FaithWorld

Eyewitness: How John Paul made an Italian-American “part Polish”

Reuters Vatican correspondent Philip Pullella covered the late Pope John Paul for almost all of the pontiff’s 26-year papacy and followed him on most of his many voyages around the world.  In keeping with news agency tradition, his reports focused on the pope and rarely if ever mentioned his own feelings as he followed him year in and year out. On the day that John Paul was beatified, we want to break that tradition and give readers Phil’s personal view of his experience covering the Polish pope.*

By Philip Pullella

Phil Pullella with Pope John Paul on the papal plane returning from a trip to Kazakhstan and Armenia, 27 September 2001)

Although I was born in Italy of Italian parents and raised in New York, I consider myself “part Polish”. This is thanks to the man beatified on May 1. But perhaps even more than my proximity to the late Pope John Paul, it was my closeness to his countrymen and countrywomen that left an indelible mark on my soul. And I don’t mean soul in the religious sense, but in the poetic sense. I have no Polish blood, but I have a part-Polish soul. Of this I have no doubt.

My favorite part of  John Paul’s papacy were without question the trips to Poland. I accompanied him on the papal plane on all of the trips except the first in 1979, when I was still in New York.

In Italy, the pope seemed at times to be suffocating. He seemed at times to be forced to be an ITALIAN, which he clearly was not. In Poland, he was Polish.

Timeline: Life and times of Pope John Paul II

(The special edition postage stamps of the late Pope John Paul II, valued at 0.60 euro ($0.89) each, are seen in Rome April 29, 2011/Alessia Pierdomenico)

The Vatican is preparing to elevate the late pontiff, John Paul II, one step closer to sainthood on Sunday in a ceremony of beatification. Here is a timeline of the pontificate of John Paul.

October 16, 1978 – Cardinal Karol Wojtyla of Krakow in Poland elected as first non-Italian pope in 455 years.