Vatican Reporters Reflect on the "Apostle Pope"

Preaching Christ Is His Passion, They Say

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ROME, OCT. 1, 2003 ( Can anything new be said about John Paul II after a quarter century of pontificate? Several Vatican correspondents asked themselves this very question in the Foreign Press Room here.

The journalists were attending the presentation Tuesday of a book on the Pope by the late journalist Domenico del Rio.

They concluded that much could still be discovered about John Paul II, not only by listing his unpublished activities but by reflecting in-depth on the meaning of his mission.

Regarding the Pope’s health, they offered no predictions since many such predictions in the past have been proved wrong.

Marco Tossati, Vatican correspondent of La Stampa, recalled that journalists considered the Pope all but dead «at least six times since 1992.»

Speculation about the Holy Father’s health resurfaced when the German magazine Bunde quoted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as saying that the Pope is not well and «we must pray for him.»

The cardinal’s statements, though made Sept. 22, triggered fresh speculation in the media when they were published this week.

Reflecting on John Paul II’s pontificate, Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican Television Center, portrayed the Pope as having the ability «to look at distant horizons, in space and time.»

According to Luigi Accatoli, religious correspondent of Il Corriere della Sera, this pontificate can be summarized thus: «Of his 10 fingers, John Paul II has used nine to preach the Gospel and one to govern the Church.»

«He is an apostle Pope, centering everything on the preaching of Jesus Christ,» added this author of many books. «Today the Pope appears vulnerable and weak because he knows he cannot come down from the cross.» He added that John Paul II «interprets his mission in terms of faith.»

Tossati observed that one of the mistakes of journalists who follow the Pope on his trips is «to focus attention on everything the Pontiff does,» when, in fact, they should understand his mentality and realize that the Pope’s objective is none other than to «oblige the local Churches to take up their role, before him and before their own country, to define themselves, to be themselves.»

The journalists commented on the figure of Domenico del Rio, a Vatican specialist, who died early this year. From being an outspoken critic, del Rio became a great admirer of John Paul II, thanks to his Christian witness.

In his posthumous book, «Karol, The Great» (Paoline Publishers), del Rio presents the Holy Father as «great in strength at the beginning of his pontificate, and great in his frailty in recent times.»

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