Days before Pope John Paul II’s death on April 2, 2005, Vatican television cameras captured extraordinary footage of the Polish pope.
He was sitting alone facing the altar of his private chapel. Beneath the crucifix and tabernacle was a television screen showing a torchlit procession at Rome’s Colosseum.
It was Good Friday and the 84-year-old pope was unable to lead that year’s Way of the Cross because of his infirmity. But he was still determined to take part.
Images of the pope in his chapel were broadcast live on video screens at the Colosseum. The thousands present there cheered as they saw him sitting silently with his back to the camera.
Near the end of the Via Crucis, John Paul II was seen holding a large wooden crucifix.
The crucifix originally belonged to a Polish woman called Janina Trafalska, who like the pope experienced great suffering.
Janina told her story to the Polish Catholic television station TV Trwam in a documentary entitled “The Holy Cross, Above All.”
In 1990, at the age of 29, she plunged from a window, damaging her spine. As she underwent months of medical treatment, her artist husband, Stanisław, spent time in the Bieszczady Mountains in southeast Poland, praying for his wife as he completed the Stations of the Cross.
After Janina finished her therapy, she fell into despair. She wondered why God had permitted an accident that shattered her life’s dreams. Confined to a wheelchair, she began to withdraw from those around her.
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