Potomac News Online | Area Catholics celebrate life, mourn death

Catholics throughout Prince William County, along with Catholics throughout the world, will gather this week for memorial Masses and other services honoring the life and death of Pope John Paul II.

“Every pope brings his owns gifts to the office of pope. [John Paul] was an extraordinarily gifted man, a great teacher and leader,” said the Rev. Donald Planty of Holy Family Catholic Church in Dale City. “Because of his gifts and his long reign, this is a great loss.”

The 84-year-old pontiff died in his Vatican apartment Saturday night. His funeral will be held Friday morning and his remains will be interred in the grotto of St. Peter’s Basilica where pontiffs throughout the ages have been laid to rest.

Up to two million pilgrims are expected to converge on Rome for Friday’s Funeral Mass.

 Reader Survery

How will history remember Pope John Paul II?

As a notable religious leader

As a world leader who effected more than people’s faith

As a pope, no more and no less

Holy Family will hold a bilingual Memorial Mass for the pope at 7 p.m. today.

The church also has set up a shrine to the pope with his picture, candles and condolence books. Parishioners are invited to stop by the shrine to pray and to share their thoughts and words by signing the books, Planty said.

Planty said while there is great sadness being expressed by Catholics everywhere, there also is great hope in the knowledge that the church will continue on.

“A worthy successor will be found,” Planty said.

While Catholics are saddened by the pope’s death, they should also be hopeful, said the Rev. Michael Bazan, pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Manassas.

“It’s also a time to rejoice,” Bazan said. “He has moved on to his eternal reward. We all live to go to heaven.”

Sacred Heart will hold a Memorial Mass for the pope at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“I certainly feel a sense of loss. As a priest, he is the only pope I’ve ever known,” Bazan said.

Bazan said he saw John Paul during his visit to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., in 1979.

“He was very charismatic,” Bazan said. “He was very likable, whether you agree with him or not. You couldn’t dislike the man.”

John Paul didn’t get caught up in the little things, Bazan said. “He looked at the big picture: ‘What are we doing for the people in need; what are we doing for peace on earth?’ “

“For myself, I’ve been very moved by the response of our parishioners,” said the Rev. Jack Marino, pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Triangle. “At all the Masses this weekend, they came with a special desire to pay their respects to this great man.

“There is sadness, but there is also hope that God will continue to be gracious to us as we move forward to the future,” Marino said.

St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Triangle will hold a Mass in remembrance at 8:45 a.m. today, which will include the children of the parish school. A second Memorial Mass will be held at 7:30 p.m.

Staff writer Aileen Streng can be reached at (703) 878-8010.

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