In New Book of Poetry, Pope Ponders His Death

«Roman Triptych, Meditations» Reopens a Chapter of His Life

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 6, 2003 ( The Vatican presented John Paul II’s new book of poetry, a work whose scope touches on the mystery of his election as Pope and also that of his successor.

«Roman Triptych, Meditations,» presented today, addresses the important questions of life and of the Holy Father’s life.

The Pope wrote the 33-page book, in Polish, at the end of his trip to his homeland last August. It was completed at Christmas, said Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls.

Navarro-Valls revealed that «during a brief stay of the Pontiff in the Alps five years ago, a guest asked the Pope if he still wrote poetry. John Paul II replied that it was a closed experience of his life. That chapter that seemed closed has opened again today.»

«Roman Triptych, Meditations» has three parts. The first, «The Stream,» is a mystical contemplation of nature, highlighting its beauty and man’s search for God.

The second part is a meditation «On the Book of Genesis at the Threshold of the Sistine Chapel,» a reflection on man, the image of God, from Creation to the Last Judgment. It is inspired by Michelangelo’s art.

The third part, «A Hill in the Land of Moriah,» evokes Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham’s homeland, and the conversation between the patriarch and his son Isaac, whom he was about to sacrifice on Mount Moriah as proof of his loyalty to God.

The memory of the conclave of the month of August 1978 in which Pope John Paul I was chosen and of the one in October, when Karol Wojtyla took the name John Paul II, takes a surprising turn in the second part, where he also refers to his death.

Contemplating the Last Judgment, he prays that those images in the Sistine Chapel will reveal to the cardinals gathered to choose his successor «the clarity of consciences.»

«The Sistine painting will then speak with the Word of the Lord:
Tu est Petrus (You are Peter), as Simon, the son of Jonah, heard.
«To you I will give the keys of the Kingdom.»
Those to whom the care of the legacy of the keys has been entrusted
gather here, allowing themselves to be enfolded by the Sistine’s colors,
by the vision left to us by Michelangelo —
so it was in August, and then in October, of the memorable year of two Conclaves,
and so it will be again, when the need arises after my death.
Michelangelo’s vision must then speak to them.»

«It is necessary that during the Conclave, Michelangelo teach them
Do not forget: Omnia nuda et aperta sunt ante oculos Eius.
You who are in all, show the way!
He will teach you …»

«Why does the Pope write poetry?» Navarro-Valls mused. «It is difficult to answer. Every poet would have difficulty to express why he writes. Perhaps in a more profound reading of these texts, it will be possible to find the answer.»

The volume, the first book of poetry written by Karol Wojtyla as Pope, was published in Polish today. The rights of translations into other languages belong to the Vatican Press, which is signing agreements with publishers in various countries.

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