Skip links

Invoking John Paul the Great

ROME — Age certainly accelerates one’s sense of the passage of time.

Well do I remember high school classes that felt as long as Würm Glaciation, the minute hand circumambulating the clock’s perimeter at a glacial pace.

Yet this past April 27, sitting in the south transept of the world’s greatest tombstone — the Papal Basilica of St. Peter’s in the Vatican — I remembered being at that exact spot at the 1996 Mass marking John Paul II’s priestly golden jubilee, and the intervening decades seem to have passed at hypersonic speed. Tempus fugit, indeed!

It was the 10th anniversary of John Paul II’s canonization, so it was also unnerving to realize that a full decennium had gone by since the man whose biography I had written was raised to the glory of the altars in company with Pope John XXIII. There were murmurings, then, that Pope Francis had contrived a double-header canonization to dilute the focus on John Paul II. To my mind, though, it was vere dignum et iustum, “truly right and just,” that the two bookends of the Second Vatican Council — the Pope who summoned the Council to re-energize the Church for evangelization and the Pope who gave the Council its authoritative interpretation while calling us to live Vatican II’s teaching in the “New Evangelization” — should be canonized together.

Be that as it may, last month’s anniversary Mass was something of a grand recapitulation of the John Paul II years.

It was organized by John Paul’s longtime secretary and confidant, Stanisław Dziwisz, now the emeritus cardinal-archbishop of Kraków. His episcopal motto, Sursum Corda (Lift Up Your Hearts), poignantly summarized the Polish Pope’s electrifying impact on the world Church.

The principal celebrant was Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the college of cardinals and longtime sostituto of the Secretariat of State under John Paul — in effect, the papal chief of staff. At 90 years old, Cardinal Re still exudes the incandescent energy he displayed as Sostituto from 1989 until 2000 — although, as I reminded him at the post-Mass reception in the atrium of the Paul VI Audience Hall, “You fell asleep on my shoulder during the premiere of Our God’s Brother in Kraków in June 1997!”

And there, in the first row of concelebrants, was John Paul II’s great vicar for the Diocese of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini: 93 and confined to a wheelchair, but determined to celebrate the sanctity of the man whose vision of a missionary, culture-reforming Church Ruini had worked heroically to bring to life in Rome and throughout Italy. What, I wondered (and not for the first time), would things have been like if Pope Benedict XVI had made Cardinal Ruini his secretary of state?

Read more at National Catholic Register 

Share with Friends: