Greetings in the Risen Lord to the dearly beloved faithful of the Archdiocese of Mary, Mother of God!
The Pope has died. He has departed to the Lord – he who was the Bishop of Rome, the Vicar of Christ, the Successor of Saint Peter, the leading priest and pastor of the Universal Church. The Lord called the Holy Father to Himself on the eve of the Solemnity of Divine Mercy, a feast instituted during this last pontificate and much revered by the people. The brilliant service of John Paul II, which was so clearly marked by abundant grace, ended fittingly and symbolicly during the octave of Easter, as if to indicate the special call and particular election of this man, who even during his life we called “Holy”…
“With joy I go to meet the Lord”. These words are the leitmotiv not only of the last earthly days of Karol Wojtyla, but of his entire life. On April 2, on the very threshold of death, he instructed us with the words: “I am full of joy, and you also must remain in joy. Let us pray together with joy. I entrust everything to the Virgin Mary.”
More than twenty-six years ago, in the Sistine Chapel, having expressed his acceptance of the decision of the College of Cardinals, in which he saw the will of the Lord, he entrusted his ministry to the Mother of God, and as Pope Wojtyla took upon his shoulders the heavy cross of the leadership of the Universal Church.
Already with his first appeal – “Open the doors to Christ!” – he began a deeply Christocentric pontificate. Truly, Christ was the center of his teaching and pastoral activity.
The world was witness to an extraordinary and energetic Pontiff, who announced Christ to all, and encouraged all to go to Him through Mary. The Holy Father consistently and skillfully implemented the decisions of the Second Vatican Council. He appeared before all as a reformer, who, nonetheless, stood firmly upon Gospel principles. As a result, under the wise leadership of John Paul II, the Catholic Church became more open to the world and began a fruitful dialogue with other confessions and religions. With the goal of developing ecumenical dialogue, he invited other Christians to engage together in a profound examination of the ministry of the successor of St. Peter. He was the first Pontiff to visit a synagogue and a mosque.
The Pope tirelessly preached and defended moral principles in the face of the sometimes sharp and aggressive challenges of the modern world. He was always quick and bold in his defense of human rights, freedom of religion, social justice, peace, the sanctity of human life, and so on.
In John Paul II the qualities of pastor, theologian, philospher, thinker, poet, sportsman, and man of high culture were beautifully and harmoniously combined. He was a man open and ready to assist, able both to listen and to understand the other regardless of creed, nationality, social level, or political persuasion. By his inspiring words and irreproachable life, he attracted millions of people, especially the young, who particularly needed him, as a witness to hope. Not long before his death, seeing so many young people in St. Peter’s Square he said: “I was looking for you, and you have come to me. Thank you for this.”.
Truly, this man lived in full coherence with the message he preached to the world.
How significant was the sincere repentance of the leading priest of the Church for the sins of her children during the great Jubilee of the year 2000. In this act, as in all of the Holy Father’s ministry, his extraordinary spiritual strength was demonstrated.
The whole world recognized his spiritual leadership. The last days of his suffering has united all peoples, like no other disaster or tragedy. Not only Catholics, but Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Muslims and representatives of other religions have prayed for the easing of the sufferings of the Holy Father. Political and governmental leaders have canceled various events, from concerts to football matches. Great has been the honor shown to this Pontiff.
Truly, God chose for us the right man for the right time, a man who did not disappoint the hopes placed in him, but who has become an emblematic and charismatic figure for modern times.
Russian Catholics are especially thankful to John Paul II. His call “Open the doors to Christ!” was in a particular way directed to the countries of Eastern Europe. At that time, the Church behind the Iron Curtain, was living under the conditions of persecution. When the Pope spoke, he was speaking to us and for us. And the Iron Curtain fell. We obtained the freedom to worship openly, and the Pope restored ecclesial structures in Russia.
Russian Catholics constantly felt his care, support, and prayer. He repeatedly told me: “Despite all difficulties, remember the words of the Mother of God, spoken at Fatima: ‘My Immaculate Heart will triumph and Russia will be converted’.” Not long ago, on March 8, in his hospital room at the Gemelli clinic, he asked me: “What is the news in Moscow?”. In these words were expressed his care for the Church in Russia, a country so close to his heart, for which he daily prayed.
One cannot fail to recall the exceptional love of this first Slavic Pope for Russia. The whole world has witnessed his indefatigable efforts to develop dialogue and cooperation with the Russian Orthodox Church. On many occasions John Paul II addressed both the beloved Russian nation and his Orthodox brothers. The icon of Our Lady of Kazan, before which the Pope prayed for ten years, was offered as a gift last year to the Moscow Patriarch. Such gestures of good will, some known to the world and some unknown, were numerous…
The life of each man, including the Pontiff, is subject to the Lord. The last years, and especially the last months of the life of John Paul II, indicate the incomprehensibility of Divine Providence. He was God’s athlete – and yet unable himself to move. He was a marvellous orator, who lost the ability to speak. Why? Let us leave this mystery beyond the realm of our understanding and turn our attention to another matter: the Pope was not ashamed to show his physical weakness. Here, once again he revealed the strength, which enabled him to be the spiritual leader of the modern world.
The Golgotha of his last days became an instance of the triumph of that priceless gift of God, the gift of life, which must be defended from conception until natural death.
Unable to finish his Fifteenth encyclical on Merciful Love, he left it to us, and confirmed, with the example of his life and selfless service to the Church and world, the words of the Lord: “There is no greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15.13).
The deceased leader of the Universal Church left behind an enormous legacy. With his death, one more page is turned in the history of the Church. This page is an entire epoch, the meaning of which is left to the next generation to comphrehend fully. Already today, however, it is clear that this was an exceptional pontificate, the pontificate of John Paul the Great.
Our beloved Pope and father!
You are “ours” because you were and remain so close to us. All your life you prepared yourself for the moment when the Lord would call you to Himself. By a worthy life and a worthy death you have instructed us all. The Lord called you, but only after you gave yourself completely to the service of the Church and the people. Once the cross was taken up, you bore it to the end without hesitation or digression.
May the all-merciful Lord open wide with joy the gates of His Kingdom for you, saying: “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your master.” (Mt. 25.21). May you take your place beside Him and His Holy Virgin Mother, Mary, to whom you entrusted your ministry as successor of the apostle Peter with the words “Totus Tuus” (All yours). I ask all of you, dear children of the Archdiocese of Mary, Mother of God, to pray diligently for this.
Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord!
Metropolitan Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz
Ordinary of the Archdiocese of Mary, Mother of God