VATICAN CITY — Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz and Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone paid fitting tribute Monday to Blessed Pope John Paul II, a man whose life radiated Christ’s love, at a Mass of thanksgiving in St. Peter’s Square.
The beloved Pope’s remains will now occupy a visible place in St. Peter’s Basilica, under the altar of St. Sebastian next to Michelangelo’s Pietà.
For the second day in a row, a jubilant crowd thronged St. Peter’s Square, waving the flags of Poland (most of them, of course), Spain, Lithuania, the United States, Portugal and others. They wanted one more chance to say “Thank you.”
Estimated at around 60,000, the pilgrims reacted enthusiastically when Cardinal Dziwisz, the archbishop of Krakow, in a prelude to a Mass that included readings of some of Blessed John Paul’s poetry, thanked Pope Benedict for the “gift of beatification and for the fact that he keeps alive the memory of John Paul II.”
Cardinal Dziwisz was the longtime personal secretary of Pope John Paul II.
The Polish Kingdom Choir and the Warsaw Symphony Orchestra of Polish Radio in Katowice assisted the Choir of the Diocese of Rome with the music.
The Mass began with the procession of the relic of Blessed John Paul, a vial of his blood, to a place of veneration to the left of the altar. Cardinal Bertone’s homily recalled the conversation between Jesus and Peter after the Resurrection in the Gospel of John, when Jesus asked the head of his Church, “Do you love me?” three times.
Cardinal Bertone said, “Aren’t these the question and answer that marked the life and mission of Blessed John Paul II?”
The Vatican secretary of State continued, “Yes, this dialogue of love between Christ and man that shaped the whole life of Karol Wojtyla and led him not only to faithful service to the Church, but also to total dedication to God and man that characterized his journey to holiness.”
And perhaps mindful of the cool breeze that swirled around the square during Mass, the cardinal said, “We all remember how, on the day of the funeral, at one point, the wind gently closed the pages of the Gospel placed on his coffin. It was as if the wind of the Spirit wanted to mark the end of the human and spiritual adventure of Karol Wojtyla, all illuminated by Christ’s Gospel.”
“From this book, he discovered God’s plan for humanity and for himself, but also got to know Christ and his face and his love. That, for Karol, was always a call to responsibility. He understood human history and the life of every man and woman he met in light of the Gospel. That was where his faith came from: from meeting Christ in the Gospel.”
The man who was made a bishop in 1991 under John Paul II said, “Thanks to his faith, expressed above all in prayer, Pope John Paul II was a true defender of the dignity of every human being and not a mere warrior for political or social ideologies. For him, every woman and every man, was a daughter or a son of God, regardless of race, skin color, geographical and cultural origin, and even religious beliefs.”
“He was a man of faith, a man of God, who lived in God. His life was a constant prayer which embraced with love every single person on this planet, created in the image and likeness of God, and thus worthy of respect,” Cardinal Bertone said, “redeemed by the death and resurrection of Christ, and thus become truly the living glory of God.”
Cardinal Bertone perfectly expressed the sentiments of millions when he said, “Today we thank the Lord for giving us a shepherd like Blessed Pope John Paul II.”
Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston said after the Mass that Blessed Pope John Paul, who appointed the 40-year-old Capuchin friar bishop of St. Thomas in 1984, made a deep impression on him the first moment he met him in 1979. The cardinal said he knew right away that the Pope had a genuine love for the people of God.
“That makes a tremendous impact on a young priest.”
As a Polish cardinal, Karol Wojtyla made another impact on young Father Philip Majka.
Father Majka, the Catholic chaplain at Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., celebrated the 40th anniversary of his ordination on beatification day.
He said he met Cardinal Wojtyla in 1969, when he visited Washington and continued on to Detroit to meet with members of the large Polish populations there. It was the intensity of the cardinal’s prayer life that caught his attention.
“I went into a room where he was praying,” he recalled, “and I was going to interrupt him because it was something that I thought was important at the time. I didn’t interrupt him when I saw how he was praying. God tapped me on the shoulder and said ‘Whoa.’ I knew I was in the presence of true holiness.”
CNA contributed to this article.
Register managing editor Tom Wehner filed this report from Rome.