Our farewell to the Holy Father
You only have to watch, listen or read what the media are communicating to us hour by hour: testimonies from the four corners of the world, by believers or non-believers , by representatives of the different Churches or other religious beliefs, by politicians or journalists, they are all united in testifying that:
As a pastor of the Catholic Church, Pope John Paul II has played an exceptional role in our world for more than 25 years and he will certainly make a deep and lasting impression on the history of mankind. For one, his commitment to peace, religious freedom and the reconciliation between peoples, to dialogue between different religions and unity between the Churches, to the respect of all human life and the absolute dignity of each person, however frail, and his thirst to reach out to young people, have deeply moved so many lives.
Is our heart not burning with love too, with light and gratefulness for John Paul II’s life, for what he is for us today, not only as Christians, but especially as members of Faith and Light?
The Holy Father is leaving us an extraordinary heritage on both a humane and spiritual level: his deep filial affection for the Virgin Mary, completely turned towards Christ (his motto was « Totus tuus »); his invitation to rediscover the paupers’ prayer – the Rosary, in which the new « Luminous Mysteries » are now included; the call to look more deeply into the mystery of the Eucharist and adoration of the Eucharist in our personal lives and the life of our parishes.
Ever since the theme of our next international meeting was chosen, I have been thinking that John Paul II really did experience this in his ministry as Pierre’s successor : didn’t he seek, with his particular kind of charisma, to enlarge the place of the Church’s tent, both by strengthening his stakes, and by lengthening his cords?
Finally, through his example right up until his last breath, John Paul II was urging us to be loyal to our mission at the sides of the smallest and weakest human beings, despite all opposition, so that their beauty and their dignity as God’s children is revealed, beyond the level of simple appearances that are threatening them with rejection, being forgotten and abandoned.
Let’s remember all the messages full of affection that the Holy Father addressed to Faith and Light for our international pilgrimages to Lourdes.
Let’s also remember his strong calling to Faith and Light at the meeting of the ecclesiastic movements assembled at the Vatican, at Whitsun 1998: ''Introduce the Church into the third millennium!''
Then, there was the extraordinary meeting with all the national and international Faith and Light leaders and chaplains in in Castel Gandolfo on the 26th September 2002, where the Holy Father welcomed us and was particularly happy to greet the members of Faith and Light belonging to different Churches, considering each of us « as a unique person», blessing all those that were there, and through them, each of you, each of your families, members of Faith and Light across the whole world.
Perhaps it was on that on that day, that he became for many of us “our beloved Pope”? As far as I am concerned personally, I received from that very intense meeting with the Holy Father a lot of strength to assume the mandate of international coordinator that was entrusted to me the previous day by the General Assembly!
What can we say too about his long-standing affection for Jean and Marie-Hélène, flowing straight from God’s heart? Jean to whom the Holy Father again entrusted the meditation on the Luminous Mysteries in Lourdes on the 14th August 2004 and Marie- Hélène, who he received in audience a further time on the 13th November with the team of the Office chrétien des personnes handicapées during their pilgrimage to Rome on the occasion of their 40th anniversary. Marie- Hélène has just recently received the cross ''Pro Ecclesia and Pontifice'' on 8th March 2005.
As his health gradually declined, we saw that the Holy Father was becoming, in the image of the suffering Servant, more and more visited by pain, and so closer and closer to all of us, bearing his disability without fear, showing his weakness and frailty to all the cameras across the world, yet he was more and more luminous through this smallness and modesty offered up to us all. Like the grain of wheat that has to die to bear lots of fruit, the Pope gave himself to us, for our salvation.
Today, let’s say our farewell to the Holy Father in a state of deep gratitude, like the disciples from Emmaus who recognised Jesus and who went back to Jerusalem full of joy and strength. Look on these coming days with the hope and the light of Christ’s Resurrection.
Let’s be united with our bishops, our priests and with the Catholics throughout the whole world, in particular with the Polish people during this difficult time of separation, but above all, let’s be united in giving thanks for the extraordinary heritage that the Holy Father is leaving us with the promise of reunion in God’s heart . This is the communion of hope that we are experiencing now with the whole Church, at this historical moment when the sky and the each seem so close to each other.
As the Cardinal Danneels said at the death of King Baudouin of Belgium: ''Blessed are the people who have know such a Shepherd'' … Yes, blessed are we to have felt throughout the years of his office, how much the Holy Father loved us, and to have received so much encouragement to respond to Jesus’ call in Faith and Light and in our lives.
His death is in the image of his life: exposed to the cameras, right to the end, to show how it should be for each human being to die in dignity, surrounded by the affection of those close to him.
Be reassured that the members of the Faith and Light communities in Rome will go to pay a last homage to the Holy Father on behalf of all of us. But where ever we live, let’s pray together for John Paul II, and with him, for the person who will have the difficult task of succeeding him.
United in prayer, with all my love,
Viviane le Polain
3 April 2005