Christina Farrell reports on the papal jubilee Mass and celebrations SCEPTICS questioned whether John Paul II would see the 25th anniversary of his pontificate. But last week the Holy Father faced the faithful and in a powerful homily called for Christ to "protect the beloved Church".
In 1978 the newly-elected John Paul H told the expectant crowds gathered in St Peter's Square in Rome that he was afraid to receive the nomination but did so "in the spirit of obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ and in total confidence in his Mother".
On October 16 an ailing but visibly strengthened John Paul II dedicated the 25 years of his pontificate to God and recalled the moment when he realised he would be Pope. "Humanly speaking, how could I not tremble?" he said. "How could I not feel the weight of such a great responsibility?"
The Holy Father had struggled through the papal audience on Wednesday, leaving out large sections of his prepared text, but he appeared stronger on the anniversary of his election. At a jubilee Mass in St Peter's, his homily became a personal, emotional prayer to Catholics worldwide.
The Pope said: "Forgive the wrong done and multi
ply the good: all is your work and to you only is glory due. With full confidence in your mercy. I present to you today once again those you entrusted years ago to my pastoral care.
"Keep them in love, gather them in your flock, carry the weak on your shoulders, look after the strong. Be their pastor so they will not be lost. Protect the beloved Church that is in Rome and the Churches throughout the world. Assist with the light and power of your spirit those whom you have placed at the head of your flock. May they energetically fulfil their mission of guides, teachers, sanctifiers, while awaiting your glorious return."
John Paul reaffirmed his devotion to Our Lady as he rededicated his ministry to Christ "by the intercession of Mary, beloved Mother, the gift of myself, of the present and future: may all be done according to your will, Supreme Pastor, stay among us, so that we can advance safely with you to the house of the Father".
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals, led the tributes. He said the Pope had "borne the criticisms and insults, also inspiring gratitude and love and making the walls of hatred collapse".
The papal celebrations were attended by a number of national leaders including Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski and former President Lech Walesa.
Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor offered his own tribute on behalf of the bishops of England and Wales on their ad limina visit to Rome.
In a broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day the Cardinal said the Pope's life had been dedicated to the message "you will only be free if you order your life by what is true".
He said the Pope had waged a battle against the "moral confusion" of the times. "He has spoken about the truth of the dignity of the human person, which should never be violated ... about the truth of the necessity of justice and peace for a world torn apart by injustice and hatred," he said.
In London Catholic Labour MP Jim Dobbin tabled an Early Day Motion to the House of Commons to mark the silver jubilee. The motion, which appeared on the order paper for the Commons on Thursday morning, was signed by MN from across the political spectrum.
It read: "That this House congratulates his Holiness Pope John Paul II on the 25th anniversary of his election; notes that Pope John Paul II has endured the horrors of Nazi occupation, communist tyranny and an assassination attempt to become a tireless
promoter of universal human
rights and one of the outstanding figures of our times; applauds his teaching on social justice, the dignity of the human person, religious freedom, the challenge of materialism in Western life, the environment, third world debt, marriage and family life and many other issues, recognises that during his pontificate he has made over 100 overseas trips in an unrelenting pursuit of ecumenical and inter-reli
gious reconciliation, dialogue, and world peace, particularly in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; salutes the stand he has taken in seeking the protection of the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalised members of society; and, in his infirmity and frailty, sends the greetings of this House and its thanks and appreciation for all that he represents."