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Polish city unveils giant St. John Paul II mural in centenary year

CNA Staff, Oct 22, 2020 / 06:00 am (CNA).- A Polish city has unveiled a giant mural of St. John Paul II in honor of the birth centenary of the pope whose feast day is celebrated Thursday.

City authorities in Stalowa Wola, southeastern Poland, commissioned the portrait, which is 30 feet wide and 100 feet high, to mark the anniversary year, which is being commemorated by events in Rome and Poland.

The image, on the side of an apartment building on the city’s John Paul II Avenue, depicts the pope who led the Church from 1978 to 2005 leaning on his crozier while praying. The mural was officially blessed Oct. 18 by Bishop Edward Frankowski, a retired auxiliary bishop of Sandomierz.

At the base of the portrait are words that the Polish pope spoke about the city: “I embrace with my heart Stalowa Wola, a city symbolic of the great faith of working people.”

The city held a competition to design the mural. The winner, Piotr Topczyłko, was selected by a jury ahead of six other candidates. 

Lucjusz Nadbereżny, the mayor of Stalowa Wola, shared a video on Twitter Oct. 16, the 42nd anniversary of John Paul II’s election as pope, showing how the mural was created. 

 

W Stalowej Woli na 30 metrowej ścianie wieżowca powstał niezwykły mural z wizerunkiem Świętego Jana Pawła II. Na krótkim filmie widać jak autor Piotr Topczyłko tworzy piękny mural Papieża.
Janie Pawle II nasz święty orędowniku, miej w opiece Miasto i Mieszkańców Stalowej Woli. pic.twitter.com/Ejv8xmpHqY

— Lucjusz Nadbereżny (@lucjuszn) October 16, 2020  

The city secured the agreement of both the housing cooperative that manages the building and residents. 

While John Paul II never visited the city as pope, he expressed his admiration for its inhabitants, applauding their determination to build the Church of Our Lady, Queen of Poland, despite opposition from the communist authorities. 

He consecrated the church in 1973, when he was archbishop of Kraków. Later, as pope, he gave the church the status of a minor basilica.

Local media quoted the city’s mayor as saying: “Just as in this mural St. John Paul II is leaning against the cross, let this image be a support for us. Our pope, with his life, like the Moses of our time, opened the hearts of others, so let us also be kind, warm, and loving to one another. Then we will fulfill the life and teachings of St. John Paul II.”

Meanwhile, in an interview marking the Polish pope’s feast day, Archbishop Stanisław Gądecki recalled his encounters with St. John Paul II.

The president of the Polish bishops’ conference said that the pope was an “extremely brave” man who “could talk with anyone.” 

“It seems to me that a focal point was his reverence for the Eucharist. The Holy Father restored the Corpus Christi processions in Rome. He led the processions from St. John in Lateran to the Basilica of St. Mary Major,” he recalled. 

“Back then, when he was able to walk, and later when he could no longer walk, it was extremely edifying to watch his behavior and see how he revered the Eucharist. Now, I think that the whole Church needs that today.”

Killer of martyred Italian nun: ‘I can have of her only a memory of love’

Rome Newsroom, Oct 22, 2020 / 05:00 am (CNA).- The three teenage girls who killed Sr. Maria Laura Mainetti 20 years ago attested afterward that, while they were stabbing the 60-year-old religious sister to death, she told them she forgave them.

“The sister cried out. She said she would not report us. That she forgave us,” Milena De Giambattista, Ambra Gianasso, and Veronica Pietrobelli told police when they confessed to killing the woman as part of a Satanic ritual.

In May, Pope Francis declared Venerable Maria Laura Mainetti a martyr, killed in “hatred of the faith” in Chiavenna, Italy. She will be beatified on June 6, 2021, the 21st anniversary of her murder.

Born in a small town in northern Italy, Mainetti entered the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross at age 18. In 1984 she moved to the convent in Chiavenna, where she became superior.

Mainetti was known in the small town for her social and charitable commitment to dispossessed youth and poor people. According to a person who knew her, Mainetti had “an unconditional love for the weak. A life that was a real witness of love for Christ.”

“She never said no to anyone: she always opened the door ready to listen,” the person added.

The sister displayed this quality on the seemingly ordinary Tuesday night when the teens drew her out of the convent with a call claiming that a girl was pregnant by rape and needed to speak with her. They brought the sister to an isolated and dark street, near a cliff called “Paradise,” which originated from an ancient soapstone quarry.

According to local legend, a 160-feet tall and nearly 500-foot deep opening in the side of the cliff leads to the “inferno,” and was the work of the devil, who created the fissure to escape to hell while fleeing the Virgin Mary.

The three teens, dressed in black, then stabbed Mainetti 19 times with a kitchen knife and beat her, while shouting abuse. They had, according to Italian media reports, intended to stab her 18 times, six times each, to form by their violence the number 666. 

“I deceived her by drawing her into a trap and then I killed her, and while we were doing this she forgave us,” Milena De Giambattista wrote to Sr. Mainetti’s religious community some years after the act.

“I can have of her only a memory of love. And in addition to this, it also allowed me to believe in something that is neither God nor Satan, but which was a simple woman who defeated evil,” Milena wrote.

“Now in her I find comfort and the grace to endure everything. I always pray and I am sure she will help me become a better person.”

Milena’s letter is included in an Italian-language biography of Mainetti written by Sr. Beniamina Mariani in 2005.

Sr. Mainetti was known to the girls, who did not have any prior history of violence or crime. They confessed that they had originally planned to kill the parish priest, but decided that, because he was larger, it would prove too difficult. Investigators said that the girls’ notebooks were filled with Satanic writings and they had made a blood oath some months earlier.

The three served sentences in different juvenile prisons. After their release, between six and seven years later, at least two of them spent time in community recovery centers. According to media reports, the women changed their names, and now have jobs and families.

After her release from prison in 2006, Milena was a guest for several years of the Exodus communities in the area of Verona -- residences for the prevention and treatment of drug addiction, founded by Fr. Antonio Mazzi.

Mazzi once said, as recounted by Amedeo Mainetti, the murdered nun’s brother, that Milena “is fully aware of what she did and at the same time repentant and convinced that she can be reborn and recover better and better.”

Speaking to Il Giorno Milano newspaper in June this year, Mazzi said that Milena had been an active participant in the communities, though she never spoke about the murder and they never “fully faced the fact” with her. 

The priest also noted that Milena “never declared herself a believer and neither the opposite.”

“She did not want to give testimony for the sister. However, she radically changed her life, and with her actions she clearly showed that she was repentant and that she understood that she had made a great mistake,” he said. “Today she has her own life and her own job.”  

In a 2008 interview in the magazine Panorama, Veronica asked the public to forget her. 

“Prison, psychologists, and the recovery community have allowed me to become the person I otherwise would never have been,” she said.

“It was decided to kill at age 16 while sitting for six hours over a beer in a small village bar,” she recalled. “Everything we said, thought and did was worthless. What was I terrified of? Of Sr. Maria Laura’s gaze? Of blood? I don’t know, because it was dark and I didn’t look at her face, just as I didn’t look at the blood. At that moment and only then, I was afraid of everything, even of Ambra and Milena.”

In her biography of the slain religious sister, Mariani wrote that when she was among young people, Mainetti felt “at ease and loved to entertain them both in scheduled meetings and in casual ones.”

Someone who knew her said in an interview for the book that “only God can know how much she sacrificed herself for young people! Meetings, talks, school camps, world youth days, catechesis, individual accompaniment.” 

The biography reproduced what Mainetti wrote in her journal on the day of her perpetual profession in 1964: “Give me your feelings, Jesus, those of the Beatitudes: the poor who trusts, abandons himself/the child who feels loved by him/the affliction that is participation in that of Christ and is salvation/Mercy, Benevolence, Purity of body and heart, Humility. To serve Christ is to reign: Here I am… The joy of my service every instant in conformity with Your Divine Will.”

From this life, “a spring gushes out, a gush of evangelical life,” Sr. Kitty Hiriat Urruty, the superior of her congregation, wrote at the time of Mainetti’s martyrdom.

“This spring speaks to us of our consecration, of our life offered to the Trinity, of our desire of identification with Jesus Christ, of our choice of the poorest, of the wounded in life. And this leads to the origins of our Congregation,” the sister said.

“She showed that our charism is alive and very current,” she continued. “In this style of love and gift, she gave herself with both hands, without calculation, just like someone who knows that all she has is a gift of love, to be shared and made to bear fruit.”

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