In St. Peter’s Square, a universal Church says goodbye to pope

 
By John Thavis
Catholic News Service
 

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Catholic Church never felt so universal as when it said goodbye to Pope John Paul II.

The flags of nations waved across St. Peter's Square, and leaders from around the world came to pay homage to the late pontiff. Cardinals from more than 50 countries concelebrated the funeral Mass April 8.

But it was among the ordinary people—in the square and the surrounding streets that could not contain the crowd—that the long reach of Pope John Paul's papacy was most tangible.

"This pope was a father for the world. He was no longer the pope for Catholics but the pope for everybody," said Nigerian Sister Austin Osugi, whose bright blue habit stood out among a background of red Polish banners.

"He went beyond the boundaries of Catholicism and touched the world," she said.

Robert Dumanowski, a 34-year-old Canadian from Medicine Hat, Alberta, hopped on a plane earlier in the week with his brother and brother-in-law after he heard the pope had died.

"We came because he was important for humanity, period. He transcended religions. This is an opportunity for everyone to give thanks for his life, for how he changed the world and for what he gave us all," he said.

Leaning against the base of a giant TV broadcasting platform as a stream of pilgrims passed by, Sister Lorraine Marie Delaney recalled the visits of Pope John Paul to her native India and the effect they had on the non-Christian majority.

Sister Delaney, superior of the Sisters of St. Joseph, said most Indian Hindus would be showing respect for the pope during the funeral, remembering above all his deep spirituality.

"The pope himself was a universal character. He has touched the lives of thousands and thousands across the globe. This is the moment to express gratitude for that," she said.

Spanish pilgrim Maria Olive said she had never seen such a huge crowd before. She said she had met Catholics and non-Catholics, many of them young people.

Mary Velma O'Neil, originally from Colorado and now living in Switzerland, pointed to the throng at the mouth of St. Peter's Square, where the double colonnade of Baroque architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini reached out to welcome the crowd.

"Bernini created this piazza, and it symbolizes the warm embrace of the mother church. Seeing it full like this shows our universality as a spiritual people, in a truly catholic sense," O'Neil said.

"Didn't James Joyce say the Catholic Church is 'Here comes everybody'? We see that today," she added.

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