(Vatican Radio) During Saturday’s Jubilee of Mercy audience at the Vatican, Pope Francis extended a special greeting to the Polish pilgrims present, remembering the 1050th anniversary of the baptism of their nation, and the feast day the Polish-born pontiff, St John Paul II.
Listen to Ann Schneible’s report:
“Exactly 38 years ago, at about this time, in this square, there resounded these words to men and women throughout the world: ‘Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ’.”
In remembrance of the feast day of St John Paul II, Pope Francis recalled these words delivered by his predecessor during his first Mass as the Roman pontiff on October 22, 1978.
The legacy of the papacy of John Paul II, who was born Karol Józef Wojtyła, is a prolific one.
Over the course of his more than 26 years in office, he visited 129 countries, founded World Youth Day, and was instrumental in the fall of the Berlin Wall.
St John Paul II also had a special devotion to the Divine Mercy; in the year 2000, he officially designated the first Sunday after Easter as Divine Mercy Sunday which he himself had founded.
A poet and an avid sportsman, he continued to write poetry throughout his pontificate, and remained active until his final years.
The Polish-born pontiff was also known for his writings on human sexuality, most notably his Theology of the Body.
John Paul II was beatified in 2011 by Benedict XVI, and was canonized three years later by Pope Francis on the feast of Divine Mercy.
Addressing the 100,000 pilgrims gathered in St Peter’s Square this Saturday, Pope Francis reflected on how it was Poland’s historical and cultural inheritance which filled John Paul II with hope, strength, and courage to “open wide the doors of Christ”.
“This invitation,” the Pope said, “was transformed by an unceasing proclamation of the Gospel of mercy for the world and for mankind, of which this Jubilee Year is a continuation”
The Holy Father went on to reflect on the feast of St John Paul II, especially his relevance for young people, the suffering, and newly married couples.
“May his consistent witness of faith be a lesson for you, dear young people, for confronting the challenges of life,” the Pope said. He then invited the sick to “embrace with hope the cross of illness,” and told newly married couples to seek his intercession in order that their new families may never be lacking in love.