Together with a group of youth who staged the musical “Poverello” in 1986, we stood in the rain as we welcomed Pope John Paul II into the National Stadium for a first-ever Papal visit to Singapore.
Many of us still alive have been privileged to witness the election of Karol Wojtyla to the Papacy and onto his canonisation. Having seen how he burst upon the world stage in his very unconventional choice of doing away with many papal accessories to his Dr Martens footwear, his time as Pope was marked by a deliberate evangelical effort to bring the faith to the far-flung corners of the globe.
Many have wondered if by any chance I was named after St John Paul II. Well, if truth be told, I was a convert in 1979 and chose the name after John Paul I. I was caught up with the gentle disposition of the new Pope and the smile he wore meant more than any volume of words. Karol Wojtyla, whose pontificate succeeded the short reign of John Paul I, also saw in him a special charisma, and so adopted the name of John Paul II.
Names in the Papacy are highly significant – both the Popes chose this double-barrelled name to denote the direction of their Papacy i.e. to fully implement the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Both Pope John XXIII and Pope Paul VI straddled the Council and were instrumental in the beginning and conclusion of Vatican II respectively.
Monsignor John Paul Tan, OFM