Hundreds of Catholics gathered at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross for one of several local Masses held for Pope John Paul II throughout the Archdiocese of Boston on the day of his funeral in the Vatican, April 8.
Bishop John P. Boles celebrated the Mass, and in his homily he spoke about the desire and ability of people throughout the world to follow the pope’s declining health and death because of modern communication.
“For the past 10 days the eyes of the world have been focused on the city of Rome,” he said.
George Weigel’s biography of the pope, “A Witness to Hope,” appropriately captured in its title Pope John Paul II’s “unremitting hope,” Bishop Boles said.
“John Paul was quite more than a naturally hopefully person,” he said. “His was a hope strongly rooted in deep religious faith, sustained and nourished by his devotion to a life of prayer.”
“Christian hope is much more than a source of personal comfort,” he added.
That hope strengthens Christians in the face of difficulty, allowing them to live dedicated to the teachings of Christ — to live the beatitudes, he said.
“Living the beatitudes — if we take them seriously — is never easy,” he continued.
Pope John Paul II proclaimed the dignity of the human person and traveled throughout the world to meet many individuals.
“During those visits he demonstrated a great concern for all those he met. He tried to understand their languages. He understood and respected their cultures. He did everything he could to encourage them to establish peace and justice,” Bishop Boles said. “He insisted that every human being had the right to life, shelter, food, education and heath care and insisted further that the rich and powerful countries had a moral responsibility to help the poorer nations.”
“He never believed things had to stay the way they presently were,” he added. “He was un-remiss and unremitting in his defense of morality, spoke of the culture of death, defended unambiguously the right to life from the first moment of conception to the moment of natural death. To him sexuality was a great gift from God, something to be reverenced and used only in accordance with God’s plan.”
The pope was both direct in his condemnation of evil and in affirming good. He canonized more saints than any other pope, formally recognizing men and women from all walks of life from different countries, races, social classes and levels of education. Pope John Paul highlighted what these saints shared — the universal call to holiness, he said.
Pope John Paul II was a teacher, committed to his role of instructing others about the faith. He wrote about the faith in many books and composed basic teachings in the Catechism, he said.
The pope also had a commitment to young people. He enjoyed their “energy and enthusiasm,” challenged them to live the beatitudes and made a connection with the Catholic youth.
“When World Youth Day was planned in Denver, Colo., there were many who said it was a mistake. They thought American young adults were not going, in the middle of the summer, hundreds of miles — and in some instances thousands of miles — to camp out in the heat to listen to an old man who spoke English with an accent,” said Bishop Boles. “The predictions were terribly wrong. The young people were there by the tens of thousands.”
Even as he approached death, Pope John Paul witnessed to hope — hope in God’s promise, he said.
“Today we come to pray for Pope John Paul II. We come to pray he will join the company of the angels and the saints and fulfillment of the promises that Jesus made to those who believe in Him. We pray too in gratitude for his life on this earth and for all it has meant to us and so many others. May he rest in peace,” he said.
Joanna Maselleo, a parishioner at Our Lady Help of Christians in Newton, said she had been glued to her computer for the last days of the pope’s life, following the news of his condition via the Internet because of the affinity she feels for him.
Around 260 Cathedral High School students attended the Mass, and the principal of the school, Christol Murch, said she felt it was important for students to recognize the passing of the pope and all of the wonderful things he did for the world.
“If we’d been able to go to Rome, we would have,” she said.