March 13th, John Paul the Second began his pontificate of silence. After spending twenty two days in the Gemelli Polyclinic, following throat surgery, the Pope lost his voice.
Holy Week this year is becoming John Paul the Second’s own Calvary, unable to participate in most of the ceremonies.
Despite all his efforts, the Pope wasn’t able to speak on Easter Sunday. But the mere fact that he tried, moved many gathered in St Peter’s Square to tears. All he could manage of the urbi et orbi blessing was a sign of the cross. But it was enough to satisfy the estimated 70 thousand people below who only wanted to catch a glimpse of the Pope and thank him for his courage.
Karol Wojtyla is convinced that this world needs to recover the respect for human life…a life that also includes illness and old age. It’s the reason many say, this Pope doesn’t want to hide his physical limitations.
Cardenal Sergio Sebastiani
Head of the Vatican Economic Affairs
In the Vatican we are still working normally. But this is certainly getting to us. We felt the same way on Palm Sunday, a certain emptiness. We are bringing to mind not only Christ’s Passion but also the passion of Christ’s representative.
A year ago, the Vatican brought in a special wheelchair to allow the Pope to celebrate ceremonies sitting down. During Holy Week, the progress of his illness made it impossible for him to participate in the most important functions of the Catholic liturgy.
High-ranking cardinals like Colombian Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, Italian Giovanni Battista Re, and American James Stafford filled in for the Pope. German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who presided over the Easter vigil, said the Pope is still lucid and that his physical difficulties have not kept him from running the Church.
At all of the Holy Week ceremonies, prayers were offered for the ailing pope.
Preacher of the Pope’s Household
“Come back soon, Holy Father, Easter without you isn’t really Easter”.
The absence of the Pope was particularly felt on Good Friday. The last time he carried the cross at the Colosseum was back in 1999. This time he had to make do watching the 14 station procession via video link up to his private chapel.
Instead, Cardinal Camillo Ruini stepped in and carried the cross on behalf of the Pope and lent him his voice:
Cardinal Camillo Ruini
Head, Italian Bishops Conference
“I offer my suffering to fulfil the will of God”.
Just like Christ on that Good Friday 2000 years ago.
And his servant on earth, the Pope did as he has always done, and embraced the wood of the cross –now a silent witness for all those who suffer.