Locals mourn death of Pope

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 7, 2005

The death of Pope John Paul II has reached every corner of the globe.

Those far-reaching corners include the Roanoke-Chowan area where more than 100 local parishioners are mourning the loss of the Holy Father.

&uot;Our spiritual leader has passed,&uot; Father Thomas McGee of St. Charles Catholic Church in Ahoskie said. &uot;We’ve been watching over the past seven or eight years as he has been very sick.

&uot;We knew his death was immanent, but it was still shocking,&uot; he continued. &uot;The community is saddened in one respect to have lost his leadership, but joyful in another as he has gone on to his eternal reward.&uot;

The Pontiff, who was Karol Jozef Wojtyla before he was elected to the papacy in 1978, is the only pope known to many of those who are living as he was elected nearly 27 years ago to fill the highest leadership role in the Roman Catholic Church.

Wojtyla was ordained in Cracow, Poland in November of 1946. He returned to Poland, after a tour in Rome, and was vicar of various parishes.

He was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Cracow by Pope Pius XII and was consecrated September 28, 1958. In January of 1964, he was nominated Archbishop of Cracow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal in June of 1967.

During his pontificate, John Paul II completed 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy and 146 within Italy. He also presided at 147 beatification ceremonies and 51 canonization ceremonies. He has held nine consistories in which he created 231 cardinals and has convened six plenary meetings of the College of Cardinals.

John Paul II immediately followed the service of John Paul I, who died after just over one month as the Holy Father.

&uot;This one is different,&uot; McGee said. &uot;One thing is the length of term – more than 26 years – and another is the fact that the media has changed so drastically.

&uot;The media coverage has been a lot greater with this pope,&uot; McGee said. &uot;Also, he was a lot more outspoken than a lot of his predecessors. As he got older, many have forgotten that he was a young man when he was elected pope and at the time was young, enthusiastic and vibrant.&uot;

According to McGee, the Catholic Church will observe nine official days of mourning which began Sunday. The funeral for the Holy Father will be tomorrow (Friday).

The cardinals will then meet in conclave a week from Sunday and will begin discussions about choosing the next Pope.

While a small percentage of the area’s population is Catholic, many of the other area churches have been grieved by the death of John Paul II.

&uot;In our early worship service following the passing of Pope John Paul II, we called for a season of prayer for the Catholic Church,&uot; said the Rev. Wallace Phillips, senior pastor of The Carpenter’s Shop Church in Ahoskie. &uot;Pastoring an interdenominational and multi-cultural church brings a body to a greater appreciation for other Christian persuasions.

&uot;I reminded our congregation, ‘We have Catholics in our church and for that I rejoice,’&uot; he added. &uot;All of Christendom should mourn the loss of this great leader. Pope John Paul is a choice leader who loved God with all of his heart. The entire world, and most specifically the Christian world, will miss the influence of Pope John Paul.&uot;

He continued, &uot;We need to pray for the Catholic Church as they move through grief and onto the selection of his successor.&uot;

In Northampton County, Conway Baptist Church pastor Willie McLawhorn said all Christians would miss the Catholic Church’s leader because of his conservative beliefs.

&uot;John Paul II stood for some things that we as Southern Baptists are pretty strong on as well,&uot; McLawhorn said. &uot;He was very much a pro-life advocate and he held very much to a lot of traditions of the Catholic Church, but he also reached out to people of other faiths in a way previous popes had not. As far as those who are pro-life, we will miss his advocacy on that behalf.&uot;

Dr. Walter Boston Jr., Senior Pastor of City of Praise in Powellsville, said the loss of John Paul II was immense to all of Christendom.

&uot;Losing anyone to death is a difficult experience to endure,&uot; he said. &uot; When it is a beloved and honorable leader as His Excellency, Pope John Paul, II – we all share sincere condolences.

&uot;The abundant media reflections of his life and legacy over recent days have given us clarion insights of the incredible gift he was, with far reaching influence into countless societies; in and beyond the Church,&uot; he added. &uot; My prayer is that the ensuing Pontiff will be another God-commissioned leader of analogous character and charisma.

May we the saints on earth and in heaven; rest and rejoice, in the finished works of this papacy.

I reverently echo the Holy Father’s last words, Amen!&uot;