Page 1, 14th March 2003

14th March 2003
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Page 1, 14th March 2003 — Papal poems offer intimate insights into the life and times of John Paul II

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Papal poems offer intimate insights into the life and times of John Paul II

BY LUKE COPPEN THE Pon published a new poem cycle last week offering an intimate insight into his inner life.

The three-part poem, billed as a "spiritual last testament", was unveiled at the Vatican by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

The Cardinal told reporters that the cycle, entitled The Roman Triptych, was about going "against the flow", seeing beauty, then searching for its source; rediscovering the truth about human existence and giving oneself to God without reservation.

The poems, he said, were linked by a profound meditation on the beginning and end of the world, as well as on the beginning and the end of John Paul H's pontificate. The 11-page cycle, released simultaneously at the Vatican and Poland, begins with a meditation on nature, entitled "The Stream".

The second part, the longest of the three, is a reflection on the Book of Genesis, inspired by the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

The third poem, "A Hill in the Land of Maria", is a contemplation of the life of Abraham and of God's eternal covenant.

Cardinal Ratzinger predicted that readers would find the second poem the most moving, because it concerned Pope John Paul's 1978 election and discussed the responsibility of cardinals who will gather in the Sistine Chapel to elect a new pope after his death: Those to whom the care of the legacy of the keys has been entrusted gather here, allowing themselves to be enfolded by the Sistine's colours.

by the vision left to us by Michelangelo — so it was in August and then in October, so it was in the year of the two Conclaves, and so it will be again, when the need arises after my death. Michelangelo 's vision must then speak to them.

Cardinal Ratzinger recalled that he was also present at the conclave, where the cardinals were "exposed to those images in the hours of the great decision, as if they were summoning us, instilling in our souls the greatness of the responsibility".

Several cardinals sat in the front row of the Vatican press hall to hear Cardinal Ratzinger's reflections on the poems, the first written and published during John Paul's pontificate, Nando Gazzolo, an Italian actor who recited the poems at the launch, said the Pope's words were deeply moving.

"He is an artist. And this, from my point of view, makes him an even greater Pope," he said. "It must not be forgotten that to be able to express oneself through art is a gift of God."

The poems, written in Polish, have been translated into English by the distinguished London-based poet Professor Jerzy Peterkiewicz, and are awaiting publication.

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