THE PAPAL PHOTOGRAPHER ARTURO MARI REMINISCES POPE PAUL VI
The first meeting
When I had met pope Paul VI for the first time, it was a great experience for me – I had known him earlier as cardinal Montini, who had worked in the Secretary of State, and also as the archbishop of Milan. It is obvious that I knew pope Paul VI earlier, it was a great recognition and joy for me. It was also important for me to get to know his personality and even when the Pope was considered as a shy and closed person, the fact that I knew him earlier, let me see him in a different way and understand better.
Pilgrimages with Paul VI
Each pilgrimage of pope Paul VI in which I participated as a photographer, had its history. However, from my point of view, his first pilgrimage was the most important – to the Holy Land, in January 1964. This date and this event were epochal. We must remember how important it was that the Pope had left Vatican and set off for a journey, realizing his mission. It was just in the Holy Land where I could appreciate his love and devotion for the Church. It was a great message of humility and ecumenical engagement. I reminisce a meeting of the patriarch of Constantinopole Atenagoras with Paul VI with great emotions. Certainly, the biggest experience was return to Jesus’ road with the Pope.
Pope Paul VI did a lot to realize the Vatican Council II – later also John Paul II did a lot. I also find the great significance of the pontificate of Paul VI in ecumenical meetings. We cannot forget about the wonderful work of Paul VI which were synods. Also his encyclicals have great significance for the world and the Church. Paul VI was a man of great good manners. We must note, however, that people appreciate him only now. Maybe because of shyness of the Pope and a kind of discretion and spiritual strength which were not understood….
Paul VI and Poland
A very difficult and dramatic moment for Paul VI was the fact that he could not make a pilgrimage to Poland in 1966 because at that time communist authorities had not allowed for it. Therefore, he did everything to be at least spiritually close to Poland and Poles. He expressed it on various occasions or during great liturgical ceremonies. In Pope’s heart, undoubtedly, Poland was present. He always remembered about Poland during general audiences, among the others, trying to say a few words in Polish: ‘God bless you’, ‘Thank you very much’. These are, certainly, only some symbolic accents of this closeness but they have great significance to understand his relation with Poland. They also show his heart.
Charism of Paul VI
I think that the strength of charism of pope Paul VI came from the Gospel. The Pope undertook and realized many issues, having the Gospel as his guide in his hand. He was a very pious person, devoted to God and also very intelligent and very humble, he had great spiritual strength. It was seen during his meetings with the heads of countries, during apostolic journeys when he spoke, for example, in the UNO.
The last meeting with the Pope
I saw the Pope during general audiences in Castel Gandolfo. In his health state one could see something worrying. Later I saw the Pope in a small church of St. Joseph in Frattocch town, 3 kilometres away from Castel Gandolfo whose protector cardinal Giuseppe Pizzardo was. The Pope arrived there in the beginning of August in order to pray at the grace of this great cardinal. Then I saw the Pope in a very bad health state, during a homily he started shaking and was quickly taken to the papal residence in Castel Gandolfo. It was late afternoon, about 6 p. m. It was the last tragic moment when I could see him and touch his hand. Later doctors did not allow anybody to see the Pope…
Significance of beatification of Paul VI
Now people start to understand Pope Paul VI better – who he really was, where his strength, his charism and holiness were. One must know that this Pope gave us a lot. One can mention his foreign pilgrimages. One can say that thanks to him the Church opened up to the world and is going forward courageously. This Church is making its pilgrimage. Thanks to the papal pilgrimages, the Church and Vatican got to know many problems, later undertaken during synods.
Finally, I promise may prayer for ‘Niedziela’ at the grave of Paul VI, but also St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II. God bless you for everything!
Listened to and written by Fr. Mariusz Frukacz