March 21-26: Pope John Paul II’s Historic Visit to the Holy Land in 2000, & A Commentary on the Signed Photo by Father Richard Kunst
Pope John Paul II made his long wished-for historic pilgrimage to the Middle East from March 21 to March 26, 2000. He visited Israel and Jordan, visiting major biblical sites from the life of Jesus along the way. Scroll down to view this historic visit in 3 parts.
An Autographed Photo of John Paul II Leaning Against His Staff
One of the many things we see in many of our popes, and in a particular way in Saint John Paul II, is their human frailty. These men struggle with the same kinds of frailties we all struggle with, and one of the most noted frailties that John Paul II experienced was Parkinson’s disease, at least some form of it. And we remember these images of him shaking quite a bit, especially as he got older. Because of that, what he would do as he got older and more advanced in age and less capable of actually signing his name is that he reached the point where he just started to initial his name, “JP II.”
This item is an example of that. The photograph of him is when he was quite a bit younger, but the signature, “JP II,” indicates that it certainly was signed much later in his pontificate, not long before his death. We can see that there’s a raised stamp to indicate it was signed by him.
I think of him being canonized, and a big part of his holiness was his modeling for us the journey towards sainthood: it was his ability to suffer. He suffered greatly in his final years. We saw that very tangibly in the suffering he was going through physically, and certainly he was uniting it to the Lord.
My friend, Father Ryan Moravitz, was studying in Rome at the time of John Paul’s death. He remembers the last day he came to the window when he himself was there in the square, and he couldn’t speak, and he was shaking– you could see, and we all stood in the square cheering him on. He remembers thinking, “Holy Father, you don’t need to say anything. You say everything with your life by showing us the beauty and the dignity of human life in the midst of great suffering up to those final moments of journey to the Lord, to the Father’s house.”
I think of this small signature that happened later in his life, and I am reminded what a great model and great example he gave to us.
John Paul showed us the value of the elderly. I had a non-Catholic friend of mine say to me while John Paul was still alive, “Well, how can he lead when he’s so incapacitated?” And I said to him exactly what Father Moravitz said: “In his leadership, what he was doing was showing us the value of the elderly and the dignity of human life.”
That is so important these days—to recognize the dignity and the worth of human life. Everyone still contributes to the life of the Church, to the lives of others, even in the midst of great suffering and illness. So those who are suffering might turn to John Paul II for his intercession and his example to know how to journey with the Lord in the midst of those final days of life. And through that suffering, to offer it up.
We certainly saw that in an incredibly graceful way in Saint John Paul the Great: uniting that suffering to the heart of Christ.
—Father Richard Kunst
Saint John Paul is Father Kunst’s favorite saint. The Collection has many items, including a first class relic of his blood, that may be found on Papal Artifacts/John Paul II. Some of the most interesting stories connected to the Collection may be found at this site.
“On a hillside near the lake of Galilee, Jesus’s disciples listened to his gentle and urgent voice; as gentle as the landscape of Galilee itself, as urgent as a call to choose between life and death, between truth and falsehood. The Lord spoke words of life that would echo for ever in the hearts of his followers.” —John Paul at the closing homily of WYD 2002
Saint John Paul, intercede for us. Pray for us!