Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 13, 2003
Collins: John Paul the Great
Current pontiff one of the great popes of history, says archbishop
By GLEN ARGAN
Pope John Paul will one day be known as Pope John Paul the Great, predicts Archbishop Thomas Collins. "He is clearly one of the great popes of history."
"In a time of fog, he gave us clear light that cut through the fog and showed us the way," Collins said in an interview with the WCR.
"In a time when leaders govern by opinion polls, he clearly governed with integrity."
Collins said the pope's encyclicals and other writings revealed both great intelligence and deep holiness. Although he wrote on a wide variety of topics, there was consistency throughout his teaching. That consistency was based on the notion of "the dignity of the human person as a child of God."
As a leader, Pope John Paul gave the original vision and let other people develop that vision. With World Youth Day, he gave us themes such as conversion, encounter with Christ and pilgrimage. "He has then animated others to take those themes" and apply them.
Collins said he first met the pope in 1985 when Collins was studying in Rome. He was one of many young priests who the pope met at an audience.
Although his meeting with the pope lasted only a couple of seconds, "I had a profound sense that he was totally present to me."
It wasn't until 1999 when Collins received his pallium symbolizing his authority as archbishop of Edmonton that he met the pope again. Later that year, the Western bishops made their ad limina visit to Rome, which every bishop makes every five years.
Collins had 10 minutes alone with the pope. "He remembered well his visit to Edmonton and Archbishop MacNeil."
His impression of the pope from the ad limina visit? "Just that he's a saint."
Collins said he sees the pope as a model for his own ministry as a bishop.
Pope John Paul visited every parish in his diocese of Rome as well as visiting the flock all over the world. Far beyond the papal extravaganzas, it is this ministry of presence that gave the pope his power.
And although World Youth Day was often presented as an encounter with the pope, the pope himself helped to make those international get-togethers an encounter with Jesus Christ.
The archbishop predicted that someday even those who do not agree with the directions taken during Pope John Paul's papacy will come to see him as a prophet.
Collins said the pope has made a special effort that men with a wide variety of perspectives were appointed cardinals. "He has prepared the succession by putting very profound and talented people into the College of Cardinals."