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John Paul II’s 50 Years of Priesthood: ‘Eucharist of Christ, Today, Forever’

BY Jim Cosgrove

November 3-9, 1996 Issue | Posted 11/3/96 at 2:00 AM

 

THE APPENDECTOMY thePopeunderwent last month ago seems long forgotten. The buzz around the Vatican these days centers on the celebration of the 50th anniversary of John Paul II's ordination. Karol Wojtyla was ordained a priest Nov. 1, 1946, at age 26. Poland was just beginning to rebuild after World War II, but the Nazi occupation had been replaced by the looming threat of communism. Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha of Krakow moved forward the date of Wojtyla's ordination so he could send him to Rome as soon as possible for post-graduate studies.

John Paul recalled his first Mass three years ago:“My mind still sees the place, the crypt below the cathedral of Wawel, in Krakow, where mortal remains of the kings, great leaders and prophetic spiritual leaders of my country lie. Their presence and their witness permeate the cathedral, just as one notes in St. Peter's Basilica the spiritual power radiating in a significant way from the tombs of the Popes…. That day, the day of one's first Mass, one never forgets. It remains not only in the memory, but is perpetuated in the Eucharist of Christ, which is the same, yesterday, today and forever.“

While the Nov. 7-10 festivities will focus on the Pope, the pontiff has made a point of sharing the spotlight with all the priests, bishops and cardinals,whoalsowereordainedin1946. According to the Congregation for the Clergy, of all the priests ordained that year, 7,000 are still living. All of them were invited to Rome to celebrate their jubilee alongside the Pope; some 1,500 of them had already accepted the invitation by mid-October. As the Register went to press, the offices of Opera Roma Pellegrinaggi, which are in charge of handling responses, were deluged with last minute calls from around the world. By Nov. 7, the number of priests ordained in 1946 who will be in Rome for the festivities is expected to reach close to 2,000. Among them are five cardinals and 86 bishops.

“The celebration is meant to be a feast of thanksgiving,”Msgr. Crescenzio Sepe, secretary of the Congregation for the Clergy, who is in charge of preparing celebrations, told the Register.“It is a special event in the Pope's life and in the lives of thousands of priests who now want to give thanks to God together for this gift, even if they have already celebrated the event in their parishes.“

For those who come and those following the event from afar, John Paul II has a surprise in store: He is expected to release a document in which he recounts the story of his vocation.

Jesus Colina is based in Rome.