Statement of Most Rev Michael Smith Bishop of Meath on the death of Pope John Paul II

05 Apr 2005


5 APRIL 2005



Pope John Paul was a gift of God to His Church.  He was prepared by Providence
for the task that he would assume. His experience of living under the brutality
of the Nazis as a young man and then the imposed communist regime formed his
thinking in a way that became central to his mission as priest, bishop and
pope. The dignity and sacredness of human life was at the heart of his teaching.
The innate freedom that belonged to the human person as a child of God,
transcending ideologies and regimes, infused his teaching and preaching.

Prayer and contemplation gave him an inner strength and calmness of spirit
that allowed him to reach out to all, no matter how much they differed from
him in Creed or colour. History will surely judge him as on of those pivotal
Popes whose influence reached far beyond the confines of the Church. His
enormous output of writings and teachings, his countless sermons and speeches
and his travels to all corners of the globe brought him into contact with
countless millions.

For one so energetic, for one who related so easily to enormous gatherings of
people his infirmity, his immobility and his very evident suffering of recent
years must have been a particularly heavy cross to carry. I am sure he reflected
often on those words that Christ spoke to Peter when He appeared to the disciples
at the Sea of Galilee after His resurrection. Peter three times expressed his
love and fidelity to Christ, echoing his triple denial. Christ then told him
that when he became old a belt would be tied around him and take him where he
would rather not go. John Paul was taken where he perhaps would rather not go
but accepted that as central to the mission he was asked to fulfil as Pope. He
made no effort to hide his pain and suffering and continued his work – a change
it has to be admitted from earlier times.

In his final weeks of suffering, unable to walk or speak, he spoke to people
in a very deep and personal way on the dignity of life at all stages of its
existence. The message he proclaimed so eloquently he now spoke equally eloquently
in his suffering and silence. He has been a true and faithful servant of the
Lord. May he rest in peace and may his teaching, in word and example, continue
to inspire the Church.

Already many celebrations commending his soul to the Lord and give thanks to God
for the gift of his life have taken place in the Cathedral and parishes of the
Diocese. On the eve of his funeral Masses will be offered in the Cathedral and
all the parishes of the Diocese.

+Michael Smith
Bishop of Meath
5th April 2005

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)