The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols gave an interview before the beatification of John Paul II, where he spoke of personal memories of the Polish Pontiff and gave him a special honorary title.
He remembered the Holy Father’s seemingly unending energy during his 1982 visit to the UK, and the encouragement he gave to all. The Archbishop said: “I think his very first words on election, on coming out on the balcony were, ‘Do not be afraid’.”
In fact, they were, “Praised be Jesus Christ.” It was this unity to Jesus and the constant prayer which accompanied it, that allowed him to be so brave and to have the virtue of courage that the Archbishop so rightly praised him for.
“The fearless one”
“For me,” Nichols continued, “He would be the fearless one.” It is a title that does much to express John Paul II’s example as a Christian who is not above fear, but can, with the help of his Lord, move beyond it.
This courage was present in his pastoral trips around the globe and his forceful proposal that to reject the Gospel means to lower human aspiration. For the Archbishop, as for many others, his courage was especially present in his suffering. “It is that courage that overcomes fear, and certainly in the life of John Paul II, very visibly overcame the fear of illness, incapacity and death.”
Jim Gallagher, in his updated biography, John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood points this out clearly, reminding everyone that the former Pope died at a very significant time:
“Without fear or favour he faced up to governments to defend the weakest and the tiniest. His own dying – in the very week that an American court would authorise the starvation of a handicapped woman Terri Schiavo – was a testimony to the dignity of old age and natural death.”
Well done to the Archbishop, for reminding us that blessed John Paul II’s now famous call, “Do not be afraid” was one that he lived out himself, perhaps we can add this title, “The fearless one” to blessed, saint and the great, which the Church will surely confer on one of history’s greatest Popes and greatest men.
John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood by Jim Gallagher is available from CTS at £2.95
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