On October 22, 2011, at the day of the liturgical remembrance of the Blessed John Paul II, the three-day celebration of the 30th anniversary of the John Paul II Foundation in Vatican commenced. For the jubilee, 750 guests from five continents: North America, South America, Australia and Oceania, Asia and Europe. Among them were present presidents from 18 various countries, members and benefactors of the John Paul II Foundation Chapters from around the world as well as many Church’s noblemen-among whom we should list Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops (Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, Cardinal Jozef Glemp, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, Archbishop Zygmunt Zimowski, Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly) and 150 priests and many nouns.
Celebrations began on Saturday before noon with a Holy Mass at the St. Peter’s Basilica. The mass was celebrated by Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who during the homily emphasized the special role of the Foundation:
Dear Brothers, Sisters and Friends we have received a great gift in the person of John Paul II, in His teachings and His holiness. We should live by this gift and also we should be inspired by Him when we are undertaking new tasks, which we may face. It is our privilege and responsibility to consolidate heritage of the Blessed Pope, so we could hand it down to the next generations.
The John Paul II Foundation, established thirty years ago is directed by this noble intention. It was a providential decision, which brought forth abundant fruit and it still does. The Foundation propagates teachings of its Patron, promotes His heritage, hence it provides a great contribution to our culture, theological meditation, to the style of the Church’s life, to the deepness of the Evangelistic creed. The Foundation, from the beginning, supports poor, but talented students from countries where our Faith was discriminated against. By undertaking this long-distance investment we are investing in the young person, in his intellectual and spiritual formation.
We are giving thanks to God for all the Foundation’s achievements in the past thirty years. We are expressing our gratitude to all employees, members and friends, sponsors and benefactors who supported and are supporting this goal. I’m confident that John Paul II is blessing us from above the sky and encourages us to continuous this work.
Just after the Mass, concelebrants led by Cardinal Dziwisz went to the altar of the Blessed John Paul II to give thanks, through their prayers, for the gift of the John Paul II as a person and the deed of the Foundation, entrusting it to His care.
The unveiling of the succeeding - IX commemorative plaque of the Foundation’s benefactors was the next point of the celebrations. This celebration took place at the Polish House at via Cassia 1200, the place that is very closely related to the Foundation from the very beginning of its existence. The unveiling of the plaque was preceded by the Liturgy of the World at the Polish House chapel that was celebrated by Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko. In His homily, Cardinal delineated history and goals of the Foundation, as well as He expressed His gratitude for all who are involved in the Foundation:
… A jubilee, thus a grateful remembrance about its own history… Thirty years ago, on October 16, 1981, thus on the very beginning of His Pontificate, Holy Father signed by Himself the Foundation establishment act. It is a Vatican Foundation, and therefore underlines our close connection with the Holy See. The Polish Home, purchased in 1980 thanks to the generosity of Polonia from around the world, and especially Polish emigration from the United States, become it seat. These are the roots of the John Paul II Foundation; it means faith of the Polish emigration and their attachment to the Church as well as love to the St. Peter’s Successor, Pope John Paul II… Among us are present today eyewitnesses of this establishment: Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, then the Holy Father’s personal secretary, Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, then an employee of the Secretariat of State, and Mr. Wladyslaw Zachariasiewicz, the initiator of the collections for the Polish Home among Polish American emigration and the promoter of the first Foundation Chapters in the United States… We are grateful for their presence among us!
Faithfully departed Cardinal Wladyslaw Rubin was the first Chairman of the Administrative Council. Then, Archbishop Szczepan Wesoly undertook this responsible function which he held for twenty years.
The Polish home, form the very beginning, was not only the seat of the Foundation, but also, and foremost, it was serving Polish pilgrims who were arriving in increased numbers to the Eternal City; friendly piece of “Poland” in Rome, where Polish people were able to feel at home…Today, the function of the Director of the Polish Home is held with dedication by Monsignor Mieczyslaw Niepsuj, who is being helped by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and laic personnel. For the 30 years, approximately 200 thousand pilgrim travelers were visiting this small place of Rome, now so much part of our Foundation in the Center of the Universal Church.
The Center for the Documentation and Research of the Pontificate of John Paul II is directed today by dr Andrzej Dobrzynski who is being helped by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart; together they are taking care of the library and museum collections, and the precious archives. The Centre organizes symposia and congresses as well as it publishes various publications related to John Paul II and His Pontificate.
An important fraction of the Foundation’s initiative is financial help – scholarships given to the students of the Catholic University of Lublin. Our educations work intensified when thanks to generosity of Connely Foundation of Philadelphia the John Paul II House was erected in Lublin in 1994. Thanks to the scholarships granted by our Foundation, more than 800 students from the former Soviet Union and other countries were able to obtain higher education at Catholic University. It is an important contribution of the Foundation in the creation of Catholic intellectuals in these countries. Dr Ryszard Krupa with great dedication takes care of the John Paul II House in Lublin. In this context, we should mention activities of the Foundation Representation in Poland, which is directed with great commitment by Mr. Maciej Bednarkiewicz, Attorney. Thanks to the existence of the Foundation Representation, the House in Lublin can successfully operate, especially supported by the Warsaw Chapter of the Foundation Friends under the leadership of Mrs. Ewa Bednarkiewicz.
Father dr Krzysztof Wieliczko and before him Monsignor Stefan Wylężek is responsible for the administrative activities. He is also responsible for the Chapters of the John Paul II Foundations around the world. Currently, there are approximately 50 Foundation Chapters that are operating in 18 countries. We are especially delighted with the Chapters growth for they are also responsible for the educational activities, learning about life and teachings of the Blessed John Paul II. We are very happy with Chapters with members without Polish background, for example Foundation Chapters in Indonesia and Mexico. The Foundation’s future in a great degree depends on the Foundation Chapters existence; hence, a special thanks to all the Presidents of the Foundation Chapters for their contribution to the Foundation activities.
Immediately, after the unveiling of the plaque, Cardinals along with Polish Primate opened an exhibition related to the John Paul II Foundation, which was prepared by Prelate Stanislaw Budyn, Rector of the Polish Catholic Mission in Germany. Celebrations at the Polish House ended with a banquet at which performances of various artists from around the world: group Maki from New Jersey, USA, dance group from Indonesia and a solo performance of the youngest artist Julia Debowska from Toronto, Canada, added splendor. It was a time of a gathering and sharing experiences among all guests from around the world who came for the Foundation’s jubilee.
The following day of the celebrations, Sunday October 23rd started with a Holy Mass – this time celebrated at the Holy Spirit Church – Archbishop Jozef Kowalczyk, Polish Prelate, celebrated the Mass. In His homily, He highlighted the pilgrimage character of this jubilee, He said:
…Please accept my words of respect and recognition, that for the 30 years you remained faithful to this pilgrimage to Rome that involves you and your culture. By your work you were graciously support the main goals of the John Paul II Foundation - dissemination of now Blessed John Paul teachings.
He reminded us that man is the way of the church, and that the crowning works of creation is every single human being who has inalienable rights and inviolable dignity. He was reawakening our conscience on the values of a human life; He was a great advocate of harmony and peace among all nations, which can be reached by a dialogue and not by armed conflicts. He was a spokesman and a defender of the underdeveloped communities and nations.
The entire world read and understood John Paul II fatherly and brotherly concern for dignity of the human person. This was manifested during his funeral and at the day of His beatification that took place on May 1st of this year.
Gathered today in this church, we would like to offer at the altar of the Eucharist our thanksgiving for this great God’s gift to the Church and all humanity that was JP II.
We would like to express our gratitude through the intercession of Our Lady of Rosary, who we especially venerate in October.
Blessed John Paul II had a great devotion to Our Lady of Rosary. He recited the Rosary daily. It was Him who introduced the Luminous Mysteries, as the fourth part of the Rosary (October 16, 2002). In the Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae (the Rosary) directed to us, as the God’s people, He was asking and encouraging us to rediscover the power of the Rosary prayer.
John Paul II said: “At the same time our heart can embrace in the decades of the Rosary all the events that make up the lives of individuals, families, nations, the Church, and all mankind.” We can introduce our personal matters, concerns for our loved ones as well as all the activities of the John Paul II Foundation. We now pray for all members and friends of the Foundation, for all those who are taking care of the Foundation and its future.
After the Mass, invited guests went for a celebratory dinner which in turn became an excellent occasion to express gratitude to all gathered guests for their involvement and contributions in the Foundation’s goals.
The Sunday celebrations were crowned with a special concert at Chiesa Nuva. Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko welcomed guests with the following words:
Today’s concert crowns the celebrations of the 30th anniversary. The entire concert is dedicated to the Blessed John Paul II.
John Paul II had a soul of an artist, poet, who was extremely sensitive to beauty. And He was teaching us to be sensitive as the genuine beauty leads every human being directly to the interiors of the Mystery of God. As a young auxiliary Bishop in Cracow, during the retreat for artists, Karol Wojtyla said: “Inside of a human soul there is a separate sensitivity susceptible precisely to beauty; an unknown string which trembles at the time when a human is exposed to beauty. A beauty absorbs us and attracts us...”
Let, let the beauty to amuse us… to attract… let the beauty to leads us to God…
During this evening, in a religious contemplation, let open our hearts to the language of beauty in music and songs. We will listen to the works of the great composers: Bach, Mozart, Liszt, and Vivaldi. We would like to express our gratitude to all the artists: to our soloists, conductors, as well as, to the choir and orchestra. In the program you may find more information about works that we are almost about to hear and about our great performers.
This event could not have been possible without the dedicated work of many individuals and we would like to extend our special thanks to them.
We wish you deep religious experiences…
Artists from Japan, Canada, United States, and Italy participated in this concert: Keiko Morikawa, Julia Debowska, Magdalena Baczewska, Francesco Lanzillotta, Renzo Renzi, Valentina Pesciallo and Arianna Miceli. This concert consisted of two parts: in the first part works of Johann Sebastian Bach, W.A. Mozart and Franz Liszt were presented. In the second part the choir Coro Lirico Italino/Istituzona Corale Romana along with the orchestra Orchestra Roma Sinfonietta and accompanied soloist presented Antonio Vivaldi’s Gloria.
At the third day of the celebrations, on October 24th participants of the John Paul II Foundation 30th Anniversary met with the Holy Father Benedict XVI at the Clementine Hall during the private audience. The President of the Foundation, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko addressed the Holy Father with the following words:
Holy Father, Participants who gathered here in Rome from many countries for the thirtieth anniversary celebration of the establishment of the John Paul II Foundation, extends to Your Holiness their sentiments of filial affection and utmost devotion. We are immensely grateful for the gift of this audience that all of us have so much desired.
Years ago, on October 16th, 1981, Blessed John Paul II signed the decree which erected our Foundation, responding in this way to a profound desire of numerous Poles throughout the world that was motivated by a vibrant love for the Church and for the Pope who had come from Poland. This Pontifical gesture was truly providential. In these thirty years, the fruits of this Foundation have not been few and for this reason we are here today to give thanks to the Lord. Today, there are many friends and benefactors who with great generosity sustain our initiatives. By means of its different offices, the Foundation carries forth many activities: the propagation of studies of the teachings of John Paul II and the collection and preservation of documents related to his pontificate; the assistance to many Polish pilgrims visiting Rome; assistance and scholarships for students from Eastern Europe to study at the Catholic University of Lublin, stimulating in this way a rebirth of Catholic intelligentsia for which the Church in those countries has much need. The Chapters of the John Paul II Foundation realize local activities in nearly twenty different countries.
During these days, however, we have wanted to thank the Lord in a particular way for the gift of the Beatification of Pope John Paul II, whom you, Holy Father, have elevated to the honor of the altars on May 1st of this year. We are well aware that this tremendous gift implies for us, as the Foundation which bears his name, an urgent invitation to grow in our love for the Church and to dedicate ourselves to her mission with still greater generosity, as John Paul II himself has taught us.
Your Holiness, we are sincerely grateful for this encounter and for the encouraging words that you will address to us! Please bless our Foundation, its benefactors, and all of us, who are present here, as well as our families and our loved ones.
Holy Father Benedict XVI listening to Cardinal Rylko addressed all gathered in the Clementine Hall with these words:
Thirty years ago, at the request of “some brothers and sisters who live in Poland or have emigrated from there but retain strong links with their land of origin”, my Predecessor Blessed John Paul II instituted in Vatican City a Foundation bearing his name, with the object of “promoting through their support, material and otherwise, initiatives of a religious, cultural, pastoral and charitable nature, and cultivating and reinforcing the traditional links between them and the Holy See” (Decree of Institution).
Today, members of the Foundation and friends from all over the world have chosen to celebrate this anniversary, giving thanks to the Lord for all the fruits that the various activities have produced in the course of three decades. I am pleased to be able to join you in this thanksgiving.
I warmly greet all of you here today, especially Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, former Secretary of the beloved Holy Father and one of the promoters of the Foundation, now its ex officio head as Archbishop of Cracow. I extend a cordial welcome to Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, President of the Council of Administration, and I thank him for the words that he addressed to me. I greet Archbishop Szczepan Wesoły, former President, as well as the distinguished Members of the Council, and together with them the Directors of the individual Institutions of the Foundation. Finally I extend a cordial greeting to all the members of the Circle of Friends of the Foundation dispersed throughout the continents. All who are present here represent the thousands of benefactors who continue to support the work of the Foundation financially and spiritually. I ask you to convey to all of them my greetings and my thanks.
As we read in the premise of the Statutes, “conscious of the greatness of the gift that the person and work of the Polish Pope represent for the Church, for the homeland and for the world, the Foundation seeks to conserve and develop this spiritual heritage, which it aims to transmit to future generations.” (…) One task of great human and cultural value explicitly desired by John Paul II and undertaken by the Foundation, is that of assisting the “formation of the clergy and the laity, especially those from the countries of Central and Eastern Europe”. Every year, students arrive in Lublin, Warsaw and Cracow from countries which, in former times, suffered the ideological oppression of the Communist regime, in order to pursue studies in the various branches of science, so as to live new experiences, to encounter different spiritual traditions, and to broaden their cultural horizons. Then they return to their own countries, enriching the various sectors of social, economic, cultural, political and ecclesial life. More than 900 graduates is a precious gift for those nations. All this is possible thanks to the study bursaries and the spiritual and professional assistance guaranteed by the generosity of the Foundation. I hope that this work will continue, develop and bear abundant fruits.
My dear friends, one could list many more successes and many accomplishments of your Foundation. Yet, I would like to underline one aspect of primary importance, over and above its immediate and visible effects. In association with the Foundation, there has evolved a spiritual union of thousands of people in various continents who not only support it materially, but constitute the Circles of Friends, communities of formation based on the teaching and the example of Blessed John Paul II. They do not limit themselves to a sentimental memory of the past, but they discern the needs of the present, they look to the future with solicitude and confidence, and they commit themselves to imbue the world more deeply with the spirit of solidarity and fraternity. Let us thank the Lord for the gift of the Holy Spirit who unites, enlightens and inspires you.
With a grateful heart, through the intercession of your Patron, Blessed John Paul II, I entrust the future of your Foundation to Divine Providence and I bless you from my heart.
At the end of the audience, which crowned the John Paul II Foundation 30th Anniversary events, Cardinal Dziwisz personally introduced the members of the board of directors to the Holy Father Benedict XVI.
The anniversary celebrations provided an excellent meeting opportunity to all who are involved in the Foundation. It was a time for memories and thanksgiving, but most of all, it was a time for a preparation through prayers to continuously fulfill the missions which Blessed John Paul II, the Founder of the Foundation, entrusted to us.
Let the words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI: Transmit the legacy of Blessed John Paul II, be the motto for the members and friends of the John Paul II Foundation.