I have attended quite a number of celebrations in St. Peter’s Basilica and it was always a joy to see the pope in person. Now it’s an agony just to even look at pics of him grimacing in pain.
Pope John Paul II’s pontificate has entered a new phase, which some in the Italian media call the “stagione del silenzio” (season of silence). It is a season of prayer and waiting, of faith and acceptance, of hope and letting-be.
The last time the pope appeared in public, his face became a portrait of pain and suffering. He wanted to say something but no words came out of his mouth, so he blessed the pilgrims gathered at Piazza San Pietro in silence. It seems that the pope saw a missionary aspect to his afflictions for he chose to suffer in public. Images of the sick pope, which are transmitted all over the world, have succeeded in reminding the world about the millions of nameless and faceless people who suffer alone and die without dignity.
While I wrote this, a huge crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to recite the rosary and pray for the pope. The world loves the pope so much that even non-Catholics joined in the prayers (Al Jazeera covered live the recitation of the rosary). It is just a matter of time before Cardinal Camillo Ruini will officially announce the inevitable.
The world will most probably remember John Paul II as a pilgrim pope and as a man with a sense of mission. He was always on the move, dialoguing with people, praying, sowing seeds of peace and love wherever he went, carrying impoverished children in his own arms, comforting the poor and the sick, celebrating the Eucharist even with non Roman Catholics, in short, always wanting to be where God’s people are.
Karol Wojtyla became pope in 1978, making him one of the longest reigning popes of all time. During his 26 years as Vicar of Christ and as leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II not only traveled around the world but also spoke his mind to world leaders. When the pope passes away he will be sorely missed by millions of people. I just hope that the affection the world has for the suffering pope will translate into making people attend to the poor who are suffering in silence and dying without being noticed.