Tuesday, April 05, 2005

A Requiem Mass for the Pope

The Pope's funeral will be held on Friday

A Requiem Mass for Pope John Paul II will be held at the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned on Thursday. The service will begin at 6pm and will be celebrated by the Bishop of Gibraltar Bishop Caruana and all the Clergy.

Other local Churches and local religious leaders will attend including The Dean of Gibraltar Alan Woods. The Vatican yesterday announced the funeral of Pope John Paul would be on Friday in St Peter's Basilica at 10am.

The Bishop of Gibraltar Bishop Charles Caruana has sent a letter of condolence to Cardinal Angelo Sodano stating that Pope John Paul had been a great example to all, and that he had evangelised and acted as a true Apostle up to the last moment of his life.

"The people of Gibraltar of all Religions joined the Catholics, Religious, Clergy and myself in expressing their sincerest sympathy on the demise of His Holiness, Pope John Paul II. We have been very privileged to have lived during his Pontificate and witnessed his dedicated, total surrender to the service of the Almighty," he wrote in his letter.

The Book of Condolences which was opened at the Cathedral of St Mary the Crowned has already been signed by over 2,500 people including the Governor Sir Francis Richards early yesterday morning. The book will remain in the Cathedral patio side room throughout this week for anyone who wants to sign.

Meanwhile yesterday the College of Cardinals convened to decide on the funeral day in the Vatican ahead of a secret vote later this month to elect a new pope, with the red-capped prelates planning Pope John Paul's funeral and arranging the destruction of his papal ring. The meeting at the Bologna Hall of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace, which lasted about two hours, was the first gathering of the world's Roman Catholic cardinals since the pontiff's death.

Up to two million mourners are expected in Rome to pay tribute to the Polish-born prelate over the next few days. The Vatican's Swiss Guards, who normally wear brightly coloured uniforms, are clad in black cloaks as the official mourning period for the pope continues. As tens of thousands of the faithful file past John Paul's bier above the traditional site of the St Peter's tomb, the cardinals in their first preparatory meeting were dealing with the practical arrangements of disposing of the pope's mortal remains before they get ready to choose who will inherit his mantle.

John Paul himself set an imposing agenda for the cardinals in instructions he drafted in 1996, including the reading of any final documents he may have left for them. It is now the duty of the cardinals to decide who will head the millions of Catholics around the globe.

The influential College of Cardinals will choose the next Pope in a voting tradition that dates back almost 1,000 years. The conclave to elect a new pope starts in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel between 15 and 20 days after the death. The cardinals, who are confined to the Vatican for the duration of the conclave, decide the exact day. For the first time, they will not live in the Chapel or nearby rooms in the Vatican Museum, but in a new residence on Vatican grounds. There are 117 cardinals under the age of 80 and so eligible to vote. Only two were not appointed by John Paul II. They need a majority of at least two-thirds plus one to elect the new pope.

When the conclave has elected a pope, he is asked if he accepts and which name he wishes to take. Once this is done, he dons papal vestments - tailors keep several sizes ready - and sits on a throne in the Sistine Chapel to receive the other cardinals who file up to pay homage and pledge obedience. The world will know a pope has been elected when an official burns the paper ballots with special chemicals to make white smoke pour out of the chapel's chimney. They use other chemicals to make black smoke indicating an inconclusive vote. Soon afterwards, the dean of the College of Cardinals steps on to the central balcony of St. Peter's Basilica to announce to the crowds in the square "Habemus Papam" (We have a Pope).

The Leader of the Labour Party Daniel Feetham paying his condolences on the death of the Pope said:

"He was one of the great Popes. It's a sad loss not only for Catholics but for all peace loving people of the world. Whatever your creed or beliefs, I think most people would agree that the Pope was a great ambassador for peace in the world and he will be sadly missed."

Reacting to news of Pope John Paul II's death, the Chairman of Equality Rights group GGR, Felix Alvarez, said the GGR expressed its sincerest condolences at this time to the Roman Catholic community of Gibraltar.

"Respect for the importance of each human life is something we share with Catholics and other people of Faith and, whilst some would consider it strange, perhaps, that GGR should express sadness at the Pope's passing away - given the obvious differences between the Church's views and ours - it is of paramount importance for all of us to always remember the human proportions to beliefs of any kind. Above all," Mr Alvarez stated, "caring and reconciliation between all people must be at the top of any human agenda and GGR is always willing to work towards those goals with all people of good will."

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