Vatican City (AsiaNews) John Paul II was a man whose strong, rock-like, true faith, free from fears and compromises, struck the hearts of so many people. The anniversary of his death, an event that brings back memories of his last moments, must encourage us "to go forward without fear as Christ's heralds and witnesses on the path of faithfulness to the Gospel in the third millennium" and "generously work together so that humanity can be more just, express greater solidarity, work for peace and build hope."
Following last night's Marian vigil in which John Paul II's death was remembered, Pope Benedict XVI and some 50 cardinals, including the late Pope's secretary and the current Archbishop of Krakow, Card Stanislaw Dziwisz, concelebrated today a mass of intercession in St Peter's Square. In sign of morning, the concelebrants wore red, the Papal colour of mourning.
With today's reading as the starting point, Benedict XVI evoked the image of gold tried by fire before the 40,000 gathered in St Peter's to speak about his predecessor. "The quality of our faith, i.e. its strength, purity and coherence, is tested in life's difficulties," the Pope said.
"The late lamented Pontiff," the Pope added, "who received from God many human and spiritual qualities melded together in his apostolic work and his illness, was rock-like in his faith. Anyone who saw him regularly was able to almost touch his frank and firm faith. Such faith made a lasting impression on his entourage but, during his long pontificate, also spread his positive influence around the Church reaching and apex in last days and months of his life."
"His faith was strong and true, free from fears and compromises, and struck the hearts of so many people thanks to his many apostolic pilgrimages around the world, and especially thanks to the last "journey" that was his agony and death."
Referring to the reading from the Gospel just proclaimed, Benedict XVI said that "it helps us understand another aspect of his human and religious personality. We can se say that, as Peter's successor, he especially tried of all the Apostles to be like Saint John, "the disciple whom he loved", who stood with Mary under the Cross at the time of the Redeemer's lonely death."
"Seeing the two together, Jesus made them one another's charge; 'Woman, behold, your son. Then he said to the disciple, Behold, your mother,' (Jn, 19: 26-27)."
"These words of the dying Lord were particularly dear to John Paul II. Like the Evangelist and Apostle, he too wanted to take Mary into his house."
"With emotion our thoughts turn tonight to the moment when our beloved Pontiff died, but at the same time the heart is pushed to look forward," Pope Benedict XVI concluded. "We feel in our soul the repeated urging to go forward as Christ's heralds and witnesses on the path of faithfulness to the Gospel in the third millennium. We remember his constant exhortation to generously work together so that humanity can be more just, express greater solidarity, work for peace and build hope. May our eyes remain fixed on Christ, "the same yesterday, today, and forever" (He, 13: 8), who firmly leads His Church".