More than 200 area Catholics showed their love and concern for Pope John Paul II by gathering in Rosary Cathedral last night and offering prayers during a special Mass for His Holiness Pope John Paul II.
It was an awkward time for the faithful, as their beloved Pope lingered between this world and the next. The hymns seemed to reflect the eternal side, as the Mass included such 19th century hymns as "Sing with All the Saints in Glory," which includes the lyric "Death and sorrow, Earth's dark story, to the former days belong."
Toledo Auxiliary Bishop Robert Donnelly presided at the ceremony; Bishop Leonard Blair was in Rome, having arrived coincidentally just before the Pope's health worsened. Bishop Blair was scheduled to participate in a one-week session on translating the Sacramentary, or Roman Missal, into English, Toledo diocesan officials said.
In his homily, Bishop Donnelly recalled a 1988 meeting with Pope John Paul when he traveled to Rome with the late Toledo Bishop James Hoffman.
"We walked into the room and the Pope was standing there with an atlas, and he had his finger on Lake Erie," Bishop Donnelly recalled from the pulpit. "Bishop Hoffman said, 'We're from Toledo,' and the Pope looked at Bishop Hoffman with a flicker in his eye and said, 'Spain?' "
He also noted how the Pontiff seemed to take his time during processions, looking individuals in the eye as he passed by.
"He has the gift of seeing each person as a real person," Bishop Donnelly said. "He has a certain gait. He's not in a hurry. He's checking out the crowd. He recognizes the dignity of every human being."
The Pope's love for young people was a hallmark of his papacy, and the young people loved him back, Bishop Donnelly said.
The auxiliary bishop remembered attending a service with the Pope on one of his brief U.S. stops, in St. Louis in 1999, and
how the Pope was perceived by a 12-year-old girl who was interviewed on television. "She said she was not a Catholic and that she skipped school that day because 'I like the Pope. He makes me want to be better.'●"
The Pope walked into the arena slowly and with difficulty, shuffling his feet, and Bishop Donnelly recalled a cleric telling the 20,000 youths in the audience that "the frailty of his body is a testimony to his will to be with you."
During the Mass last night, intercessory prayers were offered for the Pope, for those attending to his medical needs, and for "the youth of the world who are dear to the heart" of the Pontiff.
After the ceremony, some Roman Catholics prayed tearfully in silence, while others lit candles and prayed intensely.
"I could not concentrate on my work today," said Mary Tran, 63. She said she checked the Internet for updates on the Pope's health, prayed the rosary for him, and asked God "to take him peacefully, with no suffering."
It was particularly troubling, she said, when some television news reporters wrongly announced early yesterday afternoon that the Pope was dead, only to correct their mistake later.
"Oh, my, I didn't know what was going on," Ms. Tran said, putting a hand to her face. "He's a good man, a very good man. It will be a great loss."
Michael Sharp, 41, a member of St. James Parish, said he went to the Mass to pray for the Pope's healing. "I hope he gets better," he said.
Mike Kochczynski, 19, who was in Toledo on spring break from Canisius College in Buffalo, N.Y., also went to Rosary Cathedral to pray for Pope John Paul II.
"To Catholics, the Pope is like the president is to Americans," he said.
"If the president was dying, the people would turn out to pray for him. I'm just praying that if the Pope is to pass, that it's in a dignified manner."
He said that many non-Catholics have great respect for Pope John Paul II because of his consistent efforts to promote human rights throughout the world.
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