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'Victory over death'

April 08, 2005|by TARA REILLY

VATICAN CITY - The Rev. Chris Moore watched from a private area as the continuous line of people flowed through Saint Peter's Basilica on Tuesday as he prayed within 10 feet of the body of Pope John Paul II.

Young and old would stop, pray, bless themselves and move on. Moore said it was moving just watching their faith.

"Each day, more and more people are coming into the city," Moore, 54, said in an e-mail interview from Rome.

"Saint Peter's Square and the surrounding streets are filled for miles with people in line, many waiting eight to 10 hours to go in and pay their respects to the Holy Father. It is absolutely amazing. There are young people and elderly; Catholics and people of every faith; Romans, Italians, Poles, Americans and people from around the world. They will wait all that time just to walk past his body, lying in state."


Moore, pastor for six years at Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Halfway, has been on sabbatical in Rome since mid-January to participate in the Continuing Theological Education Program at North American College.

The study and prayer program allows priests to experience Rome for an extended period of time and helps them renew their commitment and vocation, Moore said.

He plans to return to the United States at the end of this month and be back at Saint Joseph on July 1.

While on the sabbatical, he's witnessed the mood change in Rome from the time the pope's condition had taken a turn for the worse to the announcement of his death.

"When the Pope was sick, I think the mood was somber and looking for his healing and recovery. Now that he is dead, the mood had changed to one of celebrating his victory over death as he goes to eternal life," Moore said.

"I was in Saint Peter's Square Saturday night when they announced his death," he said. "It was so beautiful. They didn't just come out and say that the Pope had died, but rather, they announced the date and time and said that Pope John Paul II has gone to the home of his heavenly Father. It was hard to understand for those of us who did not understand Italian, but it was a beautiful way to make the transition from hope of recovery to the joy of the new life he shares with God in heaven."

The next day, Moore said he concelebrated Mass in Saint Peter's Square and distributed Communion to people in the crowd, which totaled in the thousands.

The presiding cardinal at the Mass called John Paul II "the great," a term used to refer to just two other popes in the Church's history, Moore said.

"I think the world will miss his genuine friendly and outgoing spirit," Moore said. "Not so much in the last years when he was suffering so much, but remember his early pontificate. Here was a vibrant man who lived his faith and called others to do the same. What more can you ask of the pope? I think John Paul will go down in history as a pope who tried to make the world a better place ..."

Moore said he thinks so many people have turned out to pay their last respects to the Holy Father because of his personality and openness.

The pope used the media to his advantage and impressed people with his style, Moore said.

"One of the hallmarks of his pontificate is his ability to reach out to all kinds of people with different attitudes, beliefs and values, and he finds a common ground on which to stand with them," Moore said. "He is truly a presence to behold, and he draws people's attention to himself and to the God to whom he points."

As the cardinal electors choose a new pope, Moore said he hopes they use the guidance of the Holy Spirit to pick a successor who works to build on the foundation laid by John Paul II.

"I don't expect someone like him, but I hope they pick a man who can take the reins and move ahead," he said. "There are issues the Church needs to deal with ... but the next pope needs to hear the voice of the people, listen to his closest advisers, pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit and move the Church into the 21st century. That's what his predecessors have done throughout the centuries, and that will be his greatest task."

While Moore described his experience in Rome so far as great, he said he misses the parishioners at Saint Joseph.

"I have never been away this long, and I really miss seeing them, being involved in their lives and celebrating the faith with them," he said. "I want them to know that even though I am here in Rome in body, by spirit lives with them in Hagerstown. I can't wait to be with them and celebrate Mass with them. July can't come soon enough."

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