May 18, 1920 – Karol Wojtyla was born in Wadowice, Poland. Today would be the 103rd birthday of the man who became Pope John Paul II. I have a veritable album of photos with John Paul taken during the years I worked at the Vatican. I miss him every day and pray often to him. And frequently I ask Mary, whom he so loved, for the same favor! This is the first time we met – at Mass in his private chapel in December 1995:
WYD in Denver, Colorado 1993:
The last time we met: December 2004 when he welcomed the entire staff of the Holy See Press Office to his library to mark the 20th anniversary of Joaquin Navarro-Valls as director of that office. I had memorized how to say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year in Polish:
POPE EXPRESSES ‘HEARTFELT SYMPATHY’ AFTER DEADLY ITALIAN FLOODS
Pope Francis expresses his heartfelt sympathy for the people killed, and thousands forced to evacuate their homes, as exceptional, torrential rains battered northern Italy, causing massive damage, as the climate crisis continues to provoke always more violent storms and severe consequences across the globe.
By Deborah Castellano Lubov (Vaticannews)
Nine people are dead and thousands were evacuated from their homes following exceptional, torrential rains which battered northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, and eastern provinces, triggering floods and landslides. (photos of various media)
Death toll mounts in Italy’s worst flooding for 100 years | Italy | The Guardian (Video)
According to Civil Protection Minister, Nello Musumeci, some areas had received half their average annual rainfall in just 36 hours. Rivers burst their banks and water washed through towns, and submerged thousands of acres of farmland, reported Reuters.
This catastrophe marks the latest episode of extreme weather and always-more-violent storms to strike the globe as the climate crisis intensifies.
Pope’s heartfelt sympathy, prayers
Pope Francis expressed his “heartfelt sympathy” to the suffering and affected by the extreme weather in Emilia Romagna, especially the eastern provinces, in a telegram of condolences. It was sent Thursday on his behalf by Archbishop Edgar Peña Parra, the Vatican’s Substitute for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State, to the Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, Cardinal Matteo Maria Zuppi.
The Holy Father asked the Cardinal to convey his sentiments of heartfelt sympathy to the relatives and friends of the victims for the disaster which struck the territory.
Comfort following ‘grave calamity’
While assuring fervent prayers of suffrage for the deceased and expressing condolences to their families, the Pope invoked comfort from God for the wounded, and consolation for those who are suffering the consequences “of the grave calamity.”
Pope Francis expressed his gratitude to all those, amid great difficulty, are working to bring relief and alleviate all suffering, and to diocesan communities “for their manifestation of communion and fraternal closeness to the most-tried populations.”
The Holy Father concluded by offering his Apostolic Blessing to all, as a sign of special spiritual closeness. He also relayed the prayers of Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin.
Climate Crisis provoking global tragedy
As the deadly Italian rains wreaked havoc, across the globe, various climate catastrophes are killing many people and causing dramatic damage.
Earlier this week, powerful Cyclone Mocha slammed between Myanmar’s port city of Sittwe and Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh, home to nearly one million mostly Rohingya refugees, killing at least six people, causing hundreds of injuries and provoking a vast communications blackout that has left relief workers struggling to assess the extent of the damage.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Malawi from tropical Cyclone Freddy has surpassed 1000, confirmed Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwer in April.