Ten Years Ago, St. John Paul II's Death Moved the World

On April 2nd, 2005, Hundreds of Thousands Came to Say One Last Goodbye

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“Dear brothers and sisters, at 9:37 pm our beloved Holy Father John Paul II returned to the House of the Father. Let us pray for him,” said Cardinal Sandri on April 2, 2005 to the thousands of faithful that had gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, under the windows of his apartment to pray the Holy Rosary for him. It was the night before Divine Mercy Sunday.

There were many youth and people there, who from the day before gathered to follow the Polish Pope in his agony. The light of the window was turned on, the light of his study was turned off; everyone tried to understand what was happening while praying or, in the case of young people, singing or chanting in unison.

It was an expected death. Day by day the Pope’s life was fading. On February 24, 2005, the Pontiff was readmitted to the Agostino Gemelli Hospital. He had already been there for nine days from the beginning of the month suffering an acute respiratory crisis.

He was in the hospital for 18 days; doctors performed a tracheotomy, but his condition did not improve much. He returned to the Vatican on March 14th, although the doctors wanted him to remain in hospital. He wanted to die in the See of Peter. He returned seated in the front seat of a minibus, which drove slowly back to the Vatican. Many gathered on the streets to see him go by, perceiving the gravity of the situation.

However, it was during the General Audience of March 30 that the 84-year-old Pontiff deeply affected the crowds gathered in the Square. The Pope, whose words contributed to the collapse of the Soviet empire, could not articulate words despite the effort he made to do so, and his blessing that day was silent.

On March 20th, Palm Sunday, he could hardly hold a palm. It was the first time he was not presiding over the ceremony, and he was only able to give the blessing from the window of his study.

He was unable to attend the Via Crucis in the Roman Coliseum on Good Friday. Only a few images of the Pope seated in his private chapel were released, wearing a purple stole and clasping a cross. The Holy Father could not say a single word on Easter Sunday for the Urbi et Orbi blessing.

On the night of April 2nd, shortly before his death, he spoke his last words: “Let me go to the House of the Father.”

From Monday, April 4thto Thursday, April 7th, something happened hat no one could have imagined: hundreds of thousands of faithful filled Saint Peter’s Square and via della Conciliazione for a last good-bye to the Pope. There was no distinction of ages or races: elderly people, children, mothers and young people arrived from all over the world. Day and at night the crowd was there, standing in a queue for many hours to view the lifeless body of the Holy Father and remain there for a few seconds.

The funeral took place on April 8th, described as the largest funeral in history. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger led the Mass, who 11 days later was elected as Pontiff taking the name Benedict XVI. The strong wind that day flipped the pages of the Book of the Gospel placed on the austere coffin containing the Polish Pontiff’s body. Attending the ceremony were thousands of people and heads of state from all over the world, gathered in the Square, with television channels reporting a record silent audience. In the funeral homily, Cardinal Ratzinger pointed to the window of the study that looks out on the Square, which had been the center of attention of throughout the world, and he asserted: “Our beloved Pope is now appearing from the window of Heaven. He is looking at us and blesses us.”

The multitude wanted him proclaimed a Saint immediately. A wish that the process of canonization obtained on July 5, 2013, when Pope Francis signed the Decree authorizing John Paul II’s canonization together with that of John XXIII. The ceremony took place on April 27, 2014.

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Sergio Mora

Buenos Aires, Argentina Estudios de periodismo en el Istituto Superiore di Comunicazione de Roma y examen superior de italiano para extranjeros en el Instituto Dante Alighieri de Roma. Periodista profesional de la Associazione Stampa Estera en Italia, y publicista de la Orden de periodistas de Italia. Fue corresponsal adjunto del diario español El País de 2000 a 2004, colaborador de los programas en español de la BBC y de Radio Vaticano. Fue director del mensual Expreso Latino, realizó 41 programas en Sky con Babel TV. Actualmente además de ser redactor de ZENIT colabora con diversos medios latinoamericanos.

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