Brothers and Sisters,
Today as we honour Pope John XXIII and
Pope John Paul II, we recognise them above all as articulate and gifted teachers,
men of holiness, who inspired so many people in the way of Jesus Christ.
Pope John XXIII was born in 1881 and
ordained priest in 1904, completing work on a Doctorate of Theology. His nine years as secretary of Bishop Giacomo
Radini-Tedeschi gave him wonderful understanding of the problems of ordinary
people. He was military chaplain,
spiritual director of the seminary, and in 1921 he came to Rome to reorganise
the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
Four years later he was appointed Apostolic Visitator to Bulgaria, in
1934 Apostolic Delegate to Turkey and Greece, where he set up an office in
Istanbul for locating prisoners of war.
By 1944 he was Nuncio to Paris and Cardinal Patriarch of Venice in 1953.
Pope John is recognised especially for
his eminent spiritual life. He
said: “Faith is such a common virtue
that it is almost overlooked. It is the
air of Christian life. I want to guard
my faith carefully like a sacred treasure.
Most of all I want to be true to that spirit of faith which is gradually
being whittled away. I want it to be
said of me that I was a priest of lively, simple faith, solidly behind the Pope
and for the Pope always.”
From his election as Pope in 1958 he
was determined to be a pastoral pope, holding a Diocesan Synod for Rome, the
Second Vatican Council and his letter Mater et Magistra on social issues. He made great advances in establishing the
Pontifical Commission for Cinema, Radio and Television, completed the first
revision of the Missal and created a new Secretariat for Christian Unity.
When he died on 3rd June 1963 the
world recognised him as the Pope who opened the windows of the Church to the
Holy Spirit and as a brother and gifted member of the human family.
Pope John Paul II is known by younger
Catholics for his remarkable engagement with and enthusiasm for youth. From his birth in 1920 he went to study at
the Krakow Jagiellonian University in 1938.
The next year the University was closed and he worked in a quarry and
chemical factory. By 1942 he undertook
clandestine studies at the Cardinal’s house in Krakow and was ordained on 1st
November 1946. For two years after
Ordination he studied in Rome for a Doctorate on the subject of Faith in the
works of Saint John of the Cross. He was
known for pastoral ministry among the Polish immigrants. From 1948 he undertook parish work, returning
to Rome in 1951. On return home he was
Professor of Moral Theology and Social Ethics in the Seminary and Lublin
Faculty of Theology.
He became a Bishop on 4th July 1958,
Archbishop on 13th January 1964, Cardinal on 26th June 1967, and was elected
Pope on 16th October 1978.
John Paul II was a tireless, gifted
visionary. He made 104 pastoral visits
outside Italy in his 26 years and 146 within Italy. He visited 317 of the 333 parishes in
Rome. His regular Wednesday General
Audiences reached 17½ million in his 25 years, more than 8 million coming
during the Great Jubilee of 2000. The 19
World Youth Days which he established brought together millions of young
people. He had similar concern for the
family, encouraged dialogue with the Jews, and led the Church in the
preparation for the Great Millennium in 2000.
His letter Novo Millennio Ineunte gave the future path of New
Evangelisation. He showed us how the
call to holiness belongs to every one of us.
He named 482 Saints and 1,338 Blesseds, and his most important
documents; 14 Encyclicals, 15 Apostolic Exhortations, the Catechism of the
Catholic Church, the revision of the Eastern and Western Codes of Canon Law,
were all indicative of his vast learning and desire to bring the Gospel to the
people of today.
As a tireless pilgrim he showed us
that the message of the Gospel does engage with us. And in his own books, ‘Crossing the Threshold
of Hope’, ‘Gift and Mystery’, ‘Roman Triptych-Poetic Meditations’, ‘Rise, Let
us be Going’ and ‘Memory and Identity’ are indicative of his rich spirituality
and prayerful life.
In the final years before his death on
2nd April 2005 he gave a tremendously vibrant example of how to live as an
elderly, suffering person. He truly does
deserve the title of ‘John Paul the Great’.
I remember him as a father and friend,
always encouraging, always engaging people with the joy and hope of the mystery
of Jesus Christ given for all of us.
May these two great Saints be
remarkable models of how each of us is called to live in Jesus Christ, to walk
in holiness, to know the guidance of his truth.
Today the Church rejoices at two new saints in our lifetime, raised to
the altars as a wonderful example of God’s power in human hearts which is an
inspiration to our continued pilgrimage.
Pope Saint John XXIII, pray for
us. Pope Saint John Paul II, pray for
+ Denis J. Hart,
ARCHBISHOP OF MELBOURNE.