04/02/2006, 00.00
VATICAN - john paul ii
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Pope: Open wide the doors to Christ, let's persevere in the living legacy of John Paul II

Benedict XVI recalled the "great pope" John Paul II, on the first anniversary of his death. His legacy and mission resonate as if they were being pronounced today: Open, no, open wide, the doors to Christ. The pope mentioned this evening's appointment for a Marian vigil and tomorrow's mass in St Peter's square, both in memory of John Paul II.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Benedict XVI today recalled his predecessor John Paul II, exactly a year after his death on 2 April 2005. He was speaking before the Angelus prayer to tens of thousands of people gathered in St Peter's square. Interrupted by frequent applause from his audience, Benedict XVI recalled how the deceased pope had carried out the final acts of "his earthly pilgrimage… from this very room", that is, the study the pope was talking from, leaving a "profound mark" on the history of the Church and the whole world.

The pope also recalled the "agony and death" of the Polish pope, practically "an extension of the Easter triduum": of his Via Crucis (way of the cross) on Good Friday, which he took part in from his private chapel, of his "Urbi et Orbi" blessing on Easter day itself. "We will never forget this blessing," said a moved Benedict XVI. "It was the most pained and moving blessing", a sure sign that John Paul II wanted to live his ministry fully, "to the very end".

Referring to this evening's Marian vigil in St Peter's square, due to take place at the exact time (9.37pm) of John Paul II's death, and to tomorrow's mass that he will preside over, Benedict XVI highlighted the "immense heritage" Pope Wojtyla left the Church and the world, that could be summed up in the words inaugurating his pontificate: "Open, no, open wide the doors to Christ!" Benedict XVI said: "This is an unforgettable appeal that I still hear, as though it was being said today." The pontiff said John Paul II's life, "his person, his actions, his apostolic trips, his meeting crowds, believers, governments, religious leaders, and social realities" were "a great gesture confirming his first words". Pope Wojtyla "announced Christ to all", in deep sympathy with the second Vatican Council, offering the presence of Christ to mankind's expectations of "justice, truth, freedom, peace".

Towards the end, Benedict XVI recalled the last days of John Paul II, sick and in silence. The pope said the Lord "stripped him of everything to assimilate him with himself… His gestures and proclamations were reduced to the bare essential: to the gift of himself to the last". The pope added: "His death was the fulfillment of a testimony of faith that touched many men of goodwill".

Introducing the Angelus prayer, Benedict stressed that John Paul II died on Saturday, "the day dedicated to Mary", to who we ask to "make ours that which this great pontiff showed and taught us".

He also invited all youth to participate in the vigil on Thursday 6 April in the lead-up to the XXI World Youth Day. This vigil too, held in St Peter's square, will mark the memory of John Paul II.

After the prayer, the pope greeted pilgrims in several languages, especially the Poles, who came to Rome to honour the memory of Pope Wojtyla. In Italian, he recalled the little Thomas, an 18-month-old epileptic baby, kidnapped some weeks ago, whose death was announced in the news only yesterday. The pope also recalled, in prayer, "all victims of violence".

Before the greetings, the pope launched an appeal for two days of prayer and fasting for peace in Iraq, on 3 and 4 April. The appeal, made by Benedict XVI, was the desire of the Patriarch of Baghdad, Emmanuel Delly and the Iraqi bishops, and it has been made to all believers, including Muslims.

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