Archbishop Jose Ansejo Pelegrina of Seville, Spain, has issued a pastoral letter inviting Catholics to take part in pilgrimages to Rome to attend the April 27 canonizations of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. In his letter, Archbishop Ansejo recalled how John XXIII shepherded the Church from 1958 to 1963. “He convened the Second Vatican Council, worked persistently for the renewal of the Church and for the unity of Christians. A man of deep piety, he distinguished himself by his simplicity, cordial meekness and mercy.” “The world saw in him a complete image of Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, and a reflection of God's kindness, calling him ‘the Good Pope.’” In the case of John Paul II, Archbishop Ansejo recalled that he was considered by many to be “a pioneer of Catholic ecumenism.” “In an age marked by ideological relativism, he felt the need to restore the certitudes about the fundamental truths of dogma and morality, thus offering a splendid service to the faith,” the Spanish archbishop reflected. He also noted that John Paul II's concern for all the Church led him to visit many of the countries of the world to confirm the ecclesial communities in the faith, thus giving a truly “worldwide dimension to the papacy.” Archbishop Ansejo underscored the Polish Pope's outreach to youth as well, and “the communion he established with them.” “His teaching on the laity was very rich, as well as his doctrine on the identity and mission of the priesthood and consecrated life and on the supernatural roots that must sustain them,” the archbishop added. “John Paul II, together with John XXIII and Paul VI, was the Pope of the Council, promoting its authentic interpretation and pointing out the main concepts upon which true renewal of the Church should be based,” he said. “One of the fruits of his pontificate was the Catechism of the Catholic Church, an authentic compendium of Catholic doctrine and a true handbook for the Christian today who wants to know and live the truths of our faith.” John Paul II's passionate love for Jesus Christ was the fruit of “intense prayer,” the archbishop observed, noting that those who had the fortune of seeing the Pope pray early in the morning in his chapel were witnesses of “his interior ability to withdraw and abandon himself only in God.” His complete embrace of suffering during his final years “became the most convincing catechesis of how the limitless oblation of our very lives at the service of what we believe, love and hope should be.” “John Paul II courageously defended the sacred dignity and rights of the person, in the image of God, the dignity of every life from conception to natural death, the cause of peace in the world, which is the work of justice and the fruit of dialogue, considering war as the supreme failure of humanity,” Archbishop Ansejo said.
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