- Title: VARIOUS: Pope John Paul II is remembered on the first anniversary of his death
- Date: 3rd April 2006
- Summary: (W2) WADOWICE, POLAND (APRIL 2, 2006) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF WADOWICE BASILICA
- Reuters ID: LVA7ENCUG3FVX4JHO1Q4L2SMVGKB
- Duration: 00:00:07
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- Topics: Religion
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- Story Text: Tens of thousands of people from around the world flocked to the Vatican on Sunday (April 2) to mark the first anniversary of the death of Pope John Paul II and pray that he be made a saint soon.
They came from the late Pope's native Poland, from the United States, Asia and Italy to take part in a string of commemorations that will include a moment of silence at 9:37 p.m. (1937 GMT), the moment that he died a year ago.
"As a Polish I feel very devoted to John Paul II, we all loved him very much," said Agnewska, who had come to Rome for the vigil.
Speaking at his noon address before he was due to start the commemorations, Pope Benedict recalled how much the Pope suffered without complaint and that John Paul died in the same apartment from where he was speaking.
"In the last years of his life, the Lord gradually stripped (the Pope) of everything in order to fully assimilate him (with God)," Benedict said, his words interrupted several times by applause and chants of "John Paul, John Paul".
"When he could no longer travel, then no longer walk and in the end no longer speak, his gesture ... was reduced to the essential: a gift of himself to the last instant," he said.
As the Pope spoke from his window overlooking the square, more and more pilgrims, some waving national flags, began arriving to commemorate John Paul and pray at his tomb.
Many in the crowd said they would be praying that the late Pope could be made a saint soon. Crowds at his funeral last year chanted "Santo Subito" ("Make him a saint now").
The feeling was the same at Pope John Paul's home town which commemorated his first anniversary with a morning mass.
Silent and reflective, they prayed for the death of their beloved compatriot. Many of the devoted said that even after a year, they had difficulties accepting the pontiff's death.
"We all bitterly experienced the death of John Paul II. We still can't accept that he is no longer with us," said a woman after the mass.
At the Lagiewniki shrine near Krakow, thousands of Poles, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski and Prime Minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, attended a memorial mass said by the late Pope's private secretary, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz.
"John Paul II is the one who contributed to a radical change of our World," said Dziwisz. "That is why history has called him 'the great'."
In 2003, arthritis made it virtually impossible for him to stand or walk without intense pain. Not even a cane could help and Vatican technicians devised a wheeled throne to make it easier for him to move around.
In February 2005, the Pope was rushed to Rome's Gemelli hospital twice with breathing problems, undergoing a tracheotomy on his second visit that left him unable in two separate attempts to pronounce a blessing for the faithful.
As his condition worsened close to 60,000 people held a prayer vigil outside Pope John Paul's window. A silence rested on the crowd as eventually Archbishop Leonardo Sandri relayed the news of the pope's death.
"Dear brothers and sisters at 2137, our beloved Holy Father John Paul II has returned to his father's house."
Millions of people swept into Rome in the days following the Pope's death. Hundreds wept and applauded in a mark of respect as his body was carried through St. Peter's Square. Hundreds of thousands queued up to 15 hours to see the pontiff as he lay in state in the basilica for four days.
Last May, Pope Benedict put his predecessor on the fast track to sainthood by dispensing with Church rules that normally impose a five-year waiting period after a candidate's death before the procedure that leads to sainthood can even start.
Church officials are investigating the healing of a French nun whose symptoms of Parkinson's disease disappeared after she prayed to the Pope. This may be the miracle the Church would need to beatify the Pope, the last step before sainthood.
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- Embargoed:18th April 2006 13:00