Statement of Most Rev Seamus Hegarty, Bishop of Derry on the death of Pope John Paul II

04 Apr 2005


4 APRIL 2005




With the death of Pope John Paul 11 a great iconic figure has departed
from us.  Pope John Paul II was essentially a man of God; the “ Servant
of the Servants of God” as the Pope is described.  His service to the
Church; the Catholic flock; to other churches and to the wider community
of humanity has been and will in the future be more clearly seen to have
been very important.  In his teaching and in his statements the late Holy
Father was a great defender of the values which all people of good will
irrespective of their particular religions or political allegiances espouse.  
The dignity of the human person as an individual and the defence of his
or her rights was a recurring theme in his public statements and addresses.

The full impact of his teaching has not yet been fully understood, much
less assimilated.  In the future it will become clearer that we had a
prophetic figure in our midst for a quarter of a century, during a great
cultural upheaval in the Church and in the world who read the signs of
the times for us, interpreted them and gave us norms, standards and values
which have universal application for the good order and the promotion of
human rights and human dignity.  His legacy in this regard will come to
be appreciated for the prophetic vision and insights with which he
interpreted the signs of the times in which we live.

It was also the lot of Pope John Paul II to lead the Catholic Church
through an unprecedented period of change, upheaval and challenge.  His
cultural background, his story of faith, his wholeness as an individual,
multi-talented, multi- lingual, his capacity to relate to people of all
ages – most especially to youth, placed him in a unique position as a
modern leader.  In recent years he did not allow his physical infirmity
and illness to divert him from discharging his mission.  He continued
faithful, diligent and committed to his task to the end.  In recent
weeks he gave great witness in ennobling suffering and in dignifying
it by the patience and the resignation which he so steadfastly demonstrated.
By coping with his illness, especially in recent weeks as he has done,
he has been an encouragement and a hope to all who suffer or who are

Even in the face of his impending death he truly lived out his first
words to us as Pope “Do not be afraid.”  His faith sustained him throughout
his life and at no time was this faith more evident than recently.  He
continued to “Duc in altum” – launch out into the deep –  which were
Christ’s words to the first Pope and which are applicable also to each
one of us.  

Pope John Paul will be numbered among the great teaching Popes.  All
Popes are teachers but Pope John Paul was a leader of extraordinary
talent, incisiveness and profundity.  He has left a valuable legacy
of Catholic teaching to future generations.  While some of his gems
of teaching and instruction may not have received the attention or
much less the application desired by him, a time will come when much
greater attention and application will be paid to them.

We commend his soul to the mercy and the love of Jesus, whom he represented
so generously and so faithfully for a quarter of a century as Pope.  May
the hope which the risen Christ proclaimed so consistently become a reality
for him.     

Further information:

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