VATICAN CITY (CNS): As the world offered congratulations and encouragement, Pope John Paul II celebrated a 25th anniversary Mass and prayed for the “wisdom, holiness and strength” to keep leading the Church.
The October 16 liturgy in St Peter’s Square brought together Church leaders, civil authorities and some 50,000 faithful from many countries, all of them eager to share the moment with the aging and fragile pontiff.
The Mass was an emotional high point of the anniversary events, which included a conference of cardinals and bishops discussing the pontificate’s major themes, the release of the Pope’s post-synodal document on the role of bishops and heartfelt expressions of support from average Catholics.
Youthful and energetic when he greeted the world on October 16, 1978, the 83 year-old pontiff had to be wheeled on a chair to the altar and struggled to pronounce the Mass prayers.
In a sermon read in part by an aide, the Pope alluded to his physical difficulties and asked for continued prayers and support from Catholics all over the globe. He said that, aware of his “human fragility”, he meditated daily over his ability to meet the demands of the papacy.
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