April 5, 2005

Cornell Mourns Pope John Paul II's Passing

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For many Cornell students, Pope John Paul II, who died at the age of 84 last Saturday, is the only pope they have e known, having served 26 years.

At mass on Sunday, there was a picture of the pope as well as a special candle. He was mentioned in prayers and there was a prayer for the pope and a prayer for guidance for those charged with choosing the next pope distributed on prayer cards.

Chaplain Phil Fiadino described a quiet mourning at the mass.

“People are remembering him as a remarkable man who loved young people,” he said. There is a memorial mass planned in honor of the pope on Thursday afternoon, with a focus on honoring his work. “We’re inviting members of different communities and faiths,” said Chaplain Theresa Miller. Father Robert Smith said, “He was known for his powerful moves to open up really profound dialogue and cooperation between Catholics and Jews, Catholics and Muslims and Catholics and other Christians.”

According to Erin Brennan ’07, president of XLT (exalt): Catholic Praise and Worship, the pope was known for reaching out to other faiths, stressing healing and unity, and acknowledging that different religions have different beliefs but can still get along.

Visiting over 100 countries, Pope John Paul II was also known for his travel. “He went to South America and Africa; he went to the poor people who didn’t have the means to come to Rome,” said Miller. Stephanie Cajina ’07 said that his travels sent the message: “No matter what kind of situation you’re in, the church is looking out for you.” Sister Donna Fannon mentioned the images of the pope getting off a plane and kissing the ground to show that everywhere is holy. According to Father Smith, the pope was a key figure in non-violent resistance to oppressive political regimes.

“John Paul II was an inspiration to a lot of people. Through his writings and actions, you can feel the compassion he had for people and that he really wanted the best for people,” said Michelle Raczka ’06, vice president of AQUINAS, a Catholic undergraduate group. Father Smith said that the pope had a presence in peoples’ lives that had something to do with the vividness of his own life. He added that students who have talked to him feel this as a personal loss although it’s someone they’ve never seen in person.

Sorrow and prayer have been the main responses to the pope’s death for members of Cornell’s Catholic Circle, according to the group’s president, Mark Wyman, grad. He said that members of the group read the pope’s encyclical letters. He said that he found John Paul II to be more of a persuader than a pronouncer, saying what one should believe, but also explaining why. “It was typical of him to take an old aspect of the church and say ‘this isn’t old, it’s eternally new’,” Wyman said.

“One of the biggest challenges will be stepping into huge shoes, following a pope who was popular around the world,” said Wyman. Some other challenges for the next pope, according to Chaplain Fiadino, will be dealing with the issues of celibacy, the role of women in the Church, the Church’s understanding of human sexuality and the issues of the poor and marginalized around the world.

Archived article by Vanessa Hoffman
Sun Senior Writer