By Anita Bourdin

Monsignor Stanislaw Gadecki, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference, invited Poles to join a national pilgrimage on May 17, 2020, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s birth. The Episcopal Conference noted that Pope Francis will preside over a Mass. Next April 3 will be the 15th anniversary of the Polish Pope’s death.

Karol Wojtyla was born, in fact, on May 17, 1920, in Wadowice. He was ordained priest on November 1, 1946, and ordained Bishop on September 28, 1958. He became a Cardinal on June 28, 1967, and Pope on October 16, 1978.

On the occasion of his liturgical feast, last October 22, the President of the Conference of Bishops of Poland, Monsignor Stanislaw Gadecki, Archbishop of Poznan, and the Polish Episcopate asked Pope Francis to proclaim Saint John Paul II Doctor of the Church — he would be the 37th –, and Co-Patron of Europe. – he would be the 6th, with Saint Benedict, the brothers Syril and Methodius, and Saints Edith Stein, Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, “Vatican News” reported the Polish Bishops’ request.

“Let Us Remember . . . “

For his part, Pope Francis paid tribute to the memory of his Predecessor by posting this Tweet on his account @Pontifex_fr: “Let us thank the Lord for all the good accomplished in the world and in our hearts by the words, works and holiness of John Paul II. Let us always remember his appeal: “Open wide the doors to Christ!”

A request supported by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, at the moment when in 2020, it will be not only the centenary of Karol Wojtyla’s birth but also the 15th anniversary of his death.

Monsignor Stanislaw Gadecki observed: “the Polish Pope’s pontificate was full of revolutionary decisions and important events that changed the face of the papacy and influenced the course of European and world history.”

For him, “the richness of Saint John Paul II’s pontificate [. . . ] was born of the richness of his personality — poet, philosopher, theologian, and mystic –, who was fulfilled in several dimensions, after the pastoral and pedagogical work, on guiding the universal Church, including a personal witness of the holiness of life.”

The Reunification of Europe

John Paul II, he stresses, contributed to the reunification of Europe, after the fall of the Berlin Wall. “After the unifying and cultural proclamation of the Gospel by Saints Cyril and Methodius and Saint Adalbert, over a thousand years later, the fruits of their activities — not only on the social but also on the religious plane — found protection and continuity in the person of the Polish Pope.”

For Monsignor Gadecki, “the Polish Pope’s pontificate was full of revolutionary decisions and important events, which changed the face of the papacy and influenced the course of European and world history.”

Monsignor Gadecki believes, specified Vatican Radio last October, that “the richness of Saint John Paul II’s pontificate [. . . ] was born of the richness of his personality — poet, philosopher, theologian, and mystic –, who was fulfilled in several dimensions, after the pastoral and pedagogical work, on guiding the universal Church including a personal witness of the holiness of life.”

The Archbishop of Poznan underscored John Paul II’s contribution to the reunification of Europe, after more than fifty years of divisions symbolized by the Iron Curtain. He observed that “after the unifying and cultural proclamation of the Gospel by Saint Cyril and Methodius and Saint Adalbert, over a thousand years later, the fruits of their activities — not only on the social but also on the religious plane — found protection and continuity in the person of the Polish Pope.”

A Guardian of European Values

Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz echoed and supported this request since Warsaw, on October 22, where he took part in the Congress of the “Europa Christi” Movement. In his address, the Archbishop Emeritus of Krakow stressed: “the heritage of Pope Wojtyla is a rich, multiform and original synthesis of different lines of thought. There is no doubt that it remains — and will remain for a long time — an essential element of a global project of cultural renewal on a global scale. In my opinion, these are at the same time the main reasons why John Paul III should be recognized a Doctor of the Church and Co-Patron of our European home,” he said, according to Vatican Radio.

Cardinal Dziwisz explained that this plan must not be regarded as a return to the past. “John Paul II’s thought is, in fact, absolutely modern, original and creative but, at the same time, it remains nobly classical. Wojtyla’s difficult balance between tradition and modernity brought a great breath of fresh air to the life of the Church and by her, to the universal area of culture, of politics and of science in general. From this point of view, the holy Pope became a veritable educator and Doctor of the Church and, therefore, a fundamental guardian of European values, which constitute the solid foundation of contemporary civilization,” he added.

Pope Francis’ Tweet

A meeting point between the pontificates of John Paul II and of Pope Francis is certainly the emphasis on Divine Mercy: “Always remember his teaching,” was also Pope Francis’ message in 2015, on the 10th anniversary of Saint John Paul II’s death (May 18, 1929-April 2, 2005).

John Paul II himself indicated Divine Mercy as his spiritual testament. He had prepared an allocution for Divine Mercy Sunday of April 3, 2005, and he wanted the text to be read and published by way of a posthumous message. “The Risen Lord offers a gift to humanity — which sometimes seems lost and dominated by the power of evil, by egoism and by fear –, His love that forgives, that reconciles and opens the soul again to hope. It’s love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and receive Divine Mercy!”

On opening the new Divine Mercy Shrine of Krakow-Lagiewniki on August 17, 2002, during his trip to Poland (August 16-18), he entrusted humanity to Mercy saying: “In God’s Mercy, the world will find peace and man will find happiness! I entrust this duty, dear brothers and sisters, to the Church at Krakow and in Poland, and to all the faithful of Divine Mercy, who will come here from Poland and from the whole world. Be witnesses of Mercy!”

Humanity Entrusted to Mercy

“It is why, today, in this Shrine, I want to solemnly entrust the world to Divine Mercy,” he added.I do so with the desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through Saint Faustina, reaches all the inhabitants of the earth and fills their heart with hope. May this message be diffused from this place throughout our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the solid promise of the Lord Jesus be accomplished; it’s from here that “the spark” must burst forth, “which will prepare the world for His last coming” (Cf. Petit Journal, 1732, p. 576 ed. Apostolate of Mercy, Paris, 2007). It’s necessary to light this spark of God’s grace. It’s necessary to transmit to the world this fire of mercy.”

The Pope then invited to contemplation before the icon of the Merciful Jesus, in terms that recall the way that Pope Francis speaks, letting oneself be gazed upon by Jesus, as Saint Matthew in the Caravaggio painting kept in the church of Saint Louis of the French in Rome. “We want to contemplate Jesus’ merciful look with the eyes of the soul, to find in the depth of that look the reflection of his life. As well as the light of the grace that, so many times already, we have received and that God has for us for every day and for the last day.”

The Pope stressed the importance of this Shrine of Mercy. “It’s in this same spirit of faith that I have come to Lagiewniki, to dedicate this new church, convinced that it’s a particular place chosen by God to pour out the grace of His Mercy.”

It was in this place that the World Congress of Divine Mercy took place in October 2011, in the presence of John Paul II’s and Saint Faustina’s relics.

Saint John Paul II also stressed the Eucharistic importance of this place. “I pray that this church will always be a place of the proclamation of the message of God’s merciful love; a place of conversion and penance; a place of celebration of the Eucharist, source of mercy; a place of prayer and assiduous imploration of mercy for us and for the world.”

“It’s the Holy Spirit, Consoler and Spirit of Truth, who leads us on the ways of Divine Mercy,” affirmed again John Paul II.

Today’s World

He spoke of the need of today’s world. “How much today’s world is in need of God’s mercy! On all Continents, from the depth of human suffering, the invocation of mercy seems to rise. There, where hatred dominates and the thirst for vengeance, there where war sows the sorrow and death of innocents, the grace of mercy is necessary to pacify spirits and hearts and have peace burst forth. There where respect for life and for man’s dignity is lacking, the merciful love of God is necessary, because manifested in His light is the inestimable value of each human being. Mercy is necessary so that every injustice of the world finds its end in the splendor of the truth.”

Saint John Paul II ended his homily with this prayer, where an echo is found of the “chaplet of Mercy” taught by Christ to Saint Faustina”

“God, merciful Father,

Who revealed your Love in your Son Jesus Christ,

And spread it on us in the Holy Spirit Consoler,

We entrust to you today the destiny of the world

And of each man

Bend over our sins,

Heal our weakness,

Overcome all evil,

Make all the inhabitants of the earth experience your mercy,

So that in You, One and Triune God,

They find always the source of hope.

Eternal Father, by the sorrowful Passion and the Resurrection of your Son, give to us your mercy, as well as to the whole world! Amen.”

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