I remember when Pope John Paul visited in the 1980s, my young son and I queued for hours in Central London and were rewarded with what thousands of others must have experienced: “He looked straight at me!”.
After a long exhausting day, we returned home that night to Wimbledon only to see a small crowd outside our local church as we passed. Imagine our incredulity as there, on the balcony outside the Priest’s House, just feet from where we were, stood the Pope – yes the very same Pope we had stood for 6 hours to catch a glimpse of earlier that morning. He was just standing there in front of us using univeral sign language to say that he was tired now and was going to go to bed. Feet away – let me say it again – feet away.
Pope John Paul chose this small, local church to spend the night rather than the Vatican Embassy on Wimbledon Parkside (where the current Pope is staying as I write) just around the corner. Anyway – this time, for reasons too many to share, I figured I didn’t have that passion to stand for six hours, I didn’t have the wonder in me anymore. I had to make a stand and express my disgust at the failing of the Catholic Church to put right the wrongs commited in their name combined with my anger at the nonsense about condoms in South Africa. I could go on and on, and even though I knew that he was just around the corner and I could stroll by to catch a glimpse – I didnt. But its 1am, I am watching the TV news and I see that he will be leaving the Wimbledon residence at 8.30am in the morning to head to Twickenham and I have set my alarm clock for 6am. Well, one has got to look presentable if one is going to try to catch a glimpse of the the Pope. What can I say? Once a Catholic……………