An audience with John Paul II Print
By Peggy Noonan   
Friday, 09 August 2013

And he entered. John Paul the Great. Massive and frail, full and bent — a man like frail marble. He was dressed in white robes, a white beanie on his white hair. He walked slowly, a cane in his right hand, his head tilting forward. The face expressionless — the Parkinsonian mask.

He stepped into the room and the room burst into applause.

And suddenly there was singing. It was a group of dark-haired young nuns dressed in blue. They almost levitated at the sight of him and they had burst into song. He stopped in front of them and his head went back and his chest filled. Then he took his cane and shook it at them merrily and said in a baritone that filled the room, “Philippines!”


And the nuns exploded with applause because they were indeed from the Philippines and he had known. They one after another knelt on the floor as he walked past.

Now he looked at another little group and he shook his cane comically as he passed them and said, “Brah-SILL!”

And the Brazilians cheered and started to cry.

And the pope moved on, shuffling now, and he walked by an extraordinary looking young man — coal black hair, thick and cut so that it was standing straight up. It looked like Pentecost hair. He was slim, Asian, in the dress of a seminarian. He had been watching things dreamily, happily, his hands in the attitude of prayer, and then the pope stopped, turned and held his cane toward him.

“China!” he said.

And the young man slid to his knees, bent toward the floor and moved to kiss the pope’s shoe.

And the pope caught him in an embrace as if to say: No, I am not your hero, you are my hero.

And from nowhere came to me the electric charge of an intuition. I felt with certainty that I had just witnessed a future saint embrace a future cardinal of Beijing.

And my eyes filled with tears.