30 April 2017
2005 Pope John Paul II

Reflection by Bishop Michael Smith
on the death of
Pope John Paul II

On his election as Pope Card. Wyszynski told him that he was called to lead
the Church into the new millennium. This he did with extraordinary
commitment and dedication opening the doors to Christ and constantly
launching into the deep in fulfilment of his mission.

When he returned on his first visit to Poland he kept repeating the phrase
'be not afraid'. He spoke about a dignity that no state system could take
away from the human person. It is a phase that he has repeated constantly
all his years as Pope. The impact of that visit to his native land set in
train the events that led to knocking down the wall and the demise of
communism.

Providence was at work in preparing him for the task the Lord was to entrust
to him. No only his personal experience of the evils of Nazism and Communism
but especially his work at the Second Vatican Council. He was very actively
involved in the drafting of the Decree 'The Church in the Modern World'. The
central themes of that Decree have formed the basis for much of his
preaching and writing as Pope: the human person's questioning of life's
meaning and purpose; the dignity of the human person at all stages of life;
atheism; the interdependence of persons and its application to the terrible
imbalances in our world; the Church and society; marriage and the family;
sacredness of life; faith and culture; organisation of society and the
economy; aid to those in need; war and peace; dialogue with those who differ
from us etc. etc. He has been the great interpreter of the Vatican Council
being faithful at all times to its message and content.

From the beginning he preached the dignity of the human person - at the end
he gave witness before the world to that preaching in his sickness and
infirmity.

His final two major initiatives were the Year of the Rosary and the Year of
the Eucharist - both a profound call to prayer and to walking with Christ.
His absolute refusal to compromise the truth. His teaching was rooted in the
Gospel and not in the prevailing moods of any age. He spoke to millions in
all corners of the world; preaching in dozens of languages, wrote 85,000
pages of talks and teachings. Yet in the end he has reduced to silence,
preaching by his presence and his bearing of the Cross. His love of life was
transformed into a total acceptance of the Lord's will, of Life itself. In
recent years he must often have reflected on Christ's words to Peter that he
would be taken where he would rather not go. He preached through his
suffering seeing this as central to his call, echoed in his comment 'Christ
did not come down from the Cross'.