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A face shown to the world

We re-publish the editorial of the “Newspaper of Brescia” from the front page of the Sunday, May 1st edition.

The curtain which hung from the central loggia of the Basilica of Saint Peter’s for the entire day on Saturday, this morning will be raised. And as soon as Pope Ratzinger proclaims in Latin the formula for beatification of his immediate predecessor – an unprecedented event in the last ten centuries – the face of John Paul II imprinted on the tapestry prepared for the ceremony, will appear before the eyes of the thronging crowd below.

The liturgy of the Church is a treasure chest, at once ancient and new. The ritual of a celebration like the one today is no exception, which, in officially confirming the sanctity of the life of the Polish Pontiff, serves as an example for believers and non-believers. It is a ritual rich in words and gestures of great significance, far from the desolate communicative atrophy which characterizes the language of our times.

Read with attentive eyes, one understands that the beatification of John Paul II is not just an event “internal” to the Catholic Church, even if universally amplified by its media resonance. It is no coincidence that at the moment in which the apostolic authority of the Pope is pronounced, the figure of the newly beatified will be shown – in a visible way – to the whole of humanity. To confirm that each person, even one who does not share the faith, can find in his own personal story a real answer to the essential questions of man.

The ritual in St. Peter’s Square, therefore, is not a sort of self-consolation for devotees and faithful. In this case, numbers and statistics, as impressive as they are, serve little. What counts, rather, is the concreteness of a message which goes straight to the heart of the world. A world in which Karol Wojtyla – as a Christian lay person, priest, bishop and Pontiff – lived fully, without compromise or artificial separations. He experienced first-hand dark, and at times, dramatic events:  first the war and the horrors of Nazism, then a suffocating totalitarianism and finally the suffering of the assassination attempt and subsequent illness throughout his pontificate.

It is precisely in these moments that the figure of the newly beatified appeared closest and most familiar. Above all to believers, who found in his teaching a sure guide in their journey of faith. But also for all those who, unprejudiced, recognized his passionate commitment for the human person and in defense of life. A defense of life which for John Paul II was always inseparable from spiritual depth and evangelical courage. Because of this, Paul VI availed himself of the late Pope’s collaboration on the commission for Humanae vitae (1968) to which he made an important contribution.

Karol Wojtyla remained very attached to the Pope from Concesio, Brescia, returning to the area twice as Pontiff in Paul VI’s memory. On September 19, 1998 in the square dedicated to Papa Montini, John Paul II said, “he was a sure guide of Peter’s boat in times not easy for the Church and humanity, always animated by a strong and profound love for Christ and an ardent desire to announce Him to the contemporary world.”




St. Peter’s Square

Nov. 15, 2019