Pope Considers Lesson of John Paul II's Passion Points to Equal Importance of 2 Parts of Pontificate
BRESSANONE, Italy, AUG. 19, 2008
Benedict XVI says that the pontificate of Pope John Paul II can be divided into two equally important parts: the years when he took the Gospel to the world and the years of his "passion."
The Pope affirmed this Aug. 6 when he met with priests, deacons and seminarians of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone and answered in German six questions they asked him. The Holy Father was on vacation in the Dolomites, where he stayed at the major seminary of Bressanone.
A question was offered by a 42-year-old priest who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis the same year he was ordained, Father Willi Fusaro. Father Fusaro asked Benedict XVI to draw from the example of John Paul II and offer advice to elderly or sick priests on how to make their presbyterate fruitful and to live it well.
The German Pope responded by saying that, for him, "both parts of Pope John Paul II's pontificate were equally important. In the first part, in which we saw him as a giant of faith, with incredible courage, extraordinary force, a true joy of faith and great lucidity, he took the Gospel message to the ends of the earth. […]
"However, I must say that because of the humble testimony of his 'passion,' to my mind these last years of his pontificate were no less important; just as he carried the Lord's cross before us and put into practice the words of the Lord.
"With his growing weakness, John Paul II, "who had been a master of words, thus showed us visibly -- it seems to me -- the profound truth that the Lord redeemed us with his cross, with the passion, as an extreme act of his love," Benedict XVI said. "He showed us that suffering is not only a 'no,' something negative, the lack of something, but a positive reality. "He showed us that suffering accepted for love of Christ, for love of God and of others is a redeeming force, a force of love and no less powerful than the great deeds he accomplished in the first part of his pontificate."
Like the Lord
The Pope said that Jesus' life also had these two aspects.
"In the first part [Christ] teaches the joy of the Kingdom of God, brings his gifts to men and then, in the second part, he is immersed in the Passion until his last cry from the cross," the Holy Father explained. "In this very way he taught us who God is, that God is love and that, in identifying with our suffering as human beings, he takes us in his arms and immerses us in his love and this love alone bathes us in redemption, purification and rebirth.
"The Pontiff said that in a world "that thrives on activism, on youth, on being young, strong and beautiful, on succeeding in doing great things," people must "learn the truth of love which becomes a 'passion' and thereby redeems man and unites him with God who is love."
Still, Benedict XVI acknowledged, accepting suffering is no easy task, and those who suffer need prayers and signs of gratitude."
Let us therefore pray for all who are suffering and do our utmost to help them, to show our gratitude for their suffering and be present to them as much as we can, to the very end," he encouraged. "This is a fundamental message of Christianity that stems from the theology of the cross: The fact that suffering and passion are present in Christ's love is the challenge for us to unite ourselves with his passion.
"We must love those who suffer not only with words but with all our actions and our commitment. I think that only in this way are we truly Christian."