Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Secret trips of John Paul II

One of the major revolutions of the pontificate of John Paul II was his openness to the media. His right arm was Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the pope's spokesman for 22 years. "I remember the first impression of Cardinal Wojtyla when he became Pope. That image of a young man, a smiling man who began to attract Public Opinion. That fondness was later confirmed throughout his pontificate," said him.

Navarro-Valls was a correspondent in the eastern Mediterranean for the Spanish newspaper ABC. One day, without warning, he was called by the Vatican. The Pope wanted to have lunch with him. 

Joaquin Navarro-Valls - Former Speaker of the Holy See

"Naturally I told my secretary,'call the Vatican because someone wants to tease me.' “She called and confirmed that it was true. I clearly remember that lunch with the Pope, who raised the issue of whether I had any idea of how to improve communication. He personally, didn't need any advice, but rather he wanted to communicate Christian values to the universe, which is what the Vatican had to do."

And so began a job that wasn't just about communicating information from the Vatican to the world media, but something much more profound and difficult.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls

"It wasn't just about promoting an image, it was about changing a mentality. The Pope was already very open in these matters, but it was a matter of changing the internal mindset of the Vatican Curia."

Perhaps, his fondest memories are his undercover trips. On many occasions, John Paul II left Rome in the strictest secrecy with his closest collaborators to rest in the mountains.

Joaquin Navarro-Valls

"Going out in an anonymous car. Certainly it wasn't a car that was registered to the Vatican. It passed through Rome, in the afternoon, with its horrible traffic. No one ever thought the Pope was inside that car. He would pass by one of the highways that are out of Rome that leads to a place, a small house that was near the mountains. He would sleep there and the next morning he would go skiing. For a few hours, it was a delight, and it was necessary."

Twenty two years of hard work, arm and arm, with John Paul II to open the Vatican to the media and the world.

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