The solemn notes of Hymnal No. 560 reverberated through Sage Chapel yesterday afternoon, as roughly 200 students, faculty and other University members gathered to commemorate the passing of Pope John Paul II.
In keeping with the legacy of the Pope, a man widely regarded for his interfaith efforts, the memorial mass drew people from all religions, including Roman Catholics and other Christian groups, Muslim and Jewish representatives, the Buddhist chaplain and members of Cornell United Religious Works.
“We are not only commemorating him at the mass and praying for the repose of his soul, but we are also commemorating Pope John Paul II’s contributions to interfaith understanding in the world,” Chaplin Phil Fiadino said before the service.
As the scent of incense swirled through the pews, Father Robert Smith welcomed the worshippers as both “hosts and guests.”
“Let us pray for our Holy Father,” he said to the attendees, many dressed in somber hues. “May your servant, John Paul, who faithfully administered your ministries … rejoice with you forever in heaven.”
Smith and Chaplin Theresa Miller led the assembly in singing Hymnal No. 560, Psalm 16, Celtic Alleluia and Memorial Acclamation, among others.
While the memorial songs were standard, Smith selected the scripture readings to reflect key facets of the Pope’s spiritual life.
The first reading, a Hebrew scripture, describes “a vision of the world coming from all sorts of different directions … creation reaching its climax,” Smith said. He explained that this selection from prophet Isaiah highlights the Pope’s appreciation for literature, science and political life and his respect for other faiths.
“This is the best place, in a way, for a Catholic to be a believer in the manner of John Paul II,” Smith said about the University and its rich academic and religious diversity.
The other two readings, one from the first letter of Saint John and the other from the Gospel of Saint John, centered around the theme of love.
In the letter, Saint John teaches that although no one sees God, those who live in love are filled with His presence.
John Paul II was such a person, Smith said. “He had achieved some way of loving as a human being, loving many things but loving them where they’re combined.”
He continued, “Millions of people, especially young people, wanted to be there because he connected with them. Not because he was a celebrity or pop star. The reason they responded to him … is that they saw in him a man who had achieved an undivided heart.”
Following the readings, Roman Catholic, Jewish and Islamic student representatives gave general intercessions or prayers on the lasting impact of the Pope’s deeds.
Members of the assembly joined hands during portions of the Liturgy of the Eucharist, commonly known as Holy Communion. Later, many received communion at the front of the chapel.
Young Ro-Yoon grad, remembers John Paul II visiting his native country of South Korea. “For the memory of him, I came,” Ro-Yoon said about the pope yesterday. “The best thing was that other religions also came,” he added.
Many at Cornell and around the world agree that the legacy of Pope John Paul II is his sincerity in reaching out to all different religions.
“He really was a strong believer in ecuhumanism, different faiths coming together for dialogue and understanding,” Fiadino said. “He called together all the world’s religious leaders.”
After serving 26 years in the papacy, John Paul II died last Saturday at the age of 84.
Archived article by Xiaowei Cathy Tang
Sun Senior Editor