Today marks the 39th anniversary of the day Pope John Paul was shot in St. Peter’s Square at the start of a Wednesday general audience. In a separate column later today, I post my memories of that day. Stay tuned!


In his second general audience catechesis on prayer, Pope Francis this morning said, “we now consider its essential characteristics. Prayer involves our entire being yearning for some ‘other’ beyond ourselves. Prayer is a yearning that takes us beyond ourselves as we seek some ‘other’. It is an ‘I’ in search of a ‘You’.”.

“Specifically,” said Francis, speaking from the library of the Apostolic Palace, “Christian prayer is born from the realization that the ‘other’ we are seeking has been revealed in the tender face of Jesus, who teaches us to call God ‘Father’, and who wants personally to enter into a relationship with us.”

The Holy Father explained that, “In his farewell discourse at the Last Supper, Jesus no longer calls his disciples servants but friends. When we commune with God in prayer, we need not be fearful, for he is a friend, a trusted ally. Whatever our situation, or however poorly we may think of ourselves, God is always faithful, and willing to embrace us in mercy.

Francis highlighted God’s love, “We see this unconditional love on Calvary, for the Lord never stops loving, even to the end. Let us seek to pray by entering into this mystery of God’s unending Covenant with us. This is the burning heart of every Christian prayer: entrusting ourselves to the loving and merciful arms of our heavenly Father.”

After the catechesis in Italian, monsignori from the Secretariat of State gave summaries in French, English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic and Polish, a well as greetings from the Pope in those languages.


During today’s weekly general audience, Pope Francis urged the faithful to pray to Our Lady, reminding everyone that May 13 is the feast of Our Lady of Fatima.

By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ (vaticannews)

“Today we celebrate the liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima,” said Pope Francis in his greetings to Polish-speaking listeners at the weekly audience. “We turn our thoughts to the apparitions and its message transmitted throughout the world,” he added.

Pope Francis also recalled the attack on the life of Pope St. John Paul II in 1981. He pointed out that his predecessor experienced “the maternal intervention of the Holy Virgin” in sparing his life.

The Pope also said that Monday, May 18 marks the 100th anniversary of John Paul II’s birth. He said that he will celebrate his morning Mass that day on the altar over the saint’s tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica. “Let us thank God for giving us this saintly Bishop of Rome,” he said, “and ask him to help us: that he might help this Church of Rome to convert and strive ahead.”

Pope Francis then went on to pray for peace in the world, the end of the coronavirus pandemic, and the spirit of penance and conversion for the world through the intercession of Our Lady.

The Holy Father invited the Italian-speaking faithful to have constant recourse to Our Lady’s help, so that everyone might persevere in the love of God and neighbor. He prayed especially for the young, the elderly, the sick and newlyweds.

Invitation to pray the Rosary
In his greetings to Portuguese-speaking faithful tuning in to the audience, Pope Francis urged Catholics to try to live this month of May with a more intense and faithful daily prayer. He pointed out that the prayer of the Rosary is one of the desires repeatedly expressed by Our Lady at Fatima: “Under her protection, the pains and afflictions of life will be more bearable.”

Love of neighbor
Addressing German-speaking faithful, Pope Francis noted that the many examples of the love of God for us are a “strong invitation to love all the people we meet,” especially in this time of social-distancing due to Covid-19. He prayed that the Holy Spirit might fill us with charity and joy.

Our Lady of Fatima
Between May and October 1917, Our Lady appeared six times to three Portuguese children – Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and their cousin, Lucia dos Santos, in a cove near Fatima, in Portugal. In those apparitions, Our Lady asked the children to pray the Rosary for the world and for the conversion of sinners.

Pope St. John Paul II visited Fatima three times – in 1982, 1991 and 2000. During his 2000 visit, he beatified Jacinta and Francisco. The liturgical memorial of Our Lady of Fatima is celebrated annually on May 13.



Did you ever meet Pope John Paul II? In Rome or during a papal trip? Do you have some great memory or story about that meeting? Perhaps you know someone who had an encounter – a moment that embraced the Pope’s sense of humor, his humanity, his kindness to newlyweds, his enthusiasm and love for young people, his love and concern for the suffering. If so, send me that story at: joanknows@gmail.com


Today, October 22 is the feast day of the much-loved St. John Paul II. Elected to the papacy on October 16, 1978, his pontificate was inaugurated six days later on October 22.

For almost 27 years, millions followed this robust, dynamic, peripatetic pontiff, the first non-Italian in well over 400 years, as they continued to do even when his health was in a clear state of decline. He traveled the globe, meeting tens of millions, and millions more came to Rome for a weekly audience, the Sunday Angelus, a special event, a papal Mass or for Holy Week liturgies.

For all who knew or met him, John Paul II was the Catholic Church’s equivalent of a rock star. He initiated World Youth Day and the young of the world flocked to hear their spiritual “grandfather” speak of the beauty of the faith, of vocations, of serving the Church that Jesus founded. And they answered in good numbers. It was always wonderful to hear the Vatican, in its post-WYD reports, announce the number of aspirants to the priesthood and religious life that came from a particular WYD.

John Paul’s clarity of teaching was a true and lasting gift to the Church. His writings on the defense of life, justice and human rights, his teachings on marriage, his penetrating analysis of human love and responsibility, his urging of peoples to create and embrace a “culture of life,” his look at the meaning and value of human suffering, his examination of man’s capacity for good and evil, his clear denunciation of the separation of faith and reason…I could go on and on!

I wrote about the John Paul papacy for many years for many publications, including the National Catholic Register (for which I was the first Rome bureau chief!). I covered his being shot in St Peter’s Square, his long convalescence and the trial of the Turk who tried to kill him, Mehmet Ali Agca. And many, many more events.

Then, one day, I was asked to work for the newly established Vatican Information Service, part of the Holy See Press Office. I was privileged beyond telling in those years, including being appointed a member of four Holy See delegations to United Nations conferences in Cairo, Copenhagen, Beijing and Istanbul.

I was privileged to meet Pope John Paul on a score of occasions in those years. And to make chocolate chip cookies for him on perhaps that many occasions!

Working for the Vatican in the final months, weeks and days of John Paul’s papacy and life was one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and certainly one of the saddest.

My mind’s eye recalls hundreds of special moments during that historical papacy. And fortunately, the camera of L’Osservatore Romano photographer Arturo Mari captured a goodly number of those moments.

The first time I met Pope John Paul was for Mass in his chapel in December 10, 1985.  Some day I will be telling that surprising story!

The last time was December 14, 2004, in the Apostolic Palace when Holy See Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls brought the entire staff to meet the Pope to mark Joaquin’s 20th anniversary as head of the press office. And lots of occasions in between!

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That 2004 December morning, before we left for the papal audience, I learned how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Polish. I wrote my phonetic version of the Polish words on a post-it note that I kept in my hand and when I met John Paul, I expressed my Christmas wishes in Polish. Navarro-Valls later told me that was the loveliest thing I could have done, saying I was the only one for whom the Pope raised his head (he had suffered mobility problems for months)!

Thanks for the memories, St. John Paul! Totus tuus!