A great and masterful Pope, John Paul II has gone on to his reward and much of Christendom mourns his loss while celebrating the impact of his life. Karol Wojtyla suffered both the Nazi occupation of Poland and the Communist tyranny that followed. As Cardinal he challenged the evil that invaded Poland. As Pope, his masterful political moves helped bring the Berlin Wall down.
I have my own memories of the Pope. In 1984 I worked as Technical Director/Switcher for Canada’s National Broadcaster on the Pope’s tour of Canada. I was in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, Moncton, New Brunswick and Vancouver, BC. In Moncton and Trois Rivieres, our mobile was set up very close to the Pope and we watched him wade into crowds (to the frustration of his security team) and love them as they loved him. He appeared to be a warm, fun-loving man of God.
My favourite Pope tour story was actually a story of my Aunt and Uncle. My Aunt was a very committed Catholic – my Uncle an uncommitted Protestant. He was the Sargeant of the RCMP detachment in Yellowknife, NWT. The Pope was supposed to go to Fort Simpson, NWT as part of his trip and my Aunt decided to bundle her kids up and drive – a significant journey on rough roads in the Canadian North. My uncle had no interest in the trip.
My Aunt set out on her journey and within the first hour had a flat – which she changed. Two hours later she had another flat. I’m not sure if they were able to repair that flat or whether they caught a ride with other pilgrims, but 12 hours later they got to Fort Simpson.
Unfortunately a 200 metre thick wall of fog prevented the Pope’s aircraft from landing. The plane was diverted to another location in the Northwest Territories. Oddly enough it turned out to be Yellowknife – where my uncle was one of the officials who greeted John Paul II.
Have a blast with your Lord and all your friends in heaven, Karol Wojtyla. And may the next Pope be as fine a man as you were.