relationship to Divine Mercy?

In Rome a few hundred metres from St Peter's Square one finds a sanctuary properly dedicated to Divine Mercy, a temple dedicated to the Holy Spirit in Sassia. The reliquary of Sr Faustina Kowalska is preserved there, that of the propagator of Jesus of Mercy who was of Polish nationality and was the first saint canonized in the third millennium.

John Paul II's encyclical "Dives in Misericordia"

John Paul II wrote the encyclical Dives in Misercordia, the second of his pontificate which is wholly intended to spread the message of this Polish nun. He proclaimed he a saint on the 30th of April 2000.

He tells us that when preparing this encyclical Pope John Paul II had meditated for long and was close to this nun he so wished to canonise.

On the 10th of April 1991 before the Church had recognised the beatification of Sr Faustina, Pope John Paul II had spoken about this nun. He had shown the great respect he had for her, again referred to the encyclical Dives in Misericordia and emphasised the role to promote the message of God's mercy for the world.

The words of the encyclical Dives in Misericordia are particularly close to us. The remind us of the figure of this servant of God, Sr Faustina Kowalska. This simple religious woman had delivered the message of Easter, of Christ's mercy closer to Poland and to the rest of the world.

“And to day asks the Pope?”, the Pope asks, is it not necessary to translate the words of the gospel to the language of today's generation? "Happy are those who are merciful for they shall shall be granted mercy!”

It was on the Feast of Divine Mercy on Saturday 18th April 1993 that Sr faustina Kowalska was beatified by Pope John paul II in St peter's Square. He had started the homily with a quotation from her diary:

“I certainly feel that my mission does not end with my death, but begins with it", "And so it was" said the Pope: "Her mission continues and bears innumerable fruits. It is a marvel how her devotion to the Divine Mercy is spreading through the contemporary world and is winning so many huma hearts."

Sr Faustina Kowalska was canonised by John Paul II on 30th April 2003

It was on Sunday 30th April 2000, on the Feast of Divine Mercy that Pope John Paul II canonised Blessed Sr Faustina Kowalska whom he had described and a great Apostle of Divine Mercy. 

It was then that he had also canonised the Message of Divine Mercy and the devotion to it by declaring the second Sunday in Easter as the Sunday of Divine Mercy for the Universal Church.

In one of his homilies, Pope John Paul II had repeated for three times that Sr Faustina Kowalska was a gift from God for our times. Through this message Sr Faustina had built a bridge for the third millennium of Christianity.

He exhorted everyone to raise their voice as one for Our lady, the Divine Mercy and with Sr Faustina who had made her life a hymn of mercy.

When the beatification of John Paul II took place on this feast day it had a great significance as Fr Joseph Barth, rector of this sanctuary explains while emphasising the intense bond of John Paul II to Divine Mercy.

The diary of St Faustina Kowalska

“John Paul II, because he was linked from his youth to Sr Maria Faustina Kowalska made of this message a key, the image of his pontificate as he had said himself. So when he had come here after he was elected Pope we can say and we must say that he brought in his heart the wish that here, within a few metres of him, the devotion to the Divine Mercy should continue to grow.”  Fr Joseph Barth

The Great Jubilee and the call for forgiveness asked by Wojtyla

The opening of the "Porta Santa" Basilica San Paolo fuori le Mura

Even giants ask for forgiveness also because they are aware that  at some point history will judge them. The Pope who had come from afar was prepared to ask forgiveness for various mistakes the Church had committed in the course of history. The first open wound which John Paul II wanted to see healed bore the name Galileo Galilei. He announced that he wanted the issue revisited during an event at the Pontificial Academy of Science commemorating Albert Einstein in 1979.

John Paul II did not mince his words: "The greatness of Galileo is known to everybody but he was made to suffer because of many spersonalities and structures within the Church. As was was done by Vatican Council II I invite theologians, scientists and historians to re-examine Galileo's case with regard to the affront he had suffered hundreds of years ago."

Galileo Galilei

Let us see what Cardinal Poupard and Gianfranco Ravasi had to say on this issue.

"This case became a weapon against the Church, a Pope John Paul II said so well, it was important to learn from this bitter experience the source of all the mea culpas. That is what was done."  H.E. Card Paul Poupard

"On the other hand since the Galileo case there can now be made a constant appeal for productive dialogue between science and the faith".  H.E. Card. Gianfranco Ravasi

Pope John Paul II

The Year of the Great Jubilee arrived and John Paul II did not stop there.

He asked for forgiveness to all who had suffered from all so called "Holy" wars, he condemned the crusades.

He asked for forgiveness to all who had suffered at the hands of the inquisition.

When visiting Cameroon he asked forgiveness of his African brothers whose fathers had suffered through slavery.

Addressing the European Parliament in Strasbourg, John Paul II formally condemned medieval integralism which many popes of that era had endorsed.

These requests for forgiveness by John Paul II in the name of the Catholic Church reached their highest level during the Great Jubilee of 2000. 

It was the 12 of March, 200, the Year dedidcated by the Catholic Church to Mercy, on the First Sunday of Lent, when John Paul II celebrated the mass in St Peter's Square with several cardinals.

That celebration on the Day dedicated to Forgiveness had taken place at the Pope's behest as a powerful sign in the Year of the Great Jubilee having the nature of a moment of conversion.

John Paul II had said:: As the Successor of Peter, in this year dedicated to mercy, I pray that the Church strengthened by the holiness it received from God kneels before God and asks His forgiveness for the sins of his children committed in the past and in the present. Everybody errs and nobody may feel justified before Him."

John Paul II – The Sufferer in Suffering   

Through his words and his deeds he taught us and gave us great things but he lesson he gave us from his Chair of Suffering and Silence was no less.

Here we recall the image of John Paul II embracing the crucifix in his last Via Crucis in 2005, a picture of frailty, just a few days before he started on his final journey. 

"Totus Tuus" in the highest level

‘The Pope asked Monsignor Stanislaw Dsiwisz to hand him the crucifix…for a few seconds. The Pope took the crucifix in his hands, kissed it and embraced. He placed it very close to his heart. Nobody noticed these few seconds.'  Dr Arturo Mari Official Papal Photographer

“Just as we truly acknowledged the holiness of this man burdened by suffering, crushed by suffering, still what always struck me in his spirituality was his consacration to Jesus Christ through Mary and that he took up those two words of his consacration to Mary from St Louis Marie grignon de Montfort, Totus Tuus, All Yours, and not only in words (because you can say many things in words as we know) but through his life, through the way he greeted people, through the way he gave his life to everyone to the end, he told us 'I belong not only to Jesus'. He said that Totus tuus not only to Jesus but to all humanity. Which meant that Pope Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, could tell everyone that I am all yours, all for you' That is what really struck me about him.” H.E. Msgr Charles J. Scicluna Auxiliary Bishop of Malta 25.2.2011

This journey now will take us to his bedroom in his last day on Earth.

“On the last day, in the last hours, the last day, he was conscious. He knew of the last morning of his last Saturday. That Saturday we said Mass. I had presided over the celebration…….over all the praying he did every morning …. his meditiation.

After Greeting Cardinal Ratzinger who was the Dean of the College of Cardinals and some other co-workers….in the paternoon he wanted to prepare himself…to prepare himself because he was aware that he neared the end of his life!

He asked us to read the Holy Scripture which he was used for reading. He used to pray through Holy Scripture. A priest, a professor read him nine chapters of the Gospel of St John. He prepared himself in this way. 
And so we too thought of saying Mass dedicated to Divine Mercy…on Saturday evening. And we have him a few drops of Christ's blood on his tongue. After Mass we gave him Extreme Unction and thus slowly, he died!” H.E. Card. Stanislaw Dsiwisz  7.9.2011

John Paul II was proclaimed dead on Saturday 2, April 2005 at 9.37pm

“My dearest bretheren, at thirty-seven minutes past nine, our dearly beloved Pope John Paul II returned to his Father's house.” H.E. Archbishop Leonardo Sandri 2.4.2005

John Paul II's last lesson to humanity was through his example to show us that suffering has a meaning.

‘We relived the Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ through the Passion of the Vicar of Christ…"  H.E. Card. Sergio Sebastiani

He left us the interpretation of his suffering which was no theological or philosophical theory but a personal experience pf suffering which grew with him through his pontificate, always aided by the great faith he had in the Christ crucified on Golgotha.

“At that moment I relived and saw the greatness of John Paul II… he was conscious to the end and never took his gaze from the picture of the crucifix…the room was full of light and there was no sense of time and space. To the end one could hear, through the window, the sound of singing and praying of young people in the square. It was a moment I will never forget.” Dr Rita Megliorin – Nursing Officer – Gemelli Hospital

“But I say that he gave great dignity to death. He used to say that death was just a passage to eternal life. He was so aware of those passing from one life to the next. The Pope was assisted by the young people and the crowd which prayed for him filling St Peter's Square.” H.E. Card. Stanislaw Dsiwisz 7.9.2011

Once more, almost twenty-seven years of pontificate, fourteen encyclicals, hundreds of apostolic exhorations, more than a hundred journeys around the world, thousands of speeches on the Pope suffering and embracing the cross, Totus Tuus at the highest level. The highest experience to which a christian may aspire.

In this simple phrase lies the reason why John Paul II must remain in the heart of mankind.

“Everybody felt that an extraordinary personality had passed away…extraordinary…on a world level and not for some three months….for twenty-seven years….almosy twenty-seven years. It was a long period of coherence and in almost every mind the thought was strengthened that this Pope was a saint.” H.E. Card. Zenon Grocholewski  26.2.2011

The Beatification Process
H.E. Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B. with Frank Zammit

"The miracle as you know, was extraordinary because this nun was, this French nun was ill, the doctors had said so and not just her own doctor but also some specialists. She had Parkinson's disease for the last five years and was being treated according to diagnosis with medicines which did not eliminate the pain but only relieved it and which did not cure the disease but only controlled it to slow down its course. This nun was a nurse and therefore was competent in this reality, this kid of illness. On the 2nd of June 2005 this nun could bear it no longer. She could not keep on working. Marie Pierre could no longer serve in her profession as a nurse and told her superior that she could no longer work. Her Superior told her to keep on working and to pray for the intercession of the Pope who had just died in 2005. "Let us pray….Let us pray to him who also used to suffer from Parkinson's and hope that he will rid her of this disease." He had died just two months before…. They prayed and the next day Sr. Marie Pierre woke up frre of pain, without restrictions, there was no sign left…she felt freed…so what did she do?....She went to specialists, to her own doctor et etc.. who all confirmed a diagnosis of complete cure. That's all."  H.E. Card. Angelo Amato, S.D.B.

The beatification of Karol Wojtyla better know and Pope John Paul II 'The Great' was a sign of the depth of his faith and an invitation to the faithful to live a totally Christian life.

Cardinal Jose' Saraiva Martins describes how the beatification process evolved in its first two years

H.E. Cardinal Jose' Saraiva Martins, C.M.F.

"Yes… very gladly, I also had the privilege to be the one to start this process of beatification immediately after the Pope had dispensed with the five year requirement after death in order to initiate a process of beatification. The Pope made his dispensation on the 3rd of May 2005 and after, on the 9th of May, I as the Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints, signed the official decree to immediately initiate the local diocesan phase of the process of beatification that is to say in Rome and in Cracow My decree was the forst official announcement, so much so that that on the 13th of May the Pope had announced to the Roman clergy in a meeting with them about the beatification of John Paul II. How had he announced it? He read my decree.. The Pope was with Cardinal Ruini but Pope Benedict XVI announced it by reading my decree.. where I had said that the cause should stat at once….So this was wonderful news…Afterwards, under my guidance the whole local diocesan phase was developed over about two years. Between 2005 and 2007.. It ended when I was still prefect and therefore I had signed another decree…I had approved all the research done in those two years.. So for me it certainly was a grace, a privilege, from the official beginning of the process accompanying also in the fundamental diocesan process." H.E. Card. Jose’ Saraiva Martins, C.M.F.

"Saints are those people who are most human. Humanity above all…saintliness is the fulfilment of humanity. Saints are those who live their humanity profoundly…We say for example that Jesus was the perfect human…a saint….why? Because he was saintliness itself…So these gifts were clearly in evidence in John Paul II who had an extraordinary humanity arising from his sanctity which brought him very close to mankind..I never tire of saying that sanctity is the fulfilment of humanity." H.E. Card. Jose’ Saraiva Martins, C.M.F.

H.E. The Auxiliary Bishop of Malta Msgr Dr Charles J. Scicluna

‘I was greatly impressed both by the world's reaction to the death of Pope John Paul II, there was a unanimous chorus from every culture and every sort of religion of every background and every call of life who said the same thing "this was a special man" . In the faith we call them heros of the faith, saints, but why? It was as though the world acknowledged in John Paul II the true image of the Good Shepherd, who when he needed to speak to us less than softly, was strong, he was not afraid to tell us…" H.E. Msgr Charles J. Scicluna Auxiliary Bishop of Malta 25.2.2011

H.E. Cardinal Camillo Ruini: A jojful memory, a joy for two reasons

"A joyful memory, of joy for two reasons..It was the first meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and the Roman clergy but it was also the day I learnt that the new pope was going to announce a dispensation from the five year interval between the death the beginning of a process of beatification and canonization. And so that call which everybody remembers was: "Santo subito" (A saint at once) was answered. It had been made by the crowd on the night when the Pope had died, when Karol Wojtyla died. It was answered and channelled in to the Church procedures which should properly be strict in ascertaining the candidate who must pass through the process of beatification and canonization.  H.E. Card. Camillo Ruini

This is what Monsignor Alfred Xuereb had to say…..

“First of all I am struck (by the fact) that when I visit Malta, there are people who tell me to pray for a special grace in their nam when I visit the Pope's grave, They would love to have at least a day in Rome just to visit his grave and pray over it for this grace. Several people have told me afterwards that they did receive the grace. I remember two couples whose marriages I had celebrated and which both had difficulties in having children. One of the women had been to the doctor with her husband and had been told that she had a 1% chance of having a child. Her sister had lost a child just a few weeks into the pregnancy and I think that was for a second time. They both spoke to me of their great difficulties because I had celebrated both their weddings. I had encouraged them to come to Rome where I said Mass for them near his grave and then we went and prayed over his grave… In fact, a few weeks later both were expecting a child. The one with one per cent chance delivered a healthy boy with no difficulty and the other one also took her pregnancy to term and had a baby boy. They now have a son each. A wonderful experience which I have been able to tell the present Pope who has a great love for John Paull II.

Cardinal Angelo Amato explains where the process had reached when he was nominated to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

His Eminence Cardinal Angelo Amato, S.D.B.

"At that point the process was well advanced, the position was being prepared. Perhaps I had better explain what the position is. The position is the collation of three volumes which together describe the life and evidence of heroism of virtue of the person in question, in this case the Pope, Servant of God John Paul II. So, it is a sort of summary of the Pope's virtues. So we had come to that point…..I must explain that in this case there were two facilitations. The first facilitation was a derogation granted by Pope Benedict XVI from the five year waiting interval such that this process could and did start immediately. This was the first facilitiation. The second, following from the first, was that this process was granted the fast lane. There was practically nothing in front of it and nothing behind. It did not have to wait… it was properly fasttracked….so every time one phase ended the next one began immediately. the phases were as follows: on the 19th of December 2005 the decree on heroism of virtue was made then the miracle was examined by doctors and theologians for well over a year and as you well know, at the beginning of this yeat precisely on the 14th of January 2011 a decree was made about the miracle which permitted progress to beatification on 1st May 2011. So these were the phases. I repeat that the speed of the phases was thanks to the two facilitations abovementioned. It also depended on the Postulants filing the evidence in good time. However it was of paramount importance that this process was not granted any discount, that is we did not act superficially but with a high level of professionality also because we were dealing with such a great figure and with procedural correctness since were were dealing with such a great figure and we did not want to miss out any required step. H.E. Card. Angelo Amato, S.D.B

It ends with the final comments of the Postulator Monsignor Slawomir Oder about the book on Pope John Paul II he published entitled ‘Why He is a Saint?'

Frank Zammit with the Postulator the Rev. Monsignor Slawomir Oder

"For me this book was like sharing a spiritual adventure, yes it was a notebook of a spiritual journey which served me well and therefore I did not wish to keep to myself the spiritual wealth which was made up of a particular perspective of the vision of the figure and the postulant. What one can certainly read in the book are simply three aspects of his life: the man, the Pope, the Mystic. I think that each of these three distinct aspects of the life og John Paul II provide a number of little known elements about the figure of John Paul II. It was a pleasure for me to describe his spiritual depth, the mystic aspect of his life, because he was a man in love with Christ and all his life was nothing more than being taken up by Christ to be given to his brethren." The Rev. Msgr Dr Slawomir Oder

The Blessed Pope John Paul II: He still lives  amongst us!  

John Paul II Centre "Do not be afraid!" in Krakow-Lagewnieki    

Having served the third longest pontificate in the history of the papcy, John Paul II died in April 2005. He was beatified some months ago. Nevertheless, he will live on with us in this life thanks to a project made by his Private Secretary Cardinal Dsiwisz.

His Eminence Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz - Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow

The John Paul II Centre ' Do Not Be Afraid!' is a project which was formally inaugurate on the 2nd of January 2006 by Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz, Metropolitan of Cracow.  On that day Karol Wojtyla's faithful servant signed the decree establishing this centre and a public an ecclesial organization to be governed by the Archdiocese of Cracow.

The idea behind the centre was to create a living memorial to the life of this personality and to the achievement of this Slav pope.

Frank Zammit at John Paul II Centre "Do not be Afraid!" in Krakow-Lagewnieki

It is a living project in the teaching of the Nazarene which reminds us of when He gave us the beatitutdes!

This enormous project includes:

The John Paul II Home
A Centre for Science and Research
A Home for Youth Meetings
The International Home of the Pilgrim
A Centre for Volonteer Services
A Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue
A Retreat Home
And other Social Service Centres

This Pope's legacy is an inspiration for everyone regardless of one's religion. On this aspect Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz declared that the aim of this project is to conserve the character of the Pope as he was, in his teaching, in his poetry, in his sensitivity to beauty, but above all in his love for us all.

The Centre will also be the final resting place of Polish Cardinal Andrzej Maria Deskur  whose remains were brought from Rome to be buried here. One could not have found a better place for this Cardinal who had been a constant partner to Wojtyla.

The name of the centre recalls a phrase uttered by the Pope in the beginning of his pontificate on Sunday 22nd of October 1978: DO NOT BE AFRAID!

The Blessed John Paul II "The Great"

I leave you with this beautiful prayer:

O Blessed Trinity, we thank You for having
graced the Church with Blessed John Paul
II and for allowing the tenderness of Your
Fatherly care, the glory of the Cross of
Christ, and the splender of the Spirit of love,
to shine through him. Trusting fully in
Your infinite mercy and in the maternal intercession
of Mary, he has given us a living
image of Jesus the Good Shepherd, and has
shown us that holiness is the necessary
measure of ordinary Christian life and is
the way of achieving eternal communion
with You. Grant us, by his intercession, and
according to Your will, the graces we implore,
hoping that he will soon be numbered
among Your saints. Amen.
With ecclesiastical approval
Vicar General of His Holiness
for the Diocese of Rome

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