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World mourns Pope’s passing

Mary Ann Monte said she will always remember where she was the moment she heard that Pope John Paul II had passed away.

She was, appropriately enough, in the

St. Joseph Catholic Church. She and other ladies were preparing food for the students taking part in the annual youth retreat the Ironton Catholic Community sponsors for high school students. It is a moment in time she will never forget.

"I heard the bell tolling and I wondered, 'Did this mean he had passed away?' And then Father Nau came downstairs and told us that yes, he had passed away," Monte recalled.

The death of Pope John Paul II was not unexpected - he had been sick for years - but painful nonetheless. It is not only the passing of a pope but the ending of an era.

Man of the people, man of God

For many who have followed John Paul II's papacy, the passing of the Holy Father is a death in the family. He was looked up to, respected, admired, loved. He was a steadfast leader in a time of uncertainty and change.

"Truly, he was a man of faith," said Monte, a lifelong member of St. Lawrence O'Toole Catholic Church. "My son (Chris Monte) went to World Youth Day four years ago in Canada and I know from my son what a wonderful experience it was. Truly, He (John Paul II) lived for his faith and for the children and the youth in the church. It gives me chills when I think about it. My son said when he met him that he (the pope) seemed so frail but when he was with the children and the young people, he was rejuvenated with them."

It is this love for people, particularly children, for which many will remember this pope.

"He loved the children," said Patty Sharp of Ironton. "And I think children energized him."

The Rev. Charles Moran, pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church in Chesapeake, said throughout everything Pope John Paul II did and said, there seemed to be a sparkle, a love for life. People saw it and were drawn to him because of it.

"He had a joy," Moran said. "It came from the spirit of God within him."

Strength and love

When people reflect on the life of the man and the effects of his papacy, many remember that John Paul II was born in Poland, and fought against the Nazis in World War II. On the heels of war, he witnessed further brutality at the hands of the communists that overtook his native country. But those hardships did not harden Karol Wojtyla, who later took the name John Paul II. It did not break him. It did not make him bitter.

"One of the first things he spoke after his election to pope was 'do not be afraid,'" Moran said. "It fits in with Easter, and it is something he lived. It was a simple statement, but he lived that type of faith. … In a world of politics,

where fear is preached, his message was, 'you are loved by God, I am loved by God, let us live in that love. … In this day and age, the first words he spoke to the world when he became pope sings so true: fear does not permit love. And the one thing we need is to love one another."

When he became pope, John Paul II became head of the largest Christian denomination in the world. As head of the Roman Catholic Church, he became an international figure and a world statesman. He used his papacy as a platform from which he preached continually on the sanctity of life - and the value of all people.

"I think he was so like Mother Teresa (of Calcutta)," Monte said. He loved and took care of the poor, he was so much like her in that way."

Sharp remembered that this head of the Catholic Church reached out the hand of brotherhood to those who were not Catholic: To Jews, to Muslims and to Protestants.

"There was a love he brought to the whole world, not just Catholics but the whole world. He wanted to bring people together. He wanted world peace."

Monte remembered that Pope John Paul II was a man who could love his enemies - even the enemy who tried to kill him.

"He went to the man who tried to assassinate him and prayed with him and forgave him," Moran said.

The world without him

Moran said now that John Paul II has gone, cardinals of the Catholic Church will sequester themselves for prayer and reflection before choosing his successor.

"They will first make a diagnosis: What problems and what good things exist within the church and what qualities are needed and who best can do what needs to be done, and they will look for a person who fits those qualities," Moran said.

Reflecting on her feelings about Pope John Paul II, Sharp said, "I'm praying that the next pope is as strong and loving as he was. I'm praying for the cardinals, that they will be able ( to choose a successor), with the help of God and the Holy Spirit, that the Holy Spirit will guide them."

Teresa Moore is a staff reporter at The Ironton Tribune. She can be reached at (740) 532-1445 ext. 25 or at teresa.moore@irontontribune.com