Monday, June 14, 2004

Pope Stayed in Nursing Home While in Switzerland

From Fr. Terry Morgan:

Lost in the recent media crush of D-Day’s sixtieth anniversary celebrations, and the week-long mourning of President Ronald Reagan, was a “minor detail” about Pope John Paul’s accommodations for his single night in Bern, Switzerland. Ordinarily, when the Pope visits a foreign country, he stays at the (appropriately ample) residence of his representative to that nation, his “Nuncio.” For days, sometimes weeks, the Nuncio’s staff spiffs up the guest suite, prepares the official dining room (ample in its own right), and, in general, makes sure that the place is suitable for the Vicar of Christ on Earth.

On this particular visit, though, the Vicar of Christ spent the night in a local nursing home. This change in venue wasn’t due to the Pope’s Parkinson’s Disease or any of his other ailments. And at John Paul’s express command, Vatican media representatives had no special statement for the news outlets of the world.

But this Pope – who in his vigorous younger days bounded up steps and with great gusto encouraged the masses, especially the youth of the world, with his constant, “Be not afraid!” – brought his message to his peers, not by his speech or his energy, but by simply being at their side.

I suspect that John Paul’s “overnighters” in Nuncios’ residences are things of the past, now that he has discovered new out-of-town quarters and new out-of-town friends with whom to spend the night.

Is he giving up? Hardly. He is simply giving in to God’s special gifts to him at this special time of his life. Most of us would look on the Pope’s impediments – of speech, mobility, even breathing – as roadblocks to ministry, roadblocks to life. But John Paul sees these facts of life as gifts, given to him in his twilight, so that he can continue to empty himself and minister to us in ways that no “healthy” younger man could.