John Paul II's Last Words

Vatican Publishes the Final “Stations” of His Way of the Cross

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 20, 2005 ( Pope John Paul II’s last words before his death April 2 were, “Let me go to the house of the Father,” says a chronicle published by the Holy See.

The latest edition of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official Vatican bulletin, begins with the narration of about four pages in Italian, with an introduction in Latin. The text details the last days of John Paul II.

The chronicle of April 2 begins at 7:30 p.m. with the Mass celebrated in the Holy Father’s presence, “who began to experience the beginning of the loss of consciousness.”

“At the end of the morning he received the cardinal Secretary of State for the last time and then began a sharp increase in temperature,” the document said.

“Around 3:30 p.m., with a feeble and hoarse voice, in Polish, the Holy Father pleaded, ‘Let me go to the house of the Father,'” the text said. “A little before 7 p.m. he entered a coma. The monitor documented the progressive exhaustion of his vital functions.

“According to a Polish tradition, a small candle lit up the darkness of the chamber where the Pope was slowing fading away.

“At 8 p.m. began the Mass for the feast of Divine Mercy at the foot of the dying Pontiff’s bed. The rite was presided by Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul II’s private secretary, together with Cardinal Marian Jaworski, archbishop of Lviv of the Latin rite, Archbishop Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, and Monsignor Mieczyslaw Mokrzycki, the Pope’s other personal secretary.

“Liturgical songs accompanied the celebration and they blended with those of the youth and the multitude of faithful gathered in prayer in St. Peter’s Square. At 9:37 p.m. John Paul II fell asleep in the Lord.”

Cardinals on hand

Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state; Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, dean of the College of Cardinals (now Benedict XVI); Cardinal Eduardo Martínez Somalo, chamberlain of the Holy Roman Church; and several other members of the papal circle arrived immediately to pay their respects to the deceased Pope.

The chronicle coincides with the information given to the media at the time by Joaquín Navarro Valls, director of the Vatican press office.

The spokesman revealed that on April 1, as the multitude prayed for the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, John Paul II had said, referring to the youth present, “I have sought you. Now you have come to see me. I thank you.”

That day, the eve of his death, according to the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the Pope was “conscious and serene.”

In the morning he concelebrated Mass at 7:15 a.m. and then listened to the reading of the Stations of the Cross, making a sign of the cross at every station.

“Next he asked to listen to the reading of the Third Hour of Prayer during the Day, of the Divine Office, and some passages from Sacred Scripture,” the document said. “The situation was of notable seriousness, characterized by the alarming situation of the parameters of his vital signs.”

Septic shock

“The patient united himself to the continual prayers of those that assisted him,” the document adds.

The text offers details concerning the Pope’s illness that until now had been unknown. His condition worsened on March 31.

“Just after 11:00, the Holy Father, who had gone to the chapel to celebrate holy Mass, was possessed by violent shivering which was followed by a sharp elevation of his temperature until it reached 39.6 degrees C,” the text explains. That is equivalent to 103.3 degrees F.

“He later fell into a serious septic shock and a collapse of his cardiovascular system caused by an infection of his urinary tract,” it adds, confirming data revealed by Navarro Valls at the time.

“The Pope’s explicit wish to remain in his room was respected, where complete and efficient assistance was assured,” it clarifies.

The text continues: “In the afternoon, Mass was celebrated at the foot of the Pope’s bed. He concelebrated with them, with his eyes partially closed, but in the moment of the consecration, he feebly lifted his arm on two occasions, that is to say, over the bread and over the wine.

“He also seemed to make the gesture of touching his chest as he recited the Agnus Dei. The cardinal of Lviv of the Latin rite (Marian Jaworski n.d.r.) administered the Anointing of the Sick. At 7:17 the Pope received Communion. He next asked that a holy hour of prayer and meditation be celebrated.”

Blessing the multitude

The chronicle also gathers details concerning the previous periods of hospitalization of the Pope in the Gemelli Polyclinic of Rome and concerning his public appearances, despite his weakness. It describes his appearance at the window of his study on March 30, in which “he gave his blessing to the multitude, which, amazed and sad, received it from St. Peter’s Square.”

“This was the last public ‘station’ of his painful Way of the Cross,” the text states.

The rest of the volume of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis gathers all the official documents of recognition of his death, his will and testament (original in Polish), the Mass for the deceased Pontiff, the name of the delegations that participated in the funeral Mass and about 150 pages with messages of condolence sent by international representatives.

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