A faint gurgle, and the vain effort of his vocal chords suffering from tracheotomy, his eyes crying, and the window of the Apostolic Palace closing right after it opened. Karol Wojtyla died that day, before the long agony that stopped his heart during the night of April 2nd 2015. The Pope could not even say goodbye to devoted people because he was forced to silence since the very morning. This was a sorrow even worse than the end itself. His story began on October 16, 1978 in front of Saint Peter Square – shocked for the death of Pope Luciani who died within 33 days since the beginning of his Petrinian ministry. In honor of his unfortunate predecessor, after the election Karol chose the name John Paul II, so that the two popes – icons of the Second Vatican Council – could be united. It seemed he was saying, “There is no turning back” a message to that part of the hierarchy still gripping rituals and honor that are not part of the Church that was preparing for the third millennium.
When he look at the window, they say people sighed of relief. Many people hearing the name Wojitila thought of an African Cardinal, which would have been connected to the prophecy of the black pope (allegedly announcing the end of the world). Instead, there came a vigorous 58-year-old white-haired Polish man, with noble and determined behavior. Newspapers described him saying he experienced war, Nazi deportations, Sovietization of Poland.
Communism was his first victim, “Do not be afraid. Open. Open widely the doors for Christ” he shouted at the mass beginning his pontificate, he addressed to those who lived behind an iron curtain, which he knocked down thanks to his mediation and denunciation. His fairytale could have been brutally interrupted on May 13, 1981, when Mehmet Ali Ağca shot him as he was in a square full of people celebrating Our Lady of Fatima. He said the Holy Virgin was responsible for his miraculous healing and to her he gave the lead that hurt him, mounting it on her gold crown in the Portuguese sanctuary. His relationship with Mary led his life – it inspired his coat of arm, a blue M and the motto ‘totus tuus’. He cultivated this relation with Mary since he was a boy, and it helped him to always take the side of weak people against the powerful dictators in the east of Europe and the mafia (his speech at Valle dei Templi in Agrigento, Sicily, was unforgettable).
In addition, JP II was a reformer, and he understood change. He brought revolution to the Roman Curia and, thanks to the Apostolic Constitution Universi Dominici Gregis, he made the Conclave more modern; he went beyond Middle Age and decided that the Sistina Chapel would be the room designed for voting. He was a great statesman but he was also ironic and had great humanity. It is not possible forget him speaking in roman dialect in Paul VI Hall. These things made him one of the most loved popes ever, he was applauded as saint a few days after his death and his canonization happened in no time. After ten years, his serene smile is still in everyone’s heart, and nostalgia takes over.
Translation provided by Mary Ann D’Costa