IN 1995, I was a sprightly young 10 year-old, meeting the greatest figure in the Catholic Church.
He was an ageing, but still enthusiastic leader, greeting Australian children to mark a momentous occasion in Australian Catholicism.
Ten years on, and while I have grown older, Pope John Paul II has passed on, leaving millions across the world to mourn and celebrate his achievements.
I was privileged to meet the Pope when he visited Australia in January 1995 for the beatification of Mary MacKillop. As a 10 year-old, I had the honour of representing the children of Queensland at this important time.
With his famous charm and humour, he greeted hundreds of school children from across Australia outside Sydney’s St Mary’s Cathedral, where I remember him saying to me, ‘You like the Pope, don’t you?’
It is this simple appeal which is what endeared him to so many children and adults alike from diverse parts of the world.
Inside the cathedral, at the chapel where Blessed Mary MacKillop is buried, I gathered with other representatives from the other states to offer gifts to the pontiff. Queensland presented him with a stunning Quilpie opal – it was the largest gem stone I’d seen!
It was a solemn affair – he prayed at her grave, and offered blessings for we representatives.
The official photographs of the event are a reminder of not just healthier times for the Pope, but also the importance of being there.
I would sincerely hope Pope John Paul II’s successor recognises the achievements of Blessed Mary MacKillop and goes some way to canonising her as Australia’s first saint.
It has been sad to watch the Pope’s health decline. He has been an example to all on perseverance even in the face of great struggle.
Now that he rests in peace, Catholics across the world show solidarity in honour of the great pontiff who brought his message to so many across the world.
It was an honour to be blessed by Pope John Paul II in 1995 and, in 2005, it is an honour to remember how this wonderful man spread happiness and the word of God to so many.