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1 January 1983
On the morning of Thursday, November 18th, 1982, the International Council of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal participated in the private morning Mass of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. At 6:45 sharp, Swiss guards conducted the small group through the Vatican courtyard of San Damaso to the Apostolic Palace, where an elevator brought them to the floor of the papal residence. A short walk down a medieval corridor led them to another Swiss guard, who rang the bell to the Holy Father’s more modern private apartments. The door was opened by the Pope’s Polish and African secretaries, who conducted the group to the small papal chapel, where His Holiness was in prayer at his priedieu. The three priests belonging to the Council went to the sacristy to vest, while the others knelt to accompany His Holiness in silent prayer. When his prayers were finished, the Pope rose and moved very slowly to the altar, where the two secretaries helped him vest. As this was happening, the Council members, together with ICCRO staff which was also present, began to sing, “Come and Worship, Royal Priesthood”, following with a singing in tongues. Hands joined, the Pope stared intently at the large crucifix over the altar as the singing continued, and then began his peaceful, prayerful and unhurried Mass.
During the Eucharist, Brian Smith from Australia took the first reading, and Andy Ngcobo of South Africa led the responsorial psalm. Several hymns were sung during the Mass, and there were two other occasions of singing in tongues. At different moments, the Pope’s foot tapped to the rhythm of the music, and when the Mass ended with the singing of “Our God Reigns”, known to be one of his favorite hymns, his own deep baritone rang out with the other voices.
The group left the Holy Father still at prayer in his chapel, and assembled to await him in the papal library. When he arrived several minutes later, his joyful greeting to the group was: “Our God Reigns! It is good to see you again”. As Fr. Tom Forrest, Council chairman, began to present His Holiness to the different Council members, the Pope asked him if he were busy with preparations for the “great retreat”, referring to the 1984 retreat for as many as 10,000 priests, at which His Holiness has already promised to speak. When introduced to Kevin Ranaghan, the Pope congratulated him for the “beautiful singing” led by Kevin during the Mass. Hervé Marie Catta told the Pope that the Renewal in Europe had taken to heart his call of the re-evangelization of Europe, and the Holy Father wanted to know how this was being done, adding the words, “Yes, we will do this job together”. His Holiness immediately recognized Ralph Martin from previous meetings and asked about his work. Orlando D’Costa of the ICCRO staff held the Pope’s hand warmly as he said, “Holy Father, every day we pray at our office for God to give you all the strength you need for the wonderful task you are doing”. Fr. Fio Mascarenhas, ICCRO director, showed the Pope a photo of his mother, recently diagnosed as sick with cancer, and while looking compassionately at the photo, the Pope responded, “Yes, I send her my blessing”. Fr. Fio then asked the Pope if he would kindly pose for a group photo with the Council, and the Pope assented cheerfully, with a smile towards the group already assembled for the purpose.
When the photos were finished, Osmanio Pereira de Oliveira spoke to His Holiness in the name of the Council. He began by saying, “Holy Father, I would now like to say three little words to you in Portuguese, and hope you will be able to understand me”. “Oh you are from Brazil”, the Pope immediately answered, swinging easily into Portuguese after speaking to other Council members in French, English and Spanish. Osmanio then expressed the thoughts and feengs of the Council:
“Holy Father, we chose Rome for our ICCRO Council meeting, because of our desire to study and to deepen our understanding of the mystery of the Church. We wish to work and collaborate with your Holiness in the service of the Church, and this makes us want to hear whatever orientation you can give us for our work. Today is a moment of tremendous opportunity for us, being united with Your Holiness both to pray, and to listen to the guidance you have for us. Our desire is to be moving constantly closer to the heart of the Church, and in this way deepen our commitment to its service. Holy Father, 19 countries of Latin America met recently in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, to study the directives you gave to leaders of the Renewal in Rome in 1981. The theme of our (ECCLA VII) meeting was “Growth in Grace And Knowledge Of Our Lord Jesus Christ” and this meeting, based on the guidance you gave us, produced many great blessings. Holy Father, we appreciate you so much, and we beg the blessing of Jesus and His Mother, Mary, on your life and on your task of directing the Church. Holy Father, we love you very much”.
Pope John Paul seemed touched by these words, and responded, “Very Good! Keep going forward! Many thanks; many thanks!”.Though he obviously had a busy day ahead of him, the meeting occurring between exhausting trips to Spain and Sicily, he seemed hesitant to leave the group. A second time he said to Fr. Forrest, “You are working now on the big retreat for priests”, and finally disappeared through the door, to the echoing sounds of: “Holy Father, we really do love you. You are very important to us”.
Taken from the ICCRS Newsletter, January-February 1983