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Young John Paul II’s home in Rome

2010-03-02

Fr. Dirk Smet
Rector of the Pontifical Belgian College
“Back then the rector was monsignor Furstenbeg, who was later named a cardinal by John Paul II. During those years about 20 Belgian and Flemish priests lived here.”

During those years, a Pontifical College for priests in Eastern Europe didn’t exist. So when the Cardinal of Krakow sent young Wojtyla and other Polish priests to study in the bedrock of Christianity, the Pontifical Belgian College offered to take them in, without knowing a future pope would be among them. 

It was in this chapel where he would pray and in a room just like this one, where young Wojtyla slept for two years. In those two years, he would go on to make great friends at the College. Friendships he would cherish even after he moved to the Vatican. 

Fr. Dirk Smet
Rector of the Pontifical Belgian College
“In 1979 the pope invited his old friends from the Belgian College to an audience and to dinner at the Vatican, that really showed his strong relationship and lasting friendship with the people he met here.” 

John Paul II also visited the college new headquarters in 1986. During that visit he celebrated a mass at the chapel with other residents. 

Fr. Dirk Smet
Rector of the Pontifical Belgian College
“In December of 1986 John Paul II came to the new Belgian College. He thanked the college for taking in Polish students. It was an unforgettable moment.”

Many things have changed since young Wojtyla, who would become John Paul II lived here, but there are something that still remain the same. 

Fr. Dirk Smet
Rector of the Pontifical Belgian College
“The thing that will never change is the friendly environment from the years of John Paul II.”

An environment filled with joy, hard work, study and prayer. An environment which helped shape the character of St. Peter’s future successor. 

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