and the Salesian Charism
(ANS - Rome) – On Sunday, April 27, Pope John Paul II was declared a saint. He was born in Wadowice, Poland, on May 18, 1920, was elected Pope on October 16, 1978, and died on April 2, 2005.
Karol Wojtyla attended St. Stanislaus Kostka Church, the Salesian parish in Krakow, when he resided in the Debniki neighborhood as a university tudent and then under the German occupation in 1938-1944. He often prayed in the chapel of Mary Help of Christians. In February 1940 at St. Stanislaus he met the Servant of God Jan Tyranowski, who used to take part in religious meetings of young people organized by the Salesians. In this church, on Nov. 3, 1946, Fr. Wojtyla celebrated one of his first Masses with the faithful.
In his long and fruitful pontificate, Pope John Paul II expressed his paternal closeness to the Salesian Family, and he gave us many enlightened teachings. All the most important Salesian occurrences over the years of his pontificate were marked by his blessing, and often by his presence. This was seen particularly on the occasion of the celebration of the centennial of Don Bosco’s death in 1988, and the “Year of Grace” enriched by indulgences and special gifts. On Sept. 2-4, 1988, he visited the Salesian “holy places” – the birthplace of Don Bosco and the shrine at Colle Don Bosco, where he beatified Blessed Laura Vicuña, the Cathedral in Chieri, and in Turin the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, Don Bosco’s rooms, and the church of St. Francis de Sales. On Jan. 24, 1989, he officially proclaimed Don Bosco “Father and Teacher of Youth.”
In his numerous meetings with the Salesians and other groups of the Salesian Family, such as his pastoral visits to Turin, the audiences granted to the members of general chapters and the general council, John Paul II offered an authoritative message on the originality of our Father Don Bosco as saint and founder, and the needs and challenges of today’s incarnation of the Salesian charism in the educational and pastoral commitment to young people, the apostolic zeal of evangelization and mission, and the charismatic and pastoral involvement of the laity.
The interventions of the Holy Father flowed simultaneously from his heartfelt pastoral concern and personal sympathy and gratitude to Don Bosco. He admired Don Bosco as a gift of the Spirit to the Church. He was convinced of Don Bosco’s prophetic greatness, lived in harmony with his predilection for the young. He admired his original methodology of education to the faith, the oratory criterion, his sensitivity to the world of work, his openness to laity and the involvement of women, his bold sense of universality, and affection for the little ones and the poor and the working classes. In particular he liked to emphasize Don Bosco’s strong devotion to Mary as helper of the Church in difficult times.
On the occasion of John Paul II’s canonization, we make our own his testimony and his call to holiness. During his pontificate he reminded us of our call to holiness through the beatification and canonization of several members of the Salesian Family. In particular, in 2004, the last year of his life, the Pope gave the Salesian Family a most beautiful gift when he beatified representatives of the different branches of our Salesian Family: Fr. August Czartoryski, SDB; Sr. Eusebia Palomino, FMA; Alexandrina Maria da Costa, a Cooperator and member of ADMA (all three beatified on April 25, 2004, in St. Peter’s Square); and Alberto Marvelli, a past pupil (Sept. 5, 2004, in Loreto).