VATICAN CITY, APR 2, 2006 (VIS) – At 8.30 p.m. in St. Peter’s Square, thousands of people, many of them Polish, participated in a moment of prayer and reflection in memory of John Paul II who died one year ago today.
The event began with readings from various texts by Karol Wojtyla, interspersed with songs by the choir of the diocese of Rome.
At 9 p.m., Benedict XVI appeared at the window of his study to preside over the praying of the Rosary.
Following the Marian prayer, at around 9.37 p.m., the exact moment of John Paul II’s demise, the Pope addressed some words to those present.
Although a year has passed since his death, John Paul II “remains present in our minds and hearts,” said Benedict XVI. “He continues to communicate his love for God and his love for man. He continues to infuse everyone, especially the young, with enthusiasm for goodness and courage to follow Jesus and His teachings.”
Addressing the faithful who were gathered in the square below bearing lighted candles, the Pope summed up John Paul II’s “life and evangelical witness” in two words: “‘faithfulness’ and ‘dedication.’ Complete faithfulness to God and unreserved dedication to his own mission as pastor of the Universal Church.
“Faithfulness and dedication that appeared even more convincing and moving in his final months, during which he incarnated the words he wrote in his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris: ‘Suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love’.”
Benedict XVI then highlighted how his predecessor’s illness “made everyone more attentive to human pain, to all physical and spiritual pain; he gave suffering dignity and value by bearing witness to the fact that man is not worthy for his efficiency or his appearance, but for himself, because he is created and loved by God.”
Through his words and gestures, “John Paul II never tired of showing the world that if man allows himself to be embraced by Christ he does not devalue the richness of his humanity; if he adheres to Christ with all his heart, he does not lose anything. On the contrary, the encounter with Christ renders our lives more passionate.”
The Holy Father added: “Precisely because he drew ever closer to God in prayer, contemplation, and love for Truth and Beauty, our beloved Pope was able to accompany each one of us and to speak authoritatively even to people who are distant from Christian faith.”
On this first anniversary of his death, we are invited “to accept once more the spiritual heritage he left us,” said the Pope. “We are encouraged, among other things, to live our lives in a tireless search for the Truth, which alone can satisfy our hearts. We are encouraged not to be afraid to follow Christ, to bring everyone the announcement of the Gospel, ferment for a more fraternal and united humanity. From heaven, may John Paul II help us to continue our journey.”
Benedict XVI then addressed Polish faithful who were following the event by satellite linkup. “The memory of John Paul II remains alive within us,” he said, “and the sense of his spiritual presence does not diminish. For you, may the memory of the particular love he always nourished for his countrymen be a light on the path towards Christ: ‘Remain strong in the faith’.”
From Krakow, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of that Polish city, thanked Benedict XVI for his words, adding that John Paul II “is smiling upon us from heaven.”
AC/FAITHFULNESS:DEDICATION/JOHN PAUL II VIS 060403 (620)