Pope John Paul II’s death on April 2, 2005, remains fresh in the memories of those touched by his simplicity and love. To remember that day nine years ago is not just a commemoration of death, but more importantly, a celebration of life.
ZENIT readers from around the world remembered the late Pontiff in a special way. On our Facebook and Twitter pages, we asked our readers what memories they had of the Holy Father, and the response was overwhelming. From apostolic visits to visits to his tomb in St. Peter’s, our readers gave a touching tribute to the soon-to-be canonized saint.
One of the hallmarks of John Paul II’s pontificate was the World Youth Day (WYD), which he began in 1986. Many of our readers remember seeing not just the Supreme Pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church but someone who truly loved and cared for them.
One ZENIT reader remembered seeing the Holy Father at World Youth Day 1993 in Denver, Colorado. “Several times he rose to leave and the entire crowd would break out in ‘JPII, We love You!!!’ We chanted it and he sat down and stayed with us. Again he got up to leave and again we started chanting and again he stayed. This happened several times. I still remember him looking out at the crowd and he was clearly overcome with the Holy Spirit. I love him.”
Another reader who attended WYD 1995 in Manila recalled a moment that shows the impact that Pope John Paul II had on people from different faiths. ”My Muslim friend wept when we saw John Paul II in person,” she wrote.
Throughout his pontificate, John Paul II’s “be not afraid”, inspired many to answer God’s call to the priesthood and religious life. One ZENIT reader recalled his encounter with John Paul II while studying in Rome.
“I had the blessing of serving at Blessed John Paul II’s Christmas Eve midnight Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in 1996,” he wrote. “After Mass, he took the time to thank me and my fellow Salesian theology students. He asked me where I was from and when I said ‘Canada,’ [his] eyes opened wide and he flashed a great smile. He wrapped both his hands around mine, and said, ‘I love Canada!’ Then he looked very intently into my eyes, put one hand on my chest and said very deliberately, ‘Be a holy priest.'”
Another ZENIT follower on Twitter remembered a touching moment that influenced his decision to enter the priesthood. “I met him in [October] 2002,” he tweeted. “I told him I wanted to be a priest and then I kissed him on the cheek. Ten years later I was ordained.”
During his pontificate, John Paul II became one of the most travelled leaders, visiting over 120 countries around the world. A ZENIT reader in Egypt remembered waiting all night during the Pope’s Apostolic Visit in 2000.
“When he entered the hall I was swept away by great emotion and joy. We started shouting: ‘John Paul II we love you’ for more than 20 minutes. Then silence reigned in a crowd of 30,000 people. Then the Pope took the microphone and we were anxious to hear what this missionary of God was going to say to us, and we were surprised by him saying: ‘John Paul II loves you too’. All [of us] present shouted with joy. My heart will never forget this joy. I give witness to this great saint and I love him from the depth of my heart and I ask for his prayers.”
The impact that John Paul II had still remains alive today. And on April 27, 2014, the voices and prayers of those who cried out “Santo Subito” at his funeral 9 years ago, will finally be answered.
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