Silver Jubilee Celebrations Highlight Pope's October Schedule

If Vatican officials had their way, October would be 40 days long.

Pope John Paul II's official schedule for the month includes almost an entire week of festivities to mark the 25th anniversary of his papacy.

In addition to the bishops who are scheduled to be in Rome for their five-year “ad limina” visit, the Holy Father is expected to receive in separate audiences the Pontifical Committee of Historical Sciences on Oct. 30, 130 members of the General Chapter of the Redemptorists on Oct. 3 and members of the Knights of Columbus and the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre on Oct. 9 and 17, respectively.

Also on his agenda is a visit by the Anglican primate and Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, which was scheduled for Oct. 4.

In yet another audience-cum-speech, on Oct. 6 John Paul will receive the pilgrims who came to Rome for the preceding day's canonization ceremonies. Two weeks later, on the day after Mother Teresa's beatification, in a departure from the time-honored tradition of a papal audience for the pilgrims present for a beatification, a Mass will be celebrated in St. Peter's Square instead.

The Pope is also scheduled to receive 3,000 faithful from the diocese of Ozieri, Italy on Oct. 11 and 8,000 pilgrims who will be in the Eternal City to celebrate the centenary of St. Joseph of Cupertino on Oct. 25. On Oct. 24 he will preside at the annual Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the students and faculty of Rome's ecclesiastical universities.

If you are just catching your breath (or have been holding it!), now comes the centerpiece for October: the celebrations marking the silver anniversary of John Paul's election to the papacy on Oct. 16, 1978.

All 164 members of the College of Cardinals are expected in Rome to celebrate this jubilee with the Holy Father, considering it a special occasion for one reason, if for no other: John Paul is just the fourth Pope in history to have reigned for 25 years. Only three popes have now reigned longer than John Paul: Leo XIII (25 years, five months), Pius IX (31 years, seven months and 21 days) and St. Peter (precise dates unknown).

At 5 p.m. on Oct. 15, the College of Cardinals — joined by patriarchs, the presidents of episcopal conferences and the heads of dicastery of the Roman Curia will gather in the New Synod Hall for the start of a four-day meeting, during which six cardinals will reflect on themes of great importance to the Church and ones that have been hallmarks of John Paul's papacy.

John Paul will participate in two of the sessions: On the morning of Oct. 16 he will sign and promulgate the postsynodal apostolic exhortation for the 2001 Synod of Bishops on the ministry of the bishop and address the assembly. He will also speak on Oct. 18 after the presentation of a message from the entire College of Cardinals. The cardinals and other ranking prelates will then join the Holy Father for lunch in the Vatican.

The culminating moment on the anniversary day, Oct. 16, will be an evening Mass in St. Peter's Square, where it is anticipated that tens of thousands of faithful will join the College of Cardinals, many of the world's bishops and members of the Roman Curia.

On Oct. 17, the College of Cardinals will meet again in the morning. At 6 p.m., in the presence of John Paul, there will be a concert in the Paul VI Hall offered by the Leipzig choir and orchestra who will perform Beethoven's Ninth Symphony and Bruckner's ” Ecce Sacerdos Magnus.”

Though not part of the official celebrations for the Pope's silver jubilee, the Oct. 19 beatification of Mother Teresa is considered by many to be a highlight of the anniversary festivities — certainly for the Holy Father, who was linked to her by a long and close personal friendship.

Closing the calendar of celebratory events is an audience on Oct. 21 with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, whose members will extend their best wishes to John Paul.

Not on any calendar but expected by everyone is the publication of the Holy Father's latest book, which he worked on during his summer vacation at Castel Gandolfo. Untitled at press time, it is expected to focus on the ministry of the bishop and gather some of the Pope's personal recollections of his years as a bishop, including those as Pope, the Bishop of Rome.

Does the Pope ever rest? his collaborators are asked. One answer seems to lie in his agenda for October. A second might be found in the words of Matthew 11: 28-30: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Joan Lewis works for Vatican Information Service.