John Paul II Always Thought of the People First, Says Former Spokesman

Weigel and Navarro-Valls Remember Polish Pontiff

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Two witnesses spoke of the life and the petrine ministry of Pope John Paul II this morning at a Vatican press conference: Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican spokesman during John Paul II’s pontificate, and George Weigel, his biographer.

Weigel proposed that it was a “courageous and wise decision” to have this Sunday’s joint canonizations recognizing the holiness of both John Paul II and John XXIII, as they are the two “bookends» of the Second Vatican Council.

John Paul II “recovered John XXIII’s intention to have the new Pentecost,» fostering the new evangelization, Weigel said.

The biographer characterized John Paul II’s life as «summariz[ing] the human drama of the 20th century in a singular way.” 

John Paul II was the “great teacher of our time” in the realms of work, love, and suffering, he said.

In regard to work, Weigel stated: “Pope John Paul II taught the inalienable value and dignity of every human life and showed us how our daily work is a daily participation in God’s ongoing creation of the world.

“In a broken world, John Paul II, taught us, that in Jesus Christ, we need divine mercy.” 


Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Vatican press office for 22 years during John Paul II’s papacy, mentioned personal anecdotes, including dinners and travel with the late pontiff.

Navarro-Valls said John Paul’s holiness was visible through his prayer, work, and smile.

For Wojtyla, he said, prayer had three characteristics: it’s needed by the soul, nourished by the world’s miseries, and is part of identity.

He noted that praying for Wojtyla was like what breathing is to us. On one hand it’s “natural,” but on the other its intense and constant.

Working, John Paul II showed holiness, through a calm, poised demeanor. He said the Pontiff never wasted any time. Navarro-Valls said that no matter what difficulties were happening, he never seemed distracted or in a hurry, as the former Vatican spokesman admitted he often felt. Each person and subject had John Paul’s full attention.

Turning to how John Paul addressed problems, the spokesman said the Polish Pope studied them and compared them with the great truths. He alway kept the people in mind.

«When he tried to solve those problems, he kept in his mind the person or persons to whom the solution to that problem would come … he imagined the person or people who had to live the decision that he would take at that time.»

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