Sunday, the Catholic Church paused to remember the
one-year-ago-to-the-day death of Pope John Paul II. Pope Benedict XVI
said that the completion of the late Holy Father’s earthly life was the
fulfillment of a “coherent witness of faith” which constituted the
Polish Pope’s entire existence.
Prior to praying his weekly Sunday Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, the Holy Father recalled that one year ago, "the beloved Pope John Paul II was living through the last phase of his earthly pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of faith, love and hope that left a profound mark in the history of the Church and of humanity.”
Tens of thousands of pilgrims and visitors were on hand to hear the Pope’s words.
Benedict said that "His agony and death constituted almost a prolongation of the Easter Triduum. We all recall the images of his last Way of the Cross on Good Friday. Unable to go to the Coliseum, he followed events from his private chapel, holding the cross in his hands.”
“Then,” he continued, “on Easter Sunday, he imparted the 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing, without managing to pronounce a word, just gesturing with his hand.”
The pontiff called it the “most painful and moving of blessings, which he left us testimony of his will to carry out his ministry right to the end.”
"Thus”, Pope Benedict told the crowd, “John Paul II died as he had always lived, animated by the indomitable courage of faith, giving himself up to God and entrusting himself to Mary Most Holy.”
He said that the heritage of the late pope “is immense, but the message of his long pontificate can be summarized in the words with which he chose to open it, here in St. Peter's Square on October 22, 1978: 'Open wide the doors to Christ!'"
The Holy Father then recalled how John Paul incarnated this appeal "with his entire person and his entire mission as Peter's Successor," especially in his apostolic trips.
Benedict said that his meetings with the crowds, with religious communities, and with political and religious leaders were "like a single grand gesture, confirming those opening words. He announced Christ always, presenting Him to everyone - just as Vatican Council II had -as a response to man's hopes for freedom, justice and peace."
He reminded the crowd that during John Paul’s last years, "the Lord gradually stripped him of everything, in order to assimilate him fully to Himself. And when he could no longer travel, no longer even walk, and finally not even speak, his gestures and announcement were reduced to essentials: to the giving of himself right to the end.”
“His death”, he pointed out, “was the fulfillment of a coherent witness of faith that touched the hearts of so many men and women of good will."
The Pope concluded his address saying that "John Paul II left us on a Saturday, dedicated especially to Mary, towards whom he always felt a filial devotion. We now ask the heavenly Mother of God to help us treasure all this great Pontiff gave and taught us."