Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Pope, Vatican Recall Death of John Paul II

Vatican, Apr. 2, 2008 ( - More than 60,000 people attended a morning Mass in St. Peter's Square on April 2 marking the 3rd anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II (bio - news).

Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) recalled that his predecessor's "many human and supernatural qualities" commanded the world's attention, particularly at the time of his death. "He literally immersed himself in God, and during those last moments it seems as if everything else was foreign to him," he said.

The final suffering of Pope John Paul during Easter week provided the watching world with "a sign and testimony of Christ's resurrection," Pope Benedict said. He explained that the Polish Pontiff's final hope in the Resurrection "could not be expressed without his participation in the suffering and death of the divine Master and Redeemer."

Pope Benedict went on to say that throughout his pontificate, Pope John Paul II lived out the advice that he had given to the Catholic world on the day of his election in 1978: "Be not afraid." He observed that John Paul II said those words, and acted on them, "with unbending firmness-- at at first while carrying his bishop's staff with its cross and later, when his physical strength was waning, almost while supporting himself on it, until that final Good Friday in which he participated in the Way of the Cross from his private chapel, holding the cross in his arms." The Pope's final suffering, he said, "revealed to believers, and to the whole world, the secrete of an entire Christian life."

In his teaching, Pope Benedict continued, John Paul II responded to the horrors of the 20th century with a confidence that Divine Mercy could overcome every form of evil. He said that the Church today must carry on the witness of hope that John Paul II had offered, "continue in her evangelizing mission, faithfully and without compromise, tirelessly spreading Christ's merciful love."

The Pope ended his homily by thanking God "for having given the Church this faithful and courageous servant," and asking John Paul II "to continue to intercede from heaven" for the welfare of the Church and especially for his successor.

The Vatican commemoration of the late Pontiff continued in the evening with Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow, the former personal secretary to John Paul II, joining with Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the archpriest of the Vatican basilica, in leading the recitation of the Rosary at the tomb of John Paul II. The Rosary was scheduled to conclude at 9:37, the time when the Pope died.

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