Pope Francis Holds Up Saint John Paul II as a ‘Good Shepherd’ of the Church

Pope Francis gestures to worshipers from the popemobile car as he leaves at the end of the weekly general audience on November 6, 2019 at St. Peter's Square in the Vatican. (Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP) (Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images)
ANDREAS SOLARO/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Pope Francis commemorated the 100th anniversary of the birth of the future Pope John Paul II on Monday, holding him up as an example of a “good shepherd.”

In his homily at Mass in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis said that the gift of Pope John Paul II to the Church was a clear sign that “the Lord loves his people.”

“Here today we can say: a hundred years ago, the Lord visited his people,” the pope declared. “He sent a man, prepared him to be a bishop and to lead the Church. Remembering Saint John Paul II, we repeat this: ‘The Lord loves his people,’ ‘the Lord visited his people’; He sent us a shepherd.”

Pope John Paul II bore the marks of a “good shepherd,” that can be summed up in his life of prayer, his closeness to the people, and his love of justice, Francis said.

John Paul “was a man of God because he prayed and prayed a lot,” the pope continued. Despite the immense amount of work he had to do, “he knew well that the first task of a bishop is to pray.”

“The first task of a bishop is to pray, and he knew it, and he did it. He was the model of a praying bishop,” he continued. “And he taught us that when a bishop does an examination of conscience at night, he must ask himself: how many hours have I prayed today?”

As a second mark of a good shepherd, Saint John Paul II exemplified closeness to the people, Francis said, and this was the reason he traveled all over the world to meet people wherever they were.

God was close to his people; Jesus was close to his people, the pope continued, and a pastor who is not close to his people “is not a shepherd; he is a hierarch, an administrator.”

“And Saint John Paul II gave us the example of this closeness: close to the great and the small, to those far and near, always close,” the pope said.

Finally, Francis said that Pope John Paul II exemplified a fulsome love for justice.

“This is why Saint John Paul II was a man of mercy, because justice and mercy go together, they cannot be separated, they are together: justice is justice, mercy is mercy, but one cannot be found without the other,” he said.

Francis also reflected on Saint John Paul II’s devotion to the spirituality of Saint Faustina Kowalska, who preached the mercy of Christ, and his establishment of the feast of Divine Mercy Sunday, celebrated each year the Sunday after Easter.

“He felt that the justice of God had this face of mercy, this attitude of mercy. And this is a gift that has left us: just mercy and merciful justice,” he said.

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