In praise of Pope John Paul II

In my parish this Saturday evening we are showing a film about Pope John Paul in preparation for the Church's celebration of his beatification. (For those in reach of Blackfen: 7pm Small Hall.)

I well remember that day in 1979 (16 October) sitting in a room in Keble College with my good friend John Hayes, listening to Vatican radio. Most people didn't have computers then, and the internet was in its infancy. We relied on Vatican radio and the weekly English edition of L'Osservatore for news of the Vatican. John was probably one of the few people in England to have recognised instantly, during the Habemus Papam announcement, that the name Karol belonged to the Polish Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow.

The election of a Polish pope filled us with excitement and hope - and we were not disappointed. This vigorous, determined, relatively young Pope began the process of halting the decline in the Church. His obviously sincere and heartfelt devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady were made abundantly evident in his public celebrations of the Liturgy: his discourses always ended with a paragraph or more related to the Blessed Virgin and he took the motto Totus Tuus from his personal consecration to her. This may seem tame nowadays but it was a major shift from the dreary iconoclasm of the 1970s.

Over the next few days, I will be writing about my own experiences of Pope John Paul II's pontificate. I may even be able to dig out a photograph or two showing me meeting him. It only occurred to me the other day, that these are about to take on a new significance. I don't have any other photos of me meeting a Beatus!

I am well aware that some have reservations about the beatification but I hereby nail my colours to the mast: Pope John Paul II was a great Pope and I am looking forward to celebrating a votive Mass in his honour when I am Rome next month.

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