"John Paul Drew the Crucifix to Himself and Embraced It"

Archbishop Foley’s Homily at Mass for Catholic Press Association

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ORLANDO, Florida, MAY 27, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of the homily prepared for today by Archbishop John Foley, president of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, at the memorial Mass of the Catholic Press Association in Orlando.

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My brothers and sisters in Christ:

One of my most vivid memories from the last days of our late Holy Father Pope John Paul II was during the Way of the Cross on Good Friday in which he participated by watching the service at the Coliseum in his chapel on television.

The television camera in his chapel was behind him so that he would not be distracted from taking part in this ceremony in which he always took part personally. I was doing the television commentary in English, reading the very provocative meditations prepared by a certain Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

At one point toward the end of the Way of the Cross, someone put a rather large crucifix on the knee of the Holy Father, and he was gazing lovingly at the figure of Jesus. At the words, «Jesus Dies on the Cross,» Pope John Paul drew the crucifix to himself and embraced it.

I thought to myself: What a beautiful homily without words! Like Jesus, Pope John Paul II has embraced the cross; in fact, he embraced the crucifix, the cross with Jesus.

As you recall, for a number of years, there had been people suggesting that Pope John Paul II should resign. The Holy Father said: «Jesus did not come down from the cross.»

Pope John Paul II taught us that there is much more to the papacy than speaking, writing, greeting people and traveling — although he certainly did enough of all of that.

Pope John Paul II taught us how to live, how to suffer and how to die.

All of us, as Catholic communicators, have learned once again through all of this that we can communicate as much by who we are as by what we write or by what we say.

Those whose passing from this life to eternal life we commemorate this day are now enjoying the company of one about whom they commented so often — and I would ask, when the list of those to be remembered is read at this liturgy, that we begin with the name of Pope John Paul II, a superb communicator himself, one who had been a journalist, writing for Tygodnik Powschechny in Krakow, and one who became the most widely televised Pope in history.

One of the great advantages of my job in Rome was to receive invitations to lunch with the Holy Father.

While I have many memories from those lunches, I would like to recall two of them, in particular.

One was the last lunch I had with him — about a year ago.

He asked: «Would you like me to write a special document for the 40th anniversary of your office?» Naturally I said «yes.» Like a good journalist, he asked — in Italian, which I rather freely translate — «What is your deadline?» I had the nerve to say: «We would like it no later than February of 2005 for the plenary meeting of our council.» He said, «I’ll try to have it for you.»

Would you believe that the Saturday before our plenary meeting, which began on Feb. 21, we received the document «Il Rapido Sviluppo» — «The Rapid Development» — personally signed by him and delivered to us just days before his final hospitalization?

While Pope John Paul II did leave behind a type of spiritual testament which was read to the cardinals and indeed shared with the world, his last major formal document was an apostolic letter to us, to communicators.

The other lunch I would like to recall is the one at which I said to him, «You know, Holy Father, that sometimes your symbolic actions can be more eloquent than some of your discourses» — probably a very «nervy» thing to say to the Pope!

He replied, however, «I know that — and I don’t plan most of those actions; they are spontaneous, but you know that our word ‘symbol’ comes from the Greek word ‘symbolein’ — ‘to bring together’; it’s the opposite of the Greek word ‘diabolein,’ ‘to break apart, to divide’ — the origin of our word ‘diabolical.'»

«Symbolic actions,» he said, «help to bring people together in peace and in love.»

Up to the moment of his death — and even after, Pope John Paul II was bringing people together in peace and in love.

May what we communicate in word and in action in some small way do the same thing — and may the memory of those whom we recall today bring all of us together in peace and in love, with renewed commitment to remind people of the purpose of life, the dignity of death and our eternal destiny with those we love through Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

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