Statement on the death of His Holiness John Paul II By The Rt Revd Pierre W Whalon, DD. Bishop-in-charge Convocation of American Churches In Europe
There have been and there will certainly be many more encomia to this Pope, who even before he is buried must be recognized as one of the great heirs to the chair of Peter. As his funeral approaches, some critical voices have also been raised. All great people who have shed their light on humanity must also cast their shadow as well. As time goes on, the true impact of this man's ministry will become clearer.
What has always struck me is that John Paul II always gave an impression of personal approachability and involvement, especially to young people, who responded in huge enthusiastic crowds to his visits. He had an extraordinary ability to communicate in memorable phrases-"the culture of death," for instance. As a theologian, his writing remains unmatched in the field of economic justice. His clear strong personal faith was a witness to the world. And John Paul showed a personal courage which won the admiration of even his sworn enemies.
John Paul had the gift for gestures, in which he regularly moved out of the normal bounds of papal behavior to reach out to others. Perhaps his greatest one came when he went to pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, leaving, as all supplicants do, a prayer on a scrap of paper wedged into a crevasse. Thus he made an indelible impression that started moving the Church toward real reconciliation with the Jewish people.
Pope John Paul II made a much smaller gesture on November 17, 2001, when he formally welcomed me to Europe, the day before my consecration as Bishop-in-charge of the Convocation of American Churches In Europe. It was the first time a pope had ever received an Anglican candidate for bishop. The consecrating bishops, led by the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, the Most Rev. Frank T. Griswold, III, and all the clergy and delegates to the Convocation's Convention were with me. The Pope hugged and kissed the young people we had with us. Nina Miegs, then of Emmanuel Church, Geneva, led a prayer for unity they had composed that moved us all deeply, including His Holiness, who asked for a copy of it.
I will always have a wonderful personal memory of that audience, the words we exchanged, and John Paul's strong handshake of welcome. Today, as the world gathers in Rome to escort the mortal remains of Karel Wojtyla to his grave, let us take a moment to remember before God the good he did for so many, including one very nervous Episcopal priest awaiting ordination to the order of bishop.
Requiem aeternam dona eis, Domine, et lux perpetua luceat eis.
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