On the initiative of John Paul II Foundation, on April 2nd at 7:30 a.m., on the 12th anniversary of the Holy Father John Paul II departure to the House of the Father, a thanksgiving Mass was celebrated at the St. Peter’s Basilica at the relics of St. John Paul II. The Mass was celebrated by Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko along with Archbishop Konrad Krajewski. Many priests, nuns, and faithful people attended the Mass. It was a join thanksgiving to God for the great gift of the Polish Pope, the man of enormous faith and complete entrustment to God to the end. At the beginning of the Mass, Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko said the following words: “I cordially greet all of You, dear Brothers and Sisters and I would like to express my gratitude for your presence at this morning Eucharist at the altar of the relic of St. John Paul II. Today, on the fifth Sunday of Lent, is the twelfth anniversary of the birth for heaven of the Holy Father John Paul II. It was the Saturday, April 2, 2005, at the eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday…we remember countless crowds, who came from all over the world to pay homage to this Great Pope from the Polish nation. And this morning we gather by the altar of His relic at the St. Peter’s Basilica to thank God for this great gift, which John Paul II was and still is today for the Church, for world, for our Homeland, and for each of us. We are His debtors, and the only way to repay that debt is to constantly undertake the responsibility for the spiritual heritage which He left us.”
In the homily, Cardinal Ryłko, Archpriest of Saint Mary Major Basilica in Rome, and also the President of Administrative Council of John Paul II Foundation, as an eyewitness of the John Paul II pontificate, depicted the Pope, as a special Apostle of Divine Mercy. He said: “On April 2nd, 2005, at about nine o’clock in the evening, we learned the news which shook the entire world: John Paul II went to the House of the Father! It was the eve of the Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast, which He, John Paul II established in the Church. On the days preceding the funeral, countless faithful people from around the world came to Rome, to give Him thanks for the devoted service to the Church for the long 27 years. And, then was the funeral. Around His humble casket placed on the ground, gathered powerful people of the world, royal people, presidents of many countries, and most of all faithful people so much attached to Him. After the funeral, we saw the endless row of pilgrims who at first visited the tomb of St. John Paul II in the Vatican Grottoes, and today the altar covering His relics…It is the place at St. Peter’s Basilica where faithful people pray a lot! People from all over the world came to Him with their joys and sorrows as well as sufferings asking for His prayerful intercession with God – His, who was a great man of prayer, an authentic mystic. Prayer and the contemplation of God’s mysteries were His nature, His passion for life. Every day He spent hours in prayer…I remember the kneeling in the private chapel of the Holy Father, which was always covered with prayer requests which were sent from all over the world. This intercession prayer of John Paul II continues at this altar! For many pilgrims, this altar is the first “stop” (first station) of their visitation of this Basilica – a stop of prayer and meditation. Over here people meet St. John Paul II as a living person – as a Friend to count on. At this altar of His relics, every day an endless audience for the thousands of pilgrims who kneel here and cry their pain and sorrows is ongoing.
In the second part of the homily, Cardinal Ryłko asked people gathered in the St. Sebastian chapel: Who was St. John Paul II for the Church and for the entire world? And, without waiting for an answer, he himself, as an eyewitness of His holiness provided the answer for us: “St. John Paul II is the great Apostle of Divine Mercy. In the life of St. John Paul II, the truth about God’s mercy was closely united with the experience of the mystery of the Cross. His entire pontificate – especially the last part – was marked by the Cross of Suffering. We remember the assassination at the St. Peter’s Square on May 13, 1981, and then severe illnesses, limitations of old age. The famous Vaticanian described this the best way: “John Paul II consciously decided to drink from the cup of bitterness, drop by drop, to the end. He does not conceal it; He does not hide in the recessed of the Vatican like a defeated ruler.” In the Wojtyła’s case it is different. The Pope who came from afar decided to expose the wounds, like in Ecce Homo. From His Calvary at which He steps up every day with paradoxical calm, John Paul II tells the world that He is not afraid of daily suffering, humiliating impotence as well as the fact that his former image is getting blurred. His eyes will suffice to testify to the people looking at Him that nobody lives and dies for himself.” The author finished his thought with the words: “The athlete concluded his race. The actor suspended his voice. The hand which was writing does not even have the strength to hold the paper. Yet, with His exhausted body, John Paul II continues to claim prophecy. With his body and silence, Karol Wojtyła writes probably the most beautiful encyclical letter.” (Marco Politi) John Paul II once said: “You cannot step down from the cross.” And, He remained faithful to this principle until the end – like Our Lord. John Paul II is the great Pilgrim of the Gospel of Mercy! He traversed the entire globe along and across; He made 104 apostolic pilgrims, delivered thousands of speeches. Millions of the faithful heard from Him in their own language the Gospel of Mercy. Already in the second year of His pontificate, He wrote the Encyclical on Divine Mercy “Dives in misericordia” – about God rich in mercy and in which we find the program of His entire pontificate. The Holy Father wrote: “The Church must consider it one of her principal duties-at every stage of history and especially in our modern age-to proclaim and to introduce into life the mystery of mercy, supremely revealed in Jesus Christ.” (n. 14) It was Him who beatified and canonized Sister Faustina, the Apostle of Divine Mercy, saying on this occasion: “What will the years ahead bring us? What will man's future on earth be like? We are not given to know. However, it is certain that in addition to new progress there will unfortunately be no lack of painful experiences. But the light of divine mercy, which the Lord in a way wished to return to the world through Sr Faustina's charism, will illumine the way for the men and women of the third millennium…” (April 30, 2000) It was John Paul II who inaugurated the Shrine of Divine Mercy in Cracow’s Łagiewniki and on this occasion He entrusted the entire world to God’ Mercy on the memorable day of August 17, 2002. He said: “I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through Saint Faustina, may be made known to all the peoples of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message radiate from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world (..) This spark needs to be lighted by the grace of God. This fire of mercy needs to be passed on to the world. “These were prophetic words! They were specially fulfilled during the World Youth Days in Cracow under the theme “Blessed are the merciful for they will receive mercy” (Mt 5:7) More than two million prayerful young people from more than 180 countries from around the world gathered under the guidance of Pope Francis on the “Field of Mercy” near Cracow. It was a great sign of hope for the world that the spark of mercy is burning in the hearts of so many young boys and girls. They came to Cracow to be led by these two great Apostles of Mercy: Sister Faustina and St. John Paul II! And, it is not a coincidence that these two Sanctuaries: Divine Mercy (Merciful Jesus and Sister Faustina) and St. John Paul II along with the “Do not be afraid” Center are so close to each other, as both of them sacrificed their lives for the same cause – Divine Mercy which the world and each of us need so much!
At the end of the homily Cardinal Ryłko reminded us of the need to continue the John Paul II’s teachings on Divine Mercy and encouraged to a deeper experience of Lent as a time of Divine Mercy. He said: “Recently, at the initiative of the Holy Father Francis, we celebrated in the Church the Jubilee of Mercy! How many times we heard his words: “Mercy is the pulsating heart of the Gospel”, “Jesus not only proclaimed mercy! He, Himself is the Mercy.” However, the Holy Father is aware that it was St. John Paul II who at first rose awareness of the Church to the mystery of the merciful love of God. Pope Francis emphasized: “It was the intuition of John Paul II. He sensed that the time in which we live is the time of Divine Mercy. Today, so quickly we even forget what the Church is teaching us! Partially it is inevitable, but important content, important intuitions and important teachings which were given to the people of God cannot be forgotten. And, this teaching about God’s mercy is one of them. This message, He (John Paul II) left us, although in reality, it was given from God, Himself.” We are experiencing Lent. We are entering the last and critical stage of it. It is a special time of Divine Mercy – the time which we cannot waste! At this last stage of our Lenten work on ourselves, St. John Paul II stands in front of us as a spiritual guide and the witness of Divine Mercy. Through His intercession, let us ask the Lord while reflecting on the mystery of our Redemption through the Cross and the resurrection of Christ, He would allow us to touch the merciful love of God – the only one which is capable of transforming human hearts and make them free from the bondage of sins – so we will be able to give a testimony about it to our brothers and sisters.”
The holy Mass on the 12th anniversary of the Holy Father John Paul II departure to the House of the Father was not only a contemplation on the holiness of His life, but a special thanksgiving to God for the gift of the Holy Father from Poland and a call to give testimonies about the merciful love of God.