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From infant to blessed images of Karol Wojtyła

· The Holy Father visits the exhibition in the Carlo Magno Wing of the Vatican ·

There is the kayak which in the 60s Karol Wojtyła, Auxiliary Bishop of Kraków, used for canoeing; there are his shoes and skis and a book of prayers; a water bottle and the backpack he took with him on his frequent excursions to the mountains. There is even a stone from the quarry of Zakrzowek and a uniform from Solvay where the young Wojtyła worked during World War II. There is a copy of the poster from a literary evening he participated in; there is also a request for admission to the diaconate ordination, dated 13 October 1946; and a licence to ride a bicycle from June 1956; a scapular of the Our Lady of Mount Carmel which he always carried with him, an amber rosary, a priestly cassock, his bishop’s ring and some of his literary works translated into various languages.

Memories of the life of Karol Wojtyła in the exhibition at the Carlo Magno Wing of the Vatican, which Benedict XVI visited on Wednesday morning, 6 July. It is an initiative of the Vatican Governorate together with the Embassy of Poland to the Holy See and the Ministry of Culture and National Patrimony of Poland. The exhibition was curated by Barbara Jatta of the Vatican Library and by Roberto Pulitani of the Department of Technical Services of the Governorate.

The Pontiff was able to observe the human, spiritual and pastoral journey of Bl. John Paul II through the 15 sections of the exhibition. A phrase at the entrance introduced the Pope to the exhibition, “Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!”.

The journey through images began with those memories of childhood and youth, from the years spent in Kraków to John Paul II’s election as Pope and his Beatification.

In the section dedicated to the images taken from the assassination attempt on 13 May 1981, displayed in an evocative dim light, Pope Benedict heard once again the echo of the shots that were fired on that dramatic day. He then proceeded to the section dedicated to the Jubilee and to World Youth Days, where he saw the original wooden cross given by John Paul II to young people at Easter in 1984.

The Pope then stopped in front of some screens on which were projected photos and dates of various papal trips, visits to Roman parishes, pastoral visits in Italy and throughout world. A particularly powerful series of photos from L'Osservatore Romano , selected by Mirka Lesner, enrich the exhibition, especially those which revisit the principal places visited during his Apostolic Visits. Benedict XVI’s tour continued through the sections dedicated to ecumenical and interreligious dialogue, the Encyclicals, official documents, the beatification and canonization, synods and consistories through to the episcopal ordinations presided by John Paul II. In the last three sections, the Pope was able to see literary works as well as signs of John Paul II’s devotion to Mary and of the suffering which he bore. The final section contains original and dramatic images of the last days of the Blessed and one hears again the words pronounced by the then-Substitute Secretary of State, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who announced the death of the Pope. The itinerary concludes with the words of Benedict XVI on 16 January 2011 when he told the world of his intention to proclaim John Paul II blessed on 1 May.

Throughout the exhibition, Benedict XVI was accompanied by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, President of the Governorate of Vatican City State, Archbishop James Michael Harvey, Prefect of the Pontifical Household and Mons. Georg Gänswein, the Pope's private secretary.

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