MASS OF THANKSGIVING
BY DAVID V BARRETT AND ANNA ARCO
THOUSANDS of people gathered in St Peter’s Square on Monday in a thanksgiving Mass for the gift of Pope John Paul II’s life and for his beatification the day before.
A silver reliquary containing a vial of Blessed John Paul II’s blood was placed on a plinth at the beginning of the procession of 30 cardinals and 150 bishops who concelebrated the Mass. It was on display for devotion during the day. The choir of the Diocese of Rome, accompanied by the Wadowice Symphony Orchestra, sang the hymn “Open wide the doors to Christ”, based on John Paul II’s inaugural address as Pope.
Thirty years ago, on May 13, 1981, Pope John Paul was shot by a Turkish gunman, Mehmet Ali Agca, while the pope was riding through the square during his weekly general audience.
“We can never forget that 30 years ago, in this very square, he gave his blood for the cause of Christ,” his long serving personal secretary, Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz of Krakow, told the estimated 60,000 people, including 800 priests, in the square. “In a symbolic way all of Poland is united here,” he said.
Cardinal Dziwisz recalled that the wind closed the book placed on John Paul II’s coffin during his funeral Mass, saying that the “book of John Paul II’s life” was opening again.
Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone presided over the thanksgiving Mass and gave the homily. On John Paul II he said: “His life was a continuous and constant prayer, a prayer that embraced with love every single inhabitant on the planet.” He was a defender of human dignity, the cardinal said. “Today we thank the Lord for giving us a shepherd like him.” John Paul II “taught us how we are to live faith and to defend Christian values, to witness the faith with courage and coherence, living the beatitudes in our daily lives”, said Cardinal Bertone.
The late pope intensified interreligious bonds, he said.
“He was a true man, because he was inseparably linked to He who is Truth... He was a man fully alive because he was filled with Christ who is life.” Cardinal Bertone continued: “We all witnessed how everything that was impressive from a human standpoint was taken from him, his physical strength, his bodily expression, his ability to move, and even his speech... He knew that his bodily weakness only made Christ’s work shine forth all the more clearly and by offering his sufferings to him and the Church he gave all of us a last, great lesson about what it means to be human, and abandonment in God’s arms.” Cardinal Bertone quoted from a passage from Pope Benedict XVI’s homily on the first anniversary of John Paul II’s death.
He said: “Dear brothers and sisters, this evening our thoughts turn with emotion to the moment of the beloved Pontiff’s death, but at the same time our hearts are, as it were, impelled to look ahead. We feel reverberating within them his repeated invitations to advance without fear on the path of fidelity to the Gospel, to be heralds and witnesses of Christ in the third millennium.
“We cannot but recall his ceaseless exhortations to cooperate generously in creating a more just humanity with greater solidarity, to be peacemakers and builders of hope.” Before the Eucharistic Prayer the choir sang “Totus tuus” (I am totally yours). This was Pope John Paul II’s motto, drawn from a prayer by St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort.