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Sunday, May 1, 2011


VATICAN CITY, 30 APR 2011 (VIS) - Over 200,000 people attended the vigil in preparation for the beatification of John Paul II. It began at 8:00pm in Rome's Circo Massimo with a video recalling the Jubilee Year of 2000 and the song "Jesus Christ, You Are My Life", which was performed by the Choir of the Diocese of Rome and the Orchestra of the Santa Cecilia Conservatory, led by Msgr. Marco Frisina.

  Following that, 30 youth from Rome's parishes and diocesan chaplaincies placed lighted candles before a copy of the icon of Mary Salus Populi Romani, the patroness of the city. Then a brief video was shown recalling the final months of John Paul II's pontificate, a time marked by his suffering.

  After the performance of the Polish song, O Mother of Mercy, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the former director of the Holy See Press Office during the soon-to-be Blessed's pontificate, gave an address.

  "When, during the funeral of John Paul II, I saw the banners with the slogan 'Saint Now', I thought: 'they arrive late, as one is a saint in life, or never will be'. And such was John Paul II", said the director of the Holy See Press Office from 1984 to 2006. "For a Christian, to pray is a duty yet also the fruit of conviction: for John Paul II it was a necessity, he was unable to live without prayer. To see him pray was to see a person engaged in conversation with God... he filled his prayer with the needs of others... He received thousands of messages from all over the world. I saw him on his knees for hours in his chapel with these messages in his hands. ...Take one, leave another... they were the theme of his conversations with God. I don't think any space remained in his prayer for himself, that he ever prayed for 'his own needs'. .. I learned much from him regarding the human person, in which he saw the image of God, and this was central to his pontificate: respect for the transcendent character of the person, who is at risk of being treated as a thing, as an object. And this respect is something that, once experienced alongside someone like him, one can never forget... Thank you, John Paul II, for the masterpiece that, with the help of God, you made of your life!"

  "My John Paul", a video made by the University Pastoral Care Office of the Vicariate of Rome preceded the testimonial of Sr. Marie Simon-Pierre, the French nun whose miraculous cure paved the way for the process of beatification.

 "I had suffered from Parkinson's disease from 2001", she said, "and the clinical signs of the illness worsened in the weeks after John Paul II's death. On the afternoon of 2 June 2005 I asked the Mother Superior Sr. Marie Thomas to meet with another nun who could take over the responsibilities of the Catholic Maternity services because I didn't have the strength, I was exhausted ... The Mother Superior listened attentively ... reminding me that all of the order's communities were praying for my healing, invoking the intercession of John Paul II ... They were hoping for a miracle that could help contribute to the cause for the beatification of this pope who had been so important to our institute. I was cured during the night between the second and third of June of that year (2005). During the night I awoke with a start and went to our community's chapel to pray before the Most Holy Sacrament. A great peace came over me, a sense of well-being ... Later, I joined the community to pray lauds and receive the Eucharist ... I had to walk for about 50 meters. It was then that I realized that my left arm, which had been paralyzed because of the illness, was beginning to move. It has been six years since I've received any treatment. Since my cure, my life is normal ... What the Lord has caused me to live through the intercession of John Paul II is a great mystery, which is difficult to explain with words ... From the moment I accepted that the entire congregation was praying for John Paul II's intercession for my recovery, I always said that I would go to the very end so that our prayers might be heard. Yes, to the end so that John Paul II might be recognized as blessed and a saint of his time, to the end for the Church, to the end so that the world might believe, to the end so that life might be respected and that all who work in service of life might be fortified".

  Following this, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz addressed the pilgrims:

  "The Pope, who we had committed to the ground just six years ago, is today restored to us, 'blessed' in Heaven" said the Cardinal Archbishop of Krakow. "And so we can also officially, communally, invoke him, invoke his intercession, praise God through him... If today he is proclaimed a Blessed, it is because he was already holy during his life, and also for us who knew him. ... Most of the time spent in his company was passed in silence, as this was the attitude he preferred. To be with John Paul II meant to love his silence. To collaborate with him, to be his secretary, meant above all guaranteeing his living space, his autonomy, protecting his freedom, which primarily meant space and time for God... John Paul II loved God. He sought Him, he never tired of being with Him. He knew how to immerse himself in God, everywhere, in all conditions: even when he studied, or was surrounded by people, he did so with the greatest ease".

  The cardinal's testimony led into the singing of the hymn "Totus Tuus", which was composed for the 50th anniversary of the priestly ordination of John Paul II. This brought the first part of the evening to an end.

  The second part began with the singing of the hymn for John Paul II, "Open the Doors to Christ", followed by an address by Cardinal Agostino Vallini, Vicar of the Diocese of Rome.

  "Even though it has been six years," said the bishop, "since the death of the great Pope-Bishop of Rome and Pastor of the universal Church for 27 years-his memory is particularly vibrant. We feel veneration, affection, admiration, and deep gratitude for the beloved pontiff. We, above all, remember his witness of faith: a convinced and strong faith, free from fear or compromises, true until his last breath, forged by trails, fatigue, and illness, whose beneficent influence has spread throughout the Church, indeed, throughout the world. His witness, through his apostolic travels, inspired millions of men and women of all races and cultures. ... He was witness to the tragic age of big ideologies, totalitarian regimes, and from their passing John Paul II embraced the harsh suffering, marked by tension and contradictions, of the transition of the modern age toward a new phase of history, showing constant concern that the human person be its protagonist. With his gaze fixed on Christ, the Redeemer of humanity, he believed in humanity and showed his openness, trust, and closeness. He loved the human person, pushing us to develop in ourselves the potential of faith to live as free persons, cooperating in the realization of a more just and caring humanity, as workers for peace and builders of hope. ... In his extraordinary energy of love for humanity he loved, with a kind and tender love, all those 'wounded by life', as he called the poor, the sick, the nameless, and those excluded a priori-but he had a particular love for the youth. His calls for the World Youth Days had the purpose of making youth into the protagonists of their own future, becoming builders of history. The remembrance of our beloved pontiff, prophet of hope, should not mean a return to the past for us, but let us make the most of his human and spiritual heritage; let it be an impetus to look forward."

  After this, the Rosary was prayed, following the Mysteries of Light, through a live link with five Marian sanctuaries. Each sanctuary prayed for a particular intention and videos of the messages and homilies of John Paul II related to each intention were shown before the prayer. The sanctuary of Lagiewniki in Krakow, Poland prayed for the youth; the sanctuary of Kawekamo in Bugando, Tanzania, for the family; the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon in Harissa, Lebanon, for evangelization; the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Mexico, for hope and peace among nations; and the Sanctuary of Fatima in Portugal, for the Church.

  At the end of the ceremony, Benedict XVI, in a live link from the Vatican, recited a prayer to the Virgin: "Help us always to account for the hope that is in us, with trust in the goodness of humanity created by God in His image and in the Father's love. Teach us to renew the world from within: in the depths of silence and prayer, in the joy of fraternal love, in the unique fruitfulness of the Cross". At the end of the prayer, the Holy Father imparted the apostolic blessing on those participating in the vigil.
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