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Pontiff’s last days remembered fondly

Meehan, Kelly | Monday, April 11, 2005

ROME – As the world looked on and mourned the death of Pope John Paul II, many Saint Mary’s students were able to experience the events surrounding it firsthand. Students studying abroad in Rome this semester spent several hours this week waiting in line to view the pope’s body, fighting crowds, or even camping out on sidewalks to be a part of the historic event.Prior to the death of Pope John Paul II, many Saint Mary’s students had a chance to take part in papal audiences or blessings. Sophomore Allison Beyer was one of a few students in attendance at the pope’s final papal audience in late January, one of his last public vocal blessings. “There has been so much to take in during this past week regarding the pope’s death,” Beyer said. “It is incredible to see the flooding of Rome as people remember and celebrate the life of one man.”Thousands gathered in St. Peter’s Square to keep vigil as the pope’s health was gradually failing. When it was announced that he had died at 9:37 pm on Saturday evening, the entire crowd fell silent – some even falling to their knees in grief. After the silence, the crowd erupted in applause to celebrate the life of Pope John Paul II. “When I first walked into St. Peter’s Square the day after Pope John Paul II died, I was overwhelmed by the songs and prayers being offered in his memory,” sophomore Katie Osmack said. It was the undying spirit of the pontiff and the longevity of Pope John Paul II’s term that drew so many Catholics from around the world to come to Rome, students said.”When he died I felt his life should be celebrated,” sophomore Laura Cucco said. “This one single man has influenced the world in so many ways. I felt I should pay my respects to such a wonderful man.” This collective desire caused the population of Rome to nearly double during the past week, and as a result, some students waited for hours in line to view the pope’s body. “I stood in line for 12 hours with two of my close friends and thousands of perfect strangers,” sophomore Jessica Jordan said. “Although the wait was long and I was exhausted, hungry and dehydrated, I could not help but feel an overwhelming sense of pride in my Catholic faith. There I was, standing amongst people I could not even hold conversations with, yet I knew we were all there to mourn and celebrate the life of an extraordinary man.” Pope John Paul II’s funeral, which was Friday morning, was attended by hundreds of dignitaries including President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush. Sophomore Megan McCandless stood in St. Peter’s Square during the funeral. She walked to Vatican City without the intention of being able to enter the square, but was pleasantly surprised when she found that she was able to do so after standing in a line for just a few minutes. “It was one of the most amazing experiences of my life,” McCandless said. “Despite camping out on the streets for several days, the people in the crowd were very peaceful and considerate.” Thousands of pilgrims flooded the sidewalks with sleeping bags and tents to try to attend the funeral. To accommodate them, the city of Rome distributed blankets, food and water. However, due to the extensive number of visitors and limited standing room in St. Peter’s Square, many students chose to view the funeral on television. Some also opted to watch the funeral coverage on monitors in Rome’s piazzas and churches, but the majority of Saint Mary’s students watched live footage of the funeral in the program’s classroom building. In the wake of the pope’s death, many students studying abroad in Rome will spend much time reflecting on their feelings and emotions regarding the event. “I do not think that I am aware yet of just how much I have been absorbing or how much influence living in Rome during this time has had on me,” Beyer said.