MANILA — A FATHER and a remarkable moral and spiritual leader of all time to name a few wrapped up series of exquisite descriptions about Pope John Paul II after his 26-year of papacy.
A lot of people from all over the world and from all faces of life wept mourning for his passing on April 3 (MLA Time) after barely two months of agony in his failing health condition that had deteriorated steadily over the past decade with the onset of Parkinson’s disease and arthritis.
In the Philippines, Asia’s only pre-dominantly catholic country, millions of Filipinos were tied in sorrow and broke tears for his death while series of activities were embarked by the church as a tribute to the great prelate.
“Maybe a saint”
In a concelebrated pontifical mass held April 6 at the old Manila Cathedral, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales referred the late pontiff as a saint. The faithful, who attended the mass led by the Apostolic Nuncio to the Philippines Antonio Franco, gave him a standing ovation when Abp. Rosales called Pope John Paul II a saint.
“We love and treasure him. He was not just a friend or a brother, he is maybe a saint,” he proudly said.
On April 7, thousands of Filipino Youth gathered and offered a prayer vigil organized by the Episcopal Commission on Youth (ECY ) to pay their respects to the Holy Father at the UST football and baseball field where the Pope held a mass in its visit during the 1995 World Youth Day (WYD) celebration. Infanta Bishop Rolando Tria-Tirona, ECY chairman, said, in his letter to heads of Youth ministries and organizations, up to the last moments of his life, the Pope’s thoughts were filled with young people. “His entire papacy was characterized by a great, unconditional love for the youth, whom he called ‘my dear friends.’
The vigil, he said, “was great expression of the youth’s ultimate love for Pope John Paul II who had colored his trips to different countries with invigorating encounters with young people in various WYD celebrations.”
Thousands of Filipinos devotees also offered candles and flowers for Pope in different churches from across the country.
In a separate statement, Abp. Rosales appealed to all Filipino to pray for the Pope.
“Pope John Paul II was an extraordinary leader, an extraordinary person. He was truly a special man of God, who gave himself completely, he said. “Totus Tuus(I’m All Yours) – that was his motto, the one he lived out to the end of his days.”
Joining the prayers as the world mourns for his death, President GMA said that the pope’s serene courage and indomitable will remain a lasting source of our strength and hope as we face the trials and challenges of a troubled world.
“The world will miss a great spiritual bridge among all nations that he touched and blessed with his gentle hand,” she said. “The weak and oppressed will always remember their hero and advocate who sowed peace and love by his awesome charisma and noble deeds.”
The Pope died in his bed at 9:37 p.m, Saturday (3:37 a.m., Sunday in Manila) surrounded by the only family he had – his closest Polish aides.
“Our beloved Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father,” said Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, announcing the passing to a vast crowd that had gathered at the Vatican to pray for a miraculous recovery that never came.
He had operation in February to ease serious breathing problems, but never regained his strength and few days after his death developed an infection and high fever that soon precipitated heart failure and kidney problems. Reports said that his last word before he died had been “Amen.” He was 84 and would have been 85 years old on May 18. (Roy Q. Lagarde)