The child who treated the Pope with mercy

Javier Anleu wrote a series of e-mails to John Paul II in 2005. He was nine years old. His words comforted the Pope in the last days of his life.

Juan Bautista Robledillo-January 27, 2016-Reading time: 3 minutes

I came across a story that contains a strong message very appropriate for the Year of Mercy. It is the testimony of a young boy, Javier Anleu, whose words, written in a series of emails sent by him and his sister to John Paul II, comforted the Pope in his last days. Javier's mother tells how John Paul II often asked if any new mail had arrived from his "little friends in Guatemala". The testimony of this child, now a young man, is a clear example of the affection that the sick need. This is the personal story of the protagonist:

"My name is Javier Anleu, and in 2005 I had one of the experiences that has marked me the most in my life: I wrote e-mails to what is now a saint, to John Paul II. I was nine years old when John Paul II was hospitalized from February 1 to 10, 2005. Like any Catholic child, I prayed a lot for the Pope's health.

We used to pray to him at home with my parents and my sister, and also at school during morning prayer. One day, with all the innocence of a child, I told my mother that I wanted to write to the Pope. My mother told this to her father (my maternal grandfather) and he, among his priest and religious friends, managed to get an e-mail and gave it to my mother. We didn't know if this mail was really from the Pope, but my older sister, who was twelve years old at the time, and I started writing to him. My sister was very formal in writing to him and referred to John Paul II as 'Your Holiness' and addressed him as 'You'. I on the other hand, being a child, treated him as a friend and addressed him as 'John Paul' and even addressed him as 'you'. Before sending the first email my mother was shocked at the way I treated him, but my father reassured her by telling her 'these emails will never reach the Holy Father. Let me write to him as if I were a friend of his'.

Over the next two weeks we wrote him about three emails telling him that we were praying for him. On February 25, John Paul II had to have a tracheotomy operation and this affected my sister and me very much.

When she was five months old, my maternal grandmother suffered two strokes and was physically very limited; she never regained her ability to swallow, so she cannot speak or eat. I have lived by my grandmother's example of struggle and watched throughout my childhood as she became happy again even though she cannot speak or eat.

I think that's why I felt so identified with John Paul II, and from February 25 onwards I wrote to him every other day. I told him the story of my grandmother and how she had overcome the frustration of being physically limited, and I told him that she was happy again. My messages to the Pope were of encouragement; I wanted to convince him that you could be happy even if you had limitations. Every time I wrote to him I told him how much I loved him.

The last time I saw John Paul II on television was on Easter Sunday, when he came out to give the blessing. Urbi et orbiwhen he tried to speak and couldn't get the words out. That moment moved me so much that I burst into tears. I wrote to him telling him that I had seen him and telling him that I understood how he felt; that I was still praying very much for him. Then, on April 2, John Paul II died and my sadness was enormous. A friend of mine had died.

Days went by and in early May my mom received an email from the Apostolic Nunciature in Guatemala asking her to contact them. When she introduced herself as my mother, the secretary of the Nunciature knew who my sister and I were. The Apostolic Nuncio in Guatemala, at that time Monsignor Bruno Musaró, wanted to see us on May 9. They gave us no explanation. We attended the appointment and the nuncio told us that John Paul II had read all our mails and referred to us as his 'little friends from Guatemala'. He also gave us a portrait of the Pope and a rosary blessed by John Paul II before his death. The portrait was dated Easter Sunday, March 27, 2005, and on it he gave us the apostolic blessing.

I never imagined that John Paul II had read all my mails. The greatest satisfaction came when the Nuncio told me that even when John Paul II could not speak or was very weak, his secretary read his mails, and that my mail of February 25 had moved him very much to feel that a Guatemalan boy of 9 years old was helping him through his difficult moments".

The authorJuan Bautista Robledillo


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