To commemorate the life and death of the late Pope John Paul II, we reproduce below two tributes. The first is the text of Fr Neil Kelley's editorial in the May issue of our parish magazine, Newslink, describing his recent visit to Rome. Following this, Fr Neil explains and introduces our second tribute, which is also published in this issueof the magazine. The photographs of Rome and St Peter's are by Fr Neil. The links below may be followed to read other associated material.
Follow this link to access the text of the Requiem Mass held at Saint Faith's on Thursday, April 14th, 2005.
Follow this link for the text of Fr Neil Kelley's sermon at that service.
'When in Rome, do as the Romans
Well, I have always kept this saying in mind each time I have visited Rome. I have spent money in vestment shops, eaten pizza, taken a siesta, enjoyed Sambuca and so on. However this time was very different. Thousands of people in Rome, last week, were queuing up to pay their respects to His Holiness Pope John Paul II lying in state in S. Peter’s Basilica. So I decided to do the same.
I was told the queues could last up to eight hours. So I reckoned get up at 4.30am, start queuing at 5am and by late morning I could be enjoying a late breakfast and a welcome siesta to cope with the shock of people up so early on holiday. Imagine that it took 3 hours to get from one end of S. John’s Road to the other. Then imagine that to turn a corner into the next street took an hour…. As we approached 8am I soon realised that 9/10 hours queuing was more likely. 13 hours later I entered S. Peter’s along with the hoards. It is difficult to put into words the moment of seeing the Pope lying there so I won’t try to. All I can say is that I‘m so glad I persevered with the queue and yes, it was well worth it.
As the hours passed I found my mind wandering. All around me were hundreds and thousands of young people, many of whom got up earlier than I did. But the church is losing people, I kept thinking. That’s what the experts tell us. That didn’t seem to be the case. Young people everywhere were bursting into song, applause, prayer and above all there was a great sense that even though they didn’t know who was round them, let alone share the same language, they were all part of one family.
If only one could feel that same “family feeling” in the Anglican Communion. Can you imagine thousands flocking from all over the world when the next former Archbishop of Canterbury dies? Some Anglicans can hardly bear to be in the same building as one another!
It is easy with such public displays of solidarity to think that Rome has it easy. Not so. The Roman Catholic Church is fraught with problems as is the Anglican Communion. Read the New Testament – ‘twas ever thus! People say that vocations are falling. On Monday there was a procession with over 2,000 priests. 80% of them under the age of 40!
All that said, it was an immense privilege to catch a glimpse of the body of the man whose contribution not just to Christianity, but the human family as a whole, was so great. Let us hope that some of the feeling of thankfulness and reconciliation present on the day of his funeral amongst the world’s leaders and faith communities will continue to grow as a result of Pope John Paul’s ministry.
And I felt very proud to be there, serving as I do in a church where one of its former servants, Robert Runcie, had spent time with the Pope talking together, praying together, and committing themselves to the unity of the Church which is the will of Christ. It is wonderful to have an Archbishop of Canterbury committed to the same cause in our own day. Wonderful to see the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Westminster pray together for His Holiness.
So as another chapter closes for the worldwide church we pray for the chapter that is soon to open-™ praying that it may be a time, led by the Holy Spirit, when all Christians may grow closer together as members of One Church, One Faith and One Lord.
O God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
our only Saviour, the Prince of Peace:
Give us grace seriously to lay to heart
the great dangers we are in by our unhappy divisions.
Take away all hatred and prejudice,
and whatever else may hinder us
from godly union and concord
:that, as there is but one Body and one Spirit,
one hope of our calling,
one Lord, one faith, one baptism,
one God and Father of us all;
so we may henceforth be all of one heart, and of one soul,
united in one holy bond of peace, of faith and charity
and may with one mind and one mouth glorify you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A Tribute to Pope John Paul II
Fr. Neil writes: The following article is written by Father Gerard King, Parish Priest of Marychurch, Hatfield with St Thomas More, North Mimms. He is a close friend of mine and has visited us on a couple of occasions. Also, as it happens, Fr. Gerard’s local Anglican colleague was Fr. Terry Ranson, our Holy Week preacher. This article came as a request from local Anglicans wanting a tribute to the Holy Father in their parish magazine.
Fr Gerard writes:
Over the past few days I am sure that you, like me, have been watching a great deal of television. Ever since it was announced, just after 8.30pm on Saturday 2nd April, that Pope John Paul II had died, our television screens have been filled with remarkable scenes. We all knew that the death of the Holy Father and his funeral would be big news but who could have anticipated just how big it was going to be?
When I first heard that the Holy Father had died it was about 9.00pm and I had just switched on the radio news. Although we all knew that he was dying news of his death came as a shock. It reminded me a bit of when my own father died five years ago. He had been suffering from cancer and was in great distress and I had been praying for the Lord to take him. However, when he did die I was shocked and filled with grief. When John Paul II died I felt that same sense of shock. Earlier that evening we had been praying for him at Mass and saying the prayers for the dying, asking the Lord to take him to Himself and end his suffering. But when he did die sadness came over me and many others throughout the world - we only have to look at the pictures of men and women, young and old, throughout the world weeping for the Holy Father. Why? I think it was because the Holy Father wasn’t just a celebrity or a famous person “out there” he was like someone who was part of our family. We miss him because we loved him and we know that he loved all of us.
Some people have said that John Paul II taught the world a great deal by the way he lived his life and used his God-given gifts for spreading the Gospel and helping to liberate people from both spiritual and political oppression. However, in some ways his greatest teaching to the world has been in the way that he died. The Holy Father at the end of his life was a physical shadow of the man he used to be - remember how handsome and vigorous he was when first elected. However, although his physical health had declined rapidly over the years his spiritual health had grown more and more robust. The Holy Father taught us how to unite our physical sufferings and crosses with those of Jesus for the salvation of the world. He taught us the dignity and wisdom that can come with age in a world that sometimes fails to value the elderly. He taught us that inner spiritual beauty is what really matters in a world that often values only exterior, superficial appearances. When his will was read it was revealed that he left no material possessions; but who can doubt that he died a rich man.
His funeral may well turn out to have been the greatest gathering of
humanity in history. Nearly two hundred heads of states along with many
other VIPs from around the globe attended, showing the respect with which
The Holy Father was held. However, in the midst of the pomp and ceremony,
the vast crowds and the intense media coverage, one thing stood out for
me - the Pope’s coffin. Simple and plain without almost any decoration,
lying flat on the ground. A final sign of simplicity that teaches us the
importance of humility in our own lives. We live in a world that is so
often filled with greed, violence and let’s face it - sin! The events of
the last week have taught us that there is another way, the way of the
Gospel. In the life and death of John Paul II we see how powerful a life
lived rooted in the Gospel can be. May all of us, in our own way, imitate
the heroic qualities of this holy man and by doing so may we further the
cause of Christian Unity which was so close to his heart. Amen
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