This week, ilsussidario.net is offering a number of testimonies to Pope John Paul II's extraordinary life.
Fr. Massimo Camisasca writes:
Behind all this was not a machine, but a true man. Certainly he was a man with special gifts: the knowledge of languages that enabled him to speak directly to each audience, the oratorical skills that he inherited from his former experience as an actor, the subtlety in the use of words that made him a poet, the philosophical attitude to penetrate the deepest layers of human life. But at the center of all this was an encounter with Christ, who came to him from the tradition of his family and his people. A lordship, that of Christ, was felt by Karol Wojtyla as a source of joy and security, human fullness, and thus a source of courage, proposal, and even provocation.
And personally, he recalls the Pope's attentiveness: "When I saw him, at table with Don Giussani, in the Vatican or at Castel Gandolfo, he was always asking questions, curious, attentive, listening, ready to capture any new event or any new word that might be useful to his understanding of man and his mission."
Cardinal Angelo Scola recalls John Paul II first as a man of prayer:
The first time I went up on the altar with him, in 1979, I was struck by the way he celebrated. John Paul II was a “mystic” Pope. He lived a relationship of extraordinary immediacy with God. It is not surprising that people called for his sainthood starting the day he died. It was enough to see him pray. When we went to lunch with him, we went first to the chapel to say the Angelus. All of us thought that it would take about thirty seconds. Instead, sometimes it took so long that we could no longer remain on our knees on the floor. The Pope was truly immersed in prayer, and for him space and time no longer existed. You could see it by the movement of his lips. In his prayers I perceived—I could see—a profound dialogue with God, uninterrupted. Like a breath, the Pope let out sounds like the gurgles of a river that never ends. It was amazing.
He also calls Wojtyla "the Pope of freedom and the Saint of freedom."
The pope's biographer, George Weigel, writes:
What unifies the man is his profound, indeed radical, Christian discipleship. Karol Wojtyla's commitment to Christ was at the root of everything else he did in his life...
It would be impossible to calculate the number of people who encountered this Pope during a 26 year reign and after visiting 129 countries. I was one of the pilgrims who went to Rome in the first year of his papacy and shook his hand in the crowd. He looked intently at each person he met. Wojtyla showed Christ's face to the world in an unprecedented and undeniable way and continues to accompany us today.