Vatican City, Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano called the presence of large numbers of young people in St. Peter’s Square gathered to pray for the Pope during his final hours a “spontaneous World Youth Day.”
The official Vatican daily noted the “moving testimony of prayer and affection of a generation who see him as their Pope.”
Pointing out that “this time it was not him who convened them,” the article emphasized that the thousands of young people “have come spontaneously,” moved by something in their souls. There was no need to schedule a date, a time or a place.
Lastly the Vatican paper noted that “this ‘appointment,’ which was not on anybody’s calendar, was already written on the schedules of everyone’s heart. Like an improvised and unscheduled World Youth Day.”
Krakow, Poland, Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - Thousands of Poles are making their way to Rome to attend the funeral mass of their most well-known and well-loved native son. Many among them are youth, who are willing to sleep just about anywhere to have a chance to pay tribute to the only Pope they ever knew.
The Polish media actually estimated Monday that up to one million Poles would head to Rome over the next two days to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II, who died April 2, after nearly 26 years as Pope. He was 84. He was the first Polish Pope and the first non-Italian to lead the Catholic Church in 455 years.
Six extra trains are scheduled to leave Warsaw for Rome beginning Tuesday night, rail authorities announced. And bus services are expected to reach record levels.
Since the Pope’s death, tour company owner Malgorzata Rudowska Bulka has been working around the clock in Krakow to co-ordinate travel plans for her fellow countrymen, reported the Chicago Tribune.
Bulka's entire family has made pilgrimages to the Vatican their business for the past decade. She met Pope John Paul II numerous times during visits to the Vatican, and he even baptized her youngest daughter, now 8.
Her husband and son own a bus garage and maintain eight 50-seat buses, all of which will be used for this pilgrimage. She said she was counting on nearly everyone in her family to be in Rome for the funeral, except herself.
"How could I go?” she told the newspaper, tears slipping from her eyes. "I've never been there without him. ... I know his soul is here, now, next to me. That's enough."
Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - President George W. Bush will lead a U.S. delegation to Vatican City for the funeral mass of Pope John Paul II. He will leave Wednesday with first lady Laura Bush and three other delegates, whose names have not yet been announced.
Bush said it would be his “great honor” to express Americans' “gratitude to the Almighty for such a man” as Pope John Paul II, reported The Associated Press. He is the first sitting president to attend a Pope's funeral.
Bush met with the Pope three times during his presidency. The first meeting in July 2001 was at the Pope's summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. He was accompanied by the first lady. Bush described that meeting as unforgettable.
"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," Bush said. "It was a moment I'll never forget during my presidency."
Bush said that while they didn't agree on everything, he always appreciated hearing the Pope's point of view.
At that first meeting, the Pope expressed his disagreement with the war in Iraq, the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops and Bush's support for the death penalty.
At their last meeting in June 2004, Bush presented the Pope with the Medal of Freedom, and the Pope responded by expressing his "grave concern" about events in Iraq.
According to the AP, Bush said the Pope will be remembered for the huge influence he had on the lives of young people and how he demonstrated "that one man can make a difference in people's lives."
"He's a courageous person. He's a moral person. He was a godly person," Bush reportedly said.
Mexico City, Mexico, Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - Leaders from across Latin America are praising the legacy and work of Pope John Paul II in the region and expressing gratitude for the fruits of his labors in each country.
Mexican president Vicente Fox said, “The people of this country will always be faithful to the Mexican Pope.” Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva noted “the untiring struggle for human dignity led by the Pope.”
In Cuba, which the Pope visited in 1998, three days of mourning were officially proclaimed. “We always saw Pope John Paul II as a friend, someone concerned about the poor, who battled neoliberalism and fought for peace,” said Cuban chancellor Felipe Perez Roque. Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Paya lamented the death of the Pope and noted his message of freedom in response to all forms of oppression.
Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela, said his government shares “the sorrow of the world for the death of the pilgrim Pope,” adding that his greatest legacy was “his constant struggle for peace.”
In Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe, participating in a public event, expressed surprise at the news of the Pope’s passing and asked those present to observe a minute of silence for the eternal repose of the Holy Father.
Bolivian president Carlos Mesa called the passing of John Paul II an enormous loss for humanity and decreed three days of national mourning, while thousands of Catholics gathered at parishes to offer prayers for the Pontiff who visited their country 17 years ago.
President Ricardo Lagos of Chile noted the Pope’s support for the Chilean people “in their aspirations for liberty and democracy” during the Pinochet era.
Argentina’s president, Nestor Kirchner, expressed sorrow at the Pope’s passing and noted his “capacity for meditation,” adding as well that the Pope helped prevent a war with Chile in 1978 over a border dispute. He also recalled the Pope’s closeness during “the most difficult and hardest times of the Falklands war” against Great Britain in 1982, when the Pope visited Argentina for the first time.
President Martin Torrijos of Panama said the death of the Pope “fills the people of Panama with great sorrow,” and in El Salvador a government statement lamented the “irreparable loss” represented by the Pope’s death.
President Lucio Gutierrez of Ecuador expressed his grief at “the loss of an historic figure who has left his mark and was an example of peace and solidarity for the world.”
Countries throughout the region decreed days of national mourning and Mass are being celebrated in memory of the Holy Father.
Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - “If Evangelicals, like me, could have claimed a Pope as our own, he would have been John Paul II,” said Rev. Rob Schenck, a past board member and minister of the Evangelical Church Alliance.
“He did more to bring together conservative Bible-believing Christians, like me, in common cause with Catholics, both lay and clergy, than anyone else in the Roman Church's history,” he said.
The president of the National Clergy Council said Evangelicals appreciated Pope John Paul II’s “joy in the Lord” and smiling disposition.
“He had an obvious love of Christ that showed unapologetically in his bright eyes,” Schenck said. “We could tell that his Christian faith was first passionate before it was cerebral.”
Evangelicals also appreciated how the pontiff “traveled the world, preaching and teaching,” said Schenck. Pope John Paul II broke the stereotype and image of the pontiff held by Evangelicals as “a monarch” or emperor “by crisscrossing the globe [and] preaching Jesus Christ.”
John Paul II also made an “extraordinary contribution” in helping Evangelicals appreciate Roman Catholics.
“Prior to John Paul II, Evangelicals were largely considered by Catholics to be ‘heretics’ who were outside the ‘true Church.’ John Paul instead affirmed us as, ‘brothers and sisters in the Lord,’” said Schenck.
While “great differences still exist and will remain between Evangelicals and Catholics ... no other time in history have Catholics and Evangelicals come closer together, recognizing one another as Christian brothers and sisters, and at no other time in history have we shared so much in common cause,” the minister observed.
“Whether it is the sanctity of human life, the sanctity of marriage and the family, or the public acknowledgement of our faith, we have discovered that the things that really matter most in these desperate times are held in common by Catholics and Evangelicals,” he noted.
Schenck said he will greatly miss John Paul II.
“But I suspect that when we all get to heaven, and both Evangelicals and Catholics are surprised by the numbers of each that made it there, we'll find this Pope winking from a corner,” he concluded.
Washington D.C., Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - The National Right to Life in Washington D.C. recently added its voice to the millions worldwide in praising Pope John Paul II as “an unfaltering voice for the unborn, the disabled and the elderly and was a strong defender of the right to life.”
Wanda Franz Ph.D., president of the nationwide organization, added that, “His stalwart opposition to the evils of abortion, infanticide and euthanasia was grounded in compassion and love and he will be deeply missed.”
Most recently, the 2004 teachings of John Paul on those in “vegetative” states was strongly utilized by the group in its fight to defend the life of Terri Schiavo, who died of starvation last week.
“He issued the first clear and explicit papal statement on the moral obligation to provide food and water for patients in a “persistent vegetative state,” stating that, “the administration of food and water...always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act,” the group said.
The National Right to Life also fondly recalled the pope’s “love of children,” noting that he “often appearing happiest during his visits to World Youth Day, an annual worldwide gathering of young people. He was committed to spreading the culture of life to the next generation of world leaders.”
Dr. Franz added on Saturday, almost immediately following his passing that, “Pope John Paul II will be remembered with love for his dedication to the pro-life cause and for the millions of lives he has touched around the world through his words and actions.”
, Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - Citizens of Kansas are headed to the polls today to vote on a state constitutional amendment that would protect marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and Concerned Women for America (CWA) expects the amendment to get a majority vote.
The lobby group was one of several organizations that were instrumental in putting the amendment on the ballots.
CWA of Kansas was active in mobilizing people at the grassroots to contact their state legislators and urge them to vote in favor of the amendment. Marsha Strahm, legislative liaison for CWA of Kansas, contributed to the testimony heard by the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.
"Last year, the Legislature denied the people of Kansas the opportunity to vote on the amendment, but we are grateful that the flood of calls pouring into the state Capitol, our lobbying efforts, and our public testimony, have paid off in their decision to put the amendment on the ballot," said CWA of Kansas State Director Judy Smith. CWA has 5,540 members in Kansas.
If Kansans to approve the amendment, it would make Kansas the 18th state to protect marriage in its state constitution.
The CWA pointed out that support for traditional marriage is growing across the country. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll released April 1 reported that 68 percent of Americans oppose legalizing same-sex marriage, and a majority now supports a federal constitutional amendment.
Denver, Colo., Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - A hotly contested, but long held ban on religiously themed floats in a Denver Christmas parade was lifted this week allowing participating Christian groups to publicly recognize Christmas as the birth of Christ.
Jim Basey, chairman of the 2005 parade committee said at a press conference Monday that "This has been a marvelous event for downtown Denver for 30 years, and we believe it's going to be even better with these changes."
The event was thrust into the national spotlight last year when a local pastor was denied entry into the parade with his church’s float depicting Christ’s birthday.
George Morrison, pastor of Faith Bible Chapel said that he received a flood of supportive e-mails following the incident and was featured on 25 talk shows including CNN and Fox News.
Morrison now says he has raised almost $40,000 from various religious groups--including the Archdiocese of Denver—to develop a float for this Christmas’ parade.
"Hopefully”, Morrison said, “we'll come up with something that will be pleasing to everybody."
Vatican City, Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - Over 500,000 people came to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II during the first night of viewing in St. Peter’s Basilica. The Pope lies in state near the Altar of Confession, where he was placed on Monday at 5pm after being carried in procession from the Clementine Hall.
The beginning of public viewing by the faithful was moved up from 9pm to 8pm as the lines grew so long they crossed St. Peter’s Square and stretched down the long avenue leading up to the Vatican.
The uninterrupted flow of people continued throughout the night and into the morning. Each person on average waited about eight hours to get in to the Basilica. The Vatican had originally planned to close the Basilica from 2am to 5am for routine cleaning but because of the large crowds it will only be closed from 3am to 4:15am.
During the brief pause last night, police distributed water and blankets to the elderly and to children who were among the pilgrims.
By Tuesday morning more than 500,000 people had filed through St. Peter’s.
The Pope lies in state facing the entrance of the Basilica in a slightly inclined position so that he can be seen by the faithful. Eight Swiss Guard soldiers flank the Pope in a reverent display of honor and protection.
Dressed in a red chasuble, the Pope’s hands are folded across his chest and are holding his wooden rosary. Under his right arm is his staff with the image of Nervi’s Crucified Christ, which became the undeniable symbol of his pontificate.
The Pope’s face, while thinned and consumed by the last days of suffering, appears serene nonetheless. “It looks like he’s sleeping,” remarked a number of visitors.
Rome, Italy, Apr 5, 2005 (CNA) - Italian officials in Rome are making emergency plans to accommodate the more than two million people and two hundred heads of state expected to attend John Paul II’s funeral Mass on Friday.
“The faithful are arriving in buses, trains and airplanes,” said Guido Bertolaso, Director of Civil Protection in Rome. Traffic heading into Rome is increasing by the minute, he added. “There is literally a wave of pilgrims arriving. This is a critical moment and it is inevitable that there will be critical moments requiring last minute decisions and corrections,” he stated.