Rome — “When did you first know he was a saint?” It’s a question Joaquín Navarro-Valls gets often and especially now, in the days surrounding the canonization of his former boss, now Saint John Paul II. Navarro-Valls served as press director for the Holy See during JPII’s pontificate and, speaking to Catholic communicators at a conference at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross here, he remembers “the first time I saw him pray.”
“A person who prayed the way he did could not not be a saint.” He was “deeply bound to God.” He “didn’t move, he didn’t flinch” when in prayer. “Praying was like breathing for him,” Navarro-Valls adds. He recalls how John Paul II would step into his chapel before and after dinner. One particular evening, he got so immersed in prayer that his typical two-minute visit became a much longer one, for which he later apologized to Navarro-Valls, who was in the chapel with him. As Navarro-Valls puts it: “He had taken off. He was talking to someone else.” Any picture of him praying, Navarro-Valls said, “was the most eloquent expression of his inner soul.” And that smile was revelatory as well, sharing the joy and peace of a man who could bring himself to forgive the man who shot him . . .
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