Locals watch, wait and mourn

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 2, 2005

Over one billion Catholics worldwide continued their prayers for Pope John Paul II Friday as it became clear his health was failing.

Television crews showed many crawling about on their knees and other bowed in reverent prayer making an appeal for the Pontiff’s recovery or for his move into the archives of history.

Around the world, special Masses were held to honor the man who was known for bringing the Vatican and Catholisim into the 21st Century and for the man who showed the human strength right to the end.

Religious and political pundits filled the airwaves praising John Paul who became known as the &uot;Pilgrim Pope&uot; for taking Christ’s message around the world.

The pope was last seen in public on Easter Sunday when he tried to offer his traditional Easter blessing, but was unable to speak.

His suffering was quiet evident in the pained expressions in his face.

By Friday morning, the Holy Father had been administered the last rites, traditionally given to people about to die, the Vatican reported.

Senior Vatican cardinals urged the world’s 1.1 billion Catholics to pray for the pope who has struggled to recover from a throat operation on Feb. 24 following a bad case of the flu.

He is also reported to have Parkinson’s disease.

The love for John Paul II and concern for his health and his passing was being felt in the Camellia City Friday as several area members of Saint Elizabeth’s Catholic Church spoke about his 26-year reign.

Local Catholics expressed their views on Pope John Paul’s 26 years of leadership, their own personal memories of him and the possibility someone else will soon be leading the Catholic Church.

&uot;I think he has been a good pope,&uot; recalls Florence Howell. &uot;It has been hard to see him struggle so with his health in recent years. We saw him down in New Orleans soon after his recuperation from the shooting. That was one of his first appearances in the ‘Popemobile – that was quite the little vehicle,&uot;

Another Saint Elizabeth parishioner, Rochelle Perryman, actually had the honor of meeting Pope John Paul II.

&uot;When I was 7-years-old, he came to the island of Saipan to bless the Catholics who lived there,&uot; she remembered Friday. &uot;I got to meet him and present him with flowers and it was such a special, special moment for me.&uot;

Perryman considers John Paul to have been a &uot;fantastic pope.&uot;

&uot;He is a man who earned the respect and admiration of Catholics and non-Catholics alike,&uot; she said. &uot;I believe he really set some good examples for the world to follow. He has always shown such compassion and integrity – presidents and other world leaders look up to him.&uot;

Fellow parishioner Mary Ann Hamilton agrees Pope John Paul is &uot;a wonderful


&uot;Now, I admit I am a more progressive Catholic, and he hasn’t always been as progressive in approach as I would have liked,&uot; Hamilton said. &uot;But, there is no doubt he is a good and well-respected man. It will be interesting to see what direction the Church takes with his successor.&uot;

Perryman believes part of John Paul’s legacy will be his striving for world peace and his deep compassion.

&uot;With his loss, there will be one less figure who shows Christianity as pure love to the world,&uot; she said. &uot;[His passing will be] a sad occasion for all Catholics and he will be very much missed by many, many people. I am concerned about who will step into his shoes.&uot;

Rev. Gary Williams, administrator for Saint Elizabeth Catholic Church, has these words to share concerning Pope John Paul II on Friday:

&uot;Pope John Paul II, pastor of the Universal Catholic Church, has been a primary blessing for the Church since his election.

He has been more traveled than any other pope in history and is probably the most recognizable person in the world.

&uot;For Catholics, the Holy Father, John Paul is more than our foremost priest; he is a man of tremendous love and peace. A primary action of his pontificate has been to promote peace and peaceful solutions throughout the world.

&uot;He has an unparalleled and total concern for youth, for the poor, the abused, the maligned and those whom others refuse to forgive.

&uot;A clergyman of deep personal prayer, he has provided constant leadership for the priests of the Church as well as a Christ-like guide for all the faithful.

The Church could have done no better in any way than by the election of John Paul II. When he passes on to the heavenly presence of God, his successor will have extremely large shoes to fill. God bless John Paul II.&uot;

Managing Editor Jay Thomas contributed to this report.