Robert Lalonde, ACN Canada
Translation by Amanda Bridget Griffin
Montreal, Friday April 25, 2014 – On Sunday April 27, in Saint Peter’s Square, millions of the faithful will wittness to the unfolding of the canonization of two Popes: John XXIII and John Paul II. Considered by many as boundless and timeless Missionaries of Love, they devoted themselves to the mission of the Church, one of peace of earth, for peace is the fruit of love.
They reformed the Church…
Through historical gestures, both reformed the Church. John XXIII, through the Second Vatican Council and with his encyclical on peace “Pacem in Terris,” which dispensed a teaching addressing for the first time not only Catholics, but also “all men and women of good will.” He always considered faith and humanity in relationship with God and with His Love. “Man,” he said, “is never greater than when he kneels.”
As for John Paul II, he provoked the collapseof communism and overcame the divisions in Europe. He reconciled the Church with Judaism and faith with science. He promoted and advanced reconciliation with the Orthodox Church, stimulated dialogue between religions, launched several peace initiatives and raised consciousness about the value of the family always listening attentively to human rights issues in many regions around the world. He taught that “war is always a defeat of humanity.”
John Paul II is also the father of World Youth Days (WYD). On this subject, Marie-Claude Lalonde, director of ACN Canada, recalls her participation in WYD Toronto in 2002: “When hearing hundreds of thousands of young people cheering for Pope John Paul II, I realized the extent to which this event was a planetary one, and how the Pontiff was considered to be ‘a star’ by the Media. But this,” she added, “did not prevent him from becoming a solid rock, it was so evident that he defended the truth, without compromise, with love.”
Both played an important role for Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) by encouraging its founder Father Werenfried to go elsewhere in the world. In recalling a conversation he had with Pope John XXIII who had entrusted him with Latin America, the founder said: “When I spoke with Pope John XXIII, he always had a spirited response reserved. However, once, he became very serious. ‘Father,’ he said to me, ‘why do you think only of Eastern Europe? Do not forget the need of the Church on the vastest continent is Catholic, help Latin America too.’ And this is how we began working in a new continent.”
Whereas on the subject of John Paul II, who entrusted him with Russia and the Orthodox Church, Father Werenfried liked to remember among many memories with the Holy Father, the one where he expressed his gratitude after more than 50 years of the Charity’s existence in these words: “In the half-century history of the ecclesiastical charity, you have brought a moving contribution (…) the world does not hear these Christians who suffer in silence. One must have a heart awakened to the suffering of those whose voice cannot succeed to break the barriers to get to you. You collect offerings; you bring them to those who wait, assuring them that their brothers have not abandoned them. For all this, I express to you all of my gratitude… all of this is written in the Book of Life.”
Today, ACN supports notably construction projects for a church consecrated to John XXIII in Toamasina, in Madagascar, as well as the pastoral centre for youth named after John Paul II in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. It is with these two Popes that the Charity took on a great breadth, through prayer, sacrifice and creative fidelity. They who were so long and so often on their knees before the altar, will now themselves, be raised unto the altar.