Saint John Paul II ten years after his passing

John Paul II visiting the Consilium de Laicis in 1979

At the time when Saint John Paul II was about to leave us, a choral prayer of planetary dimensions was raised to heaven for him… We all remember Saint Peter’s Square packed with people from various countries around the world, including many young people. He was very fond of young people… Everyone had tears in their eyes as they were deep in prayer… There were people there who were not Catholic or were not believers, but John Paul II had become a point of reference for them… At nine o’clock in the evening on 2 April 2005, ten years ago, the news arrived that he had passed away… At that moment I was there in the Holy Father’s apartment beside him. A little earlier, at about eight in the evening, after the first vespers for Sunday, we had concelebrated Mass in his bedroom. This was Saint John Paul II’s last Mass on earth… I shall never forget those moments. They remain engraved on my heart, as well as the silent prayer that followed. It was the eve of the feast of the Divine Mercy – a feast that he had wanted and had instituted in the Church, following Saint Faustina Kowalska’s guidelines… I believe that this was not simply a chronological coincidence that happened by chance. I think that God used this method to give us a key to understanding the life and pontificate of this pope. Saint John Paul II was truly an apostle of the Divine Mercy. He wrote the encyclical Dives in misericordia (1980), and he said in it, “The Church lives an authentic life when she professes and proclaims mercy – the most stupendous attribute of the Creator and of the Redeemer – and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savior's mercy, of which she is the trustee and dispenser …” (no. 13). Saint John Paul II and the Divine Mercy: it is he who beatified and canonised Sister Faustina Kowalska, the apostle of the Divine Mercy. As we have said, it is he who instituted the feast of the Divine Mercy in the Church (celebrated on the second Sunday of Easter). It is he who inaugurated the Shrine of the Merciful Jesus in Krakow-Łagiewniki in 2002 and who, on that occasion, solemnly entrusted the world to the Divine Mercy: “Today, therefore, in this Shine, I wish solemnly to entrust the world to Divine Mercy […] This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. In the mercy of God the world will find peace and humankind will find happiness! (Homily at the Mass of dedication of the Shrine of the Divine Mercy, 17 August 2002).

In view of the upcoming Holy year of Mercy, an Extraordinary Jubilee recently proclaimed by Pope Francis, I think that it is worth remembering this great insight and legacy passed on by Pope John Paul II… Pope Francis spoke about mercy and about John Paul II last year when he addressed the priests of the diocese of Rome: “This was an intuition of John Paul II. He ‘sensed’ that this was the time of mercy. […]Through his prayer, he had this intuition […]Today we forget everything far too quickly, even the Magisterium of the Church! Part of this is unavoidable, but we cannot forget the great content, the great intuitions and gifts that have been left to the People of God. And Divine Mercy is one of these. It is a gift which he gave to us, but which comes from above” (Address to the priests of Rome, 6 March 2014).

Providentially, the theme of mercy comes again at the next World Youth Day to be held in Krakow in 2016: “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Mt 5:7). That gathering will have two points of gravitation: the Divine Mercy Shrine and the Saint John Paul II Shrine in Krakow…

Message from the President

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