VATICAN CITY, NOV. 5, 2002 ( John Paul II presided over a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica for the repose of the souls of cardinals and bishops who died over the past 12 months.

The sorrow of losing loved ones, which never disappears entirely, is alleviated by "the consoling certainty of the communion of saints," the Pope said today.

The Holy Father recalled his "bonds of friendships" with many of the prelates who died over the past year.

In particular, he remembered the following deceased cardinals: Paolo Bertoli, Franjo Kuharic, Louis-Marie Billé, Alexandru Todea, Johannes Joachim Degenhardt, Lucas Moreira Neves, François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân and John Baptist Wu Cheng-Chung.

"These brothers of ours have reached their end," the Pope recalled. "One day, each one of them, fresh with energy, pronounced his 'Here I am!' at the moment of priestly ordination."

"At the hour of death they pronounced their final 'Here I am,' joined to that of Christ, who died entrusting his spirit into the hands of the Father," John Paul II added during the Mass, which was celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state.

The Pope recalled that some of the deceased "had the grace to offer their witness in a heroic manner, enduring harsh trials and inhuman persecutions."

"Death has apparently separated us, but the power of Christ and of his Spirit unites us in an even more profound way," the Pope concluded.

The College of Cardinals now has 171 members, including 114 under the age of 80 who could vote in a conclave for a new pope.