28 April 2014
It was a colourful and multicultural affair as a full congregation, including many representatives from the wider diplomatic community, celebrated the canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II in a thanksgiving Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral.
Archbishop Christopher Prowse celebrated the Mass, organised by the Polish Society of Christ priests and led by the Polish and Italian communities. It was held only hours before the official canonisation ceremony in Rome.
Decked out in national costumes, children from the Polish dance group Mala Wielkopolska topped off the celebrations with a joyful rendition of Pope John Paul II’s beloved Barka.
Their singing, to the accompaniment of a piano accordion, was a change in tempo from the elegant strains of the cathedral choir during the Mass, but it was equally enjoyed by the many who stayed to venerate a relic of St John Paul II.
Archbishop Prowse said it was a chance to offer gratitude to God “for sending us two saintly men” who led the Church at critical moments in its recent history.
He said the main uniting factor between Popes John XXIII and John Paul II, who were due to be canonised in Rome only a few hours later, was “their overriding concern for the pastoral care of souls”.
In the St Christopher's congregation was Stan Kowalski (pictured), whose then six-year-old son Mark was blessed by Pope John Paul II in Nairobi in 1980.
The former president of the Council of Polish Organisations in the ACT said Mark, now a successful architect in England, could not make it to Canberra for the Mass, but he did the first reading in his son’s honour.
“The Pope put his hands on my son’s head and blessed him,” Mr Kowalski said. “To have been blessed by a saint is a very special thing.”
Read the Archbishop's homily here.