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REMEMBERING JOHN PAUL II

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2/12/2008 1:59 AM
 
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RE: BISHOP WOJTYLA'S LETTERS TO PADRE PIO

What a cool article Teresa! Thanks for posting it. I have read in George Weigel's book Witness to Hope that Padre Pio heard Fr. Wojtyla's confession, but Weigel dates it as 1947. He also attended a Mass celebrated by Padre Pio. I wonder what has happened to Padre Pio's responses to Bishop Wojtyla? Perhaps they are in a collection of Pope John Paul's personal things?

2/24/2008 4:01 PM
 
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'A LIFE WITH KAROL' NOW IN ENGLISH




THE DSIWISZ DIARIES
By Rocco Palmo
Whispers in the Loggia
Feb. 21, 2008



Early March will see the English-language release of the memoir of Pope John Paul II's closest aide of four decades.

First published last year in Italian and Polish, A Life with Karol recounts the late pontiff's journey through the eyes of Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who served as John Paul's private secretary from 1966 until his 2005 death, functioning in turns as his principal gatekeeper, messenger, adviser, comic relief and "backdoor" through which not a few blocked through the usual Vatican channels found their way into the papal apartment.

While the current dynamic of the Apostolic Palace sees the Secretary of State effectively functioning as this pontificate's top "deputy," few would question that John Paul's 27 year reign saw that capacity filled by the inconspicuous Pole with the booming voice who became the closest thing to family that Papa Wojtyla had. Always understood to be speaking with the pontiff's voice, "Don Stanislao," now 68, exerted unparalleled influence over matters from appointments and access to arranging John Paul's secret escapes from the Vatican's gilded cage and advancing the Pope's public support for his favored movements and causes.

Rome being Rome, a clout of this sort -- unprecedented for a papal secretary in recent times -- was bound to arouse resistance and rivalries. And when the Vatican flow-chart got in the way, John Paul revamped it in Dziwisz's favor, naming him a bishop and adjunct prefect of the Papal Household (an appointment that moved the secretary from his post's traditional assignment in the Secretariat of State). As the late Pope lay on his deathbed in his final moments, his top aide reportedly kept even his successor-to-be -- Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger -- out of the room, only admitting the future Benedict XVI and John Paul's Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano after Wojtyla breathed his last.

While the next Pope was said to be hurt by the move, he never showed it publicly, instead naming Dziwisz to the archbishopric of Krakow two months after John Paul's death and conferring the red hat on him shortly thereafter. As head of the ancient local church -- the post from which John Paul himself rose to Peter's chair -- the longtime aide has found a new life on his own as a pastor and a force in the life of the Polish church, while unfailingly promoting the legacy and sanctity of his longtime boss with an eye to his canonization.

Totaling 260 pages of brief, vivid, anecdote-filled chapters, A Life chronicles Dziwisz's memories -- and John Paul's doings -- large and small, from the late Pope's bond with Blessed Teresa of Calcutta ("God's Sister"), the force of his mystical spirituality, his "Jewish roots" and daily routine to his 1978 election, the 1981 assassination attempt and the final years of the pontiff's battle with age and Parkinson's disease.

Despite being sought out by almost every world leader and living down the hall from some of civilization's most priceless cultural treasures, "he actually practiced poverty to a heroic degree," Dziwisz writes, "and did it effortlessly.

"He didn't have anything and he never asked for anything, either" he says, adding that while "as Pope his needs were provided for," in reality "he never had a cent to call his own."

Along the way, the author repeatedly underscores the "option for man" -- John Paul's impassioned, unstinting advocacy for life, for peace and for the dignity of the human person.

Presenting Wojtyla as a Gospel-rooted man of the center, Dziwisz even takes direct aim at the misconception, still operative in some quarters, that the Polish Pope's successful, long-waged crusade against Communism could be construed as a green light for unbridled, Western-style capitalism.

"Karol Wojtyla wasn't a party man," Dziwisz says. "Or, to put it bluntly, he was a man who didn't belong to either Moscow or Washington.

"He was a man of God who was always open to everyone," he added. "He was a free man. And he never let himself be governed by political choices."

Repeatedly declaring the independence of the "option for man" from the exploitation of politics and the confinement of secular ideologies, he concludes that, in his stewardship of the Magisterium, the late Pope "was progressive where he needed to be; and where necessary, he remained a traditionalist in the right sense of the word." In a separate reflection on the contemporary model of the papacy fleshed out through Wojtyla's landmark reign, his secretary writes that "the tradition John Paul II's pontificate changed was by [the time of his election] partly obsolete, if not actually indefensible."

He might've been one of the most traveled, most heard, most loved and admired luminaries to ever walk the earth, but the aide who knew him best emphasized that what kept John Paul going most lay far from the cameras, crowds and paperwork that came with the office.

"He got everything from prayer, from the encounter with the Lord," Dziwisz wrote, noting that the Pope's spirituality of "total abandonment" often found him prostrate on the floor of his private chapel when he thought no one was looking.

"He was in love with God. He lived on God. And every day, he would start over again."

Released by Doubleday, the Dziwisz memoir is but the latest ecclesiastical coup for the publisher, whose recent roster has included Raymond Arroyo's best-seller bio of the EWTN foundress Mother Angelica, the spiritual diaries of Bl Teresa of Calcutta and, of course, the first volume of Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth. With Papa Ratzi immersed in preparing the second volume of his Christ chronicle, which he's driven himself to completing within this year, the house will also drop Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput's election-year treatise on church and state; Render Unto Caesar is slated for a summer release.

Last week, the Vatican announced that B16 will again preside at an open-air Mass in St Peter's Square on 2 April to mark the anniversary of John Paul's death.
3/30/2008 3:33 PM
 
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NOT TRUE THAT JP-II'S BODY
WILL BE TRANSFERRED
TO MAIN FLOOR OF ST. PETER'S

Translated from the
Italian service of





Fr. Federico Lombardi, Vatican press director, denied conclusively in a note this morning "what was reported this morning in a Turin newspaper [La Stampa] that the remains of John Paul II will be transferred from the Vatican grottoes to the main floor of St. Peter's Basilica."

He said: "I can deny definitely that there was any committee presided by Cardinal Angelo Comastri which took such a decision."

He added that it was equally "unfounded to speak of an involvement of the Vatican gendarmerie", explaining that "there will be no decision on such a transfer before beatification."

"Therefore," he said, "anything stated in the article is mere speculation, and discussion of the subject is absolutely premature."


ADNKronos, quoting TG1, the premier newscast of italian state TV's first channel, had reported this earlier:


ROME, March 29 (Translated from ADNKronos) - The remains of Pope John Paul II will be transferred to the Vatican Basilica's chapel of St. Sebastian, next to the Pieta chapel, to the right of the main entrance to the Church, TG-1 announced as an 'exclusive' today.

TG-1 said that the transfer would also involve a determination whether the remains could be exposed openly [under glass].

The Pope, who died on April 2, 2005, is entombed in the Vaticna grottoes, along with other deceased Pontiffs, under a marble slab. The remains could be transferred after he is beatified, as was the case with Blessed John XXIII, who is exposed under glass.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 3/30/2008 3:40 PM]
3/31/2008 11:21 PM
 
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POSITION SUMMARY AND ALL DOCUMENTS
TO SUPPORT JP-II BEATIFICATION
NOW READY FOR SUBMISSION



VATICAN CITY - Only a few minor refinements remain before the documents in support of the beatification of Pope John Paul II can be formally submited to the Congregation for the Cause of Sainthood, according to Mons. Slawomir Oder, postulator for the late Pope's cause.



"In the past few days, " he told Vatican Radio, "I completed a near-definitive draft of the 'positio' - the statement that puts together all pertinent documents organized systematically as a basis for beatification."

"There are about 2,000 pages," he continued, "which only require minor refinements of a technical and editorial nature, but overall, I can say the 'positio' is ready. Now it is up to the our liaison at the Congregation for the Cause of Sainthood, Fr. Daniel Ols (a Dominican), to review it and approve it for official presentation. But right now, it would be premature to give a date for this submission."

Recently, Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, Prefect of the Congregation for the Cause of Sainthood said that the congregationw ould immediately examine the 'positio' as soon as it is submitted.


Here's how AP reported it later:

Report on John Paul II's
beatification cause ready

By MARTA FALCONI


VATICAN CITY, Mar. 31 (AP) - The church official spearheading the cause to make Pope John Paul II a saint said Monday he has finished a roughly 2,000-page draft of a report supporting the late pontiff's canonization. [No, beatification!]

Two days before the Vatican marks the third anniversary of John Paul's death, Monsignor Slawomir Oder told Vatican Radio that he has turned over the report to the Vatican's Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The report summarizes and analyzes all the documentation about John Paul's life and virtues that had been gathered since his 2005 death, including testimony from witnesses and his own writings.

"In the past days I have submitted a semifinal version," Oder said. "It's about 2,000 pages that need further technical and editing adjustments, but we can say that in its entirety, the report is complete."

Now, an independent Vatican official, the Rev. Daniel Ols, must review Oder's report and give it the final go-ahead for an official presentation to the Congregation, which must then gather committees of cardinals and bishops to discuss the merits of the case.

Oder declined to give a timetable for that, or say when the Vatican might decide to beatify John Paul.

The Vatican's complicated saint-making procedures — which can include the weighing of favorable and unfavorable information — require that a miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession be confirmed before beatification. A second miracle is necessary for canonization.

Pope Benedict XVI put John Paul on the fast track to possible sainthood just weeks after his death on April 2, 2005, waiving the customary five-year waiting period.

Such a waiver had only been granted once before, to Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 and was beatified in 2003.

John Paul's sainthood process is progressing quickly, with milestones reached at nearly every anniversary of his death.

Last year, the investigation into John Paul's life and virtues was officially closed, and French church officials turned over to the Vatican documentation about a purported miracle attributed to his intercession.

Benedict will preside over a Mass on Wednesday marking John Paul's death.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:43 AM]
4/1/2008 3:36 PM
 
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ROME RABBI REMEMBERS
HIS FRIEND JOHN PAUL II

Interview by
Bruno Volpe and Ilona Malysz
Translated from




VATICAN CITY - We are about to mark the third anniversary of the 'return to the Father's house' of the Servant of God John Paul II.

Among the many sides of that polyhedral and very long pontificate, we must remember how the Pope took up dialog with the Jewish world. Int his respect, he was helped by the respect and great friendship towards him by the then Chief Rabbi of Rome, Elio Toaff, who was later one of the few names mentioned in Karol Wojtyla's spiritual testament.


Rabbi Toaff with John Paul II,
on his historic visit to the Synagogue of Rome in 1979.



Rabbi Toaff, how did your friendship with John Paul II start?
By sheer chance. I was ill and confined at the Gemelli Hospital at the same time that the Pope was also a patient. I expressed to my co-workers that I wished to visit him, and they said they would have to request those who were in charge of the Pope's medical care.

Initially, I was told No, but then, inexplicably, a bishop came to tell me that the Pope would gladly see me. So I went to his room, and to my great surprise, he threw his arms around me in welcome, like a brother, and he told he wanted to pray with me. That was how a great friendship started, independent of our religions.


Then, there was his historic visit to the Synagogue of Rome...
Let me tell you now that the Pope would have wanted to visit the Synagogue shortly after his election, but the time was not ripe.

The fact is that his entrance into the Synagogue marked the icnredible and almost inexplicable end of a long chill [beyween the two religions]. Because Catholics and Jews believe in the same God and have the duty to work together for a better, more just world.

With John Paul II, we agreed clearly that it was better to work on the elements which unite our faiths rather than what divides us. Obviously, such differences cannot be denied, but with John Paul II, a great deal changed positively in the matter of dialog.


What did you think of him as a person?
He was a great man, honest, loyal and free. A man of God, whose holiness, even according to the parameters of the Catholic Church, was clar to the entire world.


Rabbi Toaff, how do you evaluate the rapport today between Judaism and Catholicism?
Excellent. We are on the right road, and the dialog is where it should be. We should always seek to understand the reasoning of our interlocutor and set aside our prejudices.


The Jews in Italy, particularly the present Chief Rabbi of Rome, Riccardo Di Segni, have manifested great displeasure over Benedict XVI's new Good Friday prayer for the Jews in the old Missal...
But come on, let's be serious! Everyone is free to pray as he believes. I really don't understand the controversy!


Finally, in reference to another Pope, Pius XII, do you think he was anti-Semitic?
Absolutely not. On the contrary, thanks to so many direct testimonies, we know he saved many Jews from death. The story of an anti-Semitic Pius XII is nothing but a black legend. There should be more studies in order to know the true history of the era and the persons involved.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:43 AM]
4/1/2008 11:14 PM
 
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John Paul aide says
Pope still with him

By DANIELA PETROFF



ROME, April 1 (AP) - The longtime private secretary of Pope John Paul II said Tuesday that he still turns to the late pontiff whenever he has a problem.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was the closest aide to John Paul for nearly 40 years, grew emotional during an event in Rome on the eve of the third anniversary of the Pontiff's death.

"I can't forget his last goodbye, when he took my hand and I kissed his for the last time," Dziwisz said. "This goodbye will stay with me forever."

John Paul died on April 2, 2005, after a nearly 27-year pontificate. Shortly afterward, Pope Benedict XVI put him on the fast track for possible sainthood, waiving a customary five-year waiting period.

Benedict will hold a Mass on Wednesday marking his death.

Dziwisz said John Paul and Benedict were "true friends" and recalled anecdotes from his decades with John Paul, describing, for example, how the pontiff used to bless the city of Rome before going to sleep.

"I've accompanied him for almost 40 years, now he is accompanying me — and whenever I have a problem I turn to him," said Dziwisz, now the archbishop of Krakow, Poland — a position that John Paul held himself before being elected pope.

Dziwisz said he receives letters from couples asking for John Paul's intercession in order to have children or from cancer patients hoping to be cured. Some say that after praying to him they got better, Dziwisz said.

Monsignor Slawomir Oder, the church official spearheading the cause to make John Paul a saint, shared his own memory of John Paul's death: "I remember thinking that a saint had died."

Oder said that places of prayers in memory of John Paul have sprung up across the world — including in Iraq, Russia and Morocco — in a sign of how universal John Paul's message was.

John Paul "was able to enter our homes like one of us," he said in the ceremony at the Rome basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere. The event was organized by the Sant'Egidio Community, a Rome-based lay Catholic organization. He "had the ability to read people's hearts."

Oder said earlier this week that he had finished a report analyzing documentation to support the canonization process.

The report summarizes and analyzes all the documentation about John Paul's life and virtues that had been gathered since his death, including testimony from witnesses and the late pontiff's own writings.

"We need to be patient and optimistic," said Oder.

The Vatican's complicated saint-making procedures — which can include the weighing of favorable and unfavorable information — require that a miracle attributed to the candidate's intercession be confirmed before beatification. A second miracle is necessary for canonization.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:43 AM]
4/2/2008 2:51 AM
 
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TRIBUTE TO A GREAT
AND BELOVED POPE



Collage taken from Beatrice's site, benoit-et-moi.fr - by her friend Gloria who designs collages for special occasions.
With gratitude to both Beatrice and Gloria
.



This is the front-page editorial in the April 2, 2008, issue of L'Osservatore Romano. It was not bylined in the usual way at the top, but carries the initials 'g.m.v' at the end of the item. I decided to place the credit with the title.


THE FAITH AND COURAGE
OF A POPE

By Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 4/2/08 issue of




Three years ago, John Paul II pased away, at the end of a physical decline that he lived with impressive faith and courage. Truly, the death of the Pope who had come from 'a far country' struck so many persons all over the world, which was clearly seen in the massive reactions manifested immediately after his death and multiplied in the days leading to his funeral.

Such that some historians have compared what followed - in totally different circumstances - the death of Pius IX, and in more recent times, the agony of John XXIII.

The same faith and the same courage that had characterized the entire life of Karol Wojtyla also marked out his very long Pontificate, urbi et orbi, to the city and to the world - just as, the words of the 58-year-old cardinal-archbishop of Cracow who had just been elected Pope on October 16, 1978, resounded before the city and before the world, at St. Peter's Square, as did the solemn words of the deputy Secretary of State announcing his death on April 2, 2005.

A priest of undisputed charisma, named bishop by Pius XII at age 38, and then promoted by Paul VI shortly after as the metropolitan of the historic Polish see of Cracow, therefore becoming cardinal, Wojtyla became a true protagonist in the second-half of the 20th century.

'Approaching the third millennnium', as 'universal pastor of the Church', he knew how to accompany with his mystical and political vision, not just the Catholic faithful and Christians, but more in general, believers and non-believers, through a period of time marked by rapid and unexpected changes: from the crisis and eventual collapse of European Communism to the imposition of the world phenomenon called globalization. With a new atttention towards women, to which he dedicated various documents and addresses.

Thus, the standing criticism of the materialistic and inhuman ideology of Communism from the Pope who had come from a Church of silence - which now, thanks to him, could start to speak - proceeded along with his criticism of materialism in the rich societies that were increasingly being de-Christianized, impoverished in ideas but nevertheless pervasive with their disheartening lifestyles.

In the face of new wars and the growth of religious fundamentalism particularly the Islamic kind, John Paul II's teaching reinforced the efforts for peace of the Holy See that had been uninterrupted for more than a century, and placed the Church in the vanguard of defending human rights and seeking agreement among the major religions.

In the face of the threats to human life hidden by new biotechnologies, Papa Wojtyla identified and denounced the consequent perils for the dignity of the human person.

Above all, along the lines indicated by his predecessors and Councils, passionately devoted to Christ and the Mother of God, John Paul II travelled the five continents tirelessly - undaunted by the assassination attempt against him in 1981 - to give visibility and instill courage in the universal church.

For this, the Church, starting with Benedict XVI, is grateful to Papa Wojtyla, prays for him, and through his intercession, entrusts itself to the communion of saints.



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 4/2/2008 4:06 AM]
4/2/2008 12:03 PM
 
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KAROL,TI AMIAMO!


4/3/2008 7:17 AM
 
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'WOJTYLA: HIS GAZE WAS FIXED ON CHRIST'



Here's an image to match the beauty of the image posted above by Monica/Pandora, from Il Giornale's front-page article by Andrea Tornielli, in which he interviews Mons. Rino Fisichella about the late great Pope, with the above title.

I will post a translation when I can.



4/4/2008 9:52 AM
 
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Polish survey finds mixed response
on John Paul II's teachings



Warsaw, Apr. 3, 2008 (CWNews.com) - A Polish opinion survey has found a striking contrast between the declared acceptance of the teachings of Pope John Paul II and the personal beliefs expressed by respondents.

The survey by the OBOP research company found that 79% of Polish respondents claim to conduct their lives in accordance with the teachings of the late Pope. That figure is 5% lower than found in a similar survey in 2005.

However, the survey respondents were much less supportive of the positions that Pope John Paul II took in support of Church teaching on certain controversial issues. Just 15% of the sample rejected the use of artificial contraception, and only 26% backed the condemnation of abortion under all circumstances.

On other issues, 34% of the respondents declared their opposition to capital punishment, 61% opposed legal recognition of same-sex unions, and 69% rejected the prospect of women's ordination to the priesthood.

A substantial number of the 1,000 people surveyed - 31% - reported that they had returned to the Catholic faith thanks to Pope John Paul II. Some 63% said that they pray for his beatification. And 50% believe that April 2, the anniversary of his death, should be declared a Polish national holiday.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:44 AM]
4/29/2008 4:05 PM
 
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Gorbachev signed
KGB death warrant
for John Paul II,
a new book claims

From the English service site
of Polish Radio
April 28, 2008



The weekly Wprost, out tomorrow, shows a politburo document, signed by Mikhail Gorbachev, which appears to warrant a KGB contract killing on John Paul II.

So claims Polish journalist John O. Kohler in a book, also released tomorrow, Chodzi o papieża. Szpiedzy w watykanie - (About the Pope: Spies in the Vatican).

The Politburo document says: "Use all available possibilities to prevent a new political trend, initiated by the Polish pope…"

The document, which dates back to November 1979, - one year after Karol Wojtyla became Pope - is signed by eight top Party officials including Konstantin Rusakov, who coordinated action with the Polish communist party, and Mikhail Gorbachev.

In Rome, Pope John Paul II survived four bullets on May 13, 1981 shot by Turk Mehmet Ali Hagca.

“If this information is true, Gorbachov should be brought to account,” said Zbigniew Chlebowski, head of the ruling Civic Platform’s parliamentary party.




[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:44 AM]
5/13/2008 11:33 PM
 
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Pope John Paul II shot
on this day in 1981




Interesting that the one item Ihave seen today about this anniversary comes from Focus, a Bulgarian news agency. Recall that Bulgarian officials are thought to have hired Agca, in behalf of the USSR, to kill the Pope.


ROME, May 13 (FOCUS News Agency) - Pope John Paul II was shot on this day in 1981.

Near the start of his weekly general audience in Rome's St. Peter's Square, Pope John Paul II is shot and seriously wounded while passing through the square in an open car.



The assailant, 23-year-old escaped Turkish murderer Mehmet Ali Agca, fired four shots, one of which hit the Pontiff in the abdomen, narrowly missing vital organs, and another that hit the Pope's left hand.



A third bullet struck 60-year-old American Ann Odre in the chest, seriously wounding her, and the fourth hit 21-year-old Jamaican Rose Hill in the arm.

Agca's weapon was knocked out of his hand by bystanders, and he was detained until his arrest by police.

The Pope was rushed by ambulance to Rome's Gemelli Hospital, where he underwent more than five hours of surgery and was listed in critical but stable condition.



Years later, the Pope visited Agca in his jail cell in Rome and intervened with the Italian government for him to be pardoned. He also met Agca's mother after a general audience at St. Peter's Square.



[May 13 is the anniversary of the first apparition ot the Virgin in Fatima, so John Paul II always believed his life was saved by Our Lady.]

Sorry for the poor quality of the pictures. The photo-archive I was able to access right away does not have the best originals, and some thumbnails do not respond to enlargement.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:44 AM]
7/24/2008 1:57 PM
 
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On the Mount of Beatitudes,
Pope's tree flourishes
while others wither



Jerusalem, Jul 22, 2008 (CNA).- In the Jubilee Year of 2000, Pope John Paul II made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land stopping at one point to bless an olive tree on the Mount of the Beatitudes.

A forester with the Jewish National Fund reports that this tree is the only one producing olives this year.

"It is a miracle," Yossi Karni from the JNF, which maintains the plot, told local media.

During a visit to northern Israel, in March of 2000, the late Pontiff blessed an olive tree that was planted on the Mount of Beatitudes, which was previously called Mt. Eremos. According to tradition, Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount on this mountain, which is located near the Sea of Galilee.

Israel is currently facing what Uri Shani, Israel’s Water Authority director, called “the worst crisis in 80 years.” “Israel's major sources of drinking water, including the Sea of Galilee and the mountain aquifer, are below their ‘red lines,’ meaning they are not recommended to draw water,” he said at a news conference last month.

Karni explained that all the trees on the plot were treated equally, but the ones that did not receive the blessing have not given fruit this year.

"They get treated the same, watered the same," he said, adding that some trees had even started to wither, which he could not explain.

When he was asked what he would do with the olives, Karni told Israel's Channel 10 he might market their "holy oil."

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:45 AM]
9/24/2008 6:10 AM
 
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To leave testimony to posterity

Interview by Piotr Wosik
Gazeta.pl
2008-09-23,

An interview with Przemysław Häuser, producer of Testimony

How did you get the idea or inspiration to make a film adaptation of Cardinal Dziwisz's story?

We got the idea even before the publication of the book. When I showed friends the first proofs of the book, they said it was invaluable. The cardinal related lots of important things we either had no idea of or only sensed, at the most. There had been no first-hand testimonies that would say: "Yes, this is what I saw, this is how it was.” The book contains no interpretations or guesses, only facts. It was met with enthusiastic acclaim, but also one indicating hunger for more: "This is not enough, we'd like to hear more.” The 240-page long book is naturally only a signal, only a starting point. Cardinal Dziwisz wrote a page in his diary every day for 40 years. Certainly, it included so many important things that some kind of Testimony II could be written. I had just finished making the mini-series Tajemnice Watykanu ("Secrets of the Vatican”) - a large TV production. I decided to talk the Cardinal into making a documentary, although partly dramatised. We wanted to expand some themes from the book, but also present things totally unknown to the public. There are lots of unknown facts.

Without giving away too much, I can only say that some of them are truly sensational.

What were your impressions of the film encounter with Cardinal Dziwisz?

I've known the Cardinal for more than ten years. It took us some effort to persuade him to tell us about those events. In the Vatican he was known as "the silent Stanisław." He was rather dry and terse when talking to journalists. However, from his first words spoken in the film, and we recorded some 30 hours of footage, the Cardinal speaks as if he had rehearsed the role for many months. Each word was well-thought-out. When talking about many events, he lost his reserve. You could see very strong emotions, especially when he was talking about the attempt to assassinate the Pope and about the Pope's last moments. The crew would leave the set with tears in their eyes. And now I have a huge problem with those 30 hours of footage. The film runs to one and a half hours, and the television version will comprise three 50-minute episodes.

What about the rest of it? It would be a terrible loss just to lock the remaining material somewhere in the archives. The Cracow curia will receive the complete material and will be able to use it in the future, for posterity.

Dramatised documentary - how did you arrive at this formula?

I probably know all the archive film materials on this subject that are available in the world, but the Cardinal's story reveals many themes from Karol Wojtyła's life that have never been photographed or filmed. That's why to film the story, we had to use dramatisation.

Did your previous Vatican experience help you work on Testimony?

If I hadn't had the long-time experience working in the Vatican and with its people, I'd never have dared to make this film. I first got to know those people in the mid-90s. I made a documentary about John Paul II's friendship with Jerzy Kluger, his Jewish friend from Wadowice. That's when I started permanent cooperation with the Vatican. I've been dealing with papal and Vatican issues for many years. I think I've earned a reputation as the Vatican's reliable partner. It's difficult to get in there, but once you've got their trust, it's hard to lose it.

It was trust that helped me open all the doors. An example? We gave the role of the second narrator, one who will epically link the Cardinal's comments, to Michael York, a Hollywood actor. But filming scenes with actors in the Church State is not allowed. I can't reveal all the details, but it's enough to say that thanks to good contacts and good will, we managed to get permission to film the scenes with Michael York in the Vatican. We took the camera everywhere we wanted to go - to St. Paul's Cathedral, to the Vatican Gardens. Once, we were shooting a scene with Michael York walking around in Raphael's Loggia and Pope Benedict XVI was working behind the door of the hall where our crew was set up. In another film that we were making in the Vatican in 2005, we needed to film scenes in the Sistine Chapel. They let us in with cameras and heavy equipment.

And you aren't even allowed to take a photo in the chapel! The Vatican in some sense authorized our film. The fact that the Vatican is the film's co-producer is the formal expression of its approval and good will. Good cooperation with the Vatican is my greatest capital now - both as a producer and a man.

Why did you choose Michael York for the role of the narrator?

We wanted to cast a well-known actor in the film - a star that would help us reach Western audiences. We didn't want to follow the convention of a Polish documentary. The BBC has worked out a formula of dramatised documentary with well-known actors, such as Peter Ustinov, as the narrator. It's a conscious manoeuvre to have a recognizable face to focus the audience's attention and make it easier to absorb the film's themes. At the same time, the film gains an international flavour and will find it easier to succeed on other markets. We took several names into consideration. Apart from Michael York - Mel Gibson, Sean Connery and Bob Hoskins. I sent the list with the four names to the Vatican, explaining that I had short-listed those candidates. I soon got the list back with one name underlined. That was the answer.

Was it difficult to work with a Hollywood star in the Vatican?

I must admit that at first we were afraid of how we would get along with a Hollywood star. But it was great. Michael turned out to be a wonderful man. Professional, totally dedicated, punctual. We agreed on twelve hours on the set and he was there at our disposal for twelve hours. No breaks for lunch in luxury restaurants. He would eat meals prepared for the whole crew with us. He doesn't show off as a star, he's a warm, modest man and has a great gift for languages on top of that. During work on Jesus of Nazareth, Zeffirelli taught him Italian, which helped us in our film. He knew very well where we were shooting and that he was the first actor ever to make a film in the Vatican. Michael made an enormous contribution to this picture. York is a Hollywood actor, but a Shakespearian one too. Having read the script, he sat down with screenplay writers and the director to discuss some changes in the text - he believed that rephrasing some lines would make it easier to understand for American viewers. The crew was enchanted by him. Michael was extremely excited by the meeting with the Cardinal. Thanks to this movie, he learned a lot about Karol Wojtyła. He's written to me recently that he would be glad to participate in any of my future projects.

And who's idea was Vangelis?

The idea to ask Vangelis to compose the film score came from Marek Szpendowski - a legendary figure, the organizer of the biggest concerts in Poland, and Michael York's agent in Europe. He suggested two composers: Vangelis and Ennio Morricone. Morricone composed the score for the movie Karol: A Man Who Became The Pope, so I didn't want to go down a trodden path and from the very beginning, opted for Vangelis. There are two composers in Testimony: apart from Vangelis, we also have Robert Janson, whose contribution to the score will be quite considerable. Janson is best known for Varius Manx, but he also composes symphonic music.

Who finances the film? Will Testimony pay its bills?

The film is financed by the producer, the TBA company, of which I am a co-owner. Based on our good cooperation on previous projects, we invited two companies to co-produce the film: Agora and New Cast. So it was all among friends - from the very beginning we decided against seeking credit lines and external financing.

I must admit it's a very expensive production. We were able to finance it also thanks to the success of the book, which had a print run of over a million copies and earned for the production of the picture.

So what's the role of the film?

First of all - to leave testimony to posterity. We rarely think in terms of posterity, a legacy left to future generations. Our ancestors, whatever they did, they did it with a perspective in mind. They wrote, built, and created things with an intention of leaving something to their grandchildren. We are focused only on 'here and now,' thinking only? in terms of the next week. I'd like the film to change that a bit. I'd like to share with my children and their children as much as I can from what I or we know, as a generation, about the Great Pole, one of the greatest Popes in history. There may be many beautiful testimonies, but this one is exceptional, because it comes from a man who was there to see and hear and who served by the Pope's side for 40 years. Globally, the film aims to provide fresh insights to fill out the rather schematic memory of John Paul II prevalent in the West. As the Pope, he was very open to the media, easily communicating with crowds, a pilgrim loved by young people - this is the picture of the Holy Father present in Europe. But even that can be forgotten, if you don't fill the picture with meaning. You need to show the depth of values behind John Paul II's pontificate. We intend to show them in a way that your average viewer worldwide would find easier to grasp. So our natural choice was the pictorial form, a film. A book is a very noble thing, but somewhat loosing its popularity. A well-made film will immediately gain popularity. And that is our task number two.


[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:45 AM]
10/5/2008 3:41 AM
 
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German weekly highlights role
of East German Stasi in attempt
on John Paul II’s life







Rome, Oct 2, 2008 / 03:29 pm (CNA).- The German weekly Der Spiegel has published a report indicating that Communist Germany’s Ministry for State Security (Stasi) unleashed “one of the largest campaigns of misinformation in its history” in order to deflect investigations into the attempt on the life of John Paul II in 1981 towards Turkish extremists.

According to the ANSA news agency, the article features new documents discovered in German state archives that reveal that the Stasi “tried to help the Bulgarian secret service. The organization enrolled a young Turkish citizen, Ismet Erguen, who began her mission in Berlin in February of 1982.”

“The documents show Erguen was involved until 1989, although today she denies ever having been an agent of the Stasi,” the news report indicated.

“The head of the foreign information sector of the Stasi, Markus Wolf, who died in 2006 at the age of 83, received a request for help from the Bulgarians in 1981 after the arrest of Ali Agca, as they were concerned that the Western media were focusing on a supposed Soviet-Bulgarian link in the assassination attempt.”

Der Spiegel claims that “the purpose was to divert suspicion towards the Gray Wolves, an extreme right-wing Turkish group.”

Wolf was satisfied with Erguen’s work because even today, “a legend exists according to which it was the Gray Wolves that gave orders to Agca,” the newspaper reports.
[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:45 AM]
10/12/2008 1:19 AM
 
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Poland to celebrate ‘Pope Day 2008’

Rome, Oct 11, 2008 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- All the dioceses in Poland will celebrate “Pope Day 2008” this Sunday, October 12. An initiative with spiritual, cultural, and social character, each annual event addresses an aspect of the teachings of Pope John Paul II on the subjects of the “family of nations” and the “life of society.”

SIR reports that the Saint Nicholas Foundation and the New Millennium foundation of the Polish Bishops’ Conference are both promoting the initiative and have scheduled a series of events for the weekend.

This year’s theme is “John Paul II: educator of the young.”

The organizers explained that the theme emphasizes “the care of Pope Wojtyla for younger generations” and also communicates “the trust which the Pope placed in the young.”

An international meeting dedicated to the event’s theme is scheduled for Saturday. Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, will participate in the meeting.

The “Totus Tuus” prize will also be awarded there.

On Sunday Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz will celebrate a Mass in the Sanctuary of Divine Mercy in Krakow.

At the close of the event, Polish television station 1 TVP will broadcast a message from Pope Benedict XVI.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:46 AM]
10/15/2008 5:06 AM
 
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More on Pope Day 2008. JPII is definitely not forgotten in Poland.


Papal Day events in Poland

Polskie Radio
12.10.2008

Pope John Paul II has made a contribution to social and political transformations in our region, which was once dominated by totalitarian ideologies – said archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, the papal nuncio in Poland, at a mass in the Warsaw Basilica. The archbishop stressed that Poles, both those responsible for the political and social life here and ordinary citizens, should follow the example of the late Pope.

‘Let’s ask how John Paul II can help us. As a teacher of the Creed, a witness to the holiness of Christ and St Mary he can help us with his wisdom and holiness, his example. We can dip into the capital of his teachings.’

The mass inaugurated the celebrations of the 8th Papal Day under the motto “John Paul II – educator of youth”. This year the celebrations have a special character as they mark the 30th anniversary of the election of the Polish Pope. Their main aim is to remember Pope John Paul II and his teachings as well as to collect money for the education of young talented people from low income families. Over 100 thousand volunteers are engaged in the fund raiser this year. Gala concerts, holy masses and prayer vigils in the intention of fast beatification of Pope John Paul II will take place throughout the country. A concert entitled “Stay with us” will be held in Warsaw tonight – in its course Pope Benedict XVI will make an appeal to all Poles.

October 16th – the day of the election of cardinal Karol Wojtyla to the Holy See is a state holiday in Poland since 2005. The Papal Day has been observed since 2001 on a Sunday preceding the election anniversary.



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 12:46 AM]
10/15/2008 6:14 PM
 
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Cardinal Dsiwisz reveals
JP-II was wounded in 1982
stabbing by maniac priest
in Fatima

By Philip Pullella




Cardinal Dsiwisz led a news conference at the Vatican today to present the film 'Testimony', with
actor Michael York(left) and film producer Hauser
.



VATICAN CITY, Oct. 15 (Reuters) - The late Pope John Paul was wounded by a knife-wielding priest in 1982, a year after he was shot in St Peter's Square, but the injury was kept secret, his former top aide says in a documentary film.

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz also discloses that when John Paul was unable to pronounce words several days before his death in 2005, he told his aides that if he could not speak any more the time had come for him to die.

Dziwisz, who is now cardinal of Krakow, Poland, was John Paul's private secretary and closest aide for nearly 40 years, including all of his 27 years as pontiff.

The documentary, called "Testimony" and narrated by British actor Michael York, is a film version of a memoir published by Dziwisz last year but with some additions.

It will make its official premiere at the Vatican on Thursday night in the presence of Pope Benedict.


John Paul II in Fatima on May 12, 1982.

On May 12, 1982, the pope was visiting the shrine city of Fatima in Portugal to give thanks for surviving a first assassination attempt a year earlier on May 13, 1981, when he was shot in St Peter's Square by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca.

A crazed ultra-conservative Spanish priest, Juan Fernandez Krohn, lunged at the pope with a dagger and was knocked to the ground by police and arrested. The fact that the knife actually reached the pope and cut him was not known until now.

"I can now reveal that the Holy Father was wounded. When we got back to the room (in the Fatima sanctuary complex) there was blood," Dziwisz says in the documentary.

The pope carried on with the trip without disclosing his wound.

Krohn was arrested and served several years in a Portuguese prison before being expelled from the country.

The documentary combines on-camera narration by York, interviews with Dziwisz, historical footage and re-enacted segments of the pope's life played out by actors.

It includes video of his last public appearance from his window overlooking St Peter's Square, when, debilitated by Parkinson's disease and other maladies and overcome with emotion, he did not manage to pronounce any words.

Dziwisz says that when the pope, who had undergone a tracheotomy to help him breathe, was wheeled back into his apartments, he regained some strength and managed to whisper: "If I can't speak any more, it's time for me to go."

He died several days later on April 2, 2005, aged 84.

The 66-year-old York, who acted in Cabaret, Romeo and Juliet and a dozens of other films and television productions, said he felt "awe" at being part of a production involving John Paul.

"He had an extraordinary ability to communicate with people -- I think its called star quality and as a pope he had star quality in abundance," he told Reuters in an interview.

The documentary was shot in Rome, the Vatican and the cities in Poland where the John Paul was born and worked as a priest, bishop and cardinal before his election to the papacy in 1978.


For tomorrow's issue, 10/16/08, L'Osservatore Romano is running a few stories on John Paul II on the 30th anniversary of his election as Pope. One of the stories is Cardinal Dsiwisz's recollections of that day, where he was when he got the news, what words were exchanged between him and the Archbishop-now-Pope to whom he was private secretary. I will translate when I finish translating the catechesis today, but I expect the Anglophone news agencies may file a story based on it earlier than I can get around to the translation.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/17/2008 6:50 AM]
10/16/2008 12:40 AM
 
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This is one of several articles in the 10/16/08 issue of L'Osservatore Romano to mark the 30th anniversary of John Paul II's election as Pope.


The evening of October 16, 1798:
When the Church of silence
started to speak out





"How will the Romans react, what will they say of a Pope from a far country?"

Just before the 'cerimonieri' opened the anteroom to the St. Peter's Loggia of Benedictions, on the evening of October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtyla of Poland, who had just become John Paul II, thought of how Rome would look at "a foreign Pope after the beautiful and important Pontificates of the 20th century".

The disclosure came from Cardinal Stanislaw Dsiwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, who was Wojtyla's secretary for 39 years.

"He confided his concern about Rome," said the cardinal at a Vatican news conference Wednesday, "when I was able to get to him, while overcoming my emotion of seeing him dressed in white for the first time. But he said that, as soon as he came out, he was reassured because he saw great hope in the welcome from the people who were in St. Peter's Square."

"'I felt hope', those were his words. He added that looking out at the Piazza from the Loggia reinforced the awareness of being Pope and Bishop of Rome.

"In short, it was love at first sight between the Polish Pope and Rome. He was very happy about it, and when, with the years, he would recall his initial concern, he would do so in order to say that more than ever, he felt himself 'a Roman of Rome'."

Don Stanislao, who continues to be called this although he is now a cardinal, has clear memories of that day 30 years ago, almost as another way to maintain his link with the late Pope.

"When the white smoke first came out," he recounts, "I was in St. Peter's Square myself, near the main door to the Basilica. When Cardinal Pericle Felici said in Latin the name 'Carolum', i realized that the unthinkable was about to happen. Then he said 'Wojtyla'. I cried out with joy, and promptly became petrified until I could once again rejoin my bishop who had become Pope."

John Paul II saw him shortly after that Loggia benediction. "I told him then that the crowd had acclaimed his election with joy, and that I myself had touched first hand that hope which he referred to. I saw it in the faces, I heard it in the words of those who were around me at St. Peter's Square.

"I was a witness of how the surprise at his name - some thought the new Pope was African after hearing his last name - was quickly changed to hope, perhaps because of the novelty that he brought with him."



Don Stanislao recalls another episode during those first hours of the Pontificate: "With a mischievous smile and his usual humor, he also wanted to let me know about his first breach of protocol. Before going out to the Loggia, the papal master of ceremonies, Mons. Virgilio Noe, recommended that the new Pope simply impart his blessing in Latin and not make any speech.

"But John Paul II could not restrain himself and he started to speak in Italian. A greeting that has become historic: 'They have called me from a far country... And if I make a mistake, you will correct me.'

"When he told me about this, it was with the certainty that he had done right to make that brief speech, but at the same time, he also seemed to apologize to those who would be his co-workers, for the first of what would be a thousand improvisations."

The election of the first Slavic Pope, Dsiwisz continues, "was a novelty that made the pulses throb. As I started my new service, I started thinking of those people in Krakow who had been praying that he would not be elected, because they did not want him to leave the Archdiocese.

"And I was reminded of the Polish functionary, who, before we left for the Conclave, withdrew Cardinal Wojtyla's diplomatic passport and replaced it with a tourist passport, with the threat that there would be more accounts to settle when he returned to Poland.

"That evening of October 16, I went back to the Polish College. I could not sleep. All night I was glued to the radio to find out how the election of the Cardinal of Krakow was being greeted around the world, but especially in Poland. I realized that the 'church of silence' would now start to speak through the lips of the new Pope."

How did John Paul II live through those first moments after the blessing at the Loggia?

"He did not allow himself to be overcome by the frenzy. He wanted to dine with the cardinals, and then he retired to the room that had been assigned to him for the Conclave, on the mezzanine floor of the Secretary of State's apartment. He was sharing it with Cardinal Corrado Ursi.

"He set out to write by hand, in Latin, the programmatic address for the next day's Mass. And he started to think of the homily for the Mass that would formally mark the start of his Petrine ministry".

It would be the homily that became famous for its motto, the watchword for his Pontificate: "Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors to Christ!"

Don Stanislao says, "These words had been maturing in him for years. They were an expression of his faith. He had lived them, prayed them. He told me he thought they were appropriate to shake consciences up, and to start his new mission of proclaiming the Gospel to the entire word. He wrote that homily all by himself. I have the handwritten original."

Was the Pope aware that his words would have an explosive effect, especially in those places where freedom was denied?

"He knew very well," Don Stanislao believes, "that dictatorships rule only on the basis of fear. To bring down those regimes, he would have no armed forces. The Pope has no divisions, as Stalin once said ironically. But he has words. His objective was clear: to show the truth of Christ in order to instill in people a sense of interior freedom. It was this stimulus to freedom which gave the peoples of Eastern Europe the power to bring about change, to fight against repressive political and economic systems.

"That invitation not to be afraid triggered an extraordinary revolution without bloodshed. It contributed to bring down walls and called into question the logic of the Cold War carried on by the nuclear powers".

But all this was not part of any political strategy. To liberate men from fear was, from the first day, the strength and the novelty of his Pontificate: "It wasn't about ideology but about the Gospel. He wanted the Church to be always there, wherever man is".

Wojtyla's secret was doubtless to have shown the human face of God. Don Stanislao is sure of that: "My experience tells me that the people were not seeking him as much as they were seeking for the God of which he was the witness. And I will tell you another secret. One cannot understand John Paul II if one excludes prayer and his relationship with the Word. There was nothing bigoted about this. Nothing seemed more natural to him. And this prayerful habit never left him, not even the day he was elected"

He adds: "He never ceased to find ever new words and ways with which to announce Christ. So when he ignored that first protocol recommendation, it was not because he was looking to be popular, but because it was a way to bear witness to God's love."

There is a gesture which, in the words of his secretary, expresses the spiritual irruption of John Paul II: when, after the inaugural Mass on October 22, 1978, he walked down among the disabled and sick in front of St. Peter's and lifted his staff, waving it like a flag.

For Don Stanislao these days, there was another anniversary to mark: It was October 8, 1966, when Archbishop Wojtyla asked him to become his secretary.

"When should I begin?", he asked. "Right away", was the reply.

Today, he comments: "On that day, I learned that I must be near him all the time. I did it for 39 years, first in Krakow then in Rome. I saw my cassock stained with his blood on May 13, 1981. And I thought back to the words that he had written for St. Stanislaw, patron of Poland: 'If words do not convert, then blood will'. I have always remained close to Karol Wojtyla. I, a priest, caressed by a gift and a mystery."


Thank you, Cardinal Dsiwisz, and God bless! No one could be a better custodian of these intimate recollections of a great and saintly Pope.



* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


For quick reference, here is the Vatican translation of John Paul II's first words as Pope urbi et orbi on October 16, 1978:

Praised be Jesus Christ.

Dear brothers and sisters,

We all remain heartbroken after the death of our beloved Pope John Paul I. Yet here, the Eminent Cardinals have called forth a new bishop of Rome. They've called him from a far country... far, but always close in the communion of the faith and in the Christian tradition.

I was fearful at receiving this nomination, but I do so in the spirit of obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ and in total trust of his Mother, our Most Blessed Lady.

I don't know that I can explain myself well in your... in our Italian tongue. If I err, correct me!

And so I present myself to you, to confess our common faith, our hope, our trust in the Mother of Christ and of the Church, so to begin again along this road of history and of the Church with the help of God and the help of men
.



[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/17/2008 1:50 PM]
10/16/2008 8:14 AM
 
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From a far country
by Giovanni Maria Vian
Translated from
the 101/6/08 issue of




On the afternoon of October 16, 1978, thirty years ago, the election of the Cardinal from Krakow signalled a real turning point in the history of the succession to the Chair of Peter.

After almost half a millennium - since Adrian VI (1522-1523) - the College of Cardinals chose to be Bishop of Rome an ecclesiastic who was not a native of the Italian peninsula. And for the first time, a Slav had been elected Pope.

From a far country, as John Paul II said right away to the city he had loved from the years he had studied here, and to the world which he would soon start to travel through as Pope.

With the passion of a mystic immersed in his time and the vigor of a relatively young age (something to which conclaves were no longer used to, since 1846, when the 53-year-old Giovanni Maria Mastai Ferretti was elected and became Pius IX).

Thus began a Pontificate which, among all the successors of Peter, would be the longest after the very same Pius IX. Long, and above all, of a historically incisive relevance in the events of the last quarter of the 20th century and the first ones of the the new century.

It followed the vision of history that John Paul II made evident since his first encyclical, in which he spoke of the road that Catholicism had to take towards the end of its second millennium.

Born in May 1920 and ordained a priest shortly after the tragedy of war unleashed by totalitarianisms that he knew first hand, Wojtyla was one of the last bishops named by Pius XII in 1958, and during Vatican-II, was promoted by Paul VI to be Archbishop of Krakow, later making him a cardinal at age 47.

It was in those years that the young Polish prelate became a leading player, even if not well known, in the Catholic Church.

The Pope elected in the second Conclave of 1978, after the sudden death of his predecessor, did not hesitate to confirm - by his very choice of name - his choice of continuity with John XXIII and Paul VI, who had been for some time unjustly contrasted, and soon gave voice to the so-called 'Church of silence' that had been suffocated by the Communist regimes.

That world which the first Slavic Pope had contributed to bring down to the point, where this activity of his was the most probable context for the assassination attempt against him in May 1981.

John Paul II, although undermined physically, did not die: he lived and saw 1989 [the collapse of Communism], but also September 11, 2001, living through the events of his time with a courage and determination that he testified to until the last day of his earthly life, April 2, 2005, to his very last breath.

And thus his image remains in the memory of the world - the Pope who 30 years ago presented himself as a Pope from a far country and who soon gave high visibility to the Catholic Church.

Thanks above all to the proliferation of his international trips which made him a familiar figure in every corner of the earth, but also through his impressive teaching, which was rooted in love of Christ and a defense of the human being; a teaching that was heeded by many non-believers and which will not be fruitless.

[Edited by TERESA BENEDETTA 10/16/2008 8:15 AM]
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