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Il Papa - Poem by Fatt Bob

BACKGROUND TO ‘IL PAPA’

In 1945, a young Catholic priest, Father Karel Wotoyla, volunteered to assist the Allied forces in Europe with the closure and evacuation of the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp operated by the Nazi regime at Oswiecim in Poland. Among the human wreckage was a seventeen year old girl, who, like many others, had been starved, abused and battered almost to the point of death. When Father Wotoyla lifted her up in his arms, she was little more than a bag of bones, but was still alive, so he carried her to the trucks that were standing by to transport these survivors to the Allied medical facilities. Despite her shockingly wasted and feeble condition, she survived, and was nursed back to health. As with many of the Jewish inmates of these charnel houses, she eventually immigrated to Israel, where she married and began a family of her own.

Channel Nine News on Friday,24 March 2000 included a report on the visit by Pope John Paul II to the Holy Land, and began with footage of the Pontiff walking along a receiving line of local dignitaries and well-wishers in Jerusalem. The proceedings were interrupted when a woman who appeared to be about seventy years of age stepped out of the line and held out her hands to John Paul as he approached. There were tears streaming down her cheeks. The Pope smiled at her, and took her hands in his as he looked once more into the face of the same woman who that young priest had carried away from the gas chambers and crematoriums of Auschwitz, fifty-five years before. After exchanging a few words and a brief embrace, the woman stepped back into the line, and John Paul moved slowly away. The security personnel, police officers, news reporters, the dignitaries, and everyone else who witnessed the tableau, were stunned into silence, and all stood mute and motionless while the few seconds of this poignant and moving scene ticked by. The voice of the television news anchorman reporting the event was shaking with emotion and unsuppressed excitement, and he sounded very close to tears as he described the scene and related the significance that lay behind it.

Although I saw it only on the television news, I was profoundly affected by this incident. I am not a religious person, but I felt an enormous wave of compassion and enlightenment flowing over me and surrounding me. I dealt with this sensation in the only way I know of assuaging such emotions – I sat down and wrote a poem about what I had seen. I sent a copy of the poem, titled ‘Il Papa’, to His Holiness Pope John Paul II.

I received a reply some three months later, dated 28 June 2000, on the letterhead of the Vatican Secretariat of State First Section – General Affairs. it was postmarked Canberra, so it must have come from Rome in the Vatican equivalent of a diplomatic bag, and then been posted through the local system. The letter was signed by Monsignor Pedro López Quintana, one of the assessors of the Papal office.

I am immensely proud of it.

Fatt Bob.



Preserved for fifty-five years
A young priest’s humanity and compassion
Was returned to him in gentle tears
That fell from the sorrowed face
Of a woman he had carried n his arms
Out of the atrocity of that inhuman place,
And in words and feelings far beyond
Any ideology of creed or race
She greeted him and gave her thanks
With dignity and grace.

Some are born to fame and riches
But serve it only with corruption and disgrace
Whilst others, though of humble birth,
Rise to lead our fragile, frail, human race
And preserve our heritage on this earth
By such acts of love as this.

From one whose deepest beliefs and creed
Has no tenets, no dogma, no symbol,
No cross or swastika for which to bleed,
Please accept my thanks, John Paul,
And take the credit for this, your deed
Which made me feel as did Saul of Tarsus
When he was blinded by The Light
And his soul was healed
As, in the dust of the road to Damascus,
He kneel’d.

Fatt Bob.
Friday, March 24,2000


Comments about Il Papa by Fatt Bob

  • Freshman - 646 Points Marilyn Lott (1/31/2008 9:30:00 AM)

    What a wonderful story and beautiful poem. It makes me think of Mother Theresa and all the good that she did for her people. To me it is a love beyond any other and total sacrafice. Thanks, Bob, for sharing this poem with us. I'm looking forward to reading more of your work.

    Marilyn (Report) Reply

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Poems About Television

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