Remembering Blessed John Paul II One Year On

Thousands of young people are expected to gather tonight for a prayer Vigil just outside Rome to celebrate the first anniversary of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s beatification.

Due to take place at the Tor Vergata esplanade, the venue for Rome’s World Youth Day in 2000, the Vigil will begin at 8pm with a torchlight procession. A large crowd of young people from Rome, together with 400 other youths from across Europe, will be taking part, according to the Vicariate of Rome which is organising the event. They are in the Eternal City for a meeting of European universities.

After reciting the Regina Caeli prayer yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI sent a greeting to the participants in which he urged young people “to continue with confidence along the path of the new evangelization in the university.”

“Tomorrow evening I will join you in spirit for the Vigil to be held in Tor Vergata, near the Great Cross of World Youth Day 2000,” he said. “Thank you for your presence!”

In an interview with Vatican Radio, the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, Agostino Vallini, noted it was the first time such a large event had been organised there since the "Great Cross" was placed in Tor Vergata after WYD 2000. “It's the place where John Paul II invited young people not to give up, to fight for what is good,” he said. “In a time of crisis like the present, we still need to hear this message.”

John Paul II said at the time that the young people made such a racket that Rome heard it and the city would never forget it. Recalling those words, Cardinal Vallini remembered it was a “beautiful , clear” noise which had something important to say.

“At that point, millions of young people listened, reflected, prayed and rejoiced together,” he said. “Those ex-young, who may now be in their thirties or forties, still want to rejoice and possibly join in with the youth of today, with the smaller ones, to tell them that noise can be made not a destructive but in a constructive way, for a better society.”

Blessed John Paul II was “young at heart” and “in love with young people”, the Cardinal said, “so young people felt very close to him, as they do today.” And he added that when a young person “feels a closeness to someone – and the saints are close to people – then they open their hearts.”

But he stressed that joy comes from the beautiful encounter with the Lord that each person can experience through prayer. “Pope John Paul II said just that to young people: that the most beautiful and authentic way to change the world…comes from this encounter,” he said. “This is what it means to change one’s own life.”

Tomorrow at 6pm, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who served as John Paul II’s Secretary of State, will celebrate a Mass in honor of the late Pope at the Polish church of St. Stanislaus in Rome. On display will be a relic donated by Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz, John Paul II’s former personal secretary, which contains a piece of cloth soaked with the blood of the blessed. Also in the Church, kept in a glass case, is one of John Paul II’s cassocks.