Papal Acquaintance

By: Courtney Hayes
By: Courtney Hayes

Most of us know the Pope from what we see on TV a half a world away.

Monsignor Frances knows his holy one on a much more personal level, and Friday afternoon from his Sunny Hills home, Father Frances gave us a rare glimpse inside the man we know as Pope John Paul II.

Like millions of followers around the globe, Monsignor Frances is glued to his TV set awaiting word from the Vatican.

"Waiting for his death is unbelievably painful. We have to be prepared for this. We need to accept it with dignity, love and fate, because he was a great, great Pope," says Monsignor Frances.

Father Frances should know. He's met with the Pope dozens of times in the last 40 years. They first met in their shared homeland of Poland in 1963, when the pontiff was still a cardinal and Monsignor Frances was a bishop's secretary.

By 1981 his interactions with the pontiff went from one of fellow colleagues to admiration for a world-renowned religious leader.

"I was really blessed to see the holy father a number of times. You're just in shock, admiration. If you don't say anything he just smiles and blesses you," says Father Frances.

His last visit with the Pope came in 2003, and even though his health was fading, Father Frances says the pontiff always made time to bless him and the millions of others who came to see him each day.

"We are going to lose him, the man who loves everyone, who opens his heart to everyone. He has time for everyone that has the privilege to talk to him."

During his 24 years on the papacy, John Paul II has traveled 700,000 miles and blessed more than 17 million pilgrims who make their way to St. Peters square to see his holy one.

Monsignor Frances says it will be hard to replace a man who brought such vibrance and hope to Catholics and non-Catholics alike.


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