World celebrates Pope John Paul II


VATICAN CITY – Pope John Paul II was remembered on the first anniversary of his death yesterday as an advocate for the poor who helped fell communism, with Catholics from Mexico City to his native Poland praising his legacy and calling for his beatification.

Pope Benedict XVI recalled his predecessor’s final days of suffering, before an evening vigil that was expected to draw at least 100,000 people to St. Peter’s Square.

“John Paul II died as he always lived, animated by the indomitable courage of faith, abandoning himself to God and entrusting himself to holy Mary,” Benedict said in his weekly Sunday noontime address.

Polish Roman Catholics filled churches yesterday and voiced hopes for a quick beatification of their beloved native son.

In Krakow, thousands gathered with candles and flowers at the Archbishop’s Palace to await the exact time of John Paul’s death – 9:37 p.m. – when Benedict’s prayers will be broadcast live.

The mood was solemn but more hopeful than a year ago, when people fell to their knees and wept openly at the news of John Paul’s death.

“We were depressed then, but today we rejoice in his sainthood even though it has not been officially announced,” said Krystyna Samborska, 32, a nurse from Krakow.

Thousands of believers flocked to John Paul’s hometown of nearby Wadowice, where an open-air Mass in the town at noon drew an estimated 8,000 people.

“We came to pray for his quick beatification and also to pray to him to protect our family,” said Wojciech Gladysz, 33, a gardener who traveled 220 miles from Warsaw with his wife and three children.

Tens of thousands of Roman Catholics filled Mexico City’s Basilica of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the most important Catholic shrine in the Americas.

Many of the faithful used mirrors to reflect the morning sun to the heavens as a way of sending the late pope their love. Others carried framed photographs covered in ribbons. One group held a banner reading “Juan Pablo II, God’s athlete.”

John Paul visited Mexico five times and was received by wildly enthusiastic crowds on each occasion. He called the country “Mexico, ever faithful.”

Ofelia Garcia Gonzalez said she will never forget seeing the pope.

“For me, he is almost God,” she said, holding a mirror and a picture of John Paul as she stood outside the basilica and a chorus of bells rang out.