I was in Israel attending a meeting with
15 Cardinals and 45 Bishops (all bishops
who have a Redemptoris Mater seminary in
their diocese) when the news flashed announcing
the death of the Pope. Standing up on our
feet, we clapped. An ovation that meant sheer
devotion and pure love. He was such a great
Yes, we had mixed feelings. On one
we were sad because we had just lost
and a father. Many had tears in their
On the other hand, we were happy because
now he is eternally with the Jesus
whom he had loved so dearly while on
Divine Mercy will now embrace him forever.
That Saturday night on hearing the
his death, the crowd gathered at St
Square started chanting in unison,
santo, santo'. Indeed he was a saint.
I noticed, on TV, a napkin flagging
the message written in a child's hand,
there, surely you're the most handsome
He bridged nations, religions, ages.
headlines in the most important newspaper
in Israel roared in bold letters 'The
of the Jews'. Imagine that! Mehmet
the would be assassin whom the Pope
called him 'my spiritual brother'.
the Polish communist dictator who battled
the Pope over Solidarity's right to
called him a 'great man'.
I had the opportunity to shake hands
him five times, twice in my capacity
superior of the Discalced Carmelites
three times as an itinerant catechist
the Neocatechumenal Way. Last time
him was this January. At the end of
meeting for catechists of the Neocatechumenal
Way, we met him at Sala Nervi in the
Fabio, Edivaldo and Simone, seminarians
our seminary in Guam, were there also.
morning he was radiant with joy.
But the image which will always remain
in my mind is him visibly in pain,
and holding tight to the cross. This
the secret of this giant of faith -
and the fruitfulness of the glorious
which he espoused so dearly.
While all of us run away from suffering,
he embraced it!
In 1994, as age and infirmity began
John Paul publicly, he told us "I
lead the Church with suffering....
must suffer so that every family and
world should see that there is, I would
a higher gospel: the gospel of suffering,
with which one must prepare the future."
The cross is magnificent. When asked
years ago if he might consider resigning,
John Paul reportedly asked, in reply,
Christ come down from the cross?"
underestimate the power of example.
Christianity has a secret. "In
Christ, God bends down over man to
a hand to him, to raise him up, and
him continue his journey with renewed
wrote Pope John Paul II in his last
'Memory And Identity'.
Jesus was a suffering victim who seemed
have been defeated by the earthly powers.
But in his moment of apparent weakness
defeat, He came out triumphant, dying
humanity's sins and opening the way
Thus in Him we can be victorious. This
what Pope John Paul II believed and
"The spectacle of his condition
his ferocious attachment to life -
central, coherent and consistent teaching
of his papacy - whether that life is
in the womb by abortion, or in old
euthanasia," wrote Newsweek. A
assumption of Christian belief is that
cares for every person, no matter how
or how lowly his status is.
He showed us the possibility to live
He promoted peace not through confrontation
but by winning hearts and minds. He
in the wisdom of our faith and asserted
vigorously and intelligently even if
expected him to be 'flexible'.
He reached out to Jews, Muslims, Protestants
and the Eastern Orthodox Churches.
He had a personal experience of the
of evil, first Nazism, then communism.
perceived the obnoxious and subtle
lies in the empty pursuit of wealth
spiritual poverty that often accompanies
He understood that the basic root of
pain of the modern man is 'self love
point of contempt of God'. This leads
to the stupid autonomy that he can
what is good and what us evil.
And he understood that the only way
this tragic fallacy is 'love for God
point of contempt of self'.
Shortly after Valeria Ingrassia, a
married an Italian, Pope John Paul
a Mass at her parish in Rome. She caught
his eye and yelled out that she was
"The Pope practically jumped across
the barricade and past a piano to get
me. When he reached me, he blessed
she recalls, brushing away a stream
"I was never able to have children,
but I know that because of that blessing
I was able to adopt my two wonderful
"I will never forget that look
me in church. It was as if he was saying,
'Go ahead, be strong and live your
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