Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Capturing "the Great"

With the 1 May beatification of Pope John Paul II drawing ever closer, the run-up to Rome's biggest gathering since the Polish pontiff's 2005 funeral has seen a re-emergence of many of the personalities and stories which marked the 27 years of The Reign That Was.

While, to be sure, the Wojtyla revival would be more conspicuous by its absence given the news, particularly compelling among the veterans returning to the fore is the figure through whose eyes the world got to see John Paul more closely than any other: the longtime papal photographer Arturo Mari, who retired in 2007 after a half-century of snapping the Popes at close range, but whose trailing of the "pontifex massmediaticus" took the job's scope to completely uncharted turf.

The house's favorite of his millions of memories (one he was ordered not to capture) shown above, in a brief interview, Mari reminisces, closing with the story of his most-cherished John Paul image... one taken on what might well have made for the last pontificate's most emotional night:

And for those of us who remember the moment -- above all, the striking images of it -- nothing else really needs to be said.

Though the beatification rites will take place on the "liturgical anniversary" of the late Pope's return to "the Father's House," this Saturday sees six years since John Paul's death, six weeks shy of his 85th birthday.

Next Tuesday, a Vatican press conference will provide the most extensive preview yet of the week of festivities, which'll climax with a Beatification Eve prayer vigil at Rome's Circus Maximus, a Thanksgiving Mass on 2 May in St Peter's Square -- and, of course, the relocation of John Paul's tomb to the main floor of the Vatican Basilica, where he'll rest in a side-chapel adjacent to Michelangelo's Pietà.

All that said, as the Vatican's de facto "Year of JPII" isn't so much meant to be watched from afar as observed in the field, it's worth wondering how well it's being picked up in the trenches.

Either way, to get us all into the spirit, let the clip-reel tell the story....

...and, lastly, a personal thought -- one hopefully at least some will understand:

PHOTO: Arturo Mari