Tens of thousands gather for candlelit memorial remembering John Paul II

.- “Faithfulness and dedication” were the two recurring words used by Pope Benedict XVI to recall his predecessor John Paul II who died one year ago Sunday. Tens of thousands--many of them from the late Pope’s native Poland--gathered in Rome over the weekend to recall the life of a man already being hailed as “John Paul the Great.”

Starting at 8.30 p.m., pilgrims were invited to participate in a moment of prayer and reflection held in St. Peter‘s Square. The event began with readings from various texts written by the late Pope and interspersed with songs sang by the choir of the diocese of Rome.

At 9 p.m., Pope Benedict appeared at his study window to pray the Rosary with the group. Afterwards, at 9:37 p.m., the exact moment of John Paul II's death, he addressed the group below.

He said that although a year has passed since his death, John Paul II "remains present in our minds and hearts…He continues to communicate his love for God and his love for man. He continues to infuse everyone, especially the young, with enthusiasm for goodness and courage to follow Jesus and His teachings."

As Benedict addressed throngs of faithful gathered in the square--all bearing lighted candles, he attempted to sum up the late Pope’s "life and evangelical witness" in two words: "'faithfulness' and 'dedication.' Complete faithfulness to God and unreserved dedication to his own mission as pastor of the Universal Church.”

He said that this "Faithfulness and dedication that appeared even more convincing and moving in his final months, during which he incarnated the words he wrote in his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salvifici doloris: 'Suffering is present in the world in order to release love, in order to give birth to works of love towards neighbor, in order to transform the whole of human civilization into a civilization of love'."

The Pope highlighted how John Paul’s long illness "made everyone more attentive to human pain, to all physical and spiritual pain; he gave suffering dignity and value by bearing witness to the fact that man is not worthy for his efficiency or his appearance, but for himself, because he is created and loved by God."

Benedict said that through his words and gestures, "John Paul II never tired of showing the world that if man allows himself to be embraced by Christ he does not devalue the richness of his humanity; if he adheres to Christ with all his heart, he does not lose anything.”

“On the contrary,” he said, “the encounter with Christ renders our lives more passionate.”

Benedict said that “Precisely because he drew ever closer to God in prayer, contemplation, and love for Truth and Beauty, our beloved Pope was able to accompany each one of us and to speak authoritatively even to people who are distant from Christian faith."

On this anniversary of John Paul’s death, the Pope invited faithful "to accept once more the spiritual heritage he left us,“ saying that “We are encouraged, among other things, to live our lives in a tireless search for the Truth, which alone can satisfy our hearts.”

He said that “We are encouraged not to be afraid to follow Christ, to bring everyone the announcement of the Gospel, ferment for a more fraternal and united humanity. From heaven, may John Paul II help us to continue our journey."

The Pope specifically addressed faithful in Poland, who were following the events by satellite linkup. "The memory of John Paul II remains alive within us," he said, "and the sense of his spiritual presence does not diminish. For you, may the memory of the particular love he always nourished for his countrymen be a light on the path towards Christ: 'Remain strong in the faith'."

Over the television link, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow, thanked Benedict XVI for his words, adding that John Paul II "is smiling upon us from heaven."

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