Passage of a pope
Ten years ago yesterday, the world learned of the passing of Pope John Paul II, who enjoyed one of the longest reigns as pontiff in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.
I was at a Delgado Community College baseball game at LSU-Eunice when I learned of John Paul’s Death. The next day, I arranged for a special invocation and moment of silence before the Holy Cross-Jesuit baseball game at Delgado’s Kirsch-Rooney Stadium.
For those born after 1971, John Paul II was the only pontiff we had ever known, although he was not elected until October 16, 1978, marking the third different pope in less than three months. Paul VI, who was elected in June 1963 following death of the beloved John XXIII, died August 6, 1978, succeeded by Albino Luciana, who took the name John Paul I in honor of his two predecessors.
Sadly, John Paul I lasted only 33 days, passing suddenly Septebmer 28, 1978. It came only three days after a horrific mid-air plane collision over San Diego which killed 145. A few hours after that plane collision, Don Coryell was named the new coach of the Chargers. You figured I would work in sports somehow.
At the second papal conclave of 1978, the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, Karol Cardinal Wotijyla, was elected, becoming the first pope not of Italian descent since 1523.
John Paul ruled the Vatican for over 26 years. He survived an assassination attempt in 1981, but starting in the early 1990s, his health began a steady decline, mostly due to Parkinson’s Disease.
What occurred after John Paul’s death was fascinating to those of us who had never witnessed it before.
There were daily masses in his honor before the solemn requiem mass in St. Peter’s Basilica Friday, April 8. It was reported more than three million made the pilgrimage to Rome for the ceremonies, although they had no chance whatsoever of getting close to the basilica, much less getting a seat. I would venture to guess three of every four nations was represented in the basilica.
Ten days after John Paul’s funeral, the College of Cardinals assemebled inside the Sistine Chapel to begin the conclave to elect the new pope. New media from across the globe broadcast the opening prayer and remakrs of Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, but then came the command “EXTRA OMNES!”, meaning all except the members of the College of Cardinals had to leave the chapel, and the doors were shut to the rest of the world.
A little more than 24 hours after the conlvae began, Ratzinger was elected, and he chose the regnal name Benedict XVI. He was offically installed at a mass April 24.
John Paul II and John XXIII were made saints by Pope Francis last year.