Sunday, April 02, 2006

World remembers Pope John Paul II

BBC News Online (2 April 2006)

Crowds, some waving Polish flags, gather in St Peter's Square to remember Pope John Paul II
Thousands of people are attending events to mark the anniversary
Tens of thousands of people have gathered in St Peter's Square in Rome to mark the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI said his predecessor had lived out until the very end his mission to guide the Catholic Church.

"John Paul II died as he always lived animated by the indomitable courage of faith", Pope Benedict told the crowds.

Thousands of people have also been attending ceremonies in his native Poland and around the world.

At 2137 Polish time (1937 GMT), the exact time of John Paul's death, church bells will toll across the nation.


On Sunday, churches across Poland held services in honour of John Paul.

Some 8,000 people attended an open-air mass held in his home town of Wadowice, southern Poland.

The main square was decorated with yellow and white papal banners, along with national and local flags.

"We came to pray for his quick beatification and also to pray to him to protect our family," said Wojciech Gladysz, who had travelled 350 km (220 miles) from Warsaw with his wife and three children for the anniversary.

'World transformation'

The white marble slab in the crypt underneath St Peter's Basilica in the Vatican has become a favourite place of pilgrimage, attracting up to 10,000 visitors each day, says the BBC David Willey in Rome.

Later, Pope Benedict is expected to address crowds in Krakow from the Vatican via a satellite TV link.

The tomb of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican crypt

Earlier, at a Mass near Krakow, where John Paul II used to live, Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife sat alongside hundreds of gatherers.

John Paul's former secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, led the ceremony at the Divine Mercy sanctuary in Lagiewniki, near Krakow.

"He contributed to the fundamental transformation of the world," he said. "For that reason history has already called him great."

Much of Krakow, where John Paul spent half of his life, has been draped in the papal colours of yellow and white for the anniversary.

Before a Mass in the capital Warsaw, Placido Domingo will direct a free memorial concert of Verdi's Requiem in the city's main opera house.

On Saturday, two buglers played the late pontiff's favourite song, Barka, from the spire of a basilica in the heart of Krakow.

It officially brought to an end the work of a Polish church tribunal set up to gather evidence in the process of making John Paul II a saint.

In the year since his death, John Paul has been fast-tracked by the Vatican towards official sainthood, our Rome correspondent adds.


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