Pope Saint John Paul the Second is perhaps one of the few modern day Popes that made significant impacts in the annals of the sacred papacy as a constantly travelling holy father who practically touched down on virtually all continents of the world.
In Nigeria cosmology, there is this joke about a man known as AJALA who has a reputation for being the first Nigerian to have travelled to all parts of the World. This mythology of AJALA the World traveller perfectly fits the description of Pope John Paul 11.
Pope John Paul II was also remarkable for his motivational activities around the thematic areas that mostly affect the young person’s positively.
Pope John Paul II was charismatic and vastly knowledgeable about the central role of the younger populations of the world towards the globalization of peace and security. His Papacy elevated and celebrated World Youths Conferences that held in different parts of the World bringing together young Catholics from all parts of the Earth to fraternize for at least one week dealing with social and spiritual issues of our times. That legacy is alive and strong.
However, like a pathfinder, the successor to the throne of Saint Peter and who is the head of the over two billion membership Roman Catholic Church, the catholic pontiff, Francis the first, is clearly known for his love, passion and commitments to advocate those basic issues that seek the promotion and protection of the human rights of the youths. This is not to underrate the achievements of Pope Francis’s immediate predecessor Pope Benedict XVI just as we must take specific note that Pope Benedict the sixteenth occupied his papacy with phenomenal scholarships in the area of the radical advancement of theological sciences. Benedict did not shy away from letting the World know that he is a man that cherishes the choicest parts of the revered Roman Catholic traditions which were facing the imminent threats of erosion and decline. He instituted many reforms aimed at refocusing the Church towards the celebration of the Holy Mass that is in tune with traditions and rites that are sacred and sercedotal.
Pope Benedict XVI, who is the only Pope in the last four centuries to have resigned from his high office due to health challenges, is known for excellent books on Bible and theology. Yours faithfully have the rare privilege of buying about half a dozen of such books of spiritual purity and pristine quality.
And so, in the context of the central themes that have occupied the times of the current Pope, it is not in doubt that the wellbeing and spiritual welfare of the younger populations of the world is so dear to him. In the past couple of months, this Pope who loves the youth and the less privileged, has occupied himself with evangelism of the youths around the world with travels to virtually all continents of the world.
I will return to the aforementioned but first, it would seem that Pope Francis is gradually carving a niche for himself as the Saint John Bosco of the contemporary times. A scholar, John Kubasak reflected about what he calls the 7 important lessons from the life and times of Saint John Bosco which was published on www.coraevans.com. John Kubasak had in the preamble to the work on his namesake stated that if we had lived in Italy during the 19th century, St. John Bosco would’ve been a household name. His personal service to the Church, and that of the Salesian religious order that he founded reached far and wide throughout Europe. St. John was born in Turin, Italy in 1815 to a poor family, and lost his father at age two. The writer recalled too that he was ordained a priest in 1841 just as he observed that perhaps the tragedy of losing his father spurred him to the mission that he was best known for: reaching out to troubled youth.
The more proximate cause of ministering to troubled youth was seeing the squalid condition of the nearby prisons, in which children were incarcerated along with adults. Pope Francis has also identified with the suffering prisoners and immigrants who are mostly young persons just like what Saint John Bosco did as compiled by John Kubasak. Recently, Pope Francis dedicated a four story edifice for sheltering immigrants and a kitchen where they are to be fed at least two good square meals every day. Kubasak recalled that a meeting house where St. John could instruct boys was founded in the late 1840s burgeoned into the Salesian religious order approved by the Vatican in 1874. The author then stated that by the time of his death in 1888, 250 houses had been established throughout the world. The work of the society in the 40 years of St. John’s earthly life produced a staggering 6,000 priests and innumerable riches in converted souls.The writer confirmed my assessment of Pope Francis to be a replica of Saint John Bosco when he wrote that everything Pope Francis has described as the model of a priest, St. John Bosco was: he had the smell of his sheep, went out to the margins, lived a life of grace and the sacraments, and was zealous for souls.
St. John, he affirmed, was also a mystic, and the primary medium of his mystical experiences were vivid dreams. Whether we are young or not so young, St. John Bosco was a man of great holiness whose life could teach us all some lessons. From his dreams, his biography, and the communities he started, I think there are seven main lessons we can learn from St. John Bosco. With the turmoil in the world and within the Catholic Church today, St. John Bosco is a timely intercessor and teacher for our times, John Kubasak concluded. So we now have to stage a comeback to our topic of interest which is about the dominant theme of the wellbeing of the world’s youths in the gospel according to the current pope, Francis who is from Argentina, originally.
He actually took his time as a deep thinker to throw the challenge to technology firms regarding their corporate social responsibility towards the youths and then he gave a general message to leaders of advanced nations on why they have to slow down on their pursuit for nuclearization of their military weaponry. He is of the conviction that the evolution of the world into fractional political societies of military forces, who are in a race of life to develop nuclear weapons, will in a big way endanger the youth, endanger world peace and threaten humanity. Pope Francis is 100% correct. On his worries over the unregulated access of the young minds to diverse sets of technological advances, the Holy Father sounded a note of warning as reported by Reuters.
Pope Francis warned on Friday last week that technology and globalization were homogenizing young people around the world to the point where their uniqueness and cultural individuality were becoming endangered species. The 82-year-old pope made his appeal for young people to hold on to the cultures handed down by their ancestors and cherish their roots at a meeting of leaders of other religions as he wrapped up the last full day of his visit to Thailand. He decried a “growing tendency to discredit local values and cultures by imposing a unitary model” for values on young people, referring apparently to Western influence from films, advertising and social media. “This produces a cultural devastation that is just as serious as the disappearance of species of animals and plants,” he said. These sentiments will resonate well in Africa whose beautiful cultural confront the challenges of global imperialism and neo-colonialism.
Onwubiko heads HUMAN Rights writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA)