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+ Bishop Colm O'Reilly - Requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II

 

Requiem Mass for Pope John Paul.

 

St. Mel's Cathedral, 7th April 2005.

 

In the Eucharistic Prayer used for centuries throughout the world mention is made of a list of popes and martyrs. One part of the prayer begins "In union with the whole Church….." It goes on to mention St Peter, the first pope and gives a list of five of the early successors of Peter: Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus and Cornelius. It reflects something which was very important in very early days, remembering those who would have been regarded as great witnesses to the faith, either as popes or martyrs, or both. That list will have a special significance in the Funeral Mass in St Peter's Square to-morrow.

 

As pilgrims to Rome for the Funeral Mass look towards the great basilica we know as St Peter's, they may know that under that massive and impressive building rest the bodies of popes of the past. Down there the body of the 261st Pope, John Paul 11, will also be laid to rest. Down deeper still is a tomb that is believed to contain the bones of St Peter.

 

Remembering those who were the leaders of the Church helps every generation of followers of Christ to hold on to the faith of the apostles. From what the world has seen over the last few days there is no doubt at all about the fact that Pope John Paul will be remembered. I hope that there is no doubt either about the manner in which he be remembered. His own life was lived with a deep faith. It was that faith which above all else he wanted to show to the world, without apology or fear.

 

On the day that he was elected by his fellow cardinals in 1978 he broke with tradition as he appeared on the balcony of St Peter's. Traditionally the new pope would just do one thing, bless the crowd. Pope John Paul also addressed the gathering below him and the millions looking in by television. He said to us: "do not be afraid". He was quoting words from the Gospel by which he had lived his faith for fifty-eight years.

 

On that day the world did not yet know much about this man from Poland. Since then many have written about him, his childhood and young adult life touched by a lot of suffering, losing his mother in childhood and his brother and father while still a young man. His early years were marred by living under Nazi rule and later he would suffer under Communism. How did he survive and show, from early in life, remarkable leadership qualities? He courageously became a student for the priesthood in secret. As priest and bishop he took risks to fulfil his pastoral ministry in a climate hostile to faith. He had no fear of what life threw at him. He was ever a man of unshakeable faith.

 

"The life and death of each of us has an influence on others". Those words have been applied by many, in one way or another, to the man that the world is mourning. The outpouring of love for this man, the tributes from world leaders and the solemn funeral of to-morrow will be remembered for a time. Before we lose the memory of these recent days I would like to appeal for the reflection that many have called for. I would like especially to hold on to the memory of the faith of John Paul in the months leading up to his death.

 

He continued to write letters, continued bravely to give his talks in spite of having increasing problems with speaking. His words, written and spoken, became more personal, I believe. The things he had to say dealt with the ordinary things of day-to-day living of the Christian faith. Two recent letters dealt with the Eucharist and one with the Rosary. His very last journey outside of Italy was to Lourdes where he was accommodated with the sick.

 

His last letter to the Church dealt with the Eucharist and was based on the Gospel that has been read at this celebration. "Did you not know that Christ must suffer and so enter into His glory?" That was the question that Jesus addressed to the disciples on the road before revealing himself to them. The suffering of Pope John Paul, his willingness to be seen in all the frailty of old age and sickness are a good commentary on that line. In a way his final days rounded off the pontificate of this man. "Do not be afraid" he said from the balcony of St Peter's, when he was elected. The ending of his life, in sickness and weakness, this Easter seems to contain a last message for anyone who would be afraid. With the Risen Christ there is new life. "Do not be afraid" he told the world once more, even when he could no longer speak a word.

 

The Funeral Mass of a man who never sought popularity by saying what would be readily accepted is set to break records for attendance in numbers and leaders, religious and civil. No doubt he would not wish that this incredibly impressive celebration would cloud the real message of his life of faith. Let's remember him today and in time to come as someone whose sole ambition was to be true to Christ's teaching and a man of Christian hope.

+ Colm O'Reilly, April 2005. Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois.

Archived References  
       
Bishop Colm's Christmas Message 2010
Statement by Bishop Colm O'Reilly on the Dublin Report
Bishop Colm O'Reilly video interview for Mission Sunday 2009
Message on Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock 2009
Homily by Bishop Colm for Trinity Sunday, on 150 years of SVP in Longford.
Bishop Colm's Pastoral Letter Easter 2009
Bishop Colm's Christmas Message 2008
Bishop's Letter to the Diocese, Easter 2008, 'on the way forward'.
Bishop's Message for the Year of Vocation
Bishop's Homily at Diocesan Pilgrimage to Knock, Sept 2007
Message from Bishop Colm on Ferns Report
Message from Bishop Colm on the death of Pope John Paul II
Homily by Bishop Colm at Requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II in St. Mel's Cathedral, 7th April
BISHOP'S MESSAGE FOR CHRISTMAS 2007
Statement from the Bishop, 27th May 2006
Homily at Clonmacnois Pattern Day, 2006
Bishop's Christmas Message 2005
Message from Bishop Colm for Vocations Sunday 2005