John Paul II dies — "Be Not Afraid"
The Vatican is official: John Paul II has gone home to God. This man, this Pope, who touched so many lives all over the world, has died at the age of 84. He was about a month from his 85 birthday and only 6 months shy of a 27 year reign as the Bishop of Rome. He was the third longest-reigning Pope, following Blessed Pius IX (31 years)and St. Peter (~35 years) himself.
We had the opportunity to see “Il Papa” about a year ago, when Terri and I visited Rome for a week. We had the fortune to get tickets to the Papal Audience, and were able to sit right on the aisle where the “Pope Jeep” (see the picture, left) passed, transporting the Holy Father to the steps of San Peitro. We also were able to attend the end of a Papal Beatification Mass where he spoke the weekly Sunday blessing.
John Paul II contributed to the Catholic Church and the world in many ways. To me, personally, he demonstrated compassion and faith in ways that aren’t usually seen in everyday life. He was instrumental in the end of communism, and worked for reform within the Church as well; under his reign were the first revisions to the Codex Iuris Canonici (Code of Canon Law – the law of the Church) since 1917, the revision of the Catechism, and the current version of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (the rites of the Catholic Mass). He wrote numerous letters and exhortations, from Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women) to Salvifici Doloris (On Human Suffering). But for all he did for the Church Universal and the world, one thing touched me in a very personal way. Standing in St. Peter’s Square, on a chilly Wednesday morning, I heard the Holy Father speak directly to my heart, in my own language, in his own words, and it was as if I was the only one he was addressing. I was one face in a crowd of hundreds–maybe thousands–and I know that he was really talking to everyone assembled, but to hear him speak my language, in person, was a very emotional moment in my life. I couldn’t tell you now what he said, but I know that just the act of him reaching out to the world community, in numerous languages, was measure enough of his love for all of humanity.
Edit: Actually, I do know what he said, thanks to Zenit News.
“I extend a special welcome to the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today, including groups from England, Sweden and the United States of America. May your visit to Rome be a time of spiritual enrichment. Entrusting you to the protection of Mary, I invoke upon you the grace and peace of her Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ.” –Ioannes Paulus PP.II, 24 Mar 2004 ]]>