It is rather amazing to think that twenty-five years have almost passed since John Paul II was elected pope in 1978. I have seen the pope in person twice during those twenty five years, in Miami, in the ninth year of his pontificate. He was still young then and full of vigor.
In recent years I have had a book autographed by him through the intervention of a friend, Dr. Lena Allen Shore. She is a close confidant of the Holy Father and is an amazing story herself. A Polish-Jew, she grew up in Krakow, Poland at the same time as Karol Wotija. Like him she survived the War, in her case, by pretending to be Catholic. That pretending has left its mark on her and in the correspondence that she now has with the pontiff, it is interesting how often he counsels her to "be herself"--a testimony to the genius of the pope who realizes the scars that have never totally healed of someone who in the formative years of their lives could not be themselves for it would have meant a certian death.
Dr. Allen Shore has compiled a book of that is filled with her poems, the Pope's poems, their correspondence, her reflections on the pope's formative years and her own. It is entitled "Building Bridges" a play on the English translation of the title that John Paul II now holds "pontiff". It probably is the greatest testimony to the greatness of John Paul II as he approaches his twenty-fifth. It would make a great gift for anyone out there wanting to commemorate the event with a truly unique book on the papacy of John Paul the Great.