Sunday, April 02, 2006

A Year On, The Pilgrims Return

On this, the first anniversary of the death of John Paul II, the Poles, and the rest of the world, returned to the Vatican to pay tribute.

The commemoration was the focus of Benedict XVI's Angelus, delivered before a massive noontime crowd in advance of the evening prayer vigil.

Below is my translation of the fulltext.
Dear Brothers and Sisters!

Last 2 April, a year ago today, the beloved Pope John Paul II was living in these hours the final phase of his earthly pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of faith, of hope and of love, which left a profound mark on the history of the Church and that of humanity. His suffering and death almost constituted an extension of the Paschal Triduum. We all remember the images of his final Via Crucis, Good Friday: he couldn't come to the Colisseum, following it from his Private Chapel, holding in his hands a cross. Then, on Easter day, he gave the Urbi et Orbi blessing without being able to speak its words, with only a motion of his hand. It was an enduring, moving blessing, which he left us as an extreme testimony of his will to accomplish his ministry until the end. John Paul II died as he always lived, animated by the indomitable courage of the faith, abandoning himself in God and entrusting himself to Mary Most Holy. This evening, we will remember him with a vigil of prayer in St Peter's Square, where tomorrow evening I will celebrate for him the Holy Mass.

A year from his passage from the earth to the house of the Father, we can ask ourselves: what has this great Pope, who introduced the Church to the third millennium, left? His inheritance is immense, but the message of his very long pontificate can be culled from the words with which he began, here in St Peter's Square, on 22 October 1978: "Open, or rather, open wide the doors to Christ!" John Paul II made this unforgettable appeal incarnate with all of his person and all of his mission as Successor of Peter, especially with his extraordinary program of apostolic voyages. Visiting the countries of the entire world, meeting the people, the ecclesial communities, government leaders, religious heads and the different social realities, he did it all as one great act, bound up in those first words. He announced always Christ, offering him to everyone, as Vatican II did, this response to the expectations of man, of freedom, of justice, of peace. Christ is the Redeemer of Man -- he repeated -- the only Saviour of each person and of the entire human race.

In his last years, the Lord gradually stripped him of it all, making him fully like Himself. And when he could no longer travel, no longer walk and, finally, no longer speak, his motions, his announcement was culled to its essentials: the gift of oneself until the end. His death was the completion of a coherent testimony of faith which touched the hearts of many people of good will. John Paul II left us on a Saturday, dedicated particularly to Mary, toward whom he always nourished a filial devotion. To the heavenly Mother of God we ask now for help for ourselves, that we may make a treasure of all those things which were given and taught to us by this great Pontiff.

Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae....

AP/Alessandra Tarantino