People Power and Prayer

John Paul II´s Energizers

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 9, 2001 ( Nothing energizes an exhausted John Paul II more than people and prayer.

So says Luigi Accatoli, Vatican correspondent for the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera. The journalist gives two examples. The first occurred Tuesday, when the Pope arrived in Malta.

The Holy Father was tired and bent over after an exhausting marathon of public meetings and trips in Greece and Syria. But on facing a welcoming crowd in Malta, he perked up.

The Pope was on the balcony of the Presidential Palace of the Grand Masters of Malta. «He had no microphone,» Accatoli noted, «but, as usual when he is in form, his gestures were enough to communicate with the people. He would point with his finger to the person shouting the loudest, and then he began to keep time to the people´s cries (´Viva il Papa! Viva il Papa!´), first with his fist and then with an open hand on the balcony´s rail.»

«It was the usual Wojtyla,» the writer added, «and not the tired man of tentative step who makes one hold one´s breath as he comes down a plane´s steps.»

This Pope does not recover solely through contact with people, however. He has another energizer: prayer.

«On Monday,» Accatoli wrote, «in Quneitra, kneeling in that virtually destroyed church, where he arrived at great physical cost, five minutes of recollection were sufficient to restore peace to his face.»

During the flight from Syria to Malta on Tuesday, reporters asked Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls if it would not be better for the Pope to stop undertaking these exhausting trips.

Navarro-Valls answered firmly: «The Pope has no intention of stopping.»

«He has scheduled a trip to Ukraine in June, but he is already thinking of Armenia, where he might go, perhaps, next autumn, as well as of two other trips for next year,» the spokesman added. One trip will be to Canada, and the other might be Bulgaria.

Reporters kept asking if it was not too much for a Pontiff who turns 81 next week.

Navarro-Valls replied: «He gets tired traveling, but while he has the strength, he will go wherever he is called. He is very happy with the results obtained in Greece and Syria. He is also pleased with the possibility he had to meet his commitments and keep his usual pace on each day.»

After the Jubilee, «we thought he would change his pace, but he has returned to his previous work, and is receiving [bishops´] ´ad limina´ visits again,» the director of the Vatican Press Office said.

He added: «Someone should explain to the Pope what the word ´weekend´ means.»

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