May 15, 2020
By Paulina Guzik
Pope emeritus Benedict XVI commemorated the centennial of the birth of Karol Wojtyła, who became Pope John Paul II, in an open letter to the Polish people addressed to Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, who was the longtime private secretary to the Polish pontiff.
A mix of emotional memoir and theological thoughts on the heritage of John Paul – who was born on May 18, 1920, and died April 2, 2005 – the letter is a call not to divide the Church within a line of pontificates, but see each pope as a continuity of his predecessor.
Benedict says John Paul marked a turning point in the history of the Church. After commenting on the turbulences that troubled both the world and the Church at the time of John Paul’s election, the pope emeritus says that “an almost impossible task was awaiting the new pope. Yet, from the first moment on, John Paul II aroused new enthusiasm for Christ and his Church.”
John Paul’s proclamation of “Do not be afraid” characterized his entire pontificate and – Benedict continues – “made him a liberating restorer of the Church.”
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