Cardinal Affirms John Paul II's Impact on India

Underlines Holiness, Courage of Pontiff

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LONDON, FEB. 17, 2011 ( Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who just returned from a visit to India, underlined the impact of Pope John Paul II on that country.

The retired archbishop of Westminster was asked to represent Benedict XVI at celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to the nation.

The dates of his trip exactly coincided with those of John Paul II’s. The Pontiff was in India from Feb. 1 to Feb. 10, 1986.

Upon returning home, the cardinal shared some of his experiences with BBC radio’s Sunday program, noting that India is «the most fascinating country.»

«What struck me most was the respect for religion,» he said.

The prelate noted that «John Paul’s visit had a huge impact at the time.»

Thus, the cardinal «spoke mostly on the themes he had spoken on himself,» including topics such as «the family, young people, tribal issues, the Holy Eucharist and interreligious dialogue.»

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor noted that «25 years ago, Pope John Paul II said to the Indian Catholic Church, ‘You are a very tiny minority, but you are important — you have a very special part to play in this country with its myriad number of religions.'»

Today, the prelate added, «the Catholic Church in India is confident, strong and vibrant.»

In his footsteps

The 78-year-old cardinal stopped at many of the places visited by John Paul II, including Calcutta, where he prayed with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity.

Reflecting on the experience of following in the Holy Father’s footsteps, the prelate said, «What struck me was what an extraordinary brave and courageous man he was.»

Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor continued: «I was in India for ten days and was very tired at the end of it.

Pope John Paul went all over the world with huge crowds — proclaiming his belief in Jesus Christ — an apostle of the Gospel. I remember him saying that ‘I want to be in every country; in every home.’

«He was an extraordinary man.»

The prelate added, «My visit made me reflect that he was also a man with enormous faith, enormous stamina to undergo these great visits, but also an apostle who wished to put his belief before the world.»

Noting the upcoming beatification of the Pontiff, the cardinal said, «Five years since his death, I don’t think it’s too early.»

He affirmed: «Pope John Paul II should be beatified; his life was so courageous, so holy. He was such an example to the world.»

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