.- Blessed John Paul II remains alive with God, continuing to offer his prayers for the Church on earth, the head of the Holy See Press Office said on the seventh anniversary of the late Pope's death.
“John Paul II for us is still alive and present,” Father Federico Lombardi told CNA on April 2. “He was proclaimed as blessed by the Church, so we are sure that he is alive and he continues to be present and to intercede for the Church just as he did while he was our pastor on the earth.”
The seventh anniversary of Blessed John Paul II's 2005 death is the first remembrance of the Pope's passing to take place since he was beatified on May 1, 2011.
“He continues to be an intercessor for us, near to God,” said Fr. Lombardi.
Although Blessed John Paul II's feast day falls on Oct. 22 (the date of his installation as Pope), the anniversary of his death remains significant for many faithful around the world.
This year that anniversary came one day after the April 1 diocesan-level celebration of World Youth Day – an event inaugurated by the “Pope of Youth,” who was later named its patron in 2011.
On April 2 Pope Benedict XVI addressed a group of 5,000 pilgrims from Spain who came to Rome for its local World Youth Day as a gesture of gratitude to the Pope for his 2011 visit to Spain for the last international-level youth gathering. The pilgrims were accompanied by a group of priests and bishops led by Madrid's Cardinal Archbishop Antonio María Rouco Varela.
Pope Benedict praised the young pilgrims as “the protagonists and main beneficiaries” of World Youth Day, “promoted vigorously by my beloved predecessor, Blessed John Paul II, whose passage to heaven we remember today.”
“Whenever I bring to mind the twenty-sixth World Youth Day in Madrid,” Pope Benedict told the pilgrims, “my heart fills with gratitude to God for the grace to experience those unforgettable days.” He described the young attendees at the gathering as “eloquent signs of the risen Christ.”
He also renewed his call for young people to give a joyful and faithful witness in their everyday lives.
“You are called to cooperate in this exciting and worthwhile task,” he told them. “Christ needs you to extend your hand and build his kingdom of love … You all have a vocation that he has wanted to propose for your happiness and holiness.”
He urged the young Spaniards to follow the example of the saints, “always spreading the light of God and the power of your love, transforming the world into a welcoming home for all, where God is glorified and his children are blessed.”