Next Sunday, May 1st will see the beatification of Pope John Paul II and is also Divine Mercy Sunday. The Divine Mercy was particularly important to Karol Wojtyla who lived through a century of unprecedented bloodshed and brutality.
Working for peace was also a fundamental aspect of John Paul II’s Papacy, for him, mercy and peace are two fundamental characteristics of God himself, the Pope called his 1980 encyclical on God the Father, Dives in Misericordia (rich in mercy) and often said that the day he canonized Sr Faustina Kowalska – April 30th 2000 – the nun who had instituted devotion to the Divine Mercy following her visions of Jesus, was the happiest of his life.
In his final memoir, Memory and identity published in his last year, 2005, he wrote:
“The patrimony of (Sr Faustina’s) spirituality was of great importance, as we know from experience, for the resistance against the evil and inhuman systems of the time.”
As Jim Gallagher points out in the new CTS biography John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood, the Divine Mercy was vital to John Paul because it proved that evil does not have the final word, it was a devotion he had defended since he was archbishop of Krakow, when he had launched an appeal to have Sr Faustina’s diary – in which the saint had recorded her visions – re-translated from Polish and worked to have the devotion excepted by the whole Church.
Another reason for his beatification is what became known as the “Peace Offensive” of 2002. Jesus is called the “Prince of peace” (Isaiah 9:5) and in February of 2002 the Holy Father sought to make that peace a visible reality by putting all his efforts into avoiding war between Iraq and the USA.
In that month he met: J. Fischer (7th Feb.); Tarek Aziz (14th Feb.); Kofi Annan (18th Feb.); Tony Blair (22nd Feb.); José Maria Aznar and the envoy of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami, Head of the Islamic Republic of Iran (27th Feb.); and finally, because of the humanly unbearable situation he sent Cardinal Etchegaray on a special mission to Baghdad (15th Feb.)
Ultimately his efforts were unsuccessful, but as an example of putting the Gospel into action, “Happy the peacemakers: they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5: 9), it remains a vital sign that the Holy Father, right up to the end of his life was doing his best to make the nature of God clear to contemporary man, a nature of peace and mercy.
The motto of the Divine Mercy is “Jesus I trust in you” and the man who will be beatified on the Sunday dedicated to that particular aspect of the nature of God, certainly did.
John Paul II – The Road to Sainthood by Jim Gallagher is available from CTS at £2.95
Of related interest: