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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
HABEMUS PAPAS SANCTOS
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Shillong, Mar. 5. On 27 April 2014, Pope Francis will canonize two of his predecessors, John Paul II and John XXIII.


HABEMUS PAPAS SANCTOS

We are used to the expression, Habemus Papam, solemnly announced from the balcony of St. Peter`s Basilica when a new Pope is elected. Now we can announce: Habemus Papas Sanctos (we have Popes-Saints).

Pope John XXIII carried out the Petrine ministry only for a short period of time (1958 to 1963). But for good Pope John five years were long enough to contribute very substantially to the renewal and growth of the Church in the modern world. He had an enormous impact both on the Church and society of the twentieth century. A deeply humble man, he could even joke about himself: ``Anybody can be Pope; the proof of this is that I have become one.``

He will be remembered above all for that momentous decision he took, less than three months into his papacy, to convoke the second Vatican Council, which ushered in urgently needed renewal and reform in the Church. He said, ``The council now beginning rises in the Church like the daybreak, a forerunner of most splendid light.`` The common people had already canonised him years ago when they called him ``Good Pope John``.

His immortal encyclicals Mater et Magistra and Pacem in Terris dealt with themes that were of urgent concern in a fast changing world.  He asserted the Church`s genuine interest in the peace and progress of our world. In those days of the cold war, the Berlin wall and the Cuban missile crisis, when the world came perilously close to a nuclear war, he showed that the Church was not just an observer but genuinely concerned about the direction in which our world was moving. He pointed out with reason and persuasion the direction in which it should move. No wonder even non-Christians were impressed with these papal documents. He had endeared himself to so many people that a newspaper described his death as ``A Death in the Family.``

Pope John Paul II has rightly been called the great. He has many firsts to his credit. The first Polish Pope played an important role in the overthrow of communism in his home country as well as in the rest of Eastern Europe. The first non-Italian Pope in more than four hundred years presented himself as the parish priest of the world, especially through his over hundred pastoral journeys to various countries.  His sufferings following the attempt on his life in 1981 as well as in his old age, which he bore with heroic patience, were a special witness to the gospel of Christ. The three million people who stood in line for hours and days to wish him a final goodbye when he died in 2005 were but a fraction of the large number of people touched by his goodness and compassion.

Among his numerous writings was that great document Redemptoris Missio on the permanent validity of the Church`s missionary mandate. With great missionary zeal and remarkable prophetic vision, he stated, ``Missionary activity specifically directed to the nations (ad gentes) appears to be waning, and this tendency is certainly not in line with the directives of the Council and of subsequent statements of the Magisterium. Difficulties both internal and external have weakened the Church`s missionary thrust toward non-Christians, a fact which must arouse concern among all who believe in Christ. For in the Church`s history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith`` (RM 2).

Popes and saints, John XXIII and John Paul II, were truly missionaries. They witnessed to Christ through their example of life and the power of their teaching. They intercede for us as we continue that witness, as children of the Church, missionary by nature.
Paul Vadakumpadan SDB
vvpaulsdb@rediffmail.com

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