Today is the feast of Saint John Paul II.
In his Last Testament, he wrote: “When, on 16 October 1978, the Conclave of Cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, said to me: ‘The task of the new Pope will be to lead the Church into the Third Millennium’”. And the Pope added: “For my part, I thank the Eternal Shepherd, who has enabled me to serve this very great cause in the course of all the years of my Pontificate”.
And what is this “cause”? It is the same one that John Paul II presented during his first solemn Mass in Saint Peter’s Square in the unforgettable words: “Do not be afraid! Open, open wide the doors to Christ!” What the newly-elected Pope asked of everyone, he was himself the first to do: society, culture, political and economic systems he opened up to Christ, turning back with the strength of a titan – a strength which came to him from God – a tide which appeared irreversible.
By his witness of faith, love and apostolic courage, accompanied by great human charisma, this exemplary son of Poland helped believers throughout the world not to be afraid to be called Christian, to belong to the Church, to speak of the Gospel. In a word: he helped us not to fear the truth, because truth is the guarantee of liberty. To put it even more succinctly: he gave us the strength to believe in Christ, because Christ is Redemptor hominis, the Redeemer of man. This was the theme of his first encyclical, and the thread which runs though all this great saint’s writings that follow.
When Karol Wojtyła ascended to the throne of Peter, he brought with him a deep understanding of the difference between Marxism and Christianity, based on their respective visions of man. This was his message: man is the way of the Church, and Christ is the way of man. With this message, which is the great legacy of the Second Vatican Council and of its “helmsman”, Pope Saint Paul VI, John Paul II led the People of God across the threshold of the Third Millennium, which thanks to Christ, he was able to call “the threshold of hope”.
St. John Paul II, pray for us.