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St. Peter’s Basilica and the Death of Pope John Paul II


The BibleSearchers Reflections

Reflections on the Time of the End

By Robert Mock MD


Gleanings on Global News at the Time of the End


Global News on the Burial and Death of Pope John Paul II

April, 2005






The Death and Funeral of Pope John Paul II

The Esoteric Signs during the Death of Pope John Paul II

The Vatican Conclave – Choosing the Next Pope

The Jews and Pope John Paul II

The Life of John Paul II

The Vatican Pope John Paul II left Behind

International Mourning for Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II and Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, the last Fatima witness

The Days Before the Death of Pope John Paul II


The Death and Funeral of Pope John Paul II

Pope John Paul II Dies at 84 – April 2, 2005

VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II, who helped topple communism in Europe and left a deeply conservative stamp on the church that he led for 26 years, died Saturday night in his Vatican apartment, ending a long public struggle against debilitating illness. He was 84.


"We all feel like orphans this evening," Undersecretary of State Archbishop Leonardo Sandri told the crowd of 70,000 that gathered in St. Peter's Square below the pope's still-lighted apartment windows. A Mass was scheduled for St. Peter's Square for 10:30 a.m. (4:30 a.m. EDT) Sunday. The pope's body was expected to be taken to St. Peter's Basilica no earlier than Monday afternoon, the Vatican said. It said the College of Cardinals — the red-robed "princes" of the Roman Catholic Church — would meet at 10 a.m. (4 a.m. EDT) Monday. They were expected to set a funeral date, which the Vatican said probably would be between Wednesday and Friday. The statement did not give a precise cause of death.


Bells pealed in mourning after the Vatican said the pope died at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST). The assembled flock fell into a stunned silence before some people broke out in applause — an Italian tradition in which mourners often clap for important figures. Others wept.

John Paul's passing set in motion centuries of tradition that mark FILE -- Pope John paul II kisses an unidentified baby at the end of a general weekly audience in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 14, 2001. Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-traveled pope, has died at 84, the Vatican announced Saturday, April 2, 2005. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)the death of the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, whom he led into the faith's third millennium. The Vatican chamberlain formally verified the death and destroyed the symbols of the pope's authority: his fisherman's ring and dies used to make lead seals for apostolic letters. The Vatican did not say if the chamberlain followed the ancient practice of verification by calling the pope's name three times and tapping his forehead three times with a silver hammer.


Pope John paul II kisses an unidentified baby at the end of a general weekly audience in the Pope Paul VI hall at the Vatican, Wednesday, March 14, 2001. (AP Photo/Plinio Lepri)


John Paul's funeral will be held within four to six days. The Vatican has declined to say whether he left instructions for his funeral or burial. Most popes in recent centuries have asked to be buried in the crypts below St. Peter's Basilica, but some have suggested the first Polish-born pope might have chosen to be laid to rest in his native country. As John Paul's death neared, members of the College of Cardinals were already headed toward the Vatican to prepare for the secret duty of locking themselves in the Sistine Chapel to elect the next pope. Tradition calls for the process to begin within 20 days of death. Among possible successors are German Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger — one of the pope's closest aides and the Vatican's doctrinal watchdog. Others mentioned include Brazilian Cardinal Claudio Hummes, Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga of Honduras, Cardinal Francis Arinze, a Vatican-based Nigerian, Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn of Austria and Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi of Italy.


Karol Joseph Wojtyla was a robust 58 when the last papal conclave stunned the world and elected the cardinal from Krakow, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

In his later years, John Paul — the most-traveled pope in history — was the picture of frailty. In addition to Parkinson's, he survived a 1981 assassination attempt, when a Turkish gunman shot him in the abdomen, and had hip and knee ailments. His anguished struggle with failing health became a symbol of aging and, in the end, death with dignity.  


Outside the Vatican, the crowd of faithful recited the rosary. A seminarian slowly waved a large red and white Polish flag draped with a black band of mourning for the Polish-born pontiff. Prelates asked those in the square to keep silent so they might "accompany the pope Pope John Paul II was rushed to the hospital Tuesday night with breathing difficulties and an inflamed throat while battling the flu during an icy spell that has swept Italy, the Vatican said. in his first steps into heaven." As the bells tolled in mourning, a group of young people sang, "Alleluia, he will rise again," while one of them strummed a guitar. Later, pilgrims joined in singing the "Ave Maria." "The angels welcome you," Vatican TV said after papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced the death of the pope, who had for years suffered from Parkinson's disease and came down with fever and infections in recent weeks.


Pope John Paul II


In contrast to the church's ancient traditions, Navarro-Valls announced the death to journalists in the most modern of communication forms, an e-mail that said: "The Holy Father died this evening at 9:37 p.m. in his private apartment." The spokesman said church officials were following instructions that John Paul had written for them on Feb. 22, 1996. "He was a marvelous man. Now he's no longer suffering," Concetta Sposato, a pilgrim who heard the pope had died as she was on her way to St. Peter's to pray, said tearfully. "My father died last year. For me, it feels the same," said Elisabetta Pomacalca, a 25-year-old Peruvian who lives in Rome. "I'm Polish. For us, he was a father," said pilgrim Beata Sowa.


In Washington, President Bush mourned the loss of "a good and faithful servant of God (who) has been called home" and said the pontiff "launched a democratic revolution that swept Eastern Europe and changed the course of history." A fierce enemy of communism, John Paul set off the sparks that helped bring down communism in Poland, from where a virtual revolution spread across the Soviet bloc. No less an authority than former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev said much of the credit went to John Paul. But his Polish roots also nourished a doctrinal conservatism — opposition to contraception, abortion and women priests — that rankled liberal Catholics in the United States and western Europe. A man who had lived under both the Nazis and the Soviets, he loathed totalitarianism, which he called "substitute religion." As pope, he helped foster Poland's Solidarity movement and bring down Communism. Once it was vanquished, he decried capitalist callousness. During World War II, he appeared on a Nazi blacklist in 1944 for his activities in a Christian democratic underground in Poland. B'nai B'rith and other organizations testified that he helped Jews find refuge from the Nazis.


While the pope championed better relations with Jews — Christianity's "older brothers," as he put it — the Vatican formally recognized Israel in 1993. He also met with Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and urged the Holy Land's warring neighbors to reconcile. John Paul was intent on improving relations with Muslims. On a trip to Damascus, Syria, in May 2001, he became the first pope to step into a mosque. The 264th pope also battled what he called a "culture of death" in modern society. It made him a hero to those who saw him as their rock in a degenerating world, and a foe to those who felt he was holding back social enlightenment. "The church cannot be an association of freethinkers," John Paul said.


However, a sex abuse scandal among clergy plunged his church into moral crisis. He summoned U.S. cardinals to the Vatican and told them: "The abuse which has caused this crisis is by every standard wrong and rightly considered a crime by society; it is also an appalling sin in the eyes of God." Critics accused the pope of not acting swiftly enough. Other critics said that while the pope championed the world's poor, he was not consistent when he rebuked Latin American priests who sought to involve the church politically through the doctrine of "liberation theology."


John Paul's health declined rapidly after he suffered heart and kidney failure following two hospitalizations in as many months. Just two hours before announcing his death, the Vatican had said he was in "very serious" condition, although he was responding to aides. After his passing, Vatican, Italian and European Union flags were lowered to half-staff. In Washington, flags over the White House also were lowered. People in John Paul II's hometown in Wadowice, Poland, fell to their knees and wept as the news reached them at the end of a special Mass in the church where he worshipped as a boy. Church bells rang out after the announcement, but it took several minutes for people inside the packed church to find out as they continued their vigil into a second night. Then the parish priest, the Rev. Jakub Gil, came to the front as the last hymn faded away. "His life has come to an end. Our great countryman has died," he said. People inside the church and standing outside fell to their knees.

The pope was last seen in public Wednesday when, looking gaunt and unable to speak, he briefly appeared at his window. His health sharply deteriorated the next day after he suffered a urinary tract infection.


In its final medical statement Saturday, Navarro-Valls said John Paul was not in a coma and opened his eyes when spoken to. But he added: "Since dawn this morning, there have been first signs that consciousness is being affected." "Sometimes it seems as if he were resting with his eyes closed, but when you speak to him he opens his eyes," Navarro-Valls said. Navarro-Valls said the pope was still speaking late Friday but did not take part when Mass was celebrated in his presence Saturday morning. He said aides had told the pope that thousands of young people were in St. Peter's Square on Friday evening. Navarro-Valls said the pope appeared to be referring to them when he seemed to say: "'I have looked for you. Now you have come to me. And I thank you.'"



Slideshow: Pope John Paul II


Holding history's largest funeral - It promises to be one of the largest funerals in history.

Basilica interiorMore than two million people have already filed past the body of John Paul II. Thousands more pilgrims are on their way, especially from Poland, in the hope of getting here in time for the funeral mass. But for many of those who have crossed countries and continents to get to Rome, this will be a "virtual" funeral.

The sea of people that has engulfed the Vatican this week simply cannot be fitted into the available space.


Pope John Paul II has been lying in state in St Peter's Basilica


Even when jammed to capacity, St Peter's Square can accommodate no more than a quarter of a million, and that will be quite a squeeze. Others may get a glimpse of the proceedings from the Via Della Conciliazione, the long road that stretches from the square back towards the River Tiber. The only other vantage points are the rooftops and balconies of hotels and offices around the Vatican. All the prime locations have been hired, at great expense, by television companies who plan to broadcast the service live to a worldwide audience of billions. In Rome, every large public square will be provided with a giant TV screen, so people can gather to watch the mass as it happens.


Funeral arrangements

It means the service will be taking place simultaneously in piazzas all around the city. Similar arrangements are being made in all Italy's major towns and cities, including Milan, Florence, Turin, Naples and Assisi. So the "virtual" funeral will be a collective experience for millions across the country. The Italian media is comparing the funeral of John Paul II to those of Gandhi, Stalin, John F Kennedy and Churchill, and saying this will be bigger than all of them.


Presiding over the funeral mass will be one of the late Pope's closest advisers, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. The German-born cleric is Dean of the College of Cardinals, which makes him one of the key officials in the process to elect a new pope.

For most of the papacy of John Paul II he ran the Vatican department known as the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. It is a direct descendant of the Inquisition of 1542.


Today, the department is responsible for doctrinal orthodoxy, and safeguarding the morals of Tomb of Pope John Paul Ithe Catholic faithful. It is a role that led to Cardinal Ratzinger becoming known as the Pope's "enforcer".


The Pope will be buried near the tomb of Pope John Paul I in the crypt


Resting place

The service will last for three hours, and will take place in the presence of 200 invited guests, including world leaders and representatives of all faiths. But there will be no opportunity for any of the dignitaries to make personal tributes, as the service will follow the traditional pattern of a requiem mass.



There will be readings from the gospels, a homily or sermon, and prayers for the Pope and the Church. In accordance with Vatican tradition, John Paul II will be buried in a triple-lined coffin. His body will first be placed in a simple coffin of cypress wood, to symbolise humility, and placed in front of St Peter's Basilica.


Before burial, it will be placed in a zinc coffin, hermetically sealed to slow down the process of decomposition. It will bear the name of the Pope and the dates of his pontificate. This in turn will be placed in an oak coffin, before being interred beneath a marble slab. The ceremony will take place in the crypt, deep beneath St Peter's Basilica.


The place chosen for John Paul II was previously used for Pope John XXIII, one of the Church's best-loved pontiffs. The Polish Pope will lie close to the tombs of his two immediate predecessors, John Paul I and Paul VI, who both died in 1978. In the days ahead, it will doubtless become a place of pilgrimage for Catholics unable to be present at the funeral.


Text of Pope's Last Will and Testament  - April 7, 2005

AP - The following is an English translation of the official Vatican Italian translation of the text of Pope John Paul II's last will and testament, which was originally written in Polish with successive additions. Dates have been written according to European convention, which makes "6.3.1979" represent March 3, 1979.


Cardinals attend mass in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Starting with the funeral of  Click For Small photoPope John Paul II on Friday, Cardinals celebrate a series of funeral Masses for nine days and known as the 'Novemdiales'.(AFP/Thomas Coex)The document begins with a Latin phrase that reads, "I am completely in Your hands." It follows with a citation from the New Testament.


Cardinals attend mass in St Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. Starting with the funeral of Pope John Paul II on Friday, Cardinals celebrate a series of funeral Masses for nine days and known as the 'Novemdiales'.(AFP/Thomas Coex)


The testament of 6.3.1979  - Totus Tuus ego sum

In the Name of the Holiest Trinity. Amen.

"Keep watch, because you do not know which day when the Lord will come" — These words remind me of the final call, which will come the moment that the Lord will choose. I desire to follow Him and desire that all that is part of my earthly life shall prepare me for this moment. I do not know when it will come, but, like all else, this moment too I place into the hands of the Mother of My Master: Totus Tuus. In the same maternal hands I place All those with whom my life and vocation are bound. Into these Hands I leave above all the Church, and also my Nation and all humanity. I thank everyone. To everyone I ask forgiveness. I also ask prayers, so that the Mercy of God will loom greater than my weakness and unworthiness.


During spiritual exercises I reflected upon the testament of the Holy Father Paul VI. This study has led me to write the present testament.

I leave no property behind me of which it is necessary to dispose. Regarding those items of daily use of which I made use, I ask that they be distributed as may appear opportune. My personal notes are to be burned. I ask that Don Stanislaw oversees this and thank him for the collaboration and help so prolonged over the years and so comprehensive. All other thanks, instead, I leave in my heart before God Himself, because it is difficult to express them.

Regarding the funeral, I repeat the same disposition given by the Holy Father Paul VI: Burial in the bare earth, not in a tomb, 13.3.92.

Apud Dominum misericordia et copiosa apud Eum redemptio

John Paul pp.II

Rome 6.3.1979

Following my death I ask for Holy Masses and prayers




I express the deepest faith that, despite all my weakness, the Lord will accord me every necessary grace to face, according to His will, whatever task, trial and suffering that will be demanded of His servant, during the course of my life. I also have faith that never will it be permitted that, through my behavior: by words, actions or omissions, I betray my obligations in this holy seat of Peter.


24.II - 1.III.1980

Also during these spiritual exercises I have reflected upon the truth of the Priesthood of Christ in the perspective of that Crossing which is for each one of us the moment of death. In taking leave of this world -- to be born into the other, the future world, eloquent sign is for us the Resurrection of Christ. I therefore read the copy of my testament of the last year, it also made during spiritual exercises — I compared it with the testament of my great Predecessor and Father Paul VI, with that sublime witness to A copy of two pages of the original Polish hand-written testament of Pope John Paul II, as published by the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, Thursday, April 7, 2005. The testament, which was made public on Thursday, was originally written on March 3, 1979, the year after he was elected, but contains additions as late as 2000. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano)the death of a Christian and of a pope — and I renewed in myself consciousness of the questions, to which refers the copy of 6.III.1979, prepared by me (in a rather provisional way).


A copy of two pages of the original Polish hand-written testament of Pope John Paul II, as published by the Vatican daily L'Osservatore Romano, Thursday, April 7, 2005. The testament, which was made public on Thursday, was originally written on March 3, 1979, the year after he was elected, but contains additions as late as 2000. (AP Photo/Osservatore Romano)


Today I desire to add to it only this, that each one of us must keep in mind the prospect of death. And must be ready to present himself before the Lord and Judge — and contemporaneously Redeemer and Father. Then I too can take this into consideration continuously, entrusting that decisive moment to the Mother of Christ and of the Church — to the Mother of my hope.



The times in which we live are indescribably difficult and troubled. Difficult and tense has become the life of the Church as well, characteristic trial of these times — as much for the Faithful, as much as for the Pastors. In some Countries (as, e.g. in that one about which I was reading during the spiritual exercises), the Church finds itself in a period of persecution that is not inferior to those of the first centuries; on the contrary, the degree of cruelty and hatred is greater still. Sanguis martyrum - semen christianorum. And beyond this — so many people disappear innocently, even in this Country, in which we live ...


I desire once more to entrust myself totally to the mercy of the Lord. He himself will decide when and how I must finish my earthly life and pastoral ministry. In life and in death Totus Tuus through the Immaculate. Accepting this death already, I hope that Christ will give me grace for my final passage, which is Easter. I hope too that it shall be made useful also for this important cause in which I am trying to serve: the salvation of men, the safeguarding of the human family and of all the nations and the peoples (among these I refer in particular to my earthly Country), useful for the persons who in a special way have entrusted to me for the questions of the Church, for the glory of God himself.

I do not desire to add anything to that which I wrote a year ago — only express this readiness and at the same time this faith, to which the present spiritual exercises prepared me.

John Paul II


Totus Tuus ego sum  - 5.III.1982

In the course of the spiritual exercises this year I have read (several times) the text of the testament of 6.III.1979. Notwithstanding that even now it is to be considered as provisional (not definitive), I leave it in its presently existing form. I change (for now) nothing, nor do I add anything, as regards the arrangements contained within it.

The attempt on my life of 13.V.1981 has in some way confirmed the exactness of the words written in the period of the spiritual exercises of 1980 (24.II - 1.III).

All the more profoundly I feel myself totally in the Hands of God — and I remain continually at the disposition of my Lord, entrusting myself to Him and to His Immaculate Mother (Totus Tuus).

John Paul pp. II



In connection with the final phrase of my testament of 6.III.1979 ("About the place/the place, that is, of the funeral/may the College of Cardinals and Compatriots") — I clarify what I had in mind: the metropolitan of Krakow or the General Council of the Bishops of Poland — I ask in the meantime the College of Cardinals to satisfy to the extent possible the eventual questions of the aforementioned.


1.III.1985 (during spiritual exercises).

Again — concerning the expression "College of Cardinals and the Compatriots": the "College of Cardinals" has no obligation to consult "the Compatriots" on this question; it can, in any case, do so, if for some reason it considers it right to do so.



The spiritual exercises of the Jubilee year 2000


(VATICAN'S NOTATION: "for the will")

1. When, on the day of Oct. 16, 1978, the conclave of cardinals chose John Paul II, the Primate of Poland Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski told me: "The task of the new pope will be to introduce the Church into the Third Millennium." I do not know if I am repeating the phrase exactly, but at least such was the sense of what I heard then. It was said by the Man who has passed into history as the Primate of the Millennium. A great Primate. I was witness to the mission, to His total entrusting of himself. To His struggles; to His victory. "Victory, when it will come, will be a victory through Maria" — these, the words of his Predecessor, Cardinal August Hlond, the Primate of the Millennium was wont to repeat.

In this way I was to some degree prepared for the task which was placed before me on Oct. 16, 1978. As I write these words, the Jubilee Year of 2000 is already a reality, and under way. The night of Dec. 24, 1999, the symbolic Door of the Great Jubilee of the Basilica of St. Peter was opened, and successively that of St. John Lateran, then St. Mary Major's on New Year's Eve; and on Jan. 19, the Door of the Basilica of St. Paul "Outside the Walls." This latter event, given its ecumenical character, has remained particularly engraved in memory.


2. To the degree that the Jubilee Year 2000 goes forward, closing behind us day by day is the 20th century, while the 21st century opens. In accordance with the designs of Providence, it was granted to me to live during the difficult century that is passing, and now, in the year during which my age reaches 80 years ("octogesima adveniens"), it is necessary to ask if it is not the time to repeat the words of the Biblical Simeon, "Nunc dimittis."

On May 13, 1981, the day of the attempt upon the life of the Pope during the general audience in St. Peter's Square, Divine Providence saved me from death in a miraculous way. He who is the sole Savior of life and of death, Himself prolonged this life, and in a certain way gave it to me anew. From this moment it belongs to Him all the more. I hope that He will help me to recognize the time until when I must continue this service, to which he called me on the day of Oct. 16, 1978. I ask (Him) to call me when He wants. "In life and in death we belong to the Lord ... we are of the Lord" (cf Romans 14, 8). I hope too that throughout the time given me to carry out the service of Peter in the Church, the Mercy of God will lend me the necessary strength for this service.


3. As I do every year during spiritual exercises I read my testament from 6-III-1979. I continue to maintain the dispositions contained in this text. What then, and even during successive spiritual exercises, has been added constitutes a reflection of the difficult and tense general situation which marked the '80s. From autumn of the year 1989 this situation changed. The last decade of the century was free of the previous tensions; that does not mean that it did not bring with it new problems and difficulties. In a special way may Divine Providence be praised for this, that the period of the so-called "cold war" ended without violent nuclear conflict, the danger of which weighed on the world in the preceding period.


4. Being on the threshold of the third millennium "in medio Ecclesiae" I wish once again to express gratitude to the Holy Spirit for the great gift of Vatican Council II, to which, together with the entire Church — and above all the entire episcopacy — I feel indebted. I am convinced that for a long time to come the new generations will draw upon the riches that this Council of the 20th century gave us. As a bishop who participated in this conciliar event from the first to the last day, I wish to entrust this great patrimony to all those who are and who will be called in the future to realize it. For my part I thank the eternal Pastor Who allowed me to serve this very great cause during the course of all the years of my pontificate.

"In medio Ecclesiae" ... from the first years of my service as a bishop — precisely thanks to the Council — I was able to experience the fraternal communion of the Episcopacy. As a priest of the Archdiocese of Krakow I experienced the fraternal communion among priests — and the Council opened a new dimension to this experience.


5. How many people should I list! Probably the Lord God has called to Himself the majority of them — as to those who are still on this side, may the words of this testament recall them, everyone and everywhere, wherever they are.

During the more than 20 years that I am fulfilling the Petrine service "in medio Ecclesiae" I have experienced the benevolence and even more the fecund collaboration of so many cardinals, archbishops and bishops, so many priests, so many consecrated persons — brothers and sisters — and, lastly, so very, very many lay persons, within the Curia, in the vicariate of the diocese of Rome, as well as outside these milieux.

How can I not embrace with grateful memory all the bishops of the world whom I have met in "ad limina Apostolorum" visits! How can I not recall so many non-Catholic Christian brothers! And the rabbi of Rome and so many representatives of non-Christian religions! And how many representatives of the world of culture, science, politics, and of the means of social communication!


6. As the end of my life approaches I return with my memory to the beginning, to my parents, to my brother, to the sister (I never knew because she died before my birth), to the parish in Wadowice, where I was baptized, to that city I love, to my peers, friends from elementary school, high school and the university, up to the time of the occupation when I was a worker, and then in the parish of Niegowic, then St. Florian's in Krakow, to the pastoral ministry of academics, to the milieu of ... to all milieux ... to Krakow and to Rome ... to the people who were entrusted to me in a special way by the Lord.

To all I want to say just one thing: "May God reward you."

"In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum."

A.D. 17.III.2000



Emotional funeral for Pope John Paul II – April 8, 2005

VATICAN CITY -- Presidents, prime ministers and kings joined pilgrims and prelates in St. Peter's Square on Friday to bid farewell to Pope John Paul at a funeral service that drew millions to Rome for one of the largest religious gatherings of modern times.


Applause rang out in the wind-whipped square as John Paul's simple wooden coffin adorned with a cross and an "M" for Mary was brought out from the basilica and placed in front of the altar for the mass. Bells tolled and the crowd applauded again when it was carried back inside for burial.


Cardinal Ratzinger watches as pallbearers carry the coffin of Pope John Paul II.


Dignitaries from more than 80 countries who had gathered in Rome for the mass all stood as the white-gloved pallbearers carried the coffin on their shoulders through the central portal of the basilica. The Vatican's Sistine Choir sang the Gregorian chant Grant him eternal rest, O Lord, as the service got underway. Cardinals wearing white mitres, the tall headwear of bishops, walked onto the square, their red vestments blowing in the breeze.


Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals and a close confidant of John Paul, presided at the mass, referring to the pontiff as our "late beloved Pope" in a homily that traced John Paul's life from his days as a factory worker in Nazi-occupied Poland to the last days of his life as the head of the world's one billion Catholics. Interrupted by applause at least 10 times, the usually unflappable German-born Ratzinger choked up as he recalled one of John Paul's last public appearances -- when he blessed the faithful from his studio window on Easter. "We can be sure that our beloved Pope is standing today at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us," he said to applause, even among the prelates, as he pointed up to the third-floor window above the square."Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality -- our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude," Ratzinger said in heavily accented Italian.


He said John Paul was a "priest to the last" and had offered his life for God and his flock "especially amid the sufferings of his final months."At the beginning of the mass, Ratzinger prayed for God to "grant your servant and our Pope, John Paul II, who in the love of Christ led your church, to share with the flock entrusted to him the reward promised to the faithful ministers of the Gospel." After the 2 1/2-hour mass, the body was to be carried deep under the basilica to join the remains of popes from throughout the ages near the traditional tomb of the apostle Peter, the first pope.


John Paul requested in his last will and testament to be buried "in the bare earth," and his body will be laid to rest under the floor of the grotto below the basilica. His tomb will be covered with a flat stone bearing his name and the dates of his birth and death. Pilgrims will eventually be able to visit. At least 300,000 people filled St. Peter's Square and spilled out onto the wide Via della Conciliazione leading toward the Tiber River, but millions of others watched on giant video screens set up across Rome.


Earlier, groggy pilgrims who had camped out on the cobblestones awoke in their sleeping bags to hordes of the faithful stepping over them as they tried to secure a good spot to view the mass.The square and the boulevard leading to it were a sea of red-and-white flags waved by pilgrims from John Paul's beloved Poland, many in traditional dress shouting "Polska! Polska!" Pilgrims from other countries raised their national flags in the crowd, and prayers were read out during the mass in a host of languages.

"We just wanted to say goodbye to our father for the last time," said Joanna Zmijewsla, 24, who travelled for 30 hours with her brother from a town near Kielce, Poland, arriving at St. Peter's at 1 a.m. local time Friday.


American Archbishop James Harvey, head of papal protocol, greeted dignitaries and religious leaders as they emerged onto the steps of the basilica. Many shook Harvey's hand and offered condolences before mingling and taking their appointed seats. Turbans, fezzes, yarmulkes and black lace mantillas joined the skull caps of Catholic prelates in an extraordinary mix of religious and government leaders from around the world. Bells tolled as the leaders, including Prime Minister Paul Martin, took their places on red-cushioned wooden seats. Ten minutes before the scheduled start of the funeral, the U.S. delegation arrived, headed by President George W. Bush and including his father, former president George H.W. Bush, and former president Bill Clinton.


The Funeral Procession of the Pope lying in state


Rome itself was at a standstill. Just after midnight Thursday, a ban took effect on vehicle traffic in the city centre. Airspace was closed, and anti-aircraft batteries outside the city were on alert. Naval ships patrolled both the Mediterranean coast and the Tiber River near Vatican City, the tiny sovereign city-state encompassed by the Italian capital. Italian authorities took extraordinary precautions to protect the royalty and heads of state or government attending the funeral. Elite Carabinieri paramilitary police armed with automatic rifles were stationed at virtually every major intersection in Rome to minimize the threat of a terrorist attack on the more than 80 heads of state and monarchs attending the mass.


Combat jets from Italy's air force, joined by an AWACS surveillance plane deployed by NATO, guarded against any strike from above on the leaders and top Roman Catholic prelates assembled on St. Peter's Square. Italian security agencies posted snipers on rooftops, and a navy warship armed with torpedoes cruised the coastline near Rome. Anti-aircraft rocket launchers were placed strategically around the capital. Jewish and Muslim leaders were among the dignitaries from more than 80 countries, including the presidents of Syria and Iran, and the king of Jordan. The Pope's death on Saturday at age 84 elicited a remarkable outpouring of affection around the world and brought an estimated four million people to Rome, doubling its population.


World mourns Pope at Rome funeral – April 8, 2005

BBC News - The funeral of Pope John Paul II has taken place in St Peter's Square.

The requiem Mass was watched by tens of thousands in the piazza, including about 200 world leaders, and many millions more around the world.

Throughout the service the Pope's wooden coffin lay in front of an altar on the steps of St Peter's Basilica.


Presidents, prime ministers and kings from around the world joined hundreds of thousands of pilgrims paying their respects to Pope John Paul II in St Peter's Square.


It has now been carried inside the church, where it will be placed inside a further two coffins, before being buried in the crypts below.

Mark of respect

As the coffin was carried away from public view for the last time the bells of St Peter's tolled and the gathered pilgrims applauded, a traditional Italian mark of respect.

The three-hour ceremony was conducted by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the Sacred College of Cardinals, which will begin electing the Pope's successor on 18 April.

The service began with the Pope's wooden coffin being carried out of St Peter's and placed on the stone steps of the basilica.

The coffin, adorned with a cross and the letter 'M' for Mary, was carried out by members of the Pope's household staff and laid in front of an altar.

A book of the Gospels was opened and laid on top of the coffin.

Then one by one the attending cardinals, all dressed in red, approached the altar and bowed before taking their places.

Loyal servant

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, blessed the body and altar with incense before Cardinal Ratzinger stepped forward to celebrate the Mass.

In his homily, or sermon, Cardinal Ratzinger traced the life of the man he called our "late beloved Pope" from his days as a labourer in Nazi-occupied Poland to supreme leader of more than one billion Roman Catholics worldwide.

He was interrupted many times by applause from the crowd.

Cardinal Ratzinger said John Paul II was a "priest to the last" who had offered his life to God and his congregation, "especially amid the sufferings of his final months".

Emotional farewell

The cardinal's voice choked with emotion as he recalled one of John Paul II's last public appearances, when he blessed the crowd gather in St Peter's Square on Easter Sunday from the window of his Vatican apartment.

"We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the father's house, that he sees us and blesses us," he said as he pointed up to the third-floor window above the square.

The Pope's body was placed in the plain cypress coffin in a private ceremony on Friday morning.

According to protocol, a white veil was draped across his face and his bishop's hat placed on his chest.

Pope's coffin emerges from St Peter'sA small bag of commemorative medals from his pontificate and a brief summary of his life and papacy, sealed in a lead tube, were also placed in the coffin before it was sealed.

After the service the coffin will be placed inside two other coffins, one zinc and one oak, then buried in the crypt below St Peter's under a simple stone slab.


The crowd applauded as the Pope's coffin emerged from St Peter's


Polish tribute

Among those attending the funeral were US President George W Bush, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, French President Jacques Chirac and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who leads the world's largest Catholic country.

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami and Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei - both of them Muslims - also took part.

They joined an estimated 250,000 pilgrims packed into the piazza.

Huge crowds also gathered in the Polish city of Krakow, the city where John Paul II was cardinal before ascending to the papacy.

About one million people converged on one of the city's parks to watch the requiem Mass on a video screen

Almost every Pole has been given the day off work. Theatres, banks and supermarkets will be closed.


Pope Lies in State As Funeral Is Prepared - World Gets First Glimpse of Late Pope As Vatican Begins Preparations for Funeral and Conclave – April 3, 2005


In this photo released by the Italian presidency, Italy's president Carlo Azegli Ciampi pays respect to the body of Pope John Paul II lied in state in the Clementine hall at the Vatican, Sunday, April 3, 2005. The Vatican announced that John Paul died at 21:37 local time Saturday, April 2, after a long struggle against debilitating illness. He was 84. (AP Photo/Enrico Oliverio, Italian Presidency)


VATICAN CITY Apr 3, 2005 — Finally at rest after years of crippling disease, Pope John Paul II's body lay in state Sunday, his hands clutching a rosary, his pastoral staff under his arm. Millions prayed and wept at services across the globe, as the Vatican prepared for the ritual-filled funeral and conclave that will choose a successor.


Television images gave the public its first view of the pope since his death: lying in the Vatican's frescoed Apostolic Palace, dressed in crimson vestments and a white bishop's miter, his head resting on a stack of gold pillows. A Swiss Guard stood on either side as diplomats, politicians and clergy paid their respects at his feet. An estimated 100,000 people turned out at St. Peter's Square for a morning Mass and thousands more tourists, Romans, young and old kept coming throughout the day, filling the broad boulevard leading to St. Peter's Basilica. They clutched rosaries and newspaper photos of the late pontiff as they stood shoulder-to-shoulder to pray for the soul of "our beloved John Paul.""Even if we fear we've lost a point of reference, I feel like everybody in this square is united with him in a hug," said Luca Ghizzardi, a 38-year-old nurse with a sleeping bag and a handmade peace flag at his feet.


Early Sunday, a text message had circulated on cell phones in Rome, asking people to light candles in their windows. "May they light up the road to God for him, the way he did for us," the message said. Around the world, bells tolled and worshippers prayed in remembrance of the man who reigned for longer than all but two of his predecessors and was credited with helping bring down communism in Europe and spreading a message of peace during his frequent travels around the world.

John Paul, who was 58 when the cardinals elected him the first non-Italian pope in 455 years, also left a legacy of conservatism. He opposed divorce, birth control and abortion, the ordination of women and the lifting of the celibacy requirement for priests.


The mourning stretched from the pope's native Poland, where 100,000 people filled a Warsaw square at the spot where he celebrated a landmark Mass 26 years ago, to the earthquake-devastated Indonesian island of Nias, where a priest led special prayers. In Paris, the great bell of Notre Dame sounded 84 times once for each year of the pontiff's life as a crowd of 25,000 massed outside.


Pope Crowds Grow, Rome Faces Paralysis – April 6, 2005

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Rome faced paralysis on Wednesday as an ocean of pilgrims from around the world flowed into the city to pay their respects to Pope John Paul. Undeterred by a wait of up to 15 hours, hundreds of thousands of faithful stood packed together in line to enter St. Peter's Basilica where the Pope's body lay on a simple bier near the crypt where he will be buried on Friday. "I never, ever expected to take this long, but I have no regrets," said Andres Chnostowski, a 36-year-old Polish immigrant living in Italy, as early morning fog shrouded the vast, 16-century basilica.


Secluded from the multiplying throngs, Roman Catholic Cardinals met for a third day to finalize the funeral details and possibly hear John Paul's will, which is likely to be of a spiritual nature. "Sometimes I feel like I am dreaming, living in a totally unreal world," said Spanish Cardinal Carlos Amigo Vallejo as he headed to the meeting.

The funeral will bring together nearly 200 world leaders, some of whom rarely if ever meet, a fitting tribute to a Pope who fought for world peace and unity. The chairs already laid out in St. Peter's Square will seat President Bush near President Mohammad Khatami of Iran, one of the countries Bush included in his "axis of evil."


Later this month, red-hatted cardinals will meet in conclave in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to elect John Paul's successor.

Although sworn to secrecy, cardinals have started sketching in public their preferences. Some believe the next pontiff should come from a developing country in the Southern Hemisphere, where two thirds of the 1.1 billion Catholics live.



To protect the funeral guests, Rome is drafting in thousands of extra police, a surveillance plane, anti-aircraft missiles and a warship off the Mediterranean coast. From Thursday, no aircraft will be allowed to fly over the Italian capital.


Two billion set to see funeral – April 5, 2005
This is London – A worldwide television audience of two billion people - believed to be the biggest ever - is expected to watch the Pope's funeral on Friday. Today a river of mourners again began the long, slow process of filing through the doors of St Peter's Basilica for their last sighting of Pope John Paul II. St Peter's reopened at 3am today with a queue stretching nearly a mile from the steps of the Basilica, along Via Della Conciliazione and around to the ancient home of the Popes, St Angelo's Castle.


This morning police estimated it to be at least 200,000 strong, but the number grew as special trains arrived from Milan, Turin and Venice in the north and Naples, Reggio Calabria and Sicily in the south. Thirty extra services have been laid on and a rail strike planned for Friday has been cancelled. Several international airlines said they would also up the number of flights to Rome after a surge of inquiries. Two to four million mourners - along with as many as 200 world leaders - are expected in Rome for the funeral, giving police and officials a security nightmare.


Virtually every country will be represented by their heads of state or most senior politicians, with American president George Bush the biggest name. Cuba will be represented by national assembly president Ricardo Alarcon, despite years of persecution of the church which ended only recently. The latest to confirm they will attend are: King Albert II, Queen Paola and prime minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium; Canadian premier Paul Martin; French president Jacques Chirac and his wife; German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and president Horst Koehler; president Vicente Fox of Mexico.

Police leave is expected to be cancelled - there will be 10,000 officers on duty - and the army may be drafted in. Dignitaries could be helicoptered in to the Vatican, said civil defence chief Guido Bertolaso. "The rest of the journey would be made by car but as yet we have not made any decisions."


The world's one billion Catholics are in mourning for the Pope, who died on Saturday. Photo:Reuters

Mourners waiting in St Peter's Square have kept themselves occupied singing hymns, praying and watching images of Pope John Paul flashing across giant video screens. Student Alessandra Cetro, 17, from Avellino, who came with friends on a special bus, said this morning: "We just had to be here. It's a historic event and we wanted to experience it but above all we wanted to say goodbye to the Pope. He taught us so much so the least we can do is come and give him a final salute."


Sister Lina, a nun from the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, said: "The crowd have been singing and praying but most of the time it's very quiet and people are just thinking and reflecting on what the Pope did for us." Those leaving the Basilica spoke of a sombre yet serene atmosphere inside. Charlotte Vincent, from Geneva said: "The Pope looked so peaceful. It was such an overwhelming emotion to see him like that." The surge into Rome prompted local consumer watchdog Codacons to warn businesses against exploiting the pilgrims. It is estimated they will earn an additional £65million, including £26million on religious artefacts, including rosaries and images and small statues of saints. Special camps were being set up in on the outskirts of Rome - with campsites at its two main stadia - to accommodate visitors who cannot afford or cannot find hotel rooms.


Faithful Wait 24 Hours to See Pope – April 7, 2005

ROME — The College of Cardinals will meet April 18 to begin the process of electing a new pope, the Vatican said Wednesday as final funeral arrangements for Pope John Paul II continued.


Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the late pope did not release the name of the cardinal he secretly appointed. He said the cardinals read John Paul's 15-page testament, written in Polish, and would release the text on Thursday. eanwhile, mourners were streaming past John Paul's crimson-robed remains at the rate of 600,000 a day in an almost round-the-clock procession through St. Peter's Basilica, city authorities said. People face a 24-hour wait as things stand, said Luca Spoletini, a spokesman for the Civil Defense department. ore than 1 million people have already filed past the body of John Paul, who is lying in state at St. Peter's Basilica. Some who braved the colder temperatures overnight were given blankets and later were given water when temperatures soared during the day. People are filing in to the basilica at a rate of about 15,000-18,000 people an hour.

The crush of pilgrims on the road leading to the Vatican is expected to rise sharply when an expected 2 million Poles arrive in Rome for Friday's funeral of the Polish-born pontiff.Officials will block off the line starting at around 10 p.m. Wednesday, and maybe even earlier, Spoletini said.

Philadelphia Cardinal Justin Rigali, who spent years working at the Vatican and was in St. Peter's Square for three other papal funerals, called the outpouring for John Paul the most dramatic he has witnessed. This is the fourth funeral for a pope that I personally participated in. I think this exceeds everything," he said. "This is the most extraordinary thing that ever happened."


Italy was calling in extra police to the capital and planned to seal off much of the Eternal City on Friday to protect a VIP contingent that will include dozens of heads of state from around the world. President Bush and the first lady, former President Clinton, former President Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will represent the United States. A bipartisan group of U.S. House and Senate leaders -- seven Republicans and seven Democrats -- also will make the trip. Bush and his predecessors arrived in Rome on Wednesday and viewed the pontiff's body soon after their arrival. The U.S. officials later greeted the cardinals. The former President Bush told reporters traveling to Rome with the delegation aboard Air Force One that the pope "was unforgettable."


Some news outlets reported that during the pope's Friday funeral services, Bush will be seated next to Iran's president. FOX News has not yet confirmed those reports.

Lawmakers in John Paul's homeland of Poland honored him as a national hero on Wednesday with prayers, eulogies and praise for his support of the pro-democracy opposition that peacefully ended communist rule there in 1989.On the parliament chamber's podium, a black sash was draped across the white-and-red banners of Poland's national colors. A portrait of the pope and an ornamented armchair from which he addressed lawmakers in June 1999 stood nearby. "Poland is crying over the loss of her most outstanding son," parliament speaker Wlodzimierz Cimoszewicz told an assembly of the upper and lower houses attended by President Aleksander Kwasniewski, Prime Minister Marek Belka and senior Roman Catholic clergy. "United by sadness and pain, Poles honor the memory of a wonderful, clever man and an outstanding pope," he said. "The man is gone, but his ideas and thoughts remain." After the assembly watched a video of the 1999 speech, prayers for the pope's soul to rest in peace rose from the floor and lawmakers observed a minute of silence.


Choosing a Pope

In preparation for the conclave, Navarro-Valls said cardinals would celebrate Mass at 10 a.m. on April 18, then be sequestered in the Sistine Chapel in the early afternoon. According to church law, prelates are expected to hold one ballot on the first day of a conclave. The date for the conclave was set on the third day of meetings of cardinals who have flocked to Rome for Friday's funeral and burial of John Paul. Navarro-Valls ruled out that the late pope's body might be brought to St. John Lateran basilica, across Rome, before it is buried, as was done for Pope Pius XII when he died in 1958. John Paul's spiritual testament, read Wednesday, was a 15-page document written in his native Polish over the course of his pontificate starting in 1979, a year after he was elected.


It did not name the mystery cardinal he created in 2003, Navarro-Valls said, ending speculation that a last-minute cardinal might join in the April 18 start of the conclave.

The reading of John Paul's testament was unlikely to influence the choice of the 117 cardinals who will cast ballots for the next head of the 1 billion-strong church. The number of cardinal electors under 80 and thus eligible to vote is 117, but only 116 will enter the conclave after the Philippines Embassy to the Holy See confirmed that Cardinal Jaime Sin, 76, was too ill to attend. Sin had been one of only three cardinal electors who also took part in the 1978 conclave to elect John Paul.


The documents also did not reveal the name of a cardinal John Paul said he named in 2003 but never publicly identified, ending speculation that a last-minute cardinal might join the conclave. The name of the cardinal was held "in pectore," or "in the heart" — a formula that has been used when a pope wants to appoint a cardinal in a country where the church is oppressed. Navarro-Valls also said that with huge crowds already converging on Rome, the Vatican could not meet the requests — "by Romans and non-Romans" — for a viewing at what is Rome's cathedral. Instead, John Paul will be buried immediately after the funeral in the grotto under St. Peter's Basilica.


In a major change to a centuries-old practice of electing a new pope, the Vatican has said it planned to ring bells in addition to sending up white smoke to announce that a new pope has been chosen. Black smoke coming from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel signals no decision has been made after a papal ballot, while white smoke means a pope has been elected. In the past, it has sometimes been hard to tell whether the smoke from the Vatican chimney was white or black. "This time we plan to ring the bells to make the election of the pope clearer," Archbishop Piero Marini said Tuesday. In another change from past papal elections, cardinals voting in the conclave will have access to all of Vatican City during the election, as opposed to being sequestered in the Sistine Chapel, Marini said.


A Ceremonious Burial

John Paul, who died Saturday at 84, made his wish known "to be buried in the ground," said Marini, a longtime aide as papal master of ceremonies. Marini said John Paul would be buried with a white silk veil on his face, his body clad in liturgical vestments and the white miter. Keeping with tradition, his remains will be placed inside three coffins — wood, zinc and wood — a design meant to slow down the decomposition process. A small bag of commemorative medals issued over the course of his 26-year pontificate, as well as a sealed document featuring a brief description in Latin of John Paul's life, will be buried with him, Marini said. He said Polish wishes will go unfulfilled that soil from the pope's native country would be placed in the coffin.


In other developments, John Paul's personal physician was quoted as telling La Repubblica newspaper that John Paul "passed away slowly, with pain and suffering which he endured with great human dignity. The Holy Father could not utter a single word before passing away," Dr. Renato Buzzonetti was quoted as saying. "Just as happened in the last days he could not speak, he was forced to silence."


President Bush to Attend Pope’s Funeral – April 4, 2005

The White House on Monday announced that President George W. Bush and his wife Laura will be attending Friday’s funeral for Pope John Paul II. "It is my great honor on behalf of our country to express our gratitude to the almighty for such a man," Bush told reporters. "And of course we look forward to the majesty of celebrating such a significant human life."

Cardinal Theodore McCarrick greets President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush after mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC on Saturday, April 2, 2005 in remembrance of Pope John Paul II. White House photo by Paul Morse

When the first family goes to the Vatican for the funeral, they will be the first U.S. presidential family to attend a pope’s funeral.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the Bush family attended a memorial Mass for the late pontiff at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington. They sat in the front row of the sanctuary amid a crowd of thousands. Also on Saturday, President Bush commemorated the life of John Paul and called him a “champion of human freedom” and a “good and faithful servant of God.”  “Laura and I join people across the Earth in mourning the passing of Pope John Paul II. The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd, the world has lost a champion of human freedom, and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home,” Bush said in his address, with his wife standing beside him.

President George W. Bush and Mrs. Laura Bush attend mass at the Cathedral of Saint Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC on Saturday, April 2, 2005 in remembrance of Pope John Paul II.White House photo by Paul Morse


Bush also called John Paul II an “inspiration to millions of Americans” and a “hero for the ages.” “Pope John Paul II was, himself, an inspiration to millions of Americans, and to so many more throughout the world,” Bush said. “We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history's great moral leaders. We're grateful to God for sending such a man, a son of Poland, who became the Bishop of Rome, and a hero for the ages” Across America, millions of Catholics mourned and held services specially dedicated to the late pope. Flags also remained at half-mast on public buildings and businesses – including the NASDAQ stock market – held a moment of silence for John Paul II.


President Bush Views Pope's Body – April 7, 2005

ROME (Fox News) — President Bush and his two White House predecessors paid their respects to Pope John Paul II (search) on Wednesday, viewing his remains and kneeling to pray in St. Peter's Basilica. Immediately after arriving in Rome, Bush and other members of the U.S. delegation went to the basilica to view the remains. Bush and his wife, Laura, were accompanied by Bush's father, former President Clinton and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.


They knelt in a pew in front of the remains, bowing their heads in prayer. They spent about five minutes and then left without any comment. Hundreds of thousands of people have viewed the pope's remains since Monday. The line of mourners was stopped during Bush's visit. The former President Bush told reporters traveling with the delegation aboard Air Force One that the pope "was unforgettable."


He said he had met the pope for the first time when he was vice president, bringing his son, Jeb, a converted Catholic, along for the visit. Though he and the pope had disagreed sharply on the Persian Gulf War, with the pope sending him a cable opposing the invasion of Kuwait, the elder Bush said he wished he had had time to discuss with the pope the notion of a "just war" which the pope had supported.


Clinton, talking separately with reporters on the plane, said the pope had demonstrated support for NATO actions to end genocide in Bosnia and Kosovo. He said he had met "two great popes" in his lifetime, John Paul II and John XXIII. Clinton said he recognized that John Paul "may have had a mixed legacy," but he called him a man with a great feel for human dignity. And, Clinton said, noting the throngs the pope would consistently draw, said, "The man knows how to build a crowd."


Former President Carter had hoped to go as well, but backed off when told the Vatican had limited the official delegation to five "and there were also others who were eager to attend," said Jon Moore, a spokesman for the Carter Center in Atlanta. Moore said the Carters "always relish memories" of the pope's 1979 visit to Washington, the only time a pope has been to the White House. The only other living former president, Gerald Ford, who lives in California, is 91 and in frail health.


Some of Congress' best known Catholics also will attend, although not as part of the official U.S. delegation. Among them are Sens. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., and House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California. A Senate delegation of 14 will be led by Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. A House delegation of about two dozen members also was going. It was to be led by Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., but he underwent surgery for kidney stones and didn't make the trip. All five U.S. presidents who served during the pope's tenure met with him: Carter, Reagan, the first Bush, Clinton and the current president.


Bush was to have meetings Thursday with Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi and Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Relations between the United States and Italy were strained last month when U.S. troops in Iraq fired on a car rushing an Italian journalist to freedom, killing the Italian intelligence officer who helped negotiate her release and wounding the reporter. Berlusconi denounced the attack and announced plans to start to draw down his country's 3,000-strong contingent in Iraq in September.


The younger Bush met with John Paul three times — twice at the Vatican and once at the pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. Although Bush and the pope shared some conservative social views, they disagreed over the death penalty and the U.S.-led war in Iraq. When they last met in June 2004, Bush gave the pope the Presidential Medal of Freedom, this country's highest civilian award.


Mass held in St. Peter's Basilica – April 3, 2005

VATICAN CITY -- The Vatican secretary of state, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, celebrated a mass for the repose of Pope John Paul's soul Sunday on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, calling on the tens of thousands of people gathered there to pray for "our beloved John Paul." The 84-year-old pontiff's body lay in state at the Apostolic Palace, dressed in crimson vestments, his head covered with a white bishop's mitre. The Vatican released the Polish-born pope's official cause of death, saying the man who reigned for longer than all but two of his predecessors died at 9:37 p.m. Saturday of septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse.


The written text of Sodano's homily called the late pope "John Paul the Great," a title usually designated for popes worthy of sainthood, such as Gregory the Great and Leo the Great. Sodano did not use the title when he delivered the homily, and there was no explanation. Even then, the Pope was too ill to join the procession, for the first time in his papacy.


Pope John II prays during the Via Crucis, the Way of the Cross, in this Good Friday, 2001 photo from Rome. CREDIT: Dylan Martinez, The Associated Press


Vatican texts, however, are considered official texts even if they are not pronounced. Applause rang out when Sodano prayed for the Pope's soul at the start of the mass. "We entrust with confidence to the risen Christ, Lord of life and history, our beloved John Paul II who for 27 years guided the universal church as the successor of Peter," he said. Applause rang out again during his homily, when he said: "It's true. Our soul is shocked by a painful event: Our father and pastor, John Paul II, has left us. However ... he has always invited us to look to Christ, the only reason for our hope."  He said John Paul had died "serenely."


Thousands of people streamed toward St. Peter's Square for the midmorning mass, joining the faithful who held an overnight vigil in the piazza after learning of the death of the pontiff. "John Paul held his hand to us young people," said Alessio Bussolotti, 21, who drove to Rome on Sunday morning with his fellow Boy Scouts from the Italian city of Ancona. "Now we have to give him ours."


After the mass ended, Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, who became the Pope's public "voice" in his final weeks, read the traditional Sunday noontime prayer, which John Paul delivered throughout his pontificate. The crowd applauded when Sandri announced that the late Pope had actually prepared the prayer himself before he died, saying he was reading it "with such honour, but also such nostalgia." Later, the cardinals and other members of the Roman Curia, the Vatican diplomatic corps and Italian government went to the Apostolic Palace to pay their respects to John Paul, whose head rested on a golden pillow, his arms folded and a bishop's staff tucked under his left arm. Two Swiss guards in red, blue and yellow striped uniforms stood at attention on either side of the body, which was placed in front of a fireplace in the palace's Clementine Hall adorned with the Vatican coat of arms, a crucifix standing to one side and an ornate candle Christian Newsburning on the other. The guards also lined up to pay their respects, removing their plumed helmets before kneeling and praying before the Pope's body.


Bush and his wife, Laura accompanied by Bush's father, former President Clinton and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice at the viewing of Pope John Paul II


The mass began with a solemn parade of the College of Cardinals down the steps of the basilica. Each cardinal, dressed in flowing white robes with a golden cross on the chest, kissed the altar before taking his seat. Before the mass, Camillo Cardinal Ruini, the late Pope's vicar for Rome, issued a formal announcement of John Paul's death to the people of Rome in keeping with Vatican tradition. John Paul was 58 when the cardinals elected him the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.


He survived a 1981 assassination attempt, but in his later years was the picture of frailty, weighed down by Parkinson's disease and crippling knee and hip ailments. Although he continued his travels, he was too weak to continue his famous gesture of kissing the ground when he arrived at his destinations. Hospitalized twice in the past two months after breathing crises, and fitted with a breathing tube and a feeding tube, John Paul became a picture of suffering as his death approached.


To reach the mass in his honour, pilgrims jammed the piazza and the Via della Conciliazione boulevard leading toward it, coming from every direction. Some walked their dogs, others lifted small children up on their shoulders to see better. Still others carried rosaries, newspaper photos of the Pope, flowers or the flags of their country. Many were the red and white colours from John Paul's native Poland. Police estimated the crowd at 50,000. "It's a historic event," said Ercole Ferri, 72, a Roman who proudly showed off a list of the six popes he has lived through. "It's not something sad for me. I think of all that he has done." Others though felt sadness, even though John Paul reportedly urged his aides to feel joy and hope in his final hours. "Joy, even if everyone feels like an orphan today," said Giulia Caiani, 24, an Italian student who spent the night camped out in sleeping bags with friends on the square. "He was a wonderful guide. We have no guide now, there's no longer his voice, or his presence."

Before the mass started, pilgrims watched four large screens placed about the square to allow the throngs who could not see the altar to follow the proceedings. Each time the camera narrowed in on someone holding up an image of the Pope, people burst into applause.


A group of 10 Polish youths brought a huge Polish flag decorated with photos of the Pope and messages, including one that read, "We are with you. Thank you father."

In a statement issued early Sunday, the Vatican said the Pope's body was expected to be brought to St. Peter's Basilica no earlier than Monday afternoon. The College of Cardinals is to meet at 10:30 a.m. Monday in its first gathering before a secret election to be held later this month to choose a new pope. The cardinals were expected to set a date for his funeral, which the Vatican said was expected between Wednesday and Friday. The Vatican has declined to say whether he left instructions for his funeral or burial. Most popes in recent centuries have asked to be buried in the crypts below St. Peter's Basilica, but some have suggested the first Polish-born pope might have chosen to be laid to rest in his native country.


Pope laid to rest after emotional ceremony – April 8, 2005

John Paul II was a 'priest to the last,' Ratzinger says in homilyThe Associated Press

VATICAN CITY - Presidents, prime ministers and kings joined pilgrims and prelates in St. Peter’s Square on Friday to bid an emotional farewell to Pope John Paul II at a funeral that drew millions to Rome. Applause rang out in the wind-whipped square as John Paul’s plain cypress coffin, adorned with a cross and an “M” for the Virgin Mary, was brought out from St. Peter’s Basilica and placed on a carpet in front of the altar. The book of the Gospel was placed on the coffin and the breeze fluttered its pages.

After the Mass ended, bells tolled and 12 pallbearers with white gloves, white ties and tails presented the coffin to the crowd one last time, and then carried it on their shoulders back inside the basilica for burial — again to sustained applause from the hundreds of thousands in the square, including dignitaries from 138 countries.

Chants of “Santo! Santo!” — urging John Paul to be elevated to sainthood immediately — echoed in the square.


The first non-Italian pope in 455 years was buried at 2:20 p.m. (8:20 a.m. EDT) in the grotto under the basilica, attended by prelates and members of the papal household, the Vatican said. Nearly 4 million people jammed into Rome since the pope died Saturday, doubling the city’s population. There has been no major violence despite the crowds and the many dignitaries, including heads of state, although an apparent miscommunication after the funeral prompted Italian air force jets to intercept a plane flying in to pick up an official delegation. The 2½-hour Mass began with the Vatican’s Sistine Choir singing the Gregorian chant, “Grant Him Eternal Rest, O Lord.” Cardinals wearing white miters walked onto the square, their red vestments blowing in the breeze.


Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, a close confidant of John Paul and a possible successor, presided at the Mass and referred to him as our “late beloved pope” in a homily that traced the pontiff’s life from his days as a factory worker in Nazi-occupied Poland to his final days as the head of the world’s 1 billion Catholics.


Drowned out by applause
Interrupted by applause at least 10 times, the usually unflappable German-born Ratzinger choked up as he recalled one of John Paul’s last public appearances — when he blessed the faithful from his studio window on Easter. “We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the father’s house, that he sees us and blesses us,” he said to applause, even among the prelates, as he pointed up to the third-floor window above the square. “Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality — our hearts are full of sadness, yet at the same time of joyful hope and profound gratitude,” Ratzinger said in heavily accented Italian.


The Esoteric Signs during the Death of Pope John Paul II


Eclipse on pope's funeral – April 4, 2005

Paris - Those who say eclipses herald history-shaping events will find support for their superstition when, on Friday, the sun will be briefly plunged into darkness on the day of Pope John Paul II's funeral.Astronomers, though, say the eclipse, while of a rare and intriguing type, was calculated long ago and is simply part of a ballet in celestial physics between the sun, earth and moon. It will be visible on Friday along an arc ranging from the southwestern Pacific to South America, at a time it will already be night in Rome. The event will be a rare type called a "hybrid eclipse", expert Fred Espenak says on his website Along the central part of its path, some sections will have a total eclipse, in which the moon will completely obscure the sun. On other sections of the track, though, it will be an annular eclipse - the moon will appear to have a brilliant, blazing ring around it. 


Curvature of the earth - Total eclipses occur when the moon comes between the earth and the sun, completely obscuring the solar disk for a few minutes and illuminating the landscape in an eerie light. The eclipse follows a West-to-East track that lasts several hours until the alignment ends. Hybrid eclipses occur because of the curvature of the earth, says Espenak. Sometimes the moon's shadow touches the earth's surface, while at others it falls just short, thus providing the "ring" effect. Friday's event will last three hours and 24 minutes, according to Espenak's calculations. It begins at 18:54 GMT southeast of New Zealand, then races eastwards on a line north of the Galapagos Islands, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and finally Venezuela, where there will be a 33-second annular eclipse at sunset at 22:18. People living in New Zealand and to the north and south of this central line, including most of the southern US, will see a partial eclipse - the sun will appear to have had a "bite" taken out of it.


Astronomical proof - Total eclipses were often seen as the harbingers of great events, from droughts and floods to failed harvests and the downfall of kings. In ancient China, the belief was that an eclipse was caused when the gods dispatched a dragon to eat the sun. The monster then had to be chased away with dances, incantations, the clashing of cymbals and the unleashing of arrows and fireworks. Even the word "eclipse" comes from a Greek word, "ekleipsis", which means to fail or be abandoned. "The sun has perished out of heaven and an evil mist hovers over all," was Homer's horrified account of an eclipse in The Odyssey. Two eclipses occurred near Palestine in AD29 and AD33 - events that, for some Christians, give astronomical proof to the biblical account that the sky darkened at Jesus' death on the cross. Total solar eclipses happen about once every 18 months or so, although two partial eclipses occur somewhere on earth each year. The next hybrid eclipse will take place on April 20 2023.


The Vatican Conclave – Choosing the Next Pope


Guessing game in battle for papal succession – April 4, 2005
VATICAN CITY (China Daily News) - The death of Pope John Paul II set in motion a chain of events laid down by centuries of papal tradition, but the face of the next pontiff is a guess no one dares to hazard. A pope from Italy, reverting to habit? An African pontiff? How about Latin America, or India?  No one knows for sure and those who might have an idea -- the cardinals who actually choose the next leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics -- are keeping their hands close to their chests.  Nevertheless the process is under way, triggered automatically by the death Saturday of the conservative 84-year-old John Paul II, who had headed the Holy See since his own election in 1978.


In this picture made available by the Italian Presidency, Cardinal Miloslav Vlk of the Czech Republic, left, and Cardinal Francesco Marchisano of Italy mourn Pope John Paul II, lying out in state in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican, Sunday, April 3, 2005. The Pope died on Saturday at the Vatican after a 26-year pontificate. He was 84. [AP]


No doubt the impending election will be on their minds when cardinals hold their first congregation Monday to begin planning the pontiff's funeral. However, procedures dictate that the conclave at which cardinals choose a successor will not start until at least two weeks after the pope's death, but no later than 20 days. One of the few to have talked about the succession, Cardinal Francis George of the Chicago archdiocese, said he hoped the next pope would not make radical changes. "People think things are up for grabs that aren't up for grabs," he told a press conference Saturday after a memorial mass. However, he admitted, "we may need a different kind of pope." In a possible indication of his thinking, he said that although there were good reasons to elect a pope from Africa, Asia or Latin America, he would have to be "acceptable to the Romans. He should speak Italian."


British newspapers on Sunday were betting on Brazil's 70-year-old Claudio Hummes, the archbishop of Sao Paulo.

"Like the majority of his brother electors, he is conservative on matters of church doctrine, but he is unmistakably radical on social issues," the Sunday Times said. It noted that "Latin America, A burning candle and flowers are placed in front of the bishop's residence in Krakow, southern Poland on Sunday, April 3, 2005, the day after the Vatican announced the death of Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul II served as priest and bishop in Krakow. (AP Photo/Czarek Sokolowski) which has 21 voting cardinals and is home to half the world's baptised Catholics, is expected to stake a strong claim to the papacy if, as is probable, no candidate achieves the required two-thirds majority in the early ballots."


A burning candle and flowers are placed in front of the bishop's residence in Krakow, southern Poland on Sunday, April 3, 2005, the day after the Vatican announced the death of Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul II served as priest and bishop in Krakow. [AP]


But some Vatican insiders think cardinals will likely return to a safe Italian candidate -- John Paul II was the first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years. "I don't think the college of electors will risk electing a foreigner. The Italians are the inner circle," one said under cover of anonymity. In that case, the front-runner could be Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, who as archbishop of Milan oversees the most populous diocese in Europe. Aged 71, he is seen as an intellectual, a pastor and someone who would have new ideas.


Another Italian possible is Angelo Scola, patriarch or archbishop of Venice who at 63 counts as one of the Church's younger set. A moderate, he is thought likely to have the backing of Opus Dei, a highly conservative grouping which has several European and Latin American cardinals among its supporters. But his relatively young age could work against him, according to the Austrian independent daily Kurier. "Many cardinals feel that after the long (26-year) rule of John Paul II, the church needs a transitional pope," it added.


Away from Italy, potential candidates are 77-year-old cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the influential German head of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith; Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, the 62-year-old Honduran cardinal who has campaigned against poverty; and Dario Castrillon Hoyos of Colombia. Ivan Dias, the 69-year-old archbishop of Bombay, carries the best hopes of the Indian sub-continent. Nigeria's Francis Arinze is regarded by many as the best non-Italian bet. A conservative, he would become the first African pope since Gelasius I in the late fifth century.


Factors that may influence the cardinals range from policy -- conservative or liberal, bridge-builder or doctrinaire? -- to the mundane, such as whether someone might be a good bureaucrat running the huge Vatican machinery but less gifted as a pastor in the field. The age factor underpins the question: Does the Church need a relatively youthful pope to drive the Church forward for the foreseeable future at a time of declining belief in God?


A poll Sunday in the daily Le Parisien found 53 percent of French people in favour of a "more progressive" pope than John Paul II, while 27 percent wanted continuity and only 13 percent a more traditional successor. Don't expect any public jockeying by the cardinals, however. Under the rules laid down in John Paul II's 1996 constitution they must abstain under pain of excommunication from any form of agreement or promise that would influence their vote, and they are not allowed to vote for themselves.

George, the archbishop of Chicago, said he expected debate to be heated but predicted the process would not last more than a week. "I think we'll all be cordial, but I expect there will be great differences of opinion," he said. Both John Paul II and his immediate predecessor were compromise candidates who emerged because of deadlocks over cardinals who had initially seemed more promising when the conclave got under way.


Cardinals Need to Get Know Others Before Conclave –April 9, 2005

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - It is arguably the most exclusive men's club in the world, but many of its members still don't know each other very well. All that is about to change as the College of Cardinals comes together to discuss the state of the world and the Catholic Church ahead of a conclave to elect one of their number to the top  job -- the papacy. With the pomp and circumstance of Pope John Paul's funeral behind them, it is now time for cardinals from as far away as Chile and Canada, Australia and Thailand, to sound each other out and find a man with the ideas and character to lead them on. "These are the days you try to get to know people," said Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. "We're all learning how this conclave thing works. I'm trying to puzzle through it myself."


RC CARDINALSCardinals gather in the Vatican's Synod hall a day before the funeral of Pope John Paul II April 7, 2005.  It is arguably the most exclusive men's club in the world but many of its members still don't know each other very well. All that is about to change as the College of Cardinals comes together to discuss the state of the world and the Catholic Church ahead of a conclave to elect one of their number to the top job -- the papacy. REUTERS/Osservatore Romano


There will be 115 cardinals voting at the conclave, which starts on April 18. For 113 of them it is a new experience, as they were elevated to their posts during John Paul's reign, about half of them in the last five years. Some of the cardinals are already very close, having served at the Vatican together or worked hand-in-hand in their home countries. Others have met only on trips to Rome. Still others are the only cardinal in their country and have no more than a passing acquaintance with their peers.

The red-hatted "princes" of the Church face very different challenges across the globe, so it is vital for them to pool ideas before they start to cast ballots for the next pope. "We will be meeting each other, praying a great deal, talking about the Church and then see where the Lord leads," said Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington.



Since John Paul died on April 2, the world's media have harried cardinals for their views on who might replace a pontiff who traveled the world, interested the young in church and stood up for strict doctrine in the face of stiff opposition. On Saturday, the cardinals voted unanimously to cut off communication with reporters in the run-up to the conclave, keen that none of them should be prejudiced by media coverage but swayed only by the Holy Spirit. "This should not be interpreted as a snub to the media but a gesture of great responsibility," said Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. "They have begun a period of more intense silence and prayer."

Cardinals must not be influenced at all by the outside world once voting starts, and even their cooks and confessors may not communicate to them what is being said beyond the Vatican walls. But the enormous media coverage of the Pope's funeral may already have set up something of a policy agenda for the papacy.

Excellent communication skills, a vibrant rapport with teenagers, openness to other religions and a desire to travel have become the papal job description preferred by the media.


Cardinals insisted that a conclave was not an election with campaigns and candidates but a holy choice in which they were led by God through deep prayer and reflection.

"It is a great responsibility to go in there. It totally transcends human wisdom, human ability, human strength," said Cardinal Justin Rigali of Philadelphia. "For any serious commitment you need serious preparation. You can't be distracted."


Cardinals Prepare for Conclave in Rome - 130 Cardinals Prepare for Conclave to Choose Pope's Successor; Thousands of Pilgrims Leave Rome – April 9, 2005


Leaders of the Oriental churches bless the casket of Pope's John Paul II as cardinals, in red, look on, during his funeral in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Friday April 8, 2005. Tens of thousands of people jammed St. Peter's Square to say a final farewell to Pope John Paul II in the presence of kings, queens, presidents and prime ministers for a funeral capping one of the largest religious gatherings in the West in modern times. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)


ROME - The world's Catholics looked to the College of Cardinals to begin the difficult task of choosing a worthy successor to John Paul II, while hundreds of thousands of weary pilgrims who flooded Rome for the pontiff's funeral began their journeys home on Saturday. The 130 cardinals preparing for the ritual-filled secret conclave that begins April 18 unanimously agreed Saturday to stop talking in public, banning interviews with the media as they seek to ensure the centuries-old process is safe in an age of media leaks and cell phones.


Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls also said the number of cardinals who will vote for a new pope was down to 115 because two prelates were too ill to attend: Cardinal Jaime L. Sin of the Philippines and Cardinal Alfonso Antonio Suarez Rivera of Mexico. The conclave is limited to the 117 cardinals under the age of 80. Pilgrims began a massive exodus, carrying backpacks, folded flags and rolled-up sleeping bags and headed for train stations or parking lots on the outskirts of the city. Rome officials estimated that most would be gone by the end of Saturday.


Police cleared out St. Peter's Square late Friday and blocked it with metal barricades, breaking up groups of Poles who stood in a circle in the drizzle, praying under their umbrellas. "We hope that the new pope will continue the work that John Paul set up," said Monica Barthicka, 23, a student from Warsaw. Mateusz Rozycki, 25, an accountant also from John Paul's homeland, drove to Rome in 20 hours for Friday's elaborate funeral, one of the largest the world has ever witnessed. "People in Poland, and maybe elsewhere, changed a little bit because of him. If some of those thoughts remain in our hearts for a little while, I will be satisfied," Rozycki said.


Rome's Mayor Walter Veltroni said the flood of pilgrims over the past week had doubled the size of his city's normal population of 2.6 million a figure that is less than earlier police estimates of 4 million. The turnout was comparable to the vast crowds that gathered to mourn Mohandas Gandhi of India, Mao Zedong of China and Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran. John Paul's funeral also was one of the most prestigious, drawing presidents, kings and religious leaders from all corners of the globe, including President Bush and his predecessors, Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.


Italy's Minister of the Interior, Giuseppe Pisanu, said 1.4 million managed to file past the pope's body during the four days he lay in state, after waiting in line for an average 13 hours. Giving a slightly conflicting figure, Veltroni put the number at 1.3 million. The numbers were the most authoritative yet. On Friday, 250,000 filled St. Peter's Square for the funeral, Pisanu said. Others watched on 24 giant video screens set up around Rome, from university campuses to the Circus Maximus where ancient Romans held chariot races centuries before Christianity was born.


John Paul was laid to rest in the Vatican grottoes, the cramped, narrow passageways below the existing basilica and above the one built by the emperor Constantine. The grottoes hold the remains of popes of centuries past, including the tomb traditionally believed to be that of the apostle Peter, the first pope. Navarro-Valls said the Vatican the grottoes would reopen to the public on Monday. Keeping them closed over the weekend was a way of clearing the city of the huge throngs of pilgrims.

The College of Cardinals begins its conclave on April 18 to elect a successor, a papal election with new rules and new technologies.


Italian news media have reported that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the dean of the College of Cardinals who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Pope John Paul II, had argued for the ban on interviews. Navarro-Valls said only that all the cardinals approved it, saying they considered it an "act of responsibility" to remain silent. He presented it as a "request" by the cardinals to the media not to ask for interviews. The cardinals took an oath of secrecy about their deliberations on April 4 at their first preparatory meeting, two days after the pope died at the age of 84, but it did not preclude them from giving interviews.


Anyone who breaks the sacred oath of secrecy during a conclave faces excommunication according to detailed guidelines set out by John Paul in 1996 to ensure the centuries-old process is safe in an age of media leaks and cell phones. Their challenge will be to find a successor who can measure up to John Paul, whose popularity was undimmed by his conservatism and who helped the church spread in Africa and Asia. He made unprecedented strides in opening contacts with other Christian denominations, Jews and Muslims. He made the first papal visit to a mosque during a visit to Syria in 2001, and sought forgiveness for Jewish suffering at the hands of Catholics.


His efforts were evident at his funeral, attended by dignitaries from 138 countries. Their diversity reflected the extraordinary mix of faiths and cultures that John Paul courted during his 26-year papacy: Orthodox bishops in long black robes, Jews in yarmulkes, Arabs in checkered headscarves, Central Asians in lambskin caps and Western political leaders in dark suits. Across Africa, Asia and the Americas, church bells tolled and millions of people gathered in open fields, sports stadiums, town squares and cathedrals to watch the funeral on giant screens. Millions more mourned privately at home. In a gesture the pope would certainly have applauded, Israeli President Moshe Katsav said he shook hands and chatted briefly with the leaders of his country's archenemies, Syria and Iran. The Israeli president said his handshake with Syrian President Bashar Assad came at the point in the service when members of the congregation "exchange the peace."


The Jews and Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II and the Jews: “You are our elder brothers.” – April 2, 2005

Debkafiles - The most peripatetic of all pontiffs, the white-cassocked figure of Pope John Paul II waving from his popemobile – bulletproofed since the 1981 attempt on his life – became a legendary figure as he crisscrossed the world’s map for more than 20 years. One of the longest and most moving of his trips was his weeklong millennium pilgrimage to the Holy Land, not only as a Christian but as a Pole who grew up with Jews and mourned Jewish friends, neighbors and former playmates, who perished in the Nazi Holocaust. His tearful embrace with a Shoah survivor at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial Center in Jerusalem was spontaneous and heartfelt.


A certain disappointment with the papal visitor’s failure to apologize for the record of his predecessor Pius II in the Nazi era faded quickly when he stood at the Western Wall and said: “Personally, I have always wanted to be counted among those who work, on both sides, to overcome old prejudices, and to secure ever wider and fuller recognition of the spiritual patrimony shared by Jews and Christians. I repeat what I said on the occasion of my visit to the Jewish Community in Rome, that we Christians recognize that the Jewish religious heritage is intrinsic to our own faith: “You are our elder brothers.”  That said, he inserted the written text into a crevice of the Wall.


The statement was perfectly consistent with his lifelong work, from before the time when Karol Wojtyla as a young priest took part in drafting the groundbreaking 1965 Vatican II document that ended centuries of Christian anathema of the Jews. The document condemned “hatred and persecutions of the Jews,” affirmed the validity of Judaism as a religious way of life with which Catholics must establish relations of “mutual knowledge and respect” and repudiated the idea of “the Jewish people as one rejected, cursed, or guilty of deicide…”  Never one for pompous or pious speeches, the pontiff took often revolutionary steps to make that edict come true.


In 1993, the Vatican extended long-overdue recognition to the State of Israel and in 1994, they exchanged ambassadors. He was the first pope since the founding of the Catholic Church to visit a synagogue when he paid his respects at the Great Synagogue of Rome in the ancient Jewish Ghetto. There, he said: “The Jewish religion is not extrinsic to us, but in a certain way is intrinsic to our own religion. With Judaism, therefore, we have a relationship which we do not have with any other religion.”

He was the first pontiff to visit Auschwitz. And, in 2001, he stood beside Ukraine’s Chief Rabbi Yaacov Bleich and prayed at the main Babi Yar Memorial for the souls of 200,000 dead, including 150,000 Jews, who were massacred by the Nazis in 1941 at this ravine region. In the first two days of the slaughter, Ukrainian Jewry was destroyed.


The pope’s gesture followed criticism for his failure to respond to an anti-Semitic diatribe from Bashar Assad during a visit to Syria.

In 2003, the Vatican opened some of its archives on the pontificate of Pius II covering the Nazi period. In January, 2005, his health already in decline, John Paul II warmly received more than 100 Jewish leaders, rabbis and cantors at the Vatican. Shalom Aleichem, he said and urged them to do more for stronger dialogue between Jews and Catholics. That may have been almost his last audience for a large group of visitors.


Jewish-Catholic unity might be pope's legacy – March 1, 2005

Newsday - Prominent Jewish and Catholic leaders meeting in New York yesterday said the spirit of respect and cooperation between the two religions forged by Pope John Paul II is now so strong that it would continue beyond his papacy. "I am optimistic that what this pope has done for the last 26 years cannot be reversed," said Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Vatican council responsible for Jewish-Catholic relations. He added that "everyone can only be happy about the progress that has been made, which is so important for peace in the world."

The World Jewish Congress is hosting the two-day forum for 27 Catholic cardinals and bishops to meet with international Jewish leaders from around the world. While this is the third gathering, it is the first time that the Catholic leaders were meeting with Orthodox Jewish leaders, showing the progress of the interfaith cooperation, said Rabbi Israel Singer, chairman of the World Jewish Congress. "Some of what we are doing today is allaying concerns about the future. This is an opportunity to make sure we don't have any backsliding," said Singer, of Lawrence. He said the gathering would pray for the ailing pope, who Singer said had done more for Catholic-Jewish relations "in 20 years than anyone had in 2000 years."

The participants discussed the humanitarian work Catholics and Jews had worked on together in Kosovo, Rwanda, Ethiopia and Argentina. The presence of the Catholic church in most corners of the world also provides an effective distribution network for Jewish charities as well as a bridge to Muslim communities. Besides planning for the future, the gathering at the Jewish Heritage Museum in Battery Park was to ensure that the past not be forgotten.

Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger of France, noting the presence of Catholic prelates from Asia and Africa, said younger church leaders need to be aware of the "tragic history, sometimes bloody," between the two faiths. "This meeting is important because there are very few experts on the dialogue with Jews," said Lustiger, 78, who was born to Jewish parents but was raised by a Catholic family after his mother died in the concentration camp at Auschwitz. Later, Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson of Ghana told the group that in his country there was no formal relationship with Jews. "I am not aware of any synagogue; if someone here knows of one, please let me know."


Envoy recalls audience with pope about recognizing Israel – April 7, 2005

ROME(KRT) - For 44 years, the Vatican had steadfastly refused to recognize the state of Israel. In the spring of 1992, Avi Pazner, Israel's new ambassador to Italy, was given 20 minutes to change Pope John Paul II's mind. Months of research and groundwork went into those 20 minutes, and Pazner admits that he was more than a little nervous when the moment came. The 20-minute papal audience stretched into 40 minutes, but at the end of it, John Paul II signaled his readiness for another of the historic breakthroughs that became the signature of his papacy.


Pazner, who rose through the ranks of Israel's diplomatic corps, had just finished a tour as Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir's spokesman. Given a choice of plum ambassadorships, Pazner chose Italy, which also has responsibility for the Vatican. "I saw Rome as the biggest challenge," he recalled. "I had followed the history of our relations with the Vatican since my earliest days in the foreign service ... and I wanted to give a try to improving those relations."


For years, the main obstacles to diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel were more theological than political: The Roman Catholic Church was reluctant to recognize a sovereign Jewish state on the territory where Christianity was born. The Second Vatican Council in 1963 removed most of the theological obstacles when it declared that the Jewish people could not be blamed for Christ's death, and John Paul II removed whatever doubts lingered when he became the first pope to visit the Synagogue of Rome in 1986.


But the political hurdles remained. The church was concerned with the rights of Christians - mainly Arabs - in the Holy Land, the status of its property and the division of Jerusalem, a city sacred to three faiths. Israel was willing to talk about all these issues, but only after the Vatican recognized Israel. After the first Persian Gulf War, the Vatican began showing a new interest in settling its differences with Israel. And Israel's choice of Pazner as its new ambassador to Italy would turn out to be fortunate.

Pazner's first diplomatic lunch in Rome was not, as protocol usually demanded, with Italian Foreign Ministry officials but with Italy's ambassador to the Holy See. The other guest "happened" to be Monsignor Luigi Gatti, the Vatican official responsible for the Middle East. The lunch went past 5 p.m. "I immediately reported back to Israel," Pazner recalled. "I said, `Look, it may be a little presumptuous of me - I've only been here a week - but I can sense the possibility of an opening.'"


Pazner got Shamir's authorization to go forward. Many in the Israeli Foreign Ministry were skeptical, but Pazner plowed ahead. "I made a point of meeting with every possible cardinal who could have an input on the decision. It took four or five months. ... Some were helpful, some less so," he said. "But nothing was happening. One day I was sitting with (Archbishop Jean-Louis) Tauran and I told him, `Everybody is very nice and full of good will, but nothing budges.'" Tauran was the Vatican's foreign minister. "Tauran said that on this question, only one cardinal can help you - and that is the cardinal of Rome. The question of Israel and the Jews is so important that only the pope deals with it. "So I told him, `I'd like to see the pope,' and he said, `Yeah, but you can't because you're not the ambassador to the Holy See' - a Catch-22," Pazner recalled. "Well, maybe you can find a way I can meet him," Pazner suggested. "He came back a week later: `If you and your charming wife ask for a private audience, maybe you could see the pope, and maybe you present your case and he listens.'" The pope agreed to the audience. It was scheduled for April 19, 1992. Pazner would have the pope's ear for 20 minutes.


There was little time to prepare and no margin for error. In a frenzy of activity, Pazner and the Israeli Foreign Ministry fine-tuned their words and rehearsed their arguments.

The Vatican also briefed Pazner on what to expect. He and his wife would be shown to a waiting room in the Apostolic Palace. The pope would come out of his study and greet Pazner and his wife, who was advised to wear a hat for the occasion, but only the ambassador would be invited back into the study. Instead the pope came out, greeted both with warm "shaloms" and insisted that they both accompany him back to the study. "I sat to one side, my wife sat on the other. The pope immediately breaks all the protocols and starts talking to my wife. He asked her where she was born, and she said Argentina, so he starts talking to her in Spanish. "Then he asks me where I was born and I tell him I was born in Danzig, and he erupts - Gdansk! Gdansk! - and starts speaking to me in Polish. I grew up in a family that spoke Yiddish, but I'm shaking my head as though I understand. He could see that I didn't. "I complimented him on bringing communism to an end. He said it wasn't him, it was God. I said God sometimes needs a little help. Very nice conversation. I look at my watch and 15 minutes have passed," he recalled.


At this point, Pope John Paul's private secretary came in, genuflected before the pope and advised that his next appointment was waiting. Pazner said he felt close to panic."I said, `Look, Your Holiness, I would like to address another subject that we hold very close to our heart.' I described the peace process and the new atmosphere in the Middle East, about how Russia, India and China had recognized Israel. Also Muslim countries like Nigeria. ... I said even some Arab countries are talking to us now, but others are not, like Iraq, Libya and Iran. "I was so elated to be able to personally present our case to the pope that I went on and on. So instead of 20 minutes, it was 40 minutes," he said. "Then a frightening moment. When I stopped talking, he did not respond. He was staring at me across the table, chin in hand like Rodan's `Thinker.' I got so frightened. I thought maybe I talked too long. Maybe I offended him by comparing the Vatican to Libya and Iraq. "He kept on not talking and staring. He has very penetrating eyes. It's like he enters into your soul. When I looked into his eyes, I saw something, like a flicker. And finally he spoke: `Mr. Ambassador, do you want to tell me that we are the worst?' "I said, `No, no, not the worst, not the worst, but among the last.' Then he really smiled. He looked at me and at my wife. `Look, Mr. Ambassador, it is said in our Christian tradition that the last shall be first.' "He didn't say one word beyond that. Didn't comment on anything. Didn't ask questions. But with this one sentence, I knew he understood. He had heard arguments he'd never heard before, not three cardinals telling him three different things."


After the audience, Pazner and his wife returned to Israel for Passover. "Two weeks later, back in Rome, Tauran phoned me: `The Holy Father has decided to open negotiations.'" It would take more than a year and a half of tough negotiations to reach a final agreement, but on Dec. 29 and 30, 1993, Israel and the Holy See signed a document granting each other full recognition. The payoff would be Pope John Paul II's dramatic pilgrimage to the Holy Land in the Millennium year. "He was the first pope to visit a synagogue," Pazner said. "He was the pope who issued a declaration against anti-Semitism. ... He was the pope who officially visited Israel. He was a revolutionary pope."


The Secret Cold War Partnership between Pope John Paul II and White House Revealed – April 2, 2005

Debkafiles - Pope John Paul II broke out of the conventional papal mold in many ways that will engage generations of historians. Above all, he was the most democratic of any of his predecessors, always in close rapport with Catholic communities in every corner of the globe and possessed of an unfailing instinct for the times in which he lived. But the character of his papacy was also influenced critically by a chance episode that occurred more than a year before his investiture. This unreported episode and its epic aftermath are revealed here for the first time by DEBKAfile’s and DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s intelligence experts.


In January 1977, Jimmy Carter was sworn in as US President after defeating Gerald Ford at the polls. Cyrus Vance followed Henry Kissinger as secretary of state, the outgoing secretary moving to New York as a private consultant to governments, corporation heads and top financiers. Polish-born Zbigniew Brzezinski from Harvard and Columbia succeeded his fellow professor-cum-politician as the new president’s national security adviser.


The most signal achievement of Brzezhinski’s career was predetermined a year before he took office by one of his last experiences as an academic. In 1976, a Polish Archbishop, Karol Wojtyla, came to Harvard to deliver a lecture. So impressed was Professor Brzezinski, a churchgoer, that he invited the visitor for tea, during which they found much in common. The regular correspondence they embarked on, in Polish, continued for years after Wojtyla’s investiture as Pope John Paul II on October 22, 1978.


A candid glimpse behind the circumstances surrounding that event was afforded twenty years later by James M. Rentschler, a former US ambassador and staff member of the Carter administration’s National Security Council, in a recollection he wrote for the International Herald Tribune of October 30, 1998. Here are some excerpts:

“…an American president (Carter) inspired by the elevation of Cardinal Karol Wojtyla as the first Pole to become Pope, began a secret initiative that some believed altered the course of the Cold War. “The word came from David Aaron, deputy to President Jimmy Carter’s National Security Council chief, Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘Zbig’s got the president excited about this. They sense an enormous sea change in East-West relations.’ Mr. Aaron made me his DP, ‘designated papist’. The White House wanted an entire planeload of VIPs for the October 22 investiture. Naming the co-heads was easy: They had to be the Speaker of the House, Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neil and the Polish-born Mr Brzezinski himself – both Roman Catholics, both heavy-hitters in Mr. Carter’s party. Second-draft choices were no-brainers too: Senator Edward Muskie and Representatives Clement Zablocki and Barbara Mikulski, all Carter loyalists and all of Polish origin.


“But next came the nightmare. “Casting from a pool of thousands, a presidential delegation limited to 30 prima donnas, whose collective profile might reflect some ‘ideal’ religious, racial, political, professional, gender and secular mix (‘secular’ being code for big-bucks campaign contributor). A rainbow coalition it wasn’t. “’It’s the beginning of the end for communism,’ exulted Ms. Mikulski in Rome at a US Embassy lunch of rare oratorical exuberance. Some thought her toast measured more than a notch too high on the hyperbole meter, yet history proved her right. John Paul II’s courageous pilgrimages behind the Iron Curtain captured world attention from the start. Defying party orders, tumultuous East European turnouts soon made him communism’s liveliest scourge – and the Free World’s most valuable Cold War player.


“Meanwhile, state-supported terrorism was much on Mr. Brzezinski’s mind that radiant October day. …he slipped away from lunch into an adjoining room, where the CIA’s Rome station chief awaited him. Subject: tighter, tougher US-Italian security cooperation, with radical new tactics for combating Italy’s ruthless Red Brigades… In great secrecy Mr Brzezinski also initiated Mr. Carter’s historic Cold War move, working with the man whose power and influence inside the Holy See were second only to the Pope’s himself, Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Vatican secretary of state, a tough yet subtle negotiator privately known among his Curia as ‘Kissinger in a cassock’.

“He and Mr. Brzezinski opened a private channel between the White House and the Holy See, which National Security Council operatives dubbed the Vatican hot line. It was a link that Jimmy Carter and John Paul II soon made operational with a personal correspondence of extraordinary breadth …an unprecedented exchange between an American Baptist president and a Polish-born Roman Catholic pontiff. “

Rentschler notes that the forty still-classified letters cover a range of highly sensitive issues: arms control, human rights, famine relief, popular unrest behind the Iron Curtain, Soviet atrocities in Afghanistan, the fate of Catholic missionaries in China, Cuban adventurism in Africa, the Middle East peace process, hostage-taking and terrorism. He adds that, although both correspondents were careful to respect the delicate dividing line between political and pastoral, “it was always… one which, …on the heels of certain peace-promoting activities flowing from… their shared views, might have required microsurgery to perceive.”


DEBKAfile’s intelligence experts add: Brzezinski’s 1976 tea with the Polish cardinal fathered American Cold War strategy which was, in a word, to prime the imperfectly-suppressed religious zeal pulsating in the Soviet Bloc masses as the West’s doomsday weapon in the Cold War. Pilgrimages by the Polish pope, with the help of secret agitators, were to rouse the multitudes to rise up against their atheistic oppressors. Once the Christians were on the march, Brzezinski proposed persuading militant Islam to join the mission of inflaming the Soviet Union’s teeming Moslems.


From the historical perspective, Brzezinski’s plan of operation was the most radical applied in the Cold War till then, short of armed conflict. In comparison, the Nixon-Kissinger detente policy was much less aggressive, confining itself to photographing a given situation and freezing the arms race, while letting the Cold War go on according to agreed ground rules. Brzezinski’s religious crusading offensive went outside those rules. It was moreover a form of combat in which the West held unbeatable cards. All Moscow Center’s national liberation and terrorist movements, Philby’s phenomenal double agents and moles and Yuri Andropov’s intelligence genius were useless to protect the USSR’s Achilles heel, the proletariat’s unquenched yearning for organized religion, in defiance of the most brutal efforts to stamp it out.


Brzezinski’s brainwave of harnessing religious zeal to beat communism had two extreme though opposite effects. The force of Christianity was a major factor in undermining Soviet communist domination of East Europe. Its lands turned around to embrace democratic change, a pro-Western orientation and a market economy in a still-evolving process. In Asia and the Middle East, Carter’s national security adviser resorted to fundamentalist Islam to defeat communism. The CIA-supported mujaheddin did indeed drive the Red Amy out of Afghanistan. But this same religious weapon eventually became a boomerang against America. It spawned Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda, the Islamic jihadist terrorist movement dedicated to destroying the West and its values.


A Pope like no other  - Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein – April, 2004

Jewish World Review - Few Jews or Catholics appreciate how far one man went in redressing the wrongs of centuries. Looking into the early days of the late Pope, we find the roots of his friendship with the Jewish people. Pope John Paul spoiled one of my favorite anecdotes. This may sound mean-spirited, but I can think of no greater tribute to the memory of a remarkable man.

The Pope places a personal petition prayer, text below, into the Western Wall


Rabbi Yonoson Eybeschutz, one of the greatest Jewish scholars of the Eighteenth Century, stood as a young boy in the area in front of his house, peering over the fence at the pedestrian traffic. A local non-Jewish boor, half-drunk, couldn't resist the opportunity to take a pot shot at a Jew, even if he was a quarter his size. "Hey, Jew!" he called to the boy. "What's the difference between a Jew and a pig?" Little Yonoson did not have to think long to respond. "The fence, of course!"  This story speaks volumes of the relationship between Jews and non-Jews of that time in general, and the adversarial relationship between Jews and the Catholic Church — from whence flowed so much of the anti-Jewish venom — in particular.

Two Popes blunted the impact of that story, changing it from a definition of the present to a vivid description of the past. Both were affected, perhaps even radicalized in their relationship with the Jewish people, by the Holocaust. Archbishop Angelo Roncalli helped save thousands of Jews as a Papal Nuncio, sometimes defying the policies of his superiors. As Pope John XXIII, he would preside over Nostra Aetate, which overturned centuries of Catholic attitudes towards Jews. Until then, Jewish-Catholic relations were a succession of footnotes to early Church leaders like Origen ("the blood of Jesus falls on Jews, not only then, but on all generations until the end of the world") and St. Cyprian ( "the Bible itself says the Jews are an accursed people .... the devil is the Father of the Jews.") Nostra Aetate made it Church teaching that the entire Jewish people of antiquity was not complicit in the crucifixion, and that Jews of subsequent generations should certainly not be saddled with any form of collective guilt. What John XXIII did in the realm of theoretical teaching, John Paul translated into practical and unmistakable preaching by example. He did this with a flair for the dramatic, for the big moment whose eloquence did not fade when the crowds went home.

He was not only the first to visit a synagogue, but his embrace of Rabbi Toaf told of a willingness to reverse the antagonisms of two millennia. What he spoke went further yet, when he called Jews "our elder brothers of the Ancient Covenant never broken by G-d and never to be broken."  Many Jews, rightfully so, were skeptical of any warming up to the Jews that did not include an acceptance of the Jewish right to the Land of Israel. They assumed that the Church would be unwilling to part with its boilerplate reaction of so many centuries that saw the Jew wander in exile from place to place, banished from his Land for having rejected Jesus. The Pope did not mince words. He pointed to the debt that Catholics owed to Jews, and then drew his fateful conclusion. "The act of establishing diplomatic relations with Israel is simply an international affirmation of this relationship."

This attitude, as well, he turned into a succession of dramatic moments. He visited Israel. He made the pilgrimage to Yad Vashem. He said what Jews had bet no favorite son of the Church would ever say that the Church — meaning not only Christians, but Christianity itself — had to assume much of the blame for centuries of anti-Semitism, and for the Holocaust. As he put it, "the fact that anti-Semitism has found a place in Christian thought and teaching requires an act of teshuva", repentance.  He was certainly aware that teshuva connotes an active making of amends, not just the feeling of regret. How else to explain the prayer he composed asking G-d for forgiveness for Church crimes against the Jews, and the moving moment when he placed that prayer as a kvitel(petitioner prayer note) into the Western Wall in Jerusalem? G-d of our fathers, You chose Abraham and his descendants to bring Your name to the nations: we are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of Yours to suffer and asking Your forgiveness; we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.

He grew up in a town with 8000 Catholics and 2000 Jews; his best friend throughout his life was Jewish. He understood Jews — and the horrors inflicted upon them — as none among his successors will. A Jewish perspective on the career of John Paul will look beyond the center-stage moments and find the small episode that says it all. Yaffa Eliach (Hasidic Tales of the Holocaust, pgs. 142-147) found it for us decades ago. (Click HERE to purchase this truly incredible book. Sales help fund JWR.)

A Jewish couple in Cracow anticipated the worst, and entrusted their small son to a Gentile couple in the town of Dombrowa, who accepted the boy at no small risk to their own lives. The parents left directives to see to it that their son be raised Jewish and reunited with relatives in North America if they should not return. They didn't, but the couple (who did not have children of their own) grew attached to the little boy. Over time, they decided to adopt him as their own, and asked the new parish priest to baptize him. The priest questioned the child's provenance. What had the parents said? The couple told him of their wish to have the boy sent to relatives across the Atlantic. The priest refused to baptize the child. In time, his relatives were located, and he was sent to them, and grew up to become an observant Jew.

The priest would later become Pope John Paul. When one of the most prominent pre-Holocaust Chassidic sages, the Bluzhover Rebbe, heard the story, he remarked, "Perhaps it was the merit of saving a single Jewish soul that brought about his election as Pope. It is a story that must be told." As it turns out, it was an unfinished story. Perhaps it would not be inappropriate to see shades of the Talmudic maxim at work — "one mitzvah [religious act of compassion] drags the next in its wake." Karol Jozef Wojtyla's decision that day showed his acceptance of and regard for both Jews and Judaism. It led not only to his becoming the Pope, but to an unparalleled role in taking the Church to a different place in its relationship with the Jewish people. If both Catholics and Jews will study his teaching, if the story of the young Rav Yonoson Ebyeschutz becomes a relic rather than a reality, we will have created a memorial to him of that he would be proud.


Chief Rabbi Metzger recalls productive meeting with Pope – April 2, 2005

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger recalled a meeting less than a year ago in which the pope referred to Jews as his "older brothers." "Our meeting reaped tangible results," recalled Metzger. "I explained to the pope that many holy objects were taken from the Jews during the Spanish Inquisition, which was perpetrated by the Church. I asked him if he could do something to return property that belongs to Jews."


Metzger explained that the pope agreed to do what he could to look into the issue. "Minutes of our meeting were recorded and publicized later," said Metzger. "Shortly afterwards a Catholic priest in Germany contacted the local Jewish community to give back a Torah scroll taken during the Holocaust." According to Metzger, the priest had read the minutes from the meeting and had been impressed by the pope's promise to look into returning Jewish property taken during the Inquisition.

Metzger said the main challenge for Christian-Jewish relations is the fight against anti-Semitism. "I would like to organize one day a year that all of the priests in world send a message to their 1.5 billion believers that Jews are not haters of Christianity."


Holy Land mourns Pope – April 3, 2005

Jerusalem Post - About 150 worshipers, most of them Palestinians, joined by a few pilgrims, gathered at the Church of the Nativity in Jesus' birthplace, the West Bank town of Bethlehem, to celebrate special masses. According to AFP, other services were held throughout Israel and the Palestinian territories including in Nazareth where flags were flown at half-mast.


Catholics participate in a mass in honor of the Pope, at St. Saviour's Catholic Church in the Old City of Jerusalem
Photo: AP


Speaking at a service in Nazareth's Basilica of the Annunciation, Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah, the Vatican's senior representative in the Holy Land, told hundreds of participants that John Paul's desire for inter-faith reconciliation had been one of the major themes of his papacy. "We in the Holy Land remember him as a pontiff who raised his voice repeatedly for justice and peace," said Sabbah who is himself Palestinian.

Earlier, Israel expressed "deep sorrow" at the passing of Pope John Paul II, who in 1986 referred to the Jewish people as "our elder brothers."


Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom will represent the government at the funeral of the Pope, with President Moshe Katsav waiting for word from the Vatican regarding protocol issues before deciding whether to represent the State of Israel. A government official said that if the Vatican would allow both heads of state and representatives of government to attend, then it is likely that Katsav will also take part in the funeral.


Although no date has been finalized, the funeral is expected to take place either Wednesday or Thursday.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opened up the weekly cabinet meeting with words of praise for the pope, saying that he was a "man of peace and a friend of the Jewish people who was familiar with the uniqueness of the Jewish People and who worked for a historic reconciliation between the peoples and for the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and the Vatican in late 1993."


Hundreds attend mass in honor of Pope John Paul II in Nazareth
Photo: Channel 1


John Paul's body is to be transferred from the Apostolic Palace to St. Peter's Basilica for public viewing on Monday afternoon. The Vatican said in a statement that its museums and offices would remain closed Monday in a sign of mourning. Also Monday, the first preparatory meeting of the College of Cardinals - the red-capped "princes of the church" who now officially govern the 1 billion-strong Roman Catholic Church - was scheduled to take place.


This is not the conclave to elect the pope, but rather a series of preparatory meetings that will decide dates for when the conclave will begin and the rites surrounding John Paul's funeral and burial. The Vatican said the funeral was expected between Wednesday and Friday. The conclave must begin between 15 and 20 days from the pope's death. The cardinals will also read John Paul's final instructions, including his choice of burial place. Most popes in recent centuries have asked to be buried in the crypts below St. Peter's Basilica, but some have suggested the first Polish-born pope might have chosen to be laid to rest in his native country.


The Tikkun Olam Pope – April 3, 2005

Jerusalem Post - Like other outstanding spiritual and political leaders, Karol Wojtyla began his career as an actor.

 Born with a talent for communication, an overpowering sensitivity and empathy for the human condition, steeped in a deeply religious Polish Catholic environment but surrounded by Jewish friends and classmates, he consequently embraced the moral imperative of transforming consciences according to his faith.


Pope at Yad Vashem: Photo: GPO


Indelibly branded spiritually by the Holocaust, by World War II and communist tyranny, he embraced his mission fervently as an opportunity to help heal the world. He might well go down in Jewish history as the Tikkun Olam Pope. An episode stands out in the rush of film clips the Italian media have spliced together, making a statement on his unswerving and radical values that have never bent to circumstances. During a speech in the 1980s in Agrigento, a fiery pope spewed forth with the fury of a Biblical prophet against Mafia men who humiliate and destroy the love of life so characteristic of Sicilians. The energy of his words revealed his physical and mental stamina and the motivation that has enabled him to survive the wounds of a near-mortal attack and a series of operations and illnesses with total lucidity and determination.


This same energy was the source of his gentleness and tenderness in his endless personal encounters with the sick, the poor, the suffering and with youth.

A vision of human dignity and respect for the sanctity of life based on the biblical statement that humankind was created in the image of its creator made John Paul II not only a wielder of religious and political transformations, but also a man of dialogue with Judaism first, and secondly with other world religions. He willfully served as an enemy of all totalitarian ideologies and as a catalyst for the fall of communism in Eastern Europe.


A master of the use of symbolism, John Paul II systematically paved a path toward reversing a 2,000-year Christian tradition of theological anti-Judaism that was an underlying agent for European anti-Semitism. During his first trip abroad, he visited Auschwitz. Stopping at the inscriptions listing the numbers of victims, he said, "No one can pass by here with indifference." While his theological positions have sometimes clashed with Jewish sensitivities (such as his reference to Auschwitz as a "Golgotha" of the Jews, implying that Jews were sacrificial victims of salvation rather than simply victims of evil), his intent of restoring full dignity to the Jewish people, religion and land, developed a steady crescendo throughout his papacy.


He furthered two soul-searching International Theological Colloquiums in the context of the Jubilee Year – one on "Anti-Judaism in the Christian Milieu" and another on "The Inquisitions." They provided the basis for the requests for pardon for "the errors of sons and daughters of the Church" commemorated at the Vatican just before John Paul II's trip to Israel in 2000. During his Pontificate, several important documents on relations with Jews have been promulgated by the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with Jews.


It was his respect for Jewish sensitivity that led him in 1989 to intervene with a personal request to the Carmelite nuns in Auschwitz to transfer their convent out of the Nazi concentration camp. He himself had helped set up the foundation, The Church that Suffers, which helped finance the building of the convent, but when he understood the Jewish perception that the nuns' presence there, as well as a huge, neighboring cross, was "Christianizing" the memory of a genocide whose Jewish victims comprise approximately 90 percent of the total, he took the unprecedented measure.


John Paul II received streams of visits by countless Jewish delegations representing the world's major Jewish organizations, and he never failed to meet with local Jewish communities during his endless travels. No pope before him had ventured to bestow such significance on Catholic-Jewish relations. His visit to the Rome Main Synagogue on April 13, 1986 – the first such visit in history – was carefully planned to give both religious authorities equal space, despite the clear imbalance of their numeric following. After the initial embrace, Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff sat in an armchair side-by-side with Pope John Paul II.


A half-year after the pope's visit to the synagogue, he called for the first Interreligious World Prayer Day for Peace in Assisi. Separate but simultaneous delegations – Christian denominations, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Zoroastrians, Native religions, the Jains – offered their prayers for peace. This was another landmark in a universal dialogue for peace undertaken by the Polish pope.


The visual impact of John Paul II's visit to Israel has become iconic. The slow steps of a bent, white-cloaked pope advancing toward the Western Wall, the trembling hand slipping a written prayer into a crack, requesting forgiveness for the responsibilities of the church for the suffering of the Jewish people (from which he had tactfully eliminated the sentence, "in the Name of Christ our Lord", pronounced earlier during the Jubilee Year Day for Pardon in the Vatican) and the filmed ceremony at Yad Vashem have all contributed to promoting a more positive image of Jews among Catholics.


In 1992, Pope John Paul II proclaimed that "anti-Semitism is a sin against God and against man." Quite a contrast to when "Nostra Aetate" timidly stated that the Church "deplores" anti-Semitism but "not for political reasons" in 1965 or even before that, when official Vatican media published openly disdainful and even anti-Semitic articles.

And during the same years, Karol Wojtyla in Poland moved against the anti-Judaic culture of Catholicism. A well-known episode is the story of how, at war's end, Priest Karol Wojtyla of Krakow advised a Polish Catholic woman who had hidden a Jewish child to seek survivors of his family rather than adopt him and convert him to Christianity. That happened during the same period that Pius XII issued orders in France to keep baptized, or even unbaptized, Jewish children saved in convents and monasteries from joining Jewish relatives or institutions.


John Paul II's efforts to establish respectful religious relations with Jews and to combat anti-Semitism have gone hand-in-hand with efforts to reach out to Israel.

His recognition of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state have been consistent and balanced by his recognition of the rights of Palestinians to coexist in a state next to Israel. While the Vatican's first mention of "the State" of Israel dates back to October 1977 in a letter from Paul VI to then president Ephraim Katzir requesting the release of Hilarion Capucci held in an Israeli prison for arms-smuggling, the term was not used again officially until John Paul II's 1984 Apostolic Letter Redemptionis Anno in which he invoked for the "State of Israel" "a desired security and just tranquillity for the Jewish people, who in that land preserve such precious witness of their history and their faith." Had it not been for the Vatican Secretariat of State's fears for Christian minorities in Arab countries, the pope would have likely agreed to diplomatic ties between Israel and the Vatican long before the signing of the Fundamental Agreement on December 30, 1993.


While Israel and the PLO were negotiating in Madrid, the Vatican opened talks for diplomatic ties with the PLO. For the past few days, Jews all over the world have been thinking of the pope with warmth, and many have been praying for his recovery. The Rome Jewish Community has lived across the Tiber from the Vatican for 2000 years. The morning after the sudden worsening of the pope's health, Rome's chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, led a delegation of Roman Jews to St. Peter's Square where they chanted psalms for the pope's recovery. Later, during a press conference called at the synagogue just before Shabbat, Di Segni said "psalms belong to both of our traditions and are a very strong expression of prayer. Let's hope the pope's strong fiber will help him overcome even this crisis."


He spoke of the salient moments of this papacy in Catholic-Jewish relations and praised the pope for his commitment to "systematically promoting studies on Jewish-Catholic relations" and "creating a greatly improved atmosphere of dialogue, even if our theological positions retain their differences, albeit with mutual respect."

A precedent had been set on the eve of John XXIII's death, Di Segni recalled. At that time, Chief Rabbi Elio Toaff prayed at St. Peter's with three other Roman Jewish leaders. A more recent, international precedent took place last month during John Paul II's stay at the Gemelli Hospital. Approximately 30 rabbinical members of the World Union of Progressive Judaism led by Rabbis Mark Winer and Uri Regev gathered at the hospital's entrance to pray for him.

The silence of his absence will be very loud indeed.


Iran: Pope was too close to 'evil' Jews - State-run media slams John Paul for being 'compromised' by 'Zionist regime' – April 6, 2005
JERUSALEM (WorldNetDaily) – Iran's government-sponsored media yesterday blasted Pope John Paul II for what it perceived as his closeness with Israel and the Jewish people, saying Israel should be considered an enemy of the church and not just of the Tehran regime. "Not only did the pope never condemn the crimes of the 'Zionist regime' in the territories, the Vatican officially recognized its existence," the official Jomhuri Islami newspaper said in an editorial.


The paper claimed the worldwide expansion of Islam had been "a constant worry" for a pope who had been "compromised [by] the 'Zionist regime.'" Another Iranian newspaper, Hamshahri, accused John Paul of "[caving] in to pressure from the Jewish lobby" despite "Jewish responsibility for the death of Christ." Arab leaders have in the past expressed mixed feelings about the pontiff, who frequented the Middle East and was credited for galvanizing Christian minority communities in several Mideast countries, including Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Israel and the Palestinian areas between 1997 and 2001.


Egypt's Copts used John Paul's visits in part to demand equal rights and an end to targeted violence against their community. Copts, who constitute between 8 and 15 percent of Egypt's population, have long clashed with Muslim extremists. Analysts say Syrian and pro-Damascus Lebanese leaders were uneasy about the pontiff reaching out to Lebanon's large Maronite Catholic minority. Lebanese Christians and Muslims fought in the 1975-90 civil war. In 1995, John Paul invited Lebanese bishops to the Vatican where they called on Syria to withdraw its nearly 20,000 troops from their country.


And the pope was blasted by Arab leaders when he traveled to Israel on a millennium pilgrimage, meeting survivors of the Nazi Holocaust at the Yad Vashem museum in Jerusalem and putting a prayer note into the Western Wall. But some Muslims have praised John Paul's outreach to the Islamic world. In 2001, he became the first pope to enter a Muslim place of worship, visiting the revered Omayyad Mosque in Damascus. He also met with leaders of Syria's non-Catholic churches.


Although Israel and the Vatican have in the past had a stormy relationship, with many faulting Pope Pius XXII for not speaking out against Nazi war crimes, Israeli figures yesterday praised Pope John Paul II as a principled religious leader whose efforts helped bring Jews and Catholics together. Many pointed to his visit to the Holy Land in 2000 as an historic reconciliation between the two faiths. "[The pope was] a man of peace, a friend of the Jewish people. ... The world has lost one of the most important leaders of our time," said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.


Former Chief Israeli Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau said, "With the exception of John XXIII, there has never been as pro-Jewish a pope as John Paul II. In addition to his contribution to the fall of communism and the crumbling of the iron curtain – something that allowed hundreds of thousands of Jews to return to their heritage and even come to Israel – we must remember that the pope contributed to combating anti-Semitism in 120 countries he visited."


Meanwhile, alongside Iranian media criticisms, Iran's President Mohammed Khatami Monday described the pontiff as "a disciple of religious mysticism, philosophic deliberation and thought, and artistic and poetic creativity." Khatami said he felt a sense of "loss" from the pope's death, and recalled meeting with the pope in 1999 in the Vatican and talking about "world politics and (international) cooperation." Iran's anti-Israel eulogy of the pope has some concerned.


As the U.S. and Israel work to increase international pressure regarding Iran's nuclear ambitions, many are worried the Tehran regime might use pressure tactics against its Jewish community to ward off any upcoming action against Iran's suspected nuclear facilities. Iran has recently been increasing the level of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement broadcast on its state-controlled media, monitors say. A television series ran in Iran in January depicting "evil" Jews eagerly stoning crucified Christians during the decline of the Roman Empire. The series, translated by Palestinian Media Watch, shows "stereotypically evil-looking Jews wearing prayer shawls who notice Christian crucifixions and bribe a Roman officer to permit them to stone Christians," reported PMW.


The Life of John Paul II


Pope set example of how to live, die – April 3, 2005

VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul, a dynamic preacher who travelled the world, battled communism and proclaimed his moral code, set an example of how to live life. In his later years, crushed by sickness that slowed his vigorous gait and silenced his powerful voice, he became an example of how to suffer and how to die. As he hovered near death, his system failing, he refused to go to the hospital, preferring to remain in his Vatican apartment with his closest aides at his beside. Medical experts said hospitalization would not have significantly prolonged his life.


Pope John Paul II rests during his vacation in the Italian Alps, in this picture released by the Vatican on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2000. CREDIT: Arturo Mari, The Associated Press


The Vatican secretary of state, Angelo Cardinal Sodano, celebrated mass for the repose of John Paul's soul Sunday on the steps of St. Peter's Basilica, calling on the tens of thousands of people gathered there to pray for "our beloved John Paul."

"We entrust with confidence to the risen Christ, Lord of life and history, our beloved John Paul II who for 27 years guided the universal church as the successor of Peter," he said. John Paul had often warned against a modern world that preferred to ignore its elderly, seeing them as useless appendages of society. Many said his persistence to stay on his job -- even travel -- set a wonderful example for the sick and the ailing. The Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-travelled pope, died Saturday in his Vatican apartment. He was 84. "The angels welcome you," Vatican TV said after the announcement came from papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. "The Holy Father, John Paul II, died at 9:37 p.m. (1937GMT) in his private apartment. All procedures foreseen in the Apostolic Constitution `Universi Dominici Gregis,' promulgated by John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996, have been activated," said his statement, which was distributed to journalists via e-mail. The statement did not give a precise cause of death.


John Paul died as cardinals led some 70,000 people at St. Peter's Square in prayers for him on his "last journey." Bells tolled at the Vatican and across Rome, and Vatican, Italian and European Union flags were lowered to half-mast across the capital. The Vatican said the ancient ritual of the confirmation of the death and the certification of death was carried out at 9:30 a.m. Sunday. The Pope's body went on display for church and government officials at the Vatican's Apostolic Palace on Sunday. Vatican television showed the remains of the 84-year-old pontiff clad in crimson vestments with a white miter. Among the mourners were Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Vatican clerics.


On Monday around 5 p.m., the body will be transferred to St. Peter's Basilica for public viewing. The College of Cardinals is to meet at 10 a.m. Monday in its first gathering before a secret election to be held later this month to choose a successor to John Paul. The cardinals were expected to set a date for his funeral, which the Vatican said was expected between Wednesday and Friday. Cardinals from around the world headed to Rome. After the official mourning period for a pope, cardinals hold a secret vote in the Sistine Chapel to choose a successor. Under Vatican tradition, the process will begin within 20 days. As Sunday's mass at St. Peter's got under way, Camillo Cardinal Ruini, the late Pope's vicar for Rome, issued a statement formally announcing John Paul's death to the people of Rome, in keeping with Vatican tradition, Italy's ANSA news agency reported. The Pope died after suffering heart and kidney failure following two hospitalizations in as many months. Just a few hours earlier, the Vatican had said he was in "very serious" condition but responded to members of the papal household. Sodano, the Vatican No. 2 official, immediately led the tearful crowd in St. Peter's Square in prayers for the dead Pope.


The announcement to the square, by Undersecretary of State Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, silenced the huge crowd. The people seemed stunned. A few minutes later, some people broke into applause in appreciation for the Pope -- an Italian tradition in which mourners often clap for important figures. Others wept. "Dearest brothers and sisters, at 9:37 p.m. the Holy Father returned to the house of the Father," Sandri said. "We all feel like orphans this evening." A few people started streaming out of the square, but other stayed and stared at the Pope's windows, where the light still burned.


Prelates invited the faithful in the square to keep silent so they might "accompany the Pope in his first steps into heaven." After the crowd started recovering from stunned silence, a group of youths started singing, "Allelujah, he will rise again," while one of them strummed a guitar. Later, pilgrims joined in singing the "Ave Maria."

"I'm Polish. For us, he was a father," said pilgrim Beata Sowa. From his surprise election in 1978, John Paul travelled the world frequently, staunchly opposing communism in his native Poland and across the Soviet bloc and preaching against rampant consumerism, contraception and abortion.


A fierce enemy of communism, he set off the sparks that helped bring down communism in Poland, from where a virtual revolution spread across the Soviet bloc. Former Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev said much of the credit belonged to John Paul. John Paul was a robust 58 when the cardinals stunned the world and elected the cardinal from Krakow, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years. He survived a 1981 assassination attempt, when a Turkish gunman shot him in the abdomen.

In his later years, John Paul was the picture of frailty, weighed down by Parkinson's disease and crippling knee and hip ailments. Although he continued his travels, he was too weak to continue his famous gesture of kissing the ground when he arrived at his destinations.


Hospitalized twice in the past two months after breathing crises, and fitted with a breathing tube and a feeding tube, John Paul had become a picture of suffering. He was reported to have had a fever Thursday night, which the Vatican blamed on a urinary tract infection that later led to the heart and kidney failure. John Paul's death set in motion centuries of tradition that mark the death of a pope. The Vatican chamberlain formally verified the death, which in the past was done by tapping a pope's forehead three times with a silver hammer. The Vatican summoned the College of Cardinals, and the Vatican chamberlain destroyed the symbols of the pope's authority: his fisherman's ring and dies used to make lead seals for apostolic letters.


John Paul's funeral will be held within four to six days. The Vatican has declined to say whether he left instructions for his funeral or burial. Most popes in recent centuries have asked to be buried in the crypts below St. Peter's Basilica, but some have suggested the first Polish-born pope might have chosen to be laid to rest in his native country. With the constitution Navarro-Valls cited in the death announcement, John Paul revised the rules for the secret election that would determine his successor.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi declared three days of mourning. The Il Secolo XIX newspaper of Genoa reported that the Pope, with the help of his private secretary Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, had written a note to his aides urging them not to weep for him. "I am happy, and you should be as well," the note reportedly said. "Let us pray together with joy." Navarro-Valls said he couldn't confirm the report, even after speaking to the Pope's secretary.

In the Pope's hometown of Wadowice, Poland, people fell to their knees and wept at the news that the pontiff had died. Many of them learned of his death at the end of a special mass in the church where John Paul worshipped as a boy.


John Paul II:1978 – 2005 - Most traveled pope in history dies at 84 – April 2, 2005
World Net Daily – The announcement of his passing was distributed to journalists by e-mail. "The Holy Father died this evening at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) in his private apartment. All the procedures outlined in the apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis' that was written by John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996, have been put in motion," wrote papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. The pontiff's passing followed heart and kidney failure following two recent hospitalizations. He continued to be responsive to members of the papal household until hours before his death, the Vatican reports.

Pope John Paul II is dead at 84.


Karol Wojtyla is mourned today as the beloved pastor to 1 billion Catholics worldwide and a giant figure of the 20th century who helped defeat communism, advance human rights and affirm traditional moral values as they came under increasing attack. Born in Wadowice, Poland, near Krakow, he became the first non-Italian leader of the Catholic Church in 455 years in 1978. Catholics regarded him as the 264th successor of St. Peter, the disciple of Jesus. At age 58, he was the youngest pope for more than a century.


Wojtyla's father was a non-commissioned officer in the Polish army. His mother died in 1929, when he was 8 and his only sibling, a brother, died when Wojtyla was 12.

When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, the future pope left studies at the university in Krakow to escape death or deportation, taking up a job in a quarry. His father died in 1941, the only remaining member of his immediate family.


This is a 1983 file picture of Pope John Paul II. On Saturday, Bush praised the pope, calling him an inspiration. (AP photo)


Under Nazi occupation, Wojtyla studied secretly for the priesthood with the Krakow cardinal after the seminaries were closed.

He was ordained in 1946, at age 26, and became Poland's youngest bishop at 38. In 1964, he became Archbishop of Krakow. Three years later, Pope Paul VI made him a cardinal. On Oct. 16, 1978, Wojtyla was elected pope, beginning what became the third-longest pontificate in the Roman Catholic Church's history.


One of his legacies undoubtedly will be his worldwide travels, taking him to nearly 130 countries. More people are believed to have seen him in person than any other figure in world history. His 104 foreign trips have taken him the equivalent of 30 times around the circumference of the earth.

According to the Vatican website, in Italy alone, more than 17 million people have attended his weekly addresses since 1978.


His significant international impact began soon after election, when his mediation helped prevent a war between Argentina and Chile. His opposition to communism is regarded as a key factor in the revolutions that swept Eastern Europe, including his homeland Poland, in the late 1980s. The pope supported the Solidarity labor movement that led to Poland's freedom from Soviet dominance, triggering a domino effect that eventually brought down every regime in the Soviet bloc.


John Paul II was President Reagan's "partner in the struggle against communism," said George Cecala, Catholic and Communications Director of, a group placing memorial ads in newspapers in remembrance of the pope. "He recognized the brutal nature of the totalitarian system and saw the power of faith as the means to free people from its grip," Cecala said. "Truly, his eminence was freedom's friend and an advocate for peaceful solutions to problems ailing mankind."


Solidarity movement founder Lech Walesa recalled the power of John Paul's 1979 visit to Warsaw when the pope ended Mass with the words that became a rallying cry, to "renew the face of the Earth." "We know what the pope has achieved. Fifty percent of the collapse of communism is his doing," Walesa told the Associated Press. "More than one year after he spoke these words, we were able to organize 10 million people for strikes, protests and negotiations. "Earlier we tried, I tried, and we couldn't do it. These are facts. Of course, communism would have fallen, but much later and in a bloody way. He was a gift from the heavens to us."


In 1981, John Paul survived an assassination attempt believed to have been engineered by communist Bulgaria and the Soviet Union. Later, he inspired the world when he met with the Turkish attacker, Mehmet Ali Agca, and offered forgiveness. In an Istanbul prison cell Friday, Agca said he was praying for his "brother," according to his lawyer, the Times of London reported. The pontiff also became known for addressing age-old divisions and for urging wealthy nations to aid the poor and hungry. In March 2000, he visited the Holy Land where he left a personal note in a crack in the Western Wall, asking Jews to forgive the church's past sins against them.


Some of his 14 encyclicals – authoritative papal writings – stirred controversy both within and outside the church as he firmly held fast to opposition to premarital sex, abortion, female priests and marriage for priests. Many Catholic scholars believe his unwavering stance on moral issues saved the church from the dramatic loss of membership experienced by U.S. mainline Protestant denominations, which have moved with cultural tides on issues such as homosexuality. One of the leading Catholic lay groups opposed to John Paul on many issues, such as female priests and homosexuality, nevertheless, praised him Friday him as a pope who left "an indelible mark on the history of recent decades." "His uncompromising calls for justice and peace continued the tradition of papal challenge to power and wealth," said Linda Pieczynski, national spokeswomon for Call to Action.


But Pieczynski said "within the Roman Catholic Church his reign was characterized by Vatican domination of church government and procedure. Ina a time of frequent turmoil and uncertainty the Catholic Church has unquestionably been helped by his strength and deep personal piety, but some its energy and creativity have also been limited by the authoritative culture of the Vatican during recent decades." She hoped the new pope would fulfill the "progressive mandate of Vatican II and with fearless openness to 'the signs of the times.'"


President Reagan's 'partner in the struggle against communism.'


Church historian Eamon Duffy observes that in judging John Paul's legacy, critics and admirers likely will cite the same evidence. Writing in the international Catholic weekly newspaper The Tablet, Duffy said, "The tireless journeys which have made him the best-known face on the planet seem to some the self-immolation of a man consumed with evangelistic zeal and pastoral concern for all mankind – Peter strengthening his brethren."


He added: "To others, they have distorted a healthy church order by the cult of celebrity, focusing the church round a consummate populist, reviving an essentially 19th-century ultramontane understanding of the pope as absolute, and in the process infantilizing the laity and marginalizing the bishops." In recent years, the pope has received criticism from across the ideological spectrum for not doing enough to address the devastating priest abuse scandal. In his youth, Wojtyla was known as "God's athlete, but in 1993, he began showing signs of Parkinson's disease, eventually impairing his speech and posture. His health took a turn for the worse earlier this year, and Feb. 24 he underwent throat surgery, the beginning of a sharp decline. Yet in his final weeks, his suffering also became a source of inspiration and teaching, as many saw in him a demonstration of the grace of Christ.


Chronology of the life of Pope John Paul – April 2, 2005
A chronology of events in the life of Pope John Paul:

May 18, 1920: Born Karol Joseph Wojtyla in Wadowice, Poland.

June 20, 1920: Baptized by P. Franciszek Zak, a military chaplain.

Sept. 15, 1926: Starts elementary school for boys.

April 13, 1929: His mother dies.

June 1930: Admitted to Marcin Wadowita, state secondary school for boys.

Dec. 5, 1932: His brother Edmund dies.

1934-1938: Performs in student theatre in Wadowice.

May 1938: Receives the sacrament of confirmation.

June 22, 1938: Enrols in the philosophy faculty at Jagiellonian University, Krakow.

July 1939: Attends university military training for Polish and Ukrainian students.

Nov. 1, 1940: Earns a living as a stone cutter in a quarry near Krakow, forestalling deportation and imprisonment.

October 1942: Begins clandestine studies for the priesthood in Krakow's underground seminary; registers in the theology faculty at Jagiellonian University.

August 1943: Archbishop Adam Stefan Sapieha transfers him and other clandestine seminarians to the archbishop's residence. He remains there until the end of the war.

Nov. 1, 1946: Ordained a priest.

Nov. 2, 1946: Celebrates his first mass in the crypt of St. Leonard at Wavel, Poland.

Nov. 15, 1946: Leaves Poland to begin studies in Rome.

July 8, 1948: Sent as assistant pastor to Niegowic near Gdow, Poland.

August 1949: Recalled to Krakow to be assistant pastor at St. Florian's.

July 4, 1958: Appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow.

Sept. 28, 1958: Ordained bishop in Wavel Cathedral.

October-December 1962: Participates in the first session of the Second Vatican Council.

October-December 1963: Participates in the second session of the Second Vatican Council.

March 8, 1964: Installed as metropolitan bishop of Krakow.

September-November 1964: Participates in the third session of the Second Vatican Council.

September-December 1965: Participates in fourth session and closing of the Second Vatican Council.

June 28, 1967: Consecrated cardinal in the Sistine Chapel by Pope Paul VI.

July-August 1969: Tours Canada.

July 23-Sept. 5, 1976: Visits the United States and Canada.

Aug. 11-12, 1978: Attends funeral of Pope Paul VI.

Oct. 3-4, 1978: Attends funeral of Pope John Paul I.

Oct. 16, 1978: Elected Pope by cardinals. He is the first Polish pope ever and the first non-Italian one in 455 years.

Jan. 25, 1979: First trip abroad as Pope, to Dominican Republic, Mexico, Bahamas.

June 2, 1979: First trip back to Poland as Pope.

Sept. 29, 1979: Travels to Ireland and United States.

May 13, 1981: Shot in abdomen by Turkish extremist in St. Peter's Square.

Sept. 9-20, 1984: First papal visit to Canada.

April 13, 1986: Makes historic visit to Rome's main synagogue.

Sept. 20, 1987: Makes a five-hour visit to Fort Simpson, N.W.T., during a U.S. trip to honour a promise he made when his 1984 visit to the hamlet was cancelled by fog.

Dec. 1, 1989: Meets with Mikhail Gorbachev at Vatican, first ever meeting between a pope and a Kremlin chief. Establishes diplomatic ties between Vatican and Russia.

May 1, 1991: Issues first encyclical on social issues since the fall of communism in Europe, giving qualified approval to capitalism but warning the rich against exploiting the poor.

July 15, 1992: Operation for benign tumour on colon.

Oct. 31, 1992: Formally declares the church erred in condemning Galileo.

Oct. 5, 1993: Issues encyclical Splendour of Truth, major statement defending absolute morals against liberal theologians.

Nov. 11, 1993: Dislocates right shoulder in fall down steps at Vatican event, requiring surgery.

Dec. 30, 1993: Agreement signed establishing formal ties between Vatican and Israel.

April 29, 1994: Breaks leg in fall and undergoes hip replacement surgery.

Oct. 19, 1994: His book, Beyond the Threshold of Hope, is published.

Oct. 8, 1996: Surgery to remove appendix.

March 1, 1999: Vatican confirms that the Pope has waived the five-year waiting period and begun beatification process for Mother Teresa.

March 20-26, 2000: Makes first trip as Pope to Holy Land, expresses sorrow for suffering of Jews at Christian hands in note left at Jerusalem's Western Wall.

Sept. 11, 2001: Condemns ``unspeakable horror'' of Sept. 11 attacks.

April 23, 2002: Meets with U.S. cardinals to discuss sex abuse scandal; says there is no place in priesthood for clerics who abuse young.

July 23-29, 2002: Visits Toronto to preside over World Youth Day, a gathering of hundreds of thousands of Catholics from around the world.

Feb. 14, 2003: Receives Iraqi deputy prime minister Tariq Aziz on eve of war.

June 5-9, 2003: Makes 100th foreign trip, visiting Croatia.

July 31, 2003: Vatican launches global campaign against gay marriages.

Feb. 1, 2005: Pope urgently hospitalized with breathing problems.

Feb. 10, 2005: Discharged from hospital.

Feb. 23, 2005: His fifth book, Memory and Identity, is released in Italy.

Feb. 24, 2005: Rushed back to hospital with flu-like symptoms, undergoes operation to insert a tube in his throat to relieve breathing problems.

March 13, 2005: Discharged from hospital, hours after his first public appearance since Feb. 24.

March 27, 2005: Appears in public on Easter. Tries to speak but fails.

March 30, 2005: Vatican says a feeding tube has been inserted in John Paul's nose to help him recover his strength.

April 2, 2005: Pope John Paul II dies at 9:37 p.m. Rome time. 


Statistics on Pope John Paul's pontificate – April 2, 2005

Some achievements of Pope John Paul:

·         -Visited 129 countries in 104 foreign visits, making him most travelled pope. Covered 1.16 million kilometres, which is about 30 times around the globe or three times to the moon.

·         Issued 14 encyclicals, 15 apostolic exhortations, 11 apostolic constitutions and 44 apostolic letters and delivered 2,416 planned speeches during his foreign trips.

·         Beatified 1,338 people in 147 ceremonies and canonized 482 people in 51 ceremonies, more than all his predecessors over the past 500 years combined.

·         Convened nine consistories and installed 232 cardinals; ordained 321 bishops; baptized 687 children and 814 adults.

·         Held 1,161 general audiences, attended by over 17.6 million people.

·         Visited 317 of Rome's 333 parishes in his capacity as bishop of Rome.

·         Held 38 official visits with heads of state and more than 982 audiences and meetings with political figures, of which 737 were audiences or other meetings with heads of state and 245 were meetings or audiences with prime ministers.

·         Was the third longest-serving pontiff, at 26 years, five months, 17 days. Popes who served longer were St. Peter, the first pope, who served from AD 30 to 64 or 67, for a total of 34 or 37 years; and Pope Pius IX, who served 31 years, seven months, 22 days, until Feb. 7, 1878.

·         Published four books as pope: Beyond the Threshold of Hope, (1994); the autobiography Gift and Mystery (1996); and a book of poetry Roman Triptych, (2003), Get Up, Let Us Go, (2004). A fifth book, Memory and Identity, was published in early 2005.


Veteran reporter recalls high moments on papal travels – April 8, 2005 - The election of Karol Cardinal Wojtyla of Krakow and his accession to the Throne of Peter as Pope John Paul surprised the world, perhaps even himself and most certainly the media experts known as Vaticanisti. For journalists like me who travelled with him on many pastoral visits to his flock scattered around the globe, he continued to be full of surprises. Travelling with John Paul one might encounter an American movie star or a communist head of state, might see the joy on a Nigerian's face after the papal ordination of priests from his tribe, might listen to Polish students serenading the Pope and hear him join right in. On John Paul's travels, history continually mixed with his hearty humanity.


His first trip outside the Vatican as Pope was in early 1979 to Mexico, which for more than half a century was ruled by vehemently anti-clerical governments. Under pain of prison, nuns were forbidden to wear habits and priests could not appear in a cassock and Roman collar outside what church property had not already been confiscated by the government. But when hundreds of bishops and priests began arriving at Mexico City airport from other countries in clerical garb, the local clergy took courage from some of the first words the new Pope had uttered from St. Peter's balcony: "Be not afraid." They suddenly appeared on the streets in full religious regalia -- "prayerfully defiant," as my college classmate Bishop John McGann from Brooklyn quipped -- and the government did nothing. Except for some police, who cautiously blessed themselves when the Pope passed, just as police did some years later when John Paul set foot in former altar boy Fidel Castro's Cuba.


And a Communist government did nothing, except cut off the promised transportation, when two million Poles, most of them on foot, climbed Santa Ana Mountain to greet the shepherd born among them and to cheer wildly, again defiantly, whenever Solidarity banners were raised. Small wonder Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski's hands were trembling and his knees were knocking when the Pope came calling on the Polish leader at the Belweder Palace.


At an outdoor mass in Managua, Nicaragua, against an altar backdrop without a crucifix but decorated with Marxist revolutionary heroes, the Pope was interrupted by Sandinista hecklers whom we had heard practising as they unloaded from government trucks and buses. John Paul responded with a thunderous, "SILENCIO!"

In most places where the Al Italia plane designated Shepherd One landed, the streets were decorated with Vatican flags and posters of a smiling John Paul. In Port-au-Prince, Haiti, every lamppost bore the stern image of dictator Jean-Claude (Baby Doc) Duvalier. The Pope delivered a stinging blast against mass starvation and "voodoo terror."

In time, Baby Doc would be gone, as would the Berlin Wall and European communism. Here was a Pope, no matter how you reckoned the outcome, who commanded attention and often affection. The day before he made his first papal visit to the United States, John Paul presided at a youth rally at a racetrack in Galway, Ireland. As in many lands, church attendance by young people was in serious decline in overwhelmingly Catholic Ireland. Yet thousands upon thousands of adolescents had camped out all night in a chilling rain awaiting the drone of his helicopter. Scenes like these, often orchestrated by heavy metal rock hymns, were to be repeated and greatly enlarged every two years with massive youth rallies in Denver, Toronto, Paris, Rome, and elsewhere. Every trip featured a youth event. In New York's Madison Square Garden, basketball cheerleaders from a high school in Harlem waved pompoms and greeted him with a rousing: "Rack 'em up, stack 'em up, bust 'em in two, Holy Father, we're for you."


Even as he grew frail, young people still related to him -- and he could even stand their music. On his many trips back to Poland, youngsters gathered outside his bedroom window late into the night singing and strumming guitars. Then he would come out on his balcony, once or twice squeezing an accordion, and we in the press corps knew it would be hours before we got back to our hotel.


Every city visited had its own surprises.  In London, on the way to Buckingham Palace, the papal entourage passed a West End theatre where the marquee announced The Jeweller's Shop, the revival of a play written by the young Father Wojtyla. What other pope had ever written a hit play, not to mention poetry and bestselling books? But then, what other pope had ever called on the Queen and been barked at by her two corgis? When Shepherd One landed at Monterey, Calif., the Pope was met by an old acquaintance, Mayor Clint Eastwood of Carmel. They used to chat about acting and theatre when he was a priest in Rome studying for a doctorate in theology and Eastwood was hefting a .45 in Sergio Leone's spaghetti westerns. A nun handed me a T-shirt with a portrait of Dirty Harry over gothic lettering that proclaimed THOU HAST MADE MY DAY.


For the Pope's visit to the Holy Land, journalists were required to have three different sets of credentials to cover events. We needed Jordanian accreditation. We wore Palestinian press passes to cover the Pope's mass in Manger Square, Bethlehem, where Yasser Arafat sat in the front row clutching a copy of the Qur'an, and later to visit the refugee camp where all the children wore Arafat T-shirts denouncing the Israeli occupation. Then Israeli press pool passes were required for that unforgettable moment when the Pope inserted a prayer for reconciliation in the Wailing Wall.


We never learned whether John Paul was amused or annoyed by the papal schlock peddled wherever he went: beer mugs, T-shirts, tall paper hats with his effigy. In St. Louis, ice cream vendors flogged "pope-sicles." In Miami, lawn sprinklers with a robed figure waving an arm were marketed under the brand name "Let Us Spray." New Orleans portable toilets were dubbed "pope johns" and "vati-cans." A tattoo artist in Baltimore permanently imprinted a John Paul profile on willing pilgrims. 


When we reached Edmonton on a 12-day cross-Canada trip, the Vatican announced the Pope would relax for a day, but declined to say how or where. Figuring he might go hiking, I sat in my hotel room dialing every national park within helicopter range. Most were closed for the season, but the golf shop at Jasper answered. "Excuse a dumb question," I began, "but could the Pope possibly be nearby?" The pro gave me a page 1 answer: "Usually at this time of year golfers come running in saying they saw a grizzly. Now they're seeing the Pope." He was shadowed by two Mounties with high powered rifles. 


At Ibadan in Nigeria, we saw the Pope ordain 99 new priests. On the way back to Lagos, the capital, the motorcycle cop escorting the press bus did handstands on the handlebars. At the hotel I asked him why he had treated us to such thrilling entertainment."I was celebrating," he replied. "A chief in our tribe is now a priest."

Many an American bishop would do handstands to ordain 20 priests in one year. John Paul by his many trips to Africa may have been providing an escort for future popes into a promised land of growing Catholicism.

But we who have travelled the world in the path of the popemobile wonder if any future pope will be seen in person by so many people in so many places.

In four decades as an AP reporter I got to China and Russia with one U.S. president and watched another ride horseback with the Queen. I attended a royal wedding and the funeral of a princess. I interviewed heads of state and any number of generals in Vietnam, Ulster and the Middle East. And I made 28 trips with Pope John Paul.

He was different. There was an essential humanity and sincerity about him; and he never watered down his remarks to win popularity. He remains in memory as the most popular and most respected figure I encountered in all my meanderings about the globe.


Man Who Shot Pope Says He Is Mourning – April 4, 2005

Pope John Paul had met Mehmet Ali Agca in 1983, two years after he had tried to kill him.
 ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot and seriously wounded Pope John Paul II in 1981, said from his Turkish prison Monday that he was mourning the death of his ``spiritual brother'' and wanted to attend his funeral.


Pope John Paul had met Mehmet Ali Agca in 1983, two years after he had tried to kill him. AP Photo


Agca's lawyer Mustafa Demirag said he would put the request to prosecutors Tuesday but admitted there was little chance Turkey would allow a maximum-security prisoner to attend the funeral of a man whom he had shot. ``We don't have much hope,'' Demirag said.


In a written statement in Italian faxed to The Associated Press through his lawyers, Agca repeated his claim that he was the messiah and that he was writing ``the true perfect bible.'' He signed off the letter: ``Mehmet Ali Agca, the messiah servant.'' The wording of the letter suggested once more that Agca may be unstable. ``I participate in the mourning of my Christian Catholic people,'' Agca said in the letter in which he referred to the pope as ``my spiritual brother.''


Demirag said he met with Agca on Monday morning in his cell in Istanbul's Kartal prison. He quoted Agca as saying: ``I must be there. I must attend the funeral. If I can't go, then someone from my family should go.''  The pope, who died Saturday, met with Agca in an Italian prison in 1983 and forgave him for the shooting. The pontiff had also received Agca's relatives several times in recent years, meeting his mother in 1987 and his brother in 1997.


Agca was extradited to Turkey in 2000 after almost 20 years behind bars in Italy. He is serving a 17-year prison sentence in Istanbul for earlier crimes in Turkey.

Agca has given conflicting reasons for his 1981 assassination attempt and has sometimes suggested his actions were part of God's plan. ``The divine plan has come to its conclusion,'' Agca said in his handwritten letter.


Despite denials by former Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev, suspicions linger that the Turk acted on behalf of the former Soviet bloc, which feared that the Polish-born pope would help trigger anti-communist revolts. The pope has long said he believed the hand of the Virgin Mary deflected Agca's bullet. Agca is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the 1979 murder of a prominent Turkish newspaper editor and an additional seven years for commandeering a taxi and an Istanbul robbery. Agca's attorneys claim he could be released from jail as early as this year because of recent changes to Turkish law, although it was unclear whether authorities would agree to free him.


World Pays Tribute to John Paul, `Hero for the Ages'  - April 3, 2005

(Bloomberg) -- Tributes to Pope John Paul II poured forth from world leaders from U.S. President George W. Bush to Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, saluting the passing of a man they all said had worked tirelessly for world peace. Ordinary people who said their lives were touched by the pontiff also paid their respects at memorial services and vigils around the globe.


Pope John Paul II died yesterday at the Vatican at age 84, after 26 years as head of the world's 1 billion Roman Catholics. ``The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd,'' Bush said in a nationally televised address from the White House. He described the pope as a ``a hero for the ages.'' United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the pope, ``a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the church itself.''


John Paul II died at 9:37 p.m. Rome time yesterday, the Vatican said. ``We all feel like orphans this evening,'' Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the Vatican's undersecretary of state, told a crowd of 70,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square below the pope's still-lighted apartment windows. Polish-born Karol Jozef Wojtyla was the first non-Italian pope in four centuries and the third-longest-serving pontiff. He made human rights a central focus of his papacy, especially in his homeland, where he supported the Solidarity movement that helped topple the communist regime.



``Poland and the Poles have a particular debt to the pope,'' said Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, himself once a minister in the communist regime that ruled Poland until 1989. ``Europe has changed beyond recognition and this would not have been possible without him. We are proud that one of the most exceptional people in the world was born on Polish soil.'' Kwasniewski spoke in a short speech at the presidential palace before lighting a candle beneath the pontiff's portrait. The pope's death prompted vigils in churches across the world. In the Philippines, Asia's only predominately Christian country, special masses were scheduled for the nation's 71 million Catholics. Pope John Paul touched the hearts of Filipinos in two visits to a country where a third of 86 million people live on 60 cents a day. His 1981 visit included a trip to Manila's slums.



``It is impossible not to be moved by his presence,'' said Czarina Villamar, 24, a government employee in Manila who saw John Paul II during his 1995 visit. ``He has this way of addressing a crowd that it seems he is talking only to you.'' In South Korea, home to 4.5 million Catholics, Myungdong Cathedral in Seoul tolled its bell after news of the pontiff's death. ``It's too sad for words,'' said Lee Sunjae, who attended early morning mass at the cathedral. ``I take comfort that he is released from his pain.''

Condolences in Asia also came from Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard praised the pope for helping free his native Poland, ``ultimately leading to the collapse of Soviet communism.''


Almost all the world leaders paying tribute to the pope had met him, either on trips to Rome or during his voyages to more than 130 countries. Bush met the pope for the third and final time last June in Rome, when the pope told him of his concern over the U.S. occupation of Iraq, which the Vatican opposed. Bush plans to attend the pope's funeral, two White House officials said, asking to remain unidentified.


`Peace and Justice'

Iran's President Mohammad Khatami was the first head of the Islamic Republic to meet the Pope in March 1999. John Paul was the first pope to visit mosques and synagogues. ``With his experience and knowledge, he spared no effort to make truth, peace and justice succeed,'' Khatami wrote in a letter to Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano that was posted on the Iranian president's website. ``We hope that the future leadership of the Catholic church will help promote a more prosperous and fair life in the world by maintaining dialogues between the different religious and political leaders, by following the teachings of Jesus Christ and by building on the ethical and humanitarian thinking of John Paul II,'' Khatami said. Besides opening up to non-Christians, John Paul also worked to bring the Catholic Church closer to other Christian faiths.


`Beloved Brother'

Orthodox Christians ``join in the grieving of our Roman Catholic brothers around the world,'' said the Istanbul-based Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians, who broke away in the 11th century. John Paul II was a ``beloved brother who envisioned the unity of Christians and worked to achieve it,'' the statement said, according to the Athens News Agency. French President Jacques Chirac said in a statement last night that he felt ``profound emotion'' at the pope's death. ``This mourning deeply marks France and all the French who identify with the message of the Catholic Church,'' he said. At 6:30 pm church bells will ring in unison across Paris. The cathedral of Notre Dame held an all-night vigil and Archbishop Andre Vingt-Trois will hold a mass tonight. In one sign of the discontent within the Catholic Church over John Paul's orthodox doctrinal line, a poll in newspaper Le Parisien said 53 percent of the French want John Paul's successor to be ``more progressive.''


Citing his ``remarkable life,'' British Prime Minister Tony Blair said in televised address that ``even if you are not a Catholic, even if you are not a Christian, even if you have no religious faith at all, what people could see in Pope John Paul was a man of true and profound spiritual faith.'' Church bells rang across Lebanon at noon and the government announced three days of mourning. Arab satellite stations, including the Al-Manar satellite station of the militant Shiite movement Hezbollah, broadcast live from the Vatican last night. Communist Cuba, which the Pope visited in 1998, also announced a day of mourning. ``Pope John Paul II rewrote history,'' German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a letter of condolence. ``Through his work and his impressive personality he changed our world.''


China's government-sanctioned version of the Catholic church, which doesn't recognize the pope and isn't recognized by the Vatican, sent its condolences. The Catholic Patriotic Association of China said it ``is very sorrowful'' that the pope died, the government said via its official Xinhua News Agency.

China. John Paul was barred from visiting China because of the Vatican's recognition of Taiwan and its protest against the Chinese government's religious suppression.

Liu Jianchao, spokesman of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, today expressed his country's ``condolences over the death of Pope John Paul II.'' In a statement posted on the ministry's website, he said: ``We hope the Vatican, under the new pope, will create conditions conducive to the improvement of relations with China.''


The pope's passing touched beyond members of his own church. ``Yesterday, the world lost one of the most important leaders of our generation, whose great contribution to rapprochement and unity between peoples, understanding and tolerance will be with us for many years,'' said Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon before the start of the weekly cabinet meeting. ``Pope John Paul II was a man of peace and a friend of the Jewish People.''



John Paul established diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Israel in 1993, and in March 2000 became the first pontiff to pray at Jerusalem's Western Wall, the holiest site in Judaism. On the same trip, he visited the Palestinian territories and Jordan. He repeatedly condemned the violence of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. ``We have lost a very important religious figure who dedicated his life to peace and justice for all,'' said a statement from the office of Palestinian Authority head Mahmoud Abbas, according to AFP. Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif called the Pope a ``bridge builder between faiths'' and said the country will observe three days of mourning. John Paul's ability to link faiths was recognized by common people around the world. ``I'm very upset, and I'm not even Catholic,'' Spiro Parissis, 32, a Greek-Orthodox security guard at a Sydney office tower, said today. ``In the end, he showed us how to respect one another.''


Bush, pope bonded despite their differences - The president liked to visit the pontiff, even though he was scolded by him – April 5, 2005

WASHINGTON (Houston Chronicle) - Their relationship was bumpy at times. Pope John Paul II openly criticized President Bush about the war in Iraq, stem cell research and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. But the two powerful leaders also forged a bond.


Pope John Paul II was honored at the Vatican earlier this year by children who released doves.


On Monday, Bush lavished praise on the late Catholic leader, and this week he will be the first U.S. president to attend a papal funeral. "He spoke to the poor; he spoke to morality. And of course, he was a man of peace," Bush said at the White House. "And he didn't like war, and I fully understood that and I appreciated the conversations I had with the Holy Father on the subject."


Bush, a Methodist who is a born-again Christian, met with the pope three times. Their first meeting was in 2001 at the pontiff's Lake Albano summer residence south of Rome."I remember going to Castel Gandolfo — Laura and I were there, and I can remember him taking us out on the balcony of this fabulous palace overlooking a magnificent lake, and talking about his views of the world. It was a moment I'll never forget," Bush said. In that meeting, the pope lectured the president against promoting research on human embryos, saying such practices "devalue and violate human life."


Bush later announced a compromise U.S. stem cell policy that restricted research to existing cell lines. At their next meeting in 2002, the president raised concerns with the pope over the clergy sex scandal that was rocking the U.S. Catholic Church. The Bush White House was aggressively trying to appeal at the time to Catholics, who split their vote almost equally between Bush and Democrat Al Gore in the 2000 presidential election. Surveys showed Bush got 57 percent of Catholics' votes in 2004, up 3 percentage points from 2000. Catholics make up more than a fourth of the U.S. electorate. "The president certainly has courted the Catholic vote," said John C. Green, a political scientist at the University of Akron and an expert on religion and politics. "He liked to appear with the pope, he often visited with Catholic leaders and institutions, and he used Catholic language frequently, in speaking of the 'culture of life,' " Green said.


At the same time, Green said, it was clear Bush liked the pope and admired him, even though the pontiff scolded the president. "He knew if you hang around with religious leaders long enough, eventually you will get a scolding," Green said. Last year, Bush visited the pope a third time, and presented him with the Medal of Freedom, the highest government honor for a civilian. The medal was accompanied by a citation praising John Paul II for his work on behalf of the poor and outcast.


The pontiff, who rarely accepted such honors from other world leaders, accepted the medal from Bush. He also used the meeting to call for swift autonomy in Iraq and criticized American abuses of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison. After voicing concern over terrorism, the pope said, "In the past few weeks, other deplorable events have come to light, which have troubled the civic and religious conscience of all and made more difficult a serene and resolute commitment to shared human values."

A Vatican official, asked for interpretation, did not dispute that the pope was referring to the prison abuse. The pontiff also noted that Bush's visit was at "a moment of great concern for the continuing situation of grave unrest in the Middle East, both in Iraq and the Holy Land."


The president and first lady will depart Washington on Wednesday for the Friday funeral in Rome. Afterward they will fly to Texas, where Bush plans to host Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. 


The Vatican Pope John Paul II left Behind


The Vatican: Challenges Ahead  - From a priest shortage to shaky finances, the next Pope will be tested – April 18, 2005
Business Week - Pope John Paul II will be a hard act to follow. For 26 years, he led the Catholic Church with personal charisma and uncompromising moral authority. He played a decisive role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, did more than any other Pope to end centuries of anti-Semitism, and in his globe-girdling travels pleaded tirelessly for social justice. Under his pontificate the ranks of the world's Catholics increased 40%, to 1.1 billion, thanks to fast growth in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. As a monument to the power of one man to bear witness to the Gospel -- and to share that witness with millions of others -- his papacy was one of the greatest ever.

Yet John Paul has also bequeathed to his eventual successor an institution that, by several measures, badly needs reform. There are many problems, but four stand out: a critical shortage of priests; a financial crisis in many parts of the Church; a growing split between the Church of the affluent West and the impoverished South; and the institutional weakness of a Church that centralizes too much authority in the hands of a few. These are challenges that would make even the most seasoned chief executive blanch. But Catholics around the world, from U.S. executives to Indian bishops to lay volunteers in Brazil, are brimming with ideas on tackling each crisis. Here is a detailed account of each challenge -- and what can and cannot be done.

The priest shortage.

In the U.S. in the 1950s, there was one priest for every 650 parishioners. Now the ratio is one to 1,500, as many leave the priesthood and young men take other paths. The average age of U.S. priests is almost 60. It's roughly the same situation in Western Europe.Yet while the number of priests is growing in parts of Africa, Latin America, and Asia -- India has even sent clerics to the U.S. and Europe -- in general they're not keeping pace with exploding Church membership in the developing world. "We are getting more vocations than elsewhere," says James B. Reuter, a Jesuit priest and spokesman for the Catholic Church in Manila, "[but] we don't have enough priests." In Latin America there are 7,000 Catholics per priest. "In remote areas, Latin Americans are lucky if they see a priest even once a year," says Mary L. Gautier, senior research associate at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. Other areas, like Africa, lack funds to build seminaries to train applicants.

This dearth strikes at the very heart of Catholicism, since only priests can perform the central act of the liturgy -- turning bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. The Reverend John P. Beal, professor of Canon law at Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., spells out the consequences: "The fear is that as the Eucharist becomes less available, Catholicism will be transformed from a sacramental faith into more of a word-based faith." In other words, it will become more like its evangelical Protestant rivals. "That would change the essential character of being Catholic," adds Beal.

What to do? Liberal Catholics have an answer. The Church should allow priests to marry and widen the field of candidates. That could be done by the Vatican in a moment, since priestly celibacy is a tradition, not a doctrine. The Church has even allowed married Episcopal priests to convert and join the Catholic clergy. Since John Paul brooked no discussion of celibacy, his successor would have to make a radical break to achieve change. Yet the pressure from the U.S. and Europe will continue to build. Dean R. Hoge, a sociology professor at Catholic University says a recent survey of U.S. Catholics found 71% support making celibacy optional for diocesan priests. If that happened, Hoge predicts the number of U.S. seminarians would quadruple.

At the same time, reformers argue that lay Catholics should be given more responsibility in the Church around the world. Though that's already happening, the laity still has little say in such issues as selecting parish priests and shaping budgets. Hiring more qualified lay people and giving them more responsibilities would free up priests to focus on religious duties. But that means raising money to pay lay workers a living wage. Which leads to the second problem:

Church finances.

Nobody knows exactly how much money the Church raises and spends worldwide. But a sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. has cost the Church at least $700 million, bankrupted three dioceses, and dented collections from disillusioned parishioners. That hurts the U.S., and also hurts the Church in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, where many dioceses depend on money infusions from the West. Francis J. Butler, president of Foundations & Donors Interested in Catholic Activities Inc., an organization of major U.S. Catholic foundations, says the annual Mission Sunday collection raises $200 million each year to support the Church in the Third World. Yet U.S. Catholics donate only 1.1% of their income to the Church, half the figure for Protestants. "The growth of Catholicism is exceeding the ability to pay for the priests and ministries that are needed," Butler says.

Church leaders in Asia and elsewhere are scrambling to fund their social programs. Bishop George Punnakottil of Kothamangalam in Kerala, India, has organized credit unions in each parish. "We collect money from constituents and disperse it as loans to the needy," he says. Ingenious, but that can only go so far. In countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the number of Catholics tripled during John Paul's papacy, local dioceses don't raise enough money to pay basic operating expenses, let alone dispense charity.

But how can affluent Catholics be persuaded to give more to support the Church around the world? The Leadership Roundtable, a group of 200 influential U.S. Catholics, led by Geoffrey Boisi, a former vice-chairman of JPMorgan Chase & Co., recommends that every diocese publish a certified annual budget and strategic plan, thus giving the faithful a far fuller accounting of how contributions are actually spent. Such transparency would allay suspicions of the laity about how the Church spends its money, and improve contributions. Peter G. Danis, an active Catholic and former chief executive of Boise Cascade Office Products Corp. (BCC ), even suggests that the Church split its management structure in two. Most administrative functions would be handed off to a separate organization run by professionals who would give a more public accounting than the Church now does. A sustained effort to improve finances and disclosure would also probably help Catholicism with its third challenge:

The West-South split.

The new Pope will have to carefully choose where to focus his limited resources. In Latin America and Africa, where Christianity is spreading fast, Catholicism faces a market share battle with evangelical Protestantism and Islam. Meanwhile, many Cardinals are deeply concerned over the increasing marginalization of the Church in Western Europe. Focusing on a revival of Catholicism there might be appealing, but it could have severe consequences. "The Catholic Church can afford to lose the Netherlands" and other Western European countries, says Philip Jenkins, a Penn State University history professor and author of the book The Next Christendom: the Rise of Global Christianity. "But it cannot afford to lose the Philippines or Latin America."

Yet that's a possibility. Look at what's happening in South America. Although total Church membership in the region continues to grow, the percentage of Latin Americans describing themselves as Catholic has slipped from more than 88% in 1970 to about 85% today, as millions have defected to Protestant denominations. Protestant congregations often seem more welcoming. "They offer a closer relationship with parishioners, with less hierarchy, and that better meets the needs of contemporary men and women," says the Reverend Israel Batista, a Methodist minister who is general secretary of the Quito (Ecuador)-based Latin American Council of Churches, a Protestant organization. Evangelical outreach programs to help working-class men stop drinking, for example, can quickly have an enormous impact on a small community.

Latin America also is feeling the strains long evident in Europe and the U.S.: "The Church says one thing and the people say another," says Sister Irmã Lourdes, a philosophy teacher at Colégio São José in Santo André, outside São Paulo. While many Latin Americans embrace Catholic traditions such as religious holidays and prayer to the saints, they ignore Church teachings on birth control, divorce, and homosexuality. "If the Church wants to slow the migration of its faithful to other religions, it needs to tone down the dogma of its doctrine," says Juan Luis Hernández, director of the political science department at Mexico City's Iberoamericana University, a Jesuit institution. Toning down the dogma might not be possible, but the Church could learn to be more responsive to local needs. That's part of the fourth challenge:

The rigid hierarchy. Many lay Catholics -- especially in the U.S. and Europe -- feel the Vatican could do better in understanding what goes on at the parish level. John Paul concentrated ever more power in the Vatican, managing everything from the role of altar boys to the translation of liturgies into local languages. This top-down arrangement is unwieldy for an organization that increasingly resembles a far-flung group of islands, each with its own different population and needs. It also fuels discontent among front-line clergy and lay people, and it muffles the warning signals of things going wrong in a distant diocese. "There are 3,300 bishops and cardinals," says Danis, the former Boise Cascade exec. "But they see [the Pope] every three to five years. There's no built-in accountability. That's how the sexual abuse scandal in the U.S. festered for so long."

Some U.S. managers have suggestions to improve the information loop, and the ability of Church leaders to work with the rank and file. John T. Ryan III, an active Catholic and CEO of Mine Safety Appliance in Pittsburgh, wants term limits in the Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy. "Once you go to Rome, you never leave," he says. "There needs to be a constant infusion of [diocesan clergy] into these jobs for limited amounts of time, three to five years." The Leadership Roundtable wants the Church to adopt the "best practices" of multinationals. Among them: advanced management programs for bishops and a big increase in the role of lay experts. These ideas are being considered by the U.S. bishops.

Is the College of Cardinals ready to name a Pope who would push through such far-reaching changes? Most of the current 117 cardinals who will choose the next Pope were named by John Paul and helped promote his policies. "Only a minority of them think he went too far in institutional rigidity," says one French theologian. Yet previous conclaves have often surprised the world with their choices.The Vatican's supporters, meanwhile, point out that just as there was one Christ, there is one Pope, and one authority. "The Church is not a corporation," says Monsignor Klaus Kastel, a Dutch cleric who was close to John Paul II and who works at the Vatican. "Tradition has to be observed as much as possible. Christ organized his Church in a centralized way." Somehow, the new Pope must reconcile that tradition -- and the astonishing legacy of John Paul II -- with the need to go forward.


Pope Leaves Behind Struggling U.S. Church – April 3, 2005

U.S. Catholic Church Struggling With Priest Shortage, Parishioners' Roles, at John Paul's Death


For all of his inspiring qualities personal charm, deep spirituality, acceptance of other faiths Pope John Paul II's tight grip on church leadership and unwillingness to change unpopular teachings clashed with the more democratic approach that many of the 65 million U.S. Catholics favor. At the end of his pontificate, John Paul leaves behind an American church uplifted by his piety, yet struggling with several of the same problems that preceded him: a dramatically shrinking U.S. priesthood, disagreement over the proper role for lay leaders, and a growing conservative-liberal divide over sexuality, women's ordination and celibacy for clergy. "He was seen as an extraordinarily prayerful pope. There was a kindness to him that seemed to come through," said James Davidson, a Purdue University sociologist who specializes in Catholicism. "But there were moments at which the pope and American lay people seemed to be on different pages on how decision-making in the church takes place. He tended to be more top down and they tend to be more bottom up."


Archbishop John Favalora, left, celebrates Mass as retired Auxiliary Bishop Agustin Roman, right, looks on Sunday, April 3, 2005, at the Cathedral of St. Mary in the Little Haiti section of Miami. Hundreds of parishioners turned out to mourn the death of Pope John Paul II. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)


The cry for greater lay influence grew loudest after the clergy sex abuse crisis erupted in 2002 with revelations that many American bishops had moved predatory clergy among parishes without notifying the public or police. Some Catholics responded by demanding the Vatican give them a greater say in choosing church leaders. Officials in Rome, not surprisingly, didn't budge. Many of the troubles buffeting the U.S. church began before John Paul was elected in 1978 though the pontiff ultimately was unable to arrest them. Church attendance, among Catholics and other denominations, had already started on a steep decline. The 1968 decision by Pope Paul VI to uphold the church ban on artificial contraception sparked widespread dissent from Catholic teaching on sexuality. Men left the priesthood by the hundreds to marry and fewer people enrolled in seminaries to replace them.


Most importantly, American Catholics were still wrestling with the modernizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, which changed everything from the scope of lay involvement in parishes to where priests should stand during Mass. Conservative and liberal Catholics disagreed vehemently over the pace and substance of these reforms.


International Mourning for Pope John Paul II


Poland mourns native son, national hero – April 8, 2005

KRAKOW, Poland -- Some 300,000 people gathered in a vast field in Krakow to join in Pope John Paul's funeral by video link, and schools and businesses closed across the country as Poland mourned a national hero.


Thousands of candles burn Sunday at the bishop's residence in Krakow, Poland.

Many in Krakow spent the night in the Blonie meadows after a mass that drew a million people to the place where John
Paul celebrated several masses during his visits to the city. It was where he studied for the priesthood and served as bishop and archbishop. People sang along with the hymns from the service in Rome as they watched on big television screens, and applauded the homily by the celebrant, Josef Cardinal Ratzinger.


In Warsaw, sirens wailed for three minutes to announce the start of the funeral to the capital. Stores and schools closed, major newspapers did not publish, and pictures of the pope with black ribbons hung in windows everywhere. In John Paul's hometown of Wadowice, thousands gathered in front of the church where he was baptized. Some 25,000 people packed Warsaw's Pilsudski Square where the Pope celebrated mass before a million people during his first visit to Poland as pope in 1979. Another 2,000 gathered in the Old Town in front of Saint Ann's Church to watch the funeral on huge television screens. "The Pope was an extraordinary person and did great things," said 18-year-old high school student Janek Chorzewski as he watched the funeral start. "We should follow his example."

Urszula Hurtowska brought her two children to watch the broadcast. "The Pope was always an inspiration to my family," the 27-year-old said. "No one ever gave us such a feeling of pride that we were born as Poles."


In Krakow's Blonie meadows, there were only five screens for the huge space, but that didn't seem to matter to the people who consider John Paul one of their own. "The point is not in looking but in being here together, just as we were always here together during his visits," said Gosia Glinska, 23, a student at the Fine Arts Academy of Krakow. Television and radio bulletins told people to bring food, water, even prescription medicine if they needed it for the gathering. Many people lugged blankets or folding chairs. Police spokesman Dariusz Nowak said the crowd numbered about 300,000.


A mass in the meadow Thursday night drew an estimated one million people, who turned the field into a sea of glowing candles. In the Pope's hometown of Wadowice, the square in front of St. Mary's Basilica where he was baptized was filled with some 15,000 people from the town and surrounding area watching the funeral on a large television screen. An orchestra of firefighters played his favourite song, The Barge. "The Pope was someone truly exceptional and very close to us," said Anna Kowalska, 43, who came with her husband and teenage children. "We wanted to be here and say farewell to him." Marek Grabowski, 57, came in from the nearby village of Tomice, where he is a firefighter. "I took part in all his pilgrimages as one of the church guards, I had a very special, close contact with the Pope," he said. "During one of his pilgrimages to Wadowice, he touched my head and blessed me. That's why I really wanted to be here."


Poles Bid Farewell to Pope at Giant Outdoor Mass – April 5, 2005

Voice of America News - At least 150,000 people have attended an open-air Mass in Warsaw to say goodbye to Pope John Paul II, who is considered a national hero by his fellow Poles. It was a Warsaw mass for Pope John Paul II huge gathering of the faithful who came from all corners of Poland to pay their respects to the pontiff they loved.


Warsaw mass for Pope John Paul II


The Mass was held in Pilsudski Square, where in 1979, on his first visit to Poland since assuming the papacy, John Paul urged his countrymen to stand up to the then-ruling Communists with the words: "Do not be afraid."

Tuesday's service was presided over by the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Jozef Glemp. In opening the Mass, Cardinal Glemp recalled the pope's message.


GLEMP: "It was in this square on June 2, 1979 that everything started with the memorable words of John Paul II, 'May the spirit come and renew the face of this land.'"

He said John Paul now calls on Poland to unite again, pray for him and thank God for the late pontiff's inspiration and teachings.

The huge crowd was somber, reflective and prayerful. One of the pope's mourners told VOA she feels a mixture of sadness and joy.


MOURNER:  "We are Catholic and we have to remember that he's not dead. And we are crying because of us.  We lost a great, great man, but he is with God.  He's very happy now." Many people in the crowd carried the red and white Polish flag, or the yellow and white Vatican banner marked with black crepe as a sign of mourning.  Others carried posters and photos of John Paul. Poland is holding a period of national mourning through Friday, when the pope's funeral will be held at the Vatican.

Tens of thousands of Poles are making their way to Rome. Among them is a delegation from the pope's hometown of Wadowice, carrying bags of dirt they want buried with the pope at Saint Peter's Basilica, a local custom for Poles who are not buried in the native land.


Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs remember Pope – April 8, 2005

MANILA, Philippines (Canada) -- Gazing up at four giant screens, thousands of Filipinos watched the funeral of Pope John Paul Friday from the seaside park where the largest audience of his 26-year papacy greeted him 10 years ago. An estimated four million people jammed Rizal Park for John Paul's youth mass in 1995. He had been scheduled to return two years ago, but the long voyage apparently was considered too taxing for his frail health. Throughout Asia, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs joined Roman Catholics in church services and prayers to honour the Pope, who has been highly praised for reaching out to other faiths.


Archbishop of Tokyo Takeo Okada folds his hands before a portrait of Pope John Paul at a memorial service at St. Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo. (AP/Eriko Sugita, POOL


Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales called the gathering of the faithful in Asia's most populous Roman Catholic nation a "celebration of life" for John Paul, who endeared himself to Filipinos with two well-received visits, along with prayers in troubled times. The Pope drew massive emotional crowds in 1981 as well as 1995. "He said goodbye, but in the hearts of Filipinos, he still lives on," said Bing Saracarpio, a vendor selling flags and T-shirts with the Pope's image. Teresita Anudo travelled from Cavite, about 65 kilometres south of Manila, for a front seat near the park's grandstand.

"I need to see him for the last time," she said, recalling how she waved at him at Manila airport in 1995.


In Tokyo, hundreds of government officials and dignitaries were among an estimated 1,500 Japanese who packed a memorial mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, spilling outside under a hot sun. Mourners - some veiled in black, others dabbing their faces with towels - watched the service on a giant TV screen atop a truck. Crown Prince Naruhito, who will one day as emperor become the head priest of Japan's native Shinto religion, was greeted by a row of white-robed clergymen as he pulled up in a black limousine.


Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, arrived in Japan on Friday urging people to carry on John Paul's legacy of peace. "Firstly, we lost a great human being, a leader of a great religion but also one very good human being," the Dalai Lama said. "Now it is important that we must carry all his messages and guidance with us. We must make every effort to fulfill his wishes." In overwhelmingly Buddhist Sri Lanka, where the Pope visited in 1995, the top private TV station ART was to interrupt regular programming to broadcast the funeral live after receiving hundreds of phoned requests. A special mass was scheduled at St. Lucia's Cathedral in Colombo.


In Australia, some 14,000 people packed into a cricket ground in Adelaide for a memorial service for the pontiff - who last year criticized Australia for its secular trends and warned that attending mass on Sunday should not become subordinate to a "secular concept of 'weekend' dominated by such things as entertainment and sport." South Australia state Premier Mike Rann praised the Pope for reaching out to other faiths. "It was this Pope who apologized to Jews for past wrongs, who worshipped in both the synagogue and the mosque," Rann said. "And it was this Pope who stood up to the United States and opposed the war in Iraq."


In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, more than 4,000 people, including representatives of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh communities, attended a memorial Mass late Thursday at St. John's Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur. "The size of the crowd made it look like Christmas or Easter, with people spilling out of the church, sitting outside . . . but everyone was very solemn," said parishioner Celine Jesudass, 50, who attended another service at the Church of the Assumption in Petaling Jaya. All over Manila, workers pinned posters on lampposts and erected billboards with the Pope's picture and the words "Paalam (goodbye) John Paul II." Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in Rome for the Pope's burial, declared a national period of mourning. Flags have been at half-staff.


Pope John Paul II and Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos, the last Fatima witness


Sister Lucia with Pope John Paul II in Fatima, Portugal, in 2000 Last Fatima Virgin witness dies – February 14, 2005

BBC News - The last surviving witness to whom the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in a series of apparitions in Portugal in 1917 has died aged 97. Sister Lucia de Jesus dos Santos died at the convent where she had been living since the 1940s, the Roman Catholic Church said. She was one of three shepherd children who claimed they spoke to the Virgin Mary near Fatima town over six months. The apparitions turned Fatima into one of Catholicism's most revered sites.


The Pope believed the Virgin Mary of Fatima helped save his life


The Virgin Mary is said to have revealed prophecies of key 20th Century events, including the end of World War I, the start of World War II and the rise and fall of Soviet communism. The Church believes the third "secret", not unveiled until 2000, foretold the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul on 13 May 1981, the anniversary of one of the 1917 apparitions.

The Church announced that Sister Lucia died at her Carmelite convent at Coimbra in central Portugal on Sunday. "She had been weak for several weeks and had not left her cell," said Coimbra Bishop Albino Cleto. Her body is due to be laid out in Coimbra's cathedral From left to right: Lucia Santos 10, Francisco Marto 9 and Jacinta Marto 7before her funeral on Wednesday.


The cousins were tending sheep when they saw the visions


Prophecy speculation

Sister Lucia was just 10 when she and her two younger cousins, Francisco Marto and his sister Jacinta, are said to have seen the Virgin Mary above an olive tree near the central town of Fatima. She was the only one who claimed to have heard clearly what the Virgin Mary said.

While her cousins both died within three years of the apparitions ending, during the flu pandemic, Sister Lucia went on to write down what she had been told. The first two parts of the prophecy were known for decades and interpreted as predicting the world wars.


But the third prophecy was kept secret and sparked much speculation about its content. When the Vatican revealed its interpretation of the vision, the Pope credited the Madonna of Fatima with his survival following the 1981 attempt on his life by Turkish gunman Mehmet Ali Agca in St Peter's Square. The Pope made several visits to Fatima - along with pilgrims from all over the world - and first met Sister Lucia during a trip in 1991. He travelled to Fatima in 2000 to beatify Francisco and Jacinta, and steps are expected to be taken to beatify Sister Lucia as well.


Nun who saw Mary in apparitions mourned – February 14, 2005

LISBON, Portugal (USA Today) — Political parties suspended their election campaigns and long lines of worshippers paid their final respects Monday following the death of Sister Lucia, the last of three shepherd children who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary during 1917 apparitions in the town of Fatima. The Roman Catholic nun, who died Sunday at age 97 of apparent heart failure, will be buried Tuesday in the graveyard of the Carmelite convent where she had lived since 1948. Flags around the country were ordered flown at half-staff. Her body lay in a coffin in the chapel of the convent near Fatima. Hundreds of people came to pray and bring flowers, media reports said. After working hours, a long queue of worshippers waiting to enter snaked around the convent.


In 1967, Pope Paul VI holds the hand of Sister Lucia, the last survivor of the trio of children who had a religious vision - AP


In a condolence letter, President Jorge Sampaio said Lucia "was a symbol and a point of reference for so many people in the whole world." Bishop Serafim Ferreira e Silva held a service Monday at the Fatima shrine, which is visited each year by millions. A funeral was scheduled for Tuesday at the cathedral in the nearby city of Coimbra.


Two of Portugal's political parties, the Social Democratic Party and the Popular Party, canceled campaign events for the Feb. 20 general election for 48 hours. Shortly before she died, Lucia reportedly read a fax sent to her by Pope John Paul II. The pontiff has met with Lucia during each of his three visits to Fatima. In the message, John Paul expressed his closeness and blessing, and said he was praying so that she "live this moment of pain, suffering and offering in the spirit of Easter, of passage," the Italian bishops' conference news agency SIR reported, citing Portuguese sources.


Lucia and her cousins Jacinta and Francisco said Mary appeared to them several times in Fatima, a farming town 120 miles north of Lisbon. Sister Lucia said Mary spoke only to her. The three said Mary appeared on the 13th day of each month and predicted events, such as world wars, the reemergence of Christianity in Russia, and one that church officials say foretold the 1981 attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II. The first sighting was May 13, and the appearances took place for another five months, ending abruptly in October 1917. Shortly after, both Jacinta and Francisco died of respiratory diseases. Lucia became a nun and wrote two memoirs. Born Lucia de Jesus, she changed her name twice after entering the convents but was popularly known as Sister Lucia.


The pope has visited Fatima three times since becoming pontiff in 1978, spending a few minutes with Lucia during each trip. In 2000, he visited Fatima to beatify Jacinta and Francisco. He has claimed the Virgin of Fatima saved his life after he was shot by a Turkish gunman in St. Peter's Square in 1981. The attack, on May 13, coincided with the feast day of Our Lady of Fatima, and John Paul credits Mary's intercession for his survival.


The Days Before the Death of Pope John Paul II


Vatican says Pope is recovering well, but no hint on when he’ll leave hospital – February 28, 2005

VATICAN CITY (AP) - Pope John Paul is recovering without complications and has started therapy to improve his breathing and speaking, the Vatican said Monday, a day after the Pope surprised the faithful with a brief appearance in a hospital window. The Holy See said the 84-year-old Pope has been eating regularly and spending some time sitting in an armchair. But it gave no hint of when the Pope would leave Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic hospital, an indication that doctors see the need for an extended stay. "The Holy Father's postoperative phase is taking place without complications. His general condition and biological parameters continue to be good," the Vatican communique said. "The Holy Father is eating regularly, spends some hours Pope John Paul, flanked by Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Cardinal Sodano, waves from a window at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic Hospital on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)in an armchair and has begun exercises to rehabilitate breathing and phonation." The therapy is aimed at improving the Pope's breathing and ability to speak after last week's surgery to insert a tube in his throat to ease his second respiratory crisis in less than a month.


Pope John Paul, flanked by Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Cardinal Sodano, waves from a window at Rome's Gemelli Polyclinic Hospital on Sunday. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)


The Vatican handed out the brief medical update to reporters, and papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls was not present to offer any elaboration. It said it would not issue another update until Thursday. Dr. Cesare Catananti, Gemelli's medical director, smiled at reporters when asked how the Pope was doing but would not comment. Italian Foreign Minister Gianfranco Fini arrived at the hospital Monday afternoon; it was unclear whether he would meet with John Paul.  Marco Verzaschi, a regional health commissioner, visited the hospital Monday and met with the Pope's medical team, including papal physician Dr. Rodolfo Proietti.  "I'm much more optimistic now, after having spoken to the doctors, than when I came," Verzaschi said. "With the Pope's great stamina and strength, he is overcoming even this very difficult trial."


The Pope spent 10 days in the hospital earlier in February with breathing problems that stemmed from the flu. His relapse led some to question whether he had been released too soon. "Please, let's not let him get out of the hospital too quickly," said Vatican-based Mexican Javier Lozano Jose Cardinal Barragan, quoted by La Pope John Paul II at the Vatican on Feb. 22Repubblica newspaper. "In this phase of convalescence, it's necessary to be more cautious and less hasty. I hope it won't be done as it was last time."  John Paul's appearance on Sunday - his first since last Thursday's operation - came just moments after a Vatican official outside St. Peter's Basilica read the pontiff's appeal for prayers.


The Pope appeared for only a minute and didn't speak, but he sent a powerful message amid concerns that his latest health crisis would leave him incapacitated and unable to carry on as leader of one billion Roman Catholics. John Paul looked alert, raising hopes he was making progress following the surgery. His appearance also was a sign of his personal determination, after the Vatican had announced he would skip his weekly blessing - a 26-year tradition he didn't miss even after he was shot in 1981 and was recovering from an operation in 1992. "I thank you with affection and feel you all spiritually near," the pontiff said in a statement.


Giant screens in the square showing Vatican TV's broadcast of Sandri went dark when he finished. But minutes later - at the hospital four kilometrers away - curtains were pulled back from the Pope's 10th-floor suite. He was wheeled up to a closed window, where he waved with his right hand and made signs of the cross to about 200 people on the hospital grounds. The Pope, wearing his usual white robe, then touched his throat, but neither the inserted tube nor other signs of the operation were visible. His gestures were strong, and he appeared in good form. Any step toward recovery is complicated by the Pope's battle with Parkinson's disease, a progressive disorder that causes tremors and limits muscle control. He also suffers from hip and knee ailments. One important decision facing the Pope's doctors is how long to leave the breathing tube, which draws in air instead of the nose or mouth. In some patients, the tube remains permanently. Dr. Nicola Mercuri, a neurosurgeon at Rome's Tor Vergata University, told Associated Press Television News that the Pope's speech would likely deteriorate as his Parkinson's disease advanced. "This tube will be a further complication, and we really don't know if the speech will be understandable because it is going to render the tone of voice weaker than it was before," Mercuri said. "We expect a weaker voice. This is for sure."


Sick Pope Misses Ash Wednesday for First Time – February 9, 2005

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A sick Pope John Paul failed for the first time in 26 years to preside at Ash Wednesday but joined world Catholics from his hospital room in a ritual where dust is rubbed on their foreheads to remind them of mortality. The Vatican said the Pope, 84, had received the ashes during a Mass he said in his room in Rome's Gemelli hospital in the presence of priests and medical staff. Rome Cardinal Camillo Ruini visited the Pope in the morning and later told reporters he had found the Pontiff "truly in good shape" and urged Catholics to "stay calm and have full faith."


U.S. Cardinal James Stafford(R) receives ash from Cardinal Angelo Sodano


For Christians, Ash Wednesday marks the start of 40 days of fasting and reflection preparing for Easter. They traditionally go to church to have ashes rubbed on their foreheads in a mark of penitence and humility. "Remember that you are dust and unto dust you will return," is the traditional phrase read by a priest as he smudges ashes on the foreheads of the faithful.  In St Peter's Basilica the atmosphere was at once majestic and eerie as the service was held without the Pope.  Instead, American Cardinal James Stafford rubbed the ashes on the foreheads of his fellow prelates of the Catholic Church -- cardinals in red and bishops in crimson.


At the Vatican service, a special prayer was said. It read: "Most bountiful Father, listen to our prayer and grant health and comfort to our beloved Pope, John Paul, so that he can continue his pastoral ministry for the good of the Church and of all humanity."Faithful at the Mass said they were hopeful for a recovery. "I am suffering from a sadness I've never known before. I am going to pray next to one of the old Popes (their tombs) in the hope that this Pope comes out of the hospital soon," said Rome resident Cecilia Carboni.The Pope, now in the 27th year of his reign, has been in hospital since Feb. 1, when he was rushed there for acute breathing problems caused by the flu. He also suffers from Parkinson's disease and severe arthritis.


The Pope's stay in hospital has been extended beyond the week that was originally expected. The next medical bulletin is due on Thursday. At an appearance from his hospital window on Sunday the Pope looked very weak, was barely able to recite a brief blessing and relied on an aide to read his message.

His latest illness has once again revived debate on what the Church would do if he became permanently incapacitated, and raised speculation that he might decide to retire. That speculation reached fever pitch on Monday when the Pope's top aide, Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, spoke openly about the possibility that the Pontiff might eventually resign if he felt he could no longer run the Church. "Let's leave that up to the conscience of the Pope," said Sodano, who in the past dismissed talk of Papal retirement. "We have to have enormous faith in him. He knows what he has to do." Church law says a Pope can resign, but it is a highly rare event. The last Pope to resign willingly was Celestine V, who stepped down in 1294. Gregory XII reluctantly abdicated in 1415 when more than one Pope was reigning at the same time.


Message from BibleSearchers


BibleSearcher scans the world for information that has relevance on the time of the end and can allow the believers in the Almighty One of Israel to “watch and be ready”.  Our readiness has nothing to do trying to halt the progression of evil or good on our planet earth but to be prepared for the coming of the Messiah of Israel. Our preparation is a pathway of spiritual readiness.  Our defense is with the Lord of hosts. The time of the end suggests that the Eternal One of Israel’s intent is to close out the chapter of this earth’s history so that the perpetrators of evil, those that seek power, greed and control, will be eliminated from this planet earth.  The wars of the heavens are being played out on this planet earth of which humans on this earth will live through it to testify of the might, power, justice and the love of the God of Israel.  In a world of corruption and disinformation, we cannot always tell who is telling the truth or who is spreading lies, promoting evil or mis-information.  We cannot guarantee our sources but will always seek to portray trends that can be validated in the testimony of the prophets of the Old and the New Testament.



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