John Paul II and That Young Boy . . . . Jefferson Pérez

25/05/2005. In this space I wish to express my profound respect, and at the same time my great sorrow for the passing of one of the greatest men the world has known: JOHN PAUL II, who by using his heart and intelligence, was able to impress both the most innocent child and the most implacable dictator, and in this way reached the hearts of millions around the world.

In days past (before the Pope's) death, I received a call from a publishing firm in Los Angeles, USA, in which they commented about bringing out a book entitled "Commemorative Yearbook of the Pope," in which personalities of the world over would participate, including me, who had been chosen from Ecuador to speak about his Holiness. They asked me to write an article about John Paul II, and I agreed immediately. The publishers readily agreed when I asked, however, if I could narrate a true episode that had occurred in my life 20 years ago, in which the principal figure had been the Pope. For this reason I have decided to tell the world about one of the most important incidents in my life.

John Paul II and That Young Boy . . . . Jefferson Pérez Quezada

It was the 31st of January of 1985, and the city was in an uproar. Tension and nervousness filled the faithful, who dreamed of being able to see John Paul II, who for the first time was coming to our small and friendly city of Cuenca.

While Mass was being offered by his Holiness in the open-air temple constructed for the occasion in Miraflores Park, where more than 40,000 had congregated, a restless, intrepid child managed to work his way into the first rows among the "high society" of Cuenca, a child with worn but always clean clothes, which easily marked him as not belonging to the select group who had the honor of receiving the Eucharist from the prince of the apostles. Sneaking around the long legs of the security officers, and in hiding under the steps, he was able to see in person the image of the greatest man of our time, John Paul II. His young face was filled with great happiness, confusion and diverse feelings of infinite peace. A few moments later he heard a loud voice say, "Guard, get that brat out of here." Immediately that young boy was carried by force to the place where he belonged. I was that young boy, Jefferson Pérez Quezada, and nothing nor anyone could take from me the enormous happiness of having been able to see his Holiness John Paul II close up.

Today, in that same place, beside that temple, there is a synthetic running track that carries my name, and as I cover kilometer after kilometer, I am filled with strength and infinite happiness as I think of one of the nicest memories of my life.

I will never be able to forget those few seconds that marked an eternity in my life.

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