Catholic World News News Feature
Youth keep night watch following Pope's death April 02, 2005
As Saturday, April 2, became Sunday, many young people continued to keep watch through the night in St. Peter's Square, just a few hours after the announcement of the death of Pope John Paul II.
While the whole world reacts to the death of the Holy Father, the young people of the diocese of Rome, his own diocese, gathered themselves before the Mass which was to be celebrated in his memory at 10:30 am on Sunday by the Italian Cardinal Angelo Sodano.
The announcement of the death of the Pope a little before 10 pm on Saturday took place at the end of the recitation of the Rosary prayed by the tens of thousands of the faithful in St. Peter's Square. The news spread quickly throughout Rome and the square and surrounding streets filled up with more than 100,000 people.
Later in the night, many young people remained in the square to pay their respects and pray. These young people of the "John Paul II Generation" sang hymns or recited prayers for the repose of the soul of the Holy Father. Many seemed stunned by the death of the Pope. Some gathered in small groups, around burning candles placed on the paving stones of the square, reciting the "Our Father" or decades of the "Hail Mary." Others with guitars, sang songs of the various World Youth Days-- meetings instituted by John Paul II in 1985 - or chanted the name of the Pope, '"Giovanni Paolo."
At other times, rounds of applause filled the square, a typically Italian tradition to show the affection of the crowd for the deceased. Among the young people who stayed there during the night were many of the Vatican bishops who spoken to the faithful at the beginning of the evening. Archbishop Renato Boccardo, secretary-general of Vatican City, did not hide not his emotion. "John Paul II leaves us all orphans," he said to the I Media news agency, adding that "the Pope not only taught us all how to live, but also how to die."
At the foot of the monumental statue of St. Peter, in front of the basilica that bears his name, a large white cloth was attached upon which dozens of young people had put their signature, around the inscription "JP II you are in our hearts." Also in the same area, two girls hung a hastily created streamer with writing that said, "We are not afraid, because you are with us," in reference to the first words of John Paul at the beginning of his pontificate on October 22, 1978, "Be not afraid."
Bishop Francesco Lambiasi, a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, had repeated those words at the beginning of the evening to the gathered faithful: "Be not be afraid, open, open wide the doors to Christ!" The bishop then invited the crowd to applaud the Pope for these words and the entirety of his great work.
After 3 am, the square much more sparsely populated than it had been just a few hours earlier. It seemed to stir once again to prepare for the arrival of tens of thousands of people for the Mass planned for 10:30 am on Sunday, in memory of the Holy Father. But the hardiest of the mourners did not hesitate to slip into sleeping bags, determined wait in the square until the Mass.
In the middle of the night, in the neighborhoods surrounding St. Peter's Square, employees of the city of Rome placed barriers and prepared the square for the expected surge of pilgrims for the Mass to be celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano. Others assembled an immense scaffolding, on the edge of the square, in order to accommodate the television cameras of the whole world.