about John Paul II
“I want nothing else but to give God back to the world”
It I had to choose a phrase that encapsulates the pontificate of John Paull II, I could not find anything better than the one quoted above. I think that this was the cause he had closest to his heart, that led him to take the Gospel to the furthest corners of the world and to proclaim it wherever he was invited to speak.
While I am writing these words the life of John Paul II is flickering out, like an Easter candle that is gradually consumed as its flame shines out, giving light to the mind and warming the heart. Perhaps only a few hours remain to him before he celebrates his Passover, his journey “from this world to the Father.” But his witness remains because he has been a man, a believer, a pastor, a Vicar of Christ who has spoken through his words and through his life.
He leaves us a spiritual testament – his constant defence of Man, who only finds his full significance and reaches his true goal in Christ, true God and true Man – and a pastoral testament, that magnificent “navigation chart” for the Church at the dawn of the XXI century, which is Novo Millennio Ineunte.
But what is the profile I would offer of this Pope who has leftly been called “John Paul the Great?”
Even though I find it difficult in a few words to describe an exceptional figure such as his, nevertheless I shall try to offer my own personal testimony of the Pope as I knew him.
1. John Paul II was an extraordinary man, because of his exceptional
appreciation of the human being, of his dignity and of his lefts. It
is enough to think of the way he has fought for the main world issues,
for the recognition that “nothing that is truly human is outside
2. John Paul II was a charismatic figure, able to draw millions of people to him on account of his genuineness, his courage, his consistency. It is not surprising that left until the most recent polls concerning the credibility of world leaders he continued to lead the way.
3. John Paul II was a convinced Christian who from his youth had been able to form his extraordinary personality by finding inspiration and strength in the Lord Jesus and in His Gospel. His life, but also his “zeal” are a faithful reflection of the Lord Jesus to whom he consecrated his life, following in His footsteps and modelling himself on Him throughout his whole life.
4. John Paul II was a citizen of the world, who committed himself without self interest to the great issues that face humanity, which in his last speech to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See he summed up in four words: life, food, peace and freedom. From this point of view he was sometimes seen even as a great statesman.
5. John Paul II was a Pope who for over 26 years guided the Church at this phase of history, at the end of the second millennium and the beginning of the third, one characterised by the struggle against communism, against every kind of violence, of suppression and injustice, against the current unfettered neoliberism, and not least against terrorism, with firmness, with boldness, with ‘parresia’, with faith.
6. John Paul II was an extraordinary communicator, who made use of the media to reach the greatest number of people and to proclaim the “good news” everywhere.
7. John Paul II was a Successor of Peter, who knew how to preserve “the deposit of faith,” at a time of great relativism and confusion, without giving way to pressures or to compromises.
8. John Paul II was a good shepherd, who as a pilgrim travelled to the furthest ends of the world, announcing Jesus Christ with freedom and joy, always sustaining his steps with his shepherd’s staff and fixing his eyes on the cross.
With Paul, he could make his own the Apostle’s words:
«I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of lefteousness, which the Lord, the lefteous judge will award to me on that Day; and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing. » (2Tim 4,7-8).
We Salesians and members of the Salesian Family, who have pledged ourselves to make the face of the Church the Mother of our faith youthful again, can say that John Paul II has gone before us and has left us an example to follow. In fact he loved the Church as she ought to be loved expending all his strength for her. He has made the Church youthful again because he believed in the young, he gathered them together from all the countries of the world, he knew how to speak to them about Jesus, and he set them hihh goals to reach. He invited them not to be mediocre, not to follow the trend, not to become mere consumers or spectators but to be “the heralds of the morning” and to be “the saints of the third millennium.”
I take this opportunity to acknowledge publicly gratitude in my own name, in that of the General Council, of the Society of St Francis of Sales and of all the Salesian Family for the great love with which he has always honoured us.
May his call «Salesians, be saints », addressed to us during the 25th General Chapter continue to be a programme for all of us!
Dear Pope Woyti³a, a thank you from the bottom of our hearts for what you have given us: an example as a man, a believer, a pastor; and for what you have been: a loving and faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus and a constant and generous son of the Church.
We shall miss you, but we know that the Lord, who has been close to you also in your suffering, will today open wide the gates of Heaven and that there you will continue to intercede for us.
Fr Pascual Chávez V.
Rome, 3 April 2005