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Anecdotes from John Paul II's spokesman: fears, advice, tears and farewells

The official confirmation came in this message conveyed from the pope's current spokesman. It was with this photo that his 22 years as head of Vatican communication department were summarized. When he became the spokesman for John Paul II, Joaquín Navarro-Valls was 48 years old and was a correspondent in Rome for the Spanish newspaper ABC. JOAQUÍN NAVARRO-VALLS "I said, 'Holy Father, this is a very big responsibility for me. It's a subject that can worry anyone.' He told me something that has helped me often in life: 'You cannot do a job well if you only think about responsibility. If you are only thinking about responsibility, then you feel like you are tied up, like locked inside that responsibility.' It was a very wise advice that has helped me many times and I have gained a lot during those 22 years working with him." He professionalized and expedited the way of communicating from the Vatican. Thanks to his exceptional harmony with the pope, he quickly became one of his main collaborators. He had hundreds of stories from those years and was part of the Vatican delegation for the summits on Population and Women in Cairo and Beijing. He also paved the way for John Paul II's trip to Cuba. JOAQUÍN NAVARRO-VALLS "I remember the afternoon in which we had already ended the journey. We were at the airport to take the plane. Castro came to say, 'I appreciate everything you said in this country, even the things that you said with which I could not agree with.' It is a very delicate and polite way of saying that naturally, he could not have agreed with everything the pope would have changed." JOAQUÍN NAVARRO-VALLS "I remember during the last years of his life, when we were in the mountains, especially in the summer. I once took a photograph for some of the newspapers that had asked for it. Parkinson's disease had made John Paul II, who always had an expression and was always smiling, lose his smile, at least externally. Then, remembering that he was very fond of circus clowns, I sometimes put on a fake, red, clown nose. I would say, 'Holy Father,' he would then look at me, and during these moments was when he would laugh. Then I would take a photograph and thus could give the press a photo of the pope on those occasions." Journalists saw his most human side when his voice cracked while explaining John Paul II's medical situation. ; JOAQUÍN NAVARRO-VALLS "The pope is lucid, extraordinarily serene, although obviously he is having difficulty breathing. I have never seen him like this. Obvious respiratory difficulty... If there are further developments, we will inform you. However, as you know, the press room will remain open. Thank you." JOAQUÍN NAVARRO-VALLS "It was a silent farewell, there was no need for words. He looked at us in the eyes, everything was already said. It wasn't necessary to try to say anything. The next day, less than 24 hours later, he died." It was also the face of the Vatican during the Vacant Papal See and during the conclave that elected Benedict XVI. For a year, he was the spokesman for the new pope and accompanied him in his first steps and travels. JOAQUÍN NAVARRO-VALLS "In the wasteland of deep thought during our era, the voice, the word, the conceptual richness of Benedict XVI is filling an era." Although he was Spanish, his city was Rome. It is here he will also be buried, and with him, an important chapter of the history of the Vatican. JMB/MB RR -FL -BN Up: JMB