BLESSED POPE JOHN PAUL II
Nearly the worst kept secret of the week was publicly revealed this morning in Rome when it was announced that Pope John Paul II would be beatified on May 1, 2011 in St. Peter’s Square, Rome, by his successor, Pope Benedict XVI. Pope John Paul joins his good friend, Mother Teresa of Calcutta as at the final step on the path to declaration that their saintly lives can be embraced by the faithful of the Church, sainthood. For both it will take yet a second miracle attributed to each but to most of the world, the Catholic world for certain, they are believed to be already among the saints. Pope Benedict was very careful to let the process of beatification run its course according to the prescribed rules of the Church but with both, it has been a quick journey. It is amazing to me personally that I have known, been in close company with, and in one case travelled with a future saint. I remember well in October of 1979 when soon-to-be Blessed Pope John Paul II came down the steps of the former Cardinal’s residence in Boston in a bathrobe at 4:30 a.m. to “beg” a cup of coffee. If I had had my camera and snapped the moment, I would not out of reverence and respect show it here but my experiences with him in Rome and here in the United States are a priceless part of my life. In the days leading up to his beatification on May 1, 2011 I will share with you some personal stories and experiences and I will begin with this one.
in 1986, a year prior to his lengthy pastoral visit to the United States, the papal advance team from Rome had come for their first visit to the proposed site the Pope would visit. In Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony wanted to have the Holy Father meet with and speak to the media moguls and it was arranged that this opportunity would take place at the Sheraton Universal Hotel on the grounds of Universal Studios in Hollywood. Lew Wasserman, the genius behind the success of the Universal theme parks and the movie/television production company would be our host and make the arrangements to invite the giants of movies and television to the special audience. As we were preparing to leave Universal Studios Los Angeles, Wasserman asked if we could take a minute to see an attraction in the park that he thought the Pope might enjoy. Somewhat reluctantly we agreed and he took us to that spot where the “Parting of the Red Sea” in the film The Ten Commandments took place. Wasserman, Jewish, asked what we thought and we could only say we would present it to the Pope. A few weeks later I was in Rome and with the Papal Advance Team we had lunch with Pope John Paul II in his apartment. Now Cardinal but then Father Roberto Tucci, S.J., head of the Advance Team asked the Pope if when at Universal he would like to “part the Red Sea” and after a pause and a slight smile, the Pope responded: “why should I, it has already been done before!”
For the Church throughout the world, in Poland especially, and for the strong memory of this strong leader, I rejoice at today’s news.