.- Pope John Paul II followed the call of Christ up until his last day and traveled âeverywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit that lasts.â That was the simple yet powerful message delivered by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger at the funeral mass for the much-loved pontiff Friday morning at St. Peterâs Square.
Millions gathered in Rome over the past week to pay their last respects and attend the funeral mass for Pope John Paul II, who died April 2 at the age of 84, after serving as the vicar of Christ for nearly 27 years.
âThe Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God for his flock and for the entire human family, in a daily self-oblation for the service of the Church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months,â Cardinal Ratzinger said in his homily. âAnd in this way he became one with Christ, the Good Shepherd who loves his sheep.â
The Risen Lordâs last words to PeterââFollow meââare âthe key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late beloved Pope John Paul II,â he said.
The three-hour Latin mass, celebrating the life of the third-longest reigning pontiff, was the most attended and widely watched funeral in history. There were more than 170 heads of state and political leaders present.
Despite the grandeur of the Pope on the international scene, the celebration was marked by simplicity. The Holy Fatherâs plain wooden coffin, placed before the altar, had the markings of a cross and the letter M, for Mary.
At the beginning of his Italian-language homily, Cardinal Ratzinger issued a particular greeting to youth, whom the Pope loved dearly and âwhom John Paul II liked to call the future and the hope of the Church.â The greeting drew cheers from the young pilgrims who traveled into Rome for the funeral.
At other times during the mass, the pilgrims shouted âSubito Santo!ââa chant that expressed the peopleâs desire that the Pope be made a saint soon.
In his homily, the cardinal briefly outlined Karol Wojtylaâs youthful days, underlining his ordination to the priesthood in 1946 and then to the episcopate in 1958.
He also noted that for Fr. Karol Wojtyla, leaving the world of academia and ministry to young people to answer a call to the episcopate was a great sacrifice for the, but âKarol Wojtyla accepted the appointment, for he heard in the Church's call the voice of Christ.
âOur Pope - and we all know this - never wanted to make his own life secure, to keep it for himself; he wanted to give of himself unreservedly, to the very last moment, for Christ and thus also for us,â the cardinal continued.
âThe love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that,â said Cardinal Ratzinger. âThanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden, which transcends merely human abilities: that of being the shepherd of Christ's flock, his universal Church.
âIn the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the earth, guided by Christ,â Cardinal Ratzinger said.
âBut afterwards, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings; increasingly he understood the truth of the words [Jesus spoke to Peter]: 'Someone else will fasten a belt around you.' And in this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love which goes to the end.â
The cardinal spoke of the Popeâs ability âto forgive and to open his heart to all.
"He interpreted for us the paschal mystery as a mystery of divine mercy,â the cardinal said. âImpelled by this vision, the Pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ, and that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful.
The cardinal also spoke about the Popeâs strong love for Mary, the Mother of God, from whom he learned to conform himself to Christ.
The cardinal concluded by referring to the Popeâs moving final public appearance at the window of his papal apartment Easter Sunday.
"None of us can ever forget how in that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time gave his blessing urbi et orbi,â said the cardinal. âWe 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.â
After the mass, Pope John Paul II was buried in the crypt of St. Peterâs Basilica in a private service, attended by some prelates. The tomb has been simply engraved with his name.
Read John Paul II funeral mass' homily at: