John Paul II's 'We Are to Imitate Saints, Rather Than Applaud Them' Recalled at Mass of Thanksgiving

Cardinals Thank God for ‘Extraordinarily Transparent Witness of Love and Service’

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Two Masses of Thanksgiving have taken place this Monday morning in St. Peter’s Square for the two saints canonized Sunday by Pope Francis.

Cardinal Angelo Comastri, archpriest of the Vatican basilica, celebrated a Mass to give thanks for the life and lengthy pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Thousands of mainly Polish pilgrims attended.

Recalling John Paul II’s words, Cardinal Comastri said: “The saints do not ask us to applaud them; they ask that we imitate them.” He urged those in the Square to imitate the new saint.

You should imitate the Polish Pontiff, he said, who had “the courage to openly defend faith in Jesus in an age of ‘silent apostasy on the part of people who have all that they need and who live as if God does not exist’ … to defend the family, to defend human life, to defend peace while the grim winds of war blew … to encounter the young to free them from the culture of emptiness and the ephemeral and to invite them to welcome Christ, the sole light of life and the only one able to bring the fullness of joy to the human heart.”

Cardinal Comastri had noted, as the sun warmed the piazza, that at a moment in history when people were living as if God did not exist, John Paul II had the courage to proclaim openly his faith in Christ.  He stated that as the late Pontiff lost physical strength, his witness became stronger.

Love and service

“Authentic and free from fear or compromise,” is how the Italian cardinal describedWojtyla’s faith, noting his “courageous defense of the family and the dignity of human life, but also his opposition to the two Gulf wars and his tireless struggle for peace among peoples and nation.

Discussing the Polish Pontiff’s devotion, he spoke of his total dedication to Mary, into whose loving hands he entrusted his whole life, and his attention to young people.

Before Communion, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, archbishop of Krakow, Poland, who was the new saint’s secretary, gave a greeting to the faithful.

“Yesterday two Blessed Popes were inscribed among the Saints: the first, John XXIII, a son of the land of Italy, who merited the title of the ‘Good Pope’. It was he who announced Vatican Council II, more than half a century ago,» he said. «The second of the new Saints, John Paul II, son of Poland, the Pope of Divine Mercy, consequently gave life to the decision of the Council and led the Church into the third millennium of Christian faith.”

The Polish archbishop thanked God “for the extraordinarily transparent witness of love and service of both these pastors.” He also gave thanks on behalf of his compatriots “to Italy and all of her inhabitants for having welcomed Karol Wojtyla many years ago, as bishop and pope, as he arrived in Rome ‘from a far away country.’”

Noting Italy became a second homeland to John Paul II, he said today the new saint “will surely bless her from on high, just as he surely blesses Poland and the entire world. There was a place in his heart for all nations, cultures and languages.”

Couldn’t be happier

Dorothy, a mother of two little children, from Poland, told ZENIT in the Square: “It’s such a beautiful experience, I was touched by his words, by the fact he was so close with John Paul.” The only disappointment, she admitted, was the “lacking of Francis.”

She added, “Yesterday, having two little ones, I couldn’t get close, but partook in the Canonization, from the Castel Sant’Angelo bridge, a distance away. I would have liked to have seen him. However, I could not be happier.”

Simplicity, generosity, solidarity

Simultaneously, Bishop of Bergamo Francesco Beschi led a Mass of Thanksgiving for the life and legacy of Saint John XXIII at the Church of San Carlo al Corso in Central Rome, the same church where Pope John received his episcopal ordination, reported Vatican Radio.

Bishop Beschi responded to the letter which Pope Francis had sent, right before the canonization, to the local diocesan newspaper, saying that personal encouragement would help all people of the diocese safeguard the values of simplicity, generosity and solidarity. He noted these values nurtured the faith of the young Angelo Roncalli.

The letter also encouraged them to respond to the challenges and signs of the times with that «obedience to the Spirit» that characterised «good Pope John.»

Lastly, he stated it would help them faithfully follow the path which the Second Vatican Council set out, which Pope John called to renew the life of the Church and revitalise the faith of all Christian men and women.

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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