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Turn to Jesus (Article)

John Paul II and the Legion of Christ

Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Ioannes Paulus PP. II

In October 1978, Karol Wojtyla was elected Pope. A few months later, in January 1979, John Paul II began the journey that would take him through hundreds of countries and 5 continents. A multitude of faithful waited for him in Mexico, and among them was his Mother, the Virgin Mary of Guadalupe, the star of evangelization. At her feet, John Paul II entrusted his missionary vocation to her.

That same month of January 1979, John Paul II had the opportunity to meet the Legionaries of Christ and the members of Regnum Christi, who had offered to work closely with the apostolic delegate in Mexico, Msgr. Girolamo Prigione, to organize the Pope’s journey. Since that first meeting, the Pope found the Legionaries to be people who shared the same loves with him: Christ, the Church, Mary, mankind… They shared the same ideals: of faith, of hope, of charity, and the pursuit of harmony in every heart.

He had also formed a very clear idea of the Legion and Regnum Christi. Five months after his visit, he invited a group of Legionaries and consecrated members of Regnum Christi to the Vatican gardens for Mass, thanking them for their help during his journey
Juan Pablo II leyendo su último saludo público, desde la ventana del Gemelli.
John Paul II reading his last public greeting from the window of the Gemelli Hospital
to Mexico. At that Mass, he said:

“You are, my beloved sons, a young religious family that seeks a growing dynamism to contribute a new, lively energy to today’s Church. Precisely because I know your ideals, I want to invite you, with the words of the gospel that we just heard, to imitate the prudent man that constructed his house on a rock. For you, who share the characteristic feature of a Christ-centered spirituality, constructing your individual and communal building on a rock will symbolize an effort to always grow in a sublime knowledge of Christ, looking to Him in order to make your life an expression of his message, firmly based in faith and in charity, in order to be capable of minding in every instant Christ´s interests.”

On the one-year anniversary of his first visit to the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Pope wanted to visit the parish of the Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Phillip the Martyr in Rome, which was built and looked after by the Legionaries of Christ, in order to celebrate Mass and dine afterwards with them at the congregation’s general directorate, located adjacent to the parish.

”Most beloved Legionary seminarians, after being nourished by the Word Of God and the Bread of Life in the Eucharist which we shared a few moments ago, I ardently wish to share a few intimate moments with you all, to establish a dialogue, albeit brief, from heart to heart...” (John Paul II, January 27, 1980).

It has been twenty-six uninterrupted years of heart-to-heart dialogue between the Holy Father, the Vicar of Christ, and the Legion and Regnum Christi. In a mutual dialogue of faith, in spiritual and human communion, a conversation full of affection that at times has burst into ovations and at times has been whispered in silent expressions of devotion, expressed in few words, in silent acts of service, in mutual dedication.

The Vicar of Christ granted the definitive approval of the Constitutions of the Legion of Christ on June 29th, 1983. In an unprecedented gesture, John Paul II also presided over the priestly ordination of sixty Legionaries of Christ on January 3, 1991. This was the jubilee year for the Legion and Regnum Christi, then celebrating their 50th year of foundation. Ten years later on January 4th, 2001, the Pope granted a special audience to the Legion and Regnum Christi members in St. Peter´s square, to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the congregation’s foundation. In November 2004, the Pope approved of the Statutes of Regnum Christi and on the same day issued a Motu Proprio entrusting the administration of the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem to the Legion.

When concluding their Second General Chapter in December 1992, the Holy Father told the Legionaries in a private audience:

“You can not doubt the loving providence of God in your lives and in the work you represent. So, you are called to an ever-growing generosity, one that is profoundly motivated by a love for Christ and for man, a love that re-commits you every time you repeat your motto: Adveniat Regnum Tuum!”

In Rome on March 13, 2005, John Paul II looked out from the window of the Gemelli hospital in Rome: among the many other pilgrims of various nationalities, there was a healthy contingent from his hometown of Wadowice, as well as a group, also numerous, of Legionaries and consecrated members of Regnum Christi. After his recent tracheotomy, his words would have to be brief. In fact, many thought that he would appear but would not speak.

Nevertheless, he did. After blessing the crowd, the Pope looked out of his hospìtal window and said in Italian: “Dear brothers and sisters, thank you for your visit. Long live Wadowice! I greet the Legionaries of Christ. A happy Sunday and a good week to all!”

That day at the Gemelli hospital, there were no more expressions or words. None were necessary. His presence signified everything; there was total harmony among hearts. Among the thousands that filled St. Peter’s Square, there was a silent message of prayer, of faith, of hope in the eternal life, of gratitude to God and of joy for the Pope’s recent and definitive encounter with Jesus and Mary. The Legionaries and Regnum Christi members present, along with entire Church, with so many thousands and thousands of young people, children and elderly, priests and lay people, giving the next-to-last homage to a Father, a Shepherd, and a friend. The next-to-last homage, but not the last; the last, with God´s help, will be in the fidelity of Christians to the legacy of John Paul II.



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