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Archbishop Column - April 15, 2005

April 15, 2005

Remembering ministry of Pope John Paul II:
His impact on the Church and on the world

This is the homily given by Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss at the Memorial Mass for Pope John Paul II at St. Cecilia Cathedral on Monday, April 4, 2005.


These are the words of Isaiah (25: 6-9) in the first reading from the Scriptures tonight:

"On this mountain the Lord of Hosts will provide for all peoples.

"On this mountain He will destroy the veil that veils all peoples, the web that is woven over all nations; He will destroy death forever.

"The Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth, for the Lord has spoken."

To Catholics the world over John Paul II has been our universal shepherd for 26 years.

To world leaders, he was able to bring moral support to them or stinging criticism when they oppressed their people.

Non-Christians around the globe welcomed him as a holy guest – he was a righteous man to the Jewish people.

Poor nations considered him their advocate in the halls of power.

And for many people in the world he has been a voice of conscience for serious issues regarding war and abortion and the death penalty.

Pope John Paul had an amazing impact on our Church and on our world.

Basis of pope's confidence

In the time I was able to spend with Pope John Paul II these many years, in public celebrations and private meetings, and as I watched him on television travel the face of the earth meeting with people of all walks of life, I came to appreciate his ability to be at ease with people in every human situation.

It seems to me that John Paul was first of all comfortable with himself and with his role as the successor of St. Peter. This is the reason he could be comfortable with everyone he met. As an intellectual he was comfortable in the company of intellectuals; as a philosopher with philosophers; as a theologian with theologians; as a laborer with laborers; as a playwright and actor with artists and composers and actors. He was a student who loved students and all young people. He was a priest who loved serving his people.

And since he was an incredible linguist who could communicate with everyone he met in their own languages, he never felt ill-at-ease with people because he could not understand the language that was being spoken or because he was unable to communicate with the amazing variety of people who approached him. This incredible gift of languages gave him much confidence with everyone he met. He was not intimidated by anyone on this earth. He was the only pope in modern history who could communicate with all the bishops of the world in some language.

John Paul II and the Lord

But most of all, Pope John Paul was comfortable with the Lord. He was a man of deep faith who had an amazing personal relationship with Jesus. It was a moving experience to celebrate the Eucharist with him and to enter with him into the paschal mystery of the suffering and death of Jesus, and his resurrected life that he shares with us. John Paul lived the paschal mystery. He was absorbed in it to the moment of his death. With St. Paul he could say that, "it is no longer I who lives, but Jesus who lives in me."

There is no doubt in the minds of any of us who observed him and listened to him and celebrated with him that Pope John Paul II had identified himself and his ministry with Jesus Christ.

Modeling beatitudes for us

Because of his commitment to the Lord, John Paul modeled in a dramatic way for us the beatitudes that were proclaimed in the gospel reading tonight from Matthew (5:1-12);

"Blessed are the meek and those who hunger and thirst for righteousness;

"Blessed are the merciful and clean of heart for they shall see God;

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God;

"Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven."

Pope John Paul II has been a rock – petra, Petrus, Peter – for all of us these past 26 years. We will surely miss him. We ask God tonight to grant him a place in His presence. And we ask our deceased and beloved pope to intercede at the throne of God for us and for the whole Church, and for all the people of the world that he loved. He led us into the new millennium with hope and enthusiasm and joy. May he continue to intercede for us for the rest of this millennium and beyond.

Eternal rest grant to John Paul, O Lord, and may he and all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen

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