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Prayers for the pope

April 04, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

karenh@herald-mail.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Parishioners remembered Pope John Paul II as a resolute leader and humble servant at area church services Sunday.

Easter flowers still decorated the altar of St. Augustine Catholic Church in Williamsport, where The Rev. John Carter told a standing-room-only crowd he was taken by not just the pope's gentleness and humanity, but by his eyes.

The pope, he said, was "a man that is very gentle and very loving - you see that in his eyes."

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John Paul II died Saturday at age 84 after 26 years as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The College of Cardinals will meet in the coming weeks to elect a new pope.

Carter, who served Mass with the pope in 1995, credited the Polish pontiff with helping defeat communism. He prayed during morning services for God to "give your servant John Paul, our pope, the reward of eternal happiness."

The church, which last week celebrated the joy of Easter, Sunday baptized its newest member, and an overflow crowd filled seats in the hallway.

At. St. Mary's Catholic Church, Madeline Bender, a teacher's aide, said she cried when she first heard Pope John Paul II had died.

"I saw him about three times, and I'm positively in love with him because he represented Jesus Christ to me," Bender said.

Bender held a rosary and a veil in her hands as she prepared to enter a special prayer service as part of St. Mary's Church's commemoration of Divine Mercy Sunday, a Catholic day of devotion.

About 150 people filled the pews of the church. Bibles at their sides, the faithful clenched strings of beads and recited together the prayers that make up the rosary.

"It's a loss for everybody, not just Catholics, but everybody," the Rev. George Limmer said before the service.

Catholics and others said Sunday they believed John Paul II helped change the world.

Sally Fitzgerald of Charles Town, W.Va., is a member of West Virginia Peace.

She said she believes because John Paul II grew up in Nazi-occupied Poland, he learned firsthand the horrors of violence.

She called him "a pretty amazing man" and praised him for his criticism of the war in Iraq.

"I'm glad he came out against the war," Fitzgerald said. "Unfortunately, our president didn't."

Parishioners said they appreciated the pope's resoluteness and moral courage, even when his beliefs were at odds with the prevailing view.

"I feel he was really the upholder of God's truths," Frank Fearnow of Hagerstown said after services at St. Mary's Church. "He didn't waver just to please the people."

A drop of holy water still glistened on Zita Ritchick's forehead as she summed up her thoughts about the pope.

"I think he's changed the world. I know he's in God's hand. I know he's nowhere else," Ritchick said.

Osborne Funeral Home in Williamsport will provide a register of condolence for those who wish to sign through April 15. The register will be available today through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Monday, April 11, to Friday, April 15, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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