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Pope Francis has issued written and video messages to Catholics in the birthplaces of the late popes John XXIII and John Paul II explaining why he is happy to be proclaiming them saints in advance of the canonisation ceremony on Sunday.
The Pope sent a recorded message to be broadcast on Polish television and radio expressing his gratitude to John Paul II for his “tireless service, is spiritual guidance, for bringing the Church into the third millennium of faith, and for his extraordinary witness of holiness”.
And in an article published by a newspaper from the Italian province in which John XXIII was born, L'Eco di Bergamo, the Pope urged the faithful to “conserve the memory of the land in which it germinated: a land of profound faith lived in daily life, in families that are poor but united by the love of the Lord, of communities capable of sharing in simplicity”.
Pope Francis said that he hoped that “civil society too may always draw inspiration from the life of Bergamo's Pope and from the environment that he generated, searching new ways, adapted to the times, of building co-existence based on the perennial values of fraternity and solidarity”.
A close friend and long-time ally of John Paul II praised the late pope at a Vatican briefing this afternoon. Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Archbishop of Kraków who was made a Cardinal in 2006, said: “I lived with a saint.” He added: “And how did I know that this was sanctity? … It was his way of praying…It wasn’t the work that impressed me; it was his quality of prayer.”
Cardinal Dziwisz went on: “Pope John Paul II prayed with his entire life. His entire life was a prayer… He prayed for very concrete situations, for people in those situations, for peace, workers, those who were suffering. Before he would meet someone…he would pray for someone he was about to meet and when he had completed [the meeting] he would pray for those whom he had met … He had a tremendous devotion to the Holy Spirit which was rather unique…and he maintained that devotion right up until the end of his life.”
The cardinal added that “another aspect of the holiness” of John Paul II was “his suffering” and recalled being in the ambulance with the late pope after the assassination attempt in 1981 and watching John Paul II “praying quietly” for the gunman.
“In the end, by accepting his old age with grace and dignity he taught us the meaning of suffering…[that] all of our lives are a preparation for death and he showed us that right up until the end.”
Of his overall legacy, Cardinal Dziwisz said: “He opened the Church to the world and he opened the world to the reality of the Church.”