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The night Pope John Paul died, and the crowd kept vigil

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Apr 02, 2020

Do you remember the day, 15 years ago today?

We all knew that Pope John Paul II was dying. The news media kept vigil. The eyes of the whole world were on the apostolic palace, waiting prayerfully for the inevitable announcement. And when that announcement finally came, another unique response: a ripple of somber applause ran through St. Peter’s Square. Applause for a life well lived.

Even then, the thousands of people who had gathered in the square did not disperse. The crowd— made up mostly of young people— was held there, held together by a sense of the historic moment, held together by a reverence for a man they admired and loved. Many remained in place through the night, saving their places for the Mass that would be celebrated there the next day: Sunday, the feast of Divine Mercy.

If you don’t remember the moment, this CWN news story, posted the day after the Pope’s death, provides some sense of a unique occasion.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: feedback - Apr. 03, 2020 4:52 AM ET USA

    Thank you for this reminder. St. John Paul changed many lives. I thank God for having lived under his long pontificate.