.- “Today we thank the Lord for giving us a shepherd like Pope John Paul II.”
With these words Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone set the tone of the May 2 Mass of Thanksgiving for the beatification of Pope John Paul II. The Vatican’s secretary of state was the chief celebrant and homilist at the service in St. Peters Square.
“He was a man of faith, a man of God, whose life with God was a continuous prayer, a constant prayer, which embraced with love every single person on the planet, each created in the image and likeness of God, and so worthy of respect.”
The ceremony began with a procession led by a vial of Blessed John Paul’s blood. It was taken from the late pontiff while he was undergoing medical tests shortly before his death in 2005. It is Catholicism’s belief in the resurrection of the body at the end of time that makes such physical artifacts, known as relics, of importance to the Catholic faithful.
An estimated 60,000 pilgrims gathered for the Mass, 40,000 of them thought to be Polish. They heard their fellow countryman, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow who wanted to pay tribute to the present pontiff.
“We express gratitude to the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the gift of the beatification of his predecessor and for the fact that he keeps alive the memory of John Paul II,” said the Polish cardinal who was private secretary to Blessed John Paul for many years.
Cardinal Dziwisz also recalled that John Paul had “shed his blood for the cause of Christ” in the same square in 1981 when he was the victim of an assassination.
The coffin of the Pope John Paul will now lie in state before the high altar of St. Peter’s basilica until this evening when, in a private ceremony, it will be moved to its new resting place beneath the altar of St Sebastian. It’s located next to Michelangelo’s famous “Pieta” sculpture close to the right-hand-side entrance to the basilica.
It’s estimated that 250,000 people have now filed by the coffin since the May 1 beatification ceremony.