by Alan McElwain
Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home
THE memories linger on . . .
The retired Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Sir James Freeman, and our recent triumphant visitor. Pope John Paul II, are close friends. They first met in Rome during the conclave in 1978 which elected Pope John Paul I for what was to be a tragically short reign.
They caught up with each other again in the conclave that same year that turned the tables on the age-old tradition of "always an Italian for Pope" by electing Polish Cardinal Karol Wojtyla to the Pontificate. And, of course, Cardinal Freeman was well on hand to greet Pope John Paul II when he was in Sydney recently.
The Pope decided to call on Cardinal Freeman at his home, a typically warm-hearted move that was to bring happiness to more than the cardinal. He lives in the St John Vianney Villa for retired priests, which the Little Sisters of the Poor conduct on the Sydney suburb of Randwick, not far from the Randwick Racecourse, where the Pope celebrated Mass before 250,000 people on the evening of November 26.
Pope John Paul called on Cardinal Freeman after the Mass. The cardinal was a concelebrant with the Pope, but, after the Consecration, sped home by police-escorted car, and was ready and waiting when the Holy Father arrived. Cardinal Freeman introduced him to the assembled Little Sisters who were, of course, ecstatic. He then took him round to meet other guests at the Villa.
These included Fr Sidney Thorne, a former Royal Australian Air Force chaplain, who was seriously ill, but much cheered when the Pope blessed him.
Likewise, the oldest priest in the Sydney Archdiocese, 91-year-old Fr Vincent Henry Hollands. He had recently celebrated the 64th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, in Sydney on November 30, 1922. Fr Hollands was greatly moved as the Pope spoke to him and blessed him but he couldn't resist just one complaint.
After Pope John Paul had left, he called Cardinal Freeman and said: "I heard you tell the Holy Father I was 92. "I'm only 91". He died a week later.
DURING the Pope's brief visit to Tasmania, Charlie Boulter, a professional fisherman in those parts, was asked to donate a particularly succulent fish called a trevally for the Holy Father's breakfast. He handed it over somewhat reluctantly, Next time Charlie went to sea, his normal catch of half-a-tonne inexplicably (I'm quoting a columnist) increased to two tonnes. Said Charlie: "I said to the guy who asked for the fish: 'Where's that Pope feller, I want to give him more".
When in Sydney
WHILE in Sydney, the Pope stayed as Archbishop Edward Clancy's guest in St Mary's Cathedral presbytery. He was a splendid house guest, the Dean of the Cathedral, Mgr Lex Johnson, says, and he's welcome back any time!
He was no trouble, made no special demands, breakfasted, like cathedral staff members, on cornflakes, bacon and eggs and coffee and slept in the visitors' room.
Visiting Italians on the Papal staff brought their own pasta with them, which they cheerfully cooked on the presbytery stove. Before he left Sydney, Pope John Paul personally thanked all who had looked after him.
FOLLOWING his visit, Pope John Paul has honoured seven priests of the Sydney Archdiocese by creating them monsignors. It is so long since any new monsignori have been appointed in Sydney that many priests and people had begun to believe the title was dying out here.
The last time a monsignori was appointed was 16 years ago, in 1970, when the late Pope Paul VI, during his visit to Sydney, created two.