I wanted to be here in St. Peter’s Square for the beatification of John Paul II, together with two of our Polish brothers, in memory of all that unites our community to this beloved Pope. This celebration has been moving for us for many reasons, but what has most struck me is the presence of so many young people. The same can be said for the vigil on Saturday night in Circo Massimo.
When he was alive, John Paul II left his mark on many young people, of different generations and epochs. As a young Pope, his dynamism touched new generations; as an old Pope, he impressed young people with the manner in which in lived the end of his life and his acceptance of illness.
Six years after his death, Blessed John Paul II continues to encourage young people, even those perhaps he hardly knew. For us brothers of Taize, for whom the transmission of faith to the new generations we take very much to heart, we cannot help but feel profound gratitude towards him.
Today, we see that faith in God has become ever more a subject for debate. Many young Christians tell us that they must deal with this in their work, in their places of study, and sometimes even in their own families. On the other hand, there are many who are seriously searching for meaning in their lives but cannot believe in a God who loves them personally. For some, too many difficulties make faith impossible: if God exists, why is evil so powerful? If God exists, does he listen to our prayers and answer them? Faith is seen as a risk of trust.
Pope Benedict XVI said in his mediation, “John Paul II is blessed because of his faith, a strong, generous, and apostolic faith.” It is true, and even today, through the witness of his unfaltering faith, John Paul II invites young people to run this risk of trusting; to dare to believe.
Throughout the entire mass on Sunday, memories of the funeral mass of John Paul II, exactly six years ago, were in my heart. We were there, some brothers and I, together with Brother Roger, for whom it was the last visit to Rome.
Brother Roger loved Pope John Paul II. He first met him at Vatican II in 1962. At that time, they were both young and for both of them the Council remained an important reference point. I particularly appreciated that Benedict XVI on Sunday morning cited these words from the testament of the Blessed Pope: “As a bishop who took part in the Council from the first to the last day, I desire to entrust this great patrimony to all who are and will be called in the future to put it into practice.”
During the Council, Bishop Wojtyla went every morning before the sessions to pray in the Blessed Sacrament chapel of St. Peter’s Basilica. Brother Roger went too and sometimes they exchanged a few words. One day, during the first session in 1962, Brother Roger invited the future Pope, who was then the auxiliary bishop of Krakow, to share a meal with him in the Roman apartment he had rented. It was the beginning of a long and trusting relationship, characterized by reciprocal visits – Brother Roger to Krakow and Archbishop Wojtyla to Taize.
Once he became Pope, John Paul II received Brother Roger every year. And he even came to visit us in Taize in 1986. I remember one of these last private audiences in Rome. I was with some brothers and we had come to accompany Brother Roger; we were waiting in the next room. When the audience finished, the door opened so we could enter for a few moments. I saw two old men sitting next to each other, speaking little; they were simply together. This image was like an icon of the unity that we await.
St. Peter’s Square
Aug. 24, 2019
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