I am neither a catholic nor an advocate of any of the churches fighting for wealth on earth and the unseen thrones of the Apostles in heaven. While this has cost me much – recognition, name, fame and honors in the Christian world, the heavenly father chose this worm to complete many a mighty task for Him. It is here that Pope John Paul II comes into my life – a relatively unknown man from a little known communist country whom the Lord used to attain mighty goals for Him to take up a path not treaded by his predecessors.
His election to the highest office of the biggest church on earth was unique. The shocking, sudden and sad demise of Pope John Paul I just 33 days after he became Pope, triggered another Papal Conclave 10 days after his funeral. While there were two strong contenders for the Papacy, neither of them could attain the required mandate and Polish Cardinal Karol Jozef was proposed as a compromise candidate and elected on the eighth ballot on the third day of the Conclave having won 99 votes from the participating 111 electors.
From then on he made a difference in Papacy making deviations from traditions. He was the 264th pope, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. At 58 years of age, he became the youngest Pope since 1846. He took the name of John Paul II in tribute to his immediate predecessor and in honor of late Pope Paul VI. He broke tradition soon after his election by speaking to the crowd gathered at the St. Peter’s Square when he made his appearance on the balcony after the election. That was just the beginning.
During his pontificate Pope John Paul II travelled 1,100,000 kilometers to reach 129 countries, attracting large crowds wherever he went – some of them the largest ever assembled in human history as in X World Youth Day where an estimated five million people gathered at Luneta Park in Manila to attend the Mass offered by him. He met with several heads of churches which had broken away from the Catholic Church centuries ago. It was his first trip to Poland in 1979 that sparked the spirit of freedom and led to the formation of Solidarity and forced the exit of Communism not only from Poland but also other East European Countries including Russia.
The most fascinating attribute of Pope John Paul II which drew me to him was the utmost value he gave for holiness in spiritual life. Today we find many who claim holiness in titles and personal lives but make compromises to tolerate and mask the unholiness of their subordinates. Pope John Paul II was not only holy but he made sure that the discipline of Holiness should be the watchword of his subordinates, teachings and the faithful. His special emphasis and encouragement on the universal call to holiness was proclaimed when he beatified 1340 and canonized 483 people which was more than the tally of all his predecessors in the last five centuries. He was inflexible and stood firm in upholding the teachings against abortion and euthanasia and made no compromises in his opposition to capital punishment.
The assassination attempt on his life on 13th May, 1981, by Mehmet Ali Agca as he was entering St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City once again revealed his dependence on God and the great faith he had in the intercessions of Mother Mary. His request to the faithful to “Pray for my brother Agca whom I have sincerely forgiven” and his subsequent visit to Rome’s Rebibbia prison where he met Agca, and his request to the Italian President to pardon Agca are all beacons of his love and compassion for humanity. He strongly believed that the two bullets were deviated away from his heart to the intestines by the precious hands of Holy Mary. The proclamation of his holiness by the masses were evident when the crowd of more than three million who had assembled to bid him farewell on 8th April, 2005 at the St. Peter’s square acclaimed in one accord “Santo Subito” (Make him a Saint).
His successor Pope Benedict just did that, breaking the traditions of the Church by declaring the start of the proceedings for the beatification and canonization of Pope John Paul II, just 41 days after his demise – a process that would be ordered by the church only after a minimum period of five years which could be extended to decades or centuries after the death of a person.
Pope John Paul II himself had broken this tradition when he ordered to start the canonization procedures for Mother Teresa just two years after her death.
The Almighty God in His compassion and mercy enabled me too, to experience His blessings through the prayers of His beloved saint Pope John Paul II. Raaji and I were also blessed with the privilege to visit his tomb at Vatican.
The “Pope John Paul II Vatican Arcade” set up at the “Museum of the Word“ one of the greatest Bible Museums on earth, is the greatest attribute of my love to Pope John Paul II.
Praise the Lord!