Wednesday 22 November 2017

Catholics in mourning as pontiff dies

Pope John Paul II's death April 2, 2005

The funeral of Pope John Paul II
The funeral of Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II, the second-longest serving Pope in history, died on April 2, 2005, plunging the Catholic congregation around the world into mourning.

In the days before his passing, tens of thousands of people had begun gathering in St Peter's Square in a vigil for the dying pontiff, who had been suffering from Parkinson's disease and other health complications.

When the official announcement was made, onlookers fell silent. The slow tolling of one of the great bells of St Peter's Basilica was all that could be heard and then, in an Italian traditional salute, some clapped in tribute.

Born Karol Wojtyla to Polish parents, he was the first non-Italian pope in almost 500 years.

He is credited with revolutionising the papacy, travelling the world and becoming one of the most influential promoters for peace and human rights.

His funeral drew five kings, six queens, 70 presidents and prime ministers and two million mourners.

Representing Ireland at the ceremony were President Mary McAleese, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Tanaiste Mary Harney. In his homily, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who went on to become his successor, reminded the congregation of the Pope's forlorn attempt to deliver the traditional Easter blessing from the window of his apartment just 12 days earlier.

"We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the house of the Father; that he sees us and blesses us," he said to thunderous applause.

The 264th pope had visited Ireland for three memorable days in September 1979. Days after his death, a special memorial Mass was attended by thousands at the papal cross in the Phoenix Park, the scene where he had said Mass before more than one million people, almost 30 years earlier. The Vatican later announced that Pope John Paul II would be fast-tracked to sainthood.

Irish Independent

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