Celebrations of the 35th anniversary of the John Paul II Foundation started on October 21, 2016, the day before the liturgical remembrance of Saint John Paul II. Five hundred individuals from five continents: North America, South America, Australia and Oceania, Asia, and Europe attended the anniversary celebrations. Among attendees there were presidents, members, and benefactors of the John Paul II Foundation Chapters from 19 countries as well as many distinguished guests as Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz, Stanisław Cardinal Ryłko, Kazimierz Cardinal Nycz, Abp Józef Kowalczyk, Abp Petrus Turan, Bp Jan Szkodoń, Bp Petrus Canisius Mandagi as well as 50 priests and many others.
The celebrations began on Friday before noon with the private audience with the Holy Father Francis, who addressed all attendees with the following words:
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I’m very happy that you came! The thirty fifth anniversary of your Foundation is the occasion and this allows me to make conclusions, as the work is done and at the same time to look into the future for the new goals and tasks. My cordial greeting to, starting from the president, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko to whom I need to say thank you for the words of introduction to this meeting; also, my greetings to Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, who knew the Holy Father John Paul II so well. Your Foundation supports initiatives which are educational, cultural, religious and charitable which were inspired by John Paul II, who will have tomorrow the liturgical feast which we are going to celebrate. Your activities cover many countries, especially in Eastern Europe and so many students received your help, were able to graduate from universities. I encourage you to continue to be active in promotion and support for the young generation, so they could face obstacles in life and be sensitive to the Gospel and spirit of Catholic faith. Education of young people is an investment for the future; let the young people have the hope for the better tomorrow!
The Jubilee Year, which is almost ending encouraged us to think and meditate about the extent of God’s Mercy, at the times when a man due to enhancement in various scientific and technical fields, feels self-sufficient, like he/she is free from the superior power, believing that everything depends from him/her. As Christians, however, we are aware that everything is the gift from God, and the true wealth is not expressed in money, which can make a slave from a man, but God’s love which puts a man free. I still remember the trip to Poland, where I experienced so much joy of faith during the World Youth Days. Polish soil brought two great holy people St. Faustyna Kowalska and John Paul II, the apostles of the Divine Mercy. The Saint Pope said in the Encyclical Letter: “Jesus revealed that love is present in the world in which we live - an effective love, a love that addresses itself to man and embraces everything that makes up his humanity. This love makes itself particularly noticed in contact with suffering, injustice and poverty - in contact with the whole historical "human condition," which in various ways manifests man's limitation and frailty, both physical and moral.” (n.3) St. Faustina in her Diary described the call from Lord Jesus directed to her: “My daughter, observe my merciful heart and open it in your heart and in your actions, in your devotion, so that you, yourself, saying about my mercy, could take a fire from it”. Let these words and especially examples from life of the two luminescent witnesses, always generously inspire your commitment. Let the Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy, protect you and accompany you. I cordially bless you, your families and communities. I ask you for prayers. Thank you.
In the evening at the Polish Home the John Paul II Foundation organized the poetry evening combined with the promotion of the newest ODiSP publication “Written by heart. The book contains poetry of 76 authors from Poland and Polonia which was dedicated to the Holy Father John Paul II. The book was created in cooperation with Mrs. Bożena Pawłowska-Kilanowska from the John Paul II Foundation Canada Chapter. Attendees were able to learn more about the origin of the book, which was presented by Justyna Staroń, doctoral student of KUL, as well as listen to the memories of Rev. Andrzej Dobrzyński about Kazimierz Cybulski, who recently passed away. Ms. Agnieszka Koziarz read her poetry piece and Bp Jan Szkodoń, auxiliary bishop from archdiocese of Krakow made a speech.
The following day of the celebrations, Saturday October 22nd, began with the Divine Mercy Chaplet, prayed in five languages: English, Polish, French, Spanish and Italian by famous artists Hubert Pralitz and Bethany Wildes from the United States. After that, the Holy Mass was celebrated by Abp Józef Kowalczyk Primate of Poland along with priests from different parts of the world. In his homily, the archbishop encouraged everybody to fully entrust Christ in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. He was saying: “The words from the Psalm of today’s liturgy, is the echoes words of Saint John Paul II said on the day of his pontificate’s inauguration, October 22, 1978 at the Saint Peter’s Square in Rome …Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States. Do not be afraid. Christ knows "what is in the man". He alone knows it! Let Christ speak to man. He alone has words of eternal life. What a big power have those words today. They made up and still are directing the program of our actions and our self-improvements. Again, let us analyze and try to understand them. The words were stated by the person, who was called by our Lord to the Peter’s service in the Church, by the person who in the unity with Christ was taking every day with faith, hope and love; the rare man, saint, the man with authority and the restorer of the contemporary times who was finding a way to reach a man from the deepest corners of the world. He was serving all with love…He was calling for peace and showing that in the world full of military conflicts, the only weapon which can give us victory is the honest dialogue based on the commandment of love”.
After the Mass, all attendees went for a celebratory dinner, which provided another opportunity to express gratitude to all for their dedication and commitment in the activities of the John Paul II Foundation. The Saturday’s celebrations were complemented with a concert in Chiesa Nuova. The program of the concert performed by the early music ensemble from Poniatowa “Scholares Minores pro Musica Antiqua” featured sacral pieces: „Alle psallite, alleluja”, „Congaudeant Catholici”, „Benedicamus Domino”, „Preambulum in d”, „Quen a omagen da Virgen”, „Alleluja” and laic: „Tanz”, „Rex”, „Danserye”, „Echo”, „Saltarello”, „Matona mia cara”, „Kurant”, „Yapa Flauta”, „Jesu spes mea”, „Canite, Plaudite, exultate omnes”.
The third day of the celebrations, October 23rd, at 7 a.m. started with the penitential pilgrimage from the Castel St. Angelo through via della Conciliazione to the Basilica of St. Peter, to pass through the Holly Doors and receive plenary indulgence related to the Year of Mercy. Upon passing through the Holy Doors of Mercy, members of the Foundation went to the Saint John Paul II altar, to give thanks to God for the gift of the 35th anniversary of the Foundation. Then, the Holy Mass in the St. Peter’s Basilica was celebrated by Stanisław Cardinal Dziwisz, Stanisław Cardinal Ryłko, Kazimierz Cardinal Nycz, Archbishops and Bishops, and approximately 70 priests. The Archbishop of Krakow during the homily said that the Saint John Paul II was as a man of prayer and he had a special role at the Foundation: “The Gospel is the book of prayer. It is also a book about prayer. Today’s Gospel provides an important lesson about a prayer. Jesus demonstrates two attitudes, two examples of a prayer, radically different, the Pharisee, who was considered as good man and tax collector. If we would like God to listen, we should, at first, be aware that we are not self-sufficient, that we are weak and sinful, that in fact we need His help. Humility opens the path to God. Without any doubts, the key to understanding the St. John Paul II’s fascinating personality and accomplishments was his prayer. It was the secret of his heart; he rarely spoke about it. But John Paul II prayed the entire day. He often was going to his private chapel to propound to Eucharistic Jesus important matters of his pontificate and decisions he had to make. The prayer of John Paul II was bringing blessed fruits for the Church and the world. In multiplication of good related to the pontificate of St. John Paul II contributes the Foundation which bears his name. It preserves and disseminates heritage of their Patron, it helps others to draw from his charisma and holiness. In a special way, the Foundation supports intellectual and spiritual formation of young people, this way preparing army of young people who are willing to serve God, the Church and society. For the goodness which has the name of the John Paul II Foundation, we would like to especially give thanks to our Lord in this Mass celebrated in the St. Peter’s Basilica, in which the tomb of St. John Paul II is located. Now, we are asking for God’s blessing for activities, goals, and work of the Foundation in the coming years. We are asking for good fruits of the Holy Year of Mercy for us, for our families and environments, for the entire Church”.
The next event of the celebrations was taking place at the Chapel of the Polish Home where the Holy Devotion was celebrated by Stanisław Cardinal Ryłko. During the Liturgy of the Word, the Gold Book was opened. In his homily, the Cardinal, presented the history and goals of the Foundations as well as expressed his gratitude to all who are working for the well-being of the Foundation: “We gather together in this beautiful chapel of the Polish House to celebrate the 35the anniversary of our Foundation. The Words of the God encourages us to celebrate the jubilee in gratefulness. In the first reading St. Paul encourages us: “Be grateful! With gratitude in your hearts to God and in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him…” The attitude of thankfulness towards God and people is from end to end a Christian attitude, as in the center of a Christian life is the Eucharist that is thanksgiving. In the Church, we are now experiencing the Jubilee of Mercy under the motto “Merciful like the Father”, and the excerpt from the Gospel which was just read, reminded us about this extraordinary blessing “Blessed are merciful…” The attitude of mercy which Christ expects from us is shown in each selfless gift towards those in need, but it can also be expressed in our gratitude for the gifts we received from others!
”Be grateful”. This is the deepest meaning of our 35th anniversary of the establishment of our John Paul II Foundation. In a special way let give thanks to God for the Person and Pontificate of St. John Paul II, who so deeply changed the world, as well as many of us. Also, let give thanks to God for our Foundation, which bears the name of John Paul II and which in the past 35 years proved to be a providential initiative and which as the good Evangelical tree, provided a lot of good fruits. How not to be grateful to God for all of this! This time as a sign of our gratitude and remembrance for all who dedicated themselves for our Foundation, we would like to offer you the Golden Book. We dedicate the Book for all those who in a special way were involved in the memory preservation of the person and heritage of St. John Paul II. The Book is also dedicated to those who already went to eternity and who for many years were active in the Foundation, supporting it in many ways. This Golden Book allows to, preserve the memory of all who from the love to John Paul II faithfully supported the Foundation. We believe, that the Book will become, for the next generations, the source of inspiration and encouragement to support all good initiatives. We wish that this special Book would become a Book that is alive as alive is the Foundation. It will forever stay as on open book, in which the next pages will be written by the next generations of friends of our Foundation… Saint John Paul II once said to the members of the Foundation and its friends: “I ask you to persevere in this good work. May it continue to develop and may your joint efforts, sustained by God's help, continue to produce magnificent fruit.”
The celebrations at the Polish Home ended with a banquet, which was enriched by the performance of the young artists, group “Maki” from New Jersey, USA. It was a time of meeting others, conversations, and sharing experiences among all attendees of the Foundation’s anniversary.
On October 24, before the noon, at the Chapel of the Polish Home in Rome took place a meeting organized by the Center for Documentation and Research of the Pontificate of John Paul II named: “Our yesterday and today.” At the beginning Rev. Andrzej Dobrzyński recalled the John Paul II Foundation origins and history, and then s. Julia Knurek presented goals and work of the Center. The meeting provided opportunity for the members of the Foundation’s Chapters to share their experiences and to recall previous meetings.
The 35th anniversary celebrations brought an excellent occasion to meet other people involved in the work for the Foundation. It was a time to bring back memories and give thanks, but most of all, to prepare through prayers to continue carry on the mission outlined to us by Saint John Paul II, Founder of the Foundation.