Faithful give thanks for John Paul beatification
Vatican City: Pope John Paul II`s longtime secretary thanked Pope Benedict XVI on Monday for responding to the call of the faithful for the speedy beatification of the much-loved late pontiff.
Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz spoke during a special Mass of thanksgiving on Monday for Sunday`s beatification of the Polish-born pope, which drew 1.5 million faithful from across the world, one of the largest Vatican Masses ever held.
The beatification, the fastest in modern history, came six years after calls of "Santo Subito!" or "Sainthood Immediately" erupted during John Paul`s 2005 funeral.
"We express gratitude to the Holy Father Benedict XVI for the gift of the beatification of his predecessor and for the fact that he keeps alive the memory of John Paul II," the Polish cardinal said, speaking beneath a large color photo of a vibrant John Paul.
The Mass, led by the Vatican No. 2, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, began with a procession in St. Peter`s Square of bishops and cardinals in gold and white vestments. One cleric carried aloft a relic, a vial of blood taken from John Paul for medical tests shortly before his death. A key feature of beatification ceremonies, the relic will be available for the faithful to venerate.
Dziwisz also recalled that John Paul had "shed his blood for the cause of Christ" in the same square 30 years ago, when he was the victim of a 1981 assassination attempt.
In his homily, Bertone gave thanks for the man he called a saint, recalling how John Paul, suffering from Parkinson`s disease at the end of his life, lost "his physical strength, his expressiveness, the ability to move, even his speech."
"We thank the Lord for having given us a saint like himself," Bertone said. "He knew that his physical weakness showed even more clearly the Christ who works in history."
Among the faithful in the square were thousands of Poles, including a priest, Jozef Maciag, who said he wanted to thank John Paul for his role in helping bring down communism, and for giving him the inspiration to devote his own life to God.
"I came here to thank God for the pope`s ministry, which touched my own life," Maciag said.
The Vatican said some 60,000 people gathered for the Mass on Monday, about 40,000 of them Poles.
After Sunday`s beatification, about 250,000 faithful filed past John Paul`s simple wooden coffin in St. Peter`s Basilica. The pope had been buried in the grottoes underneath the church, but his closed casket was brought to the church`s center aisle ahead of the beatification.
The faithful were allowed to pay their respects until 3 am on Monday, when the basilica closed.
After Monday`s Mass, it was reopening for several hours before a private ceremony during which the casket will be taken to its new resting place in the basilica near Michelangelo`s famed "Pieta" marble sculpture.
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