I clearly remember the day Pope John Paul the Second was elected Pope. He was the first non-Italian Pope for hundreds of years.
He was a very ‘human’ Pope. He enjoyed the mountains, swimming, music, danced with young people at gatherings, enjoyed good food and company.
He seemed to have boundless energy.
I remember clearly when he came to Adelaide. I had just left a wedding reception and was travelling home. I knew that he was arriving at the airport that night. I had no intention of going there, but suddenly felt myself drawn to go to the road that he was to travel on towards the Adelaide town hall.
I kept going, parked my car and waited for him to arrive with the crowd.
He had a presence about him, you could not help but see the presence of God in him.
Some days later, I concelebrated Mass with him, together with the priests of the Adelaide Diocese and Port Pirie.
He came to greet us priests and his message was, I am here with my brothers, keep it up. He was strengthening the brothers.
I heard him speak in Rome on the Feast of Sts Peter and Paul, talking with the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew. They spoke to each other as brothers.
The last time I saw him was at the Toronto World Youth Day events. He was very sick by now and his speech was slurred.
He told many thousands of young people about his experiences under the Nazi occupation in Poland, and his experiences under the Communists. He said despite these challenges, and the evils he experienced, he was full of hope. He said that he believed in these young people.
Those young people listened attentively. He told them to go and change the world for Christ!
There are some things that I do not agree with St. Pope John the second about. However, I have no doubt that he was a man of God, truly charismatic, and a Saint. I can, and do, learn a lot from this great man of God.