On the way out after evening prayer he came over to me and took my hand to shake it. I was in shock, and after he said something to me, I really was in shock and awe. His handshake was firm and strong. He seemed overjoyed to meet with seminarians and other young people. It was a great experience to actually hold his hand in mine and get to speak (if only for a moment) with the successor of Peter on earth!
[January 2003] I got really, really lucky last month and got a front row seat at a papal audience. From what I saw, the energy and intellect were still there in full force; the Holy Father seemed more like a handicapped person than an ill one. He still has plenty of work on his plate that he intends to get through before he leaves us. Let's hope he is successful.
I just recovered from the events of [World Youth Day]. It was exhausting. I never was a big Pope fan though I respect the man. He surprised me completely. I'm not sure if TV picked up the dynamic between him and the participants - it was electric.
The Pope's address on the Beatitudes was brilliant and appropriate. An aging old man in pain reached out to the young whose pain is less visible yet no less real.
[In early 2002] I had an audience with the Holy Father. He came in, kissed babies, spoke, and blessed us. He is obviously old and suffers from Parkinson's, but he is clear-headed and alert. I certainly felt joy at being there and seeing him. Ad multos annos Santo Padre. Viva il papa.
I was there for the Mass in Toronto; it was a thrilling, beautiful experience of faith and prayer. It moved me to see how the pope is still actively pursuing his ministry despite his failing health. He keeps on going because he is convinced this is what God wants him to do for now. I can't verify this, but someone told me that when he was asked why he didn't retire, John Paul said, "Christ didn't ask to be taken down from the cross."
Has He Been Good for the Church?
He was the perfect pope for the Cold War and was instrumental with the fall of the iron curtain. However, I believe that with his background in faithful Poland, he does not quite grasp the varioius problems in the church. The loss of Spanish America to Protestant sects, the growing liberal modernist movement preaching moral relativism, and other heretical teachings. These are problems that the pope has done little to address.
Someone here mentioned that it is insane that the pope is pursuing ecumenism with Protestant churches whose deviations have taken them beyond the point of no return. The most important task will be to unify our own church. The success of this task will be dependent on the next pope.