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"The only pope we ever knew"

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O'Neill Plaza, noon, April 4. Photo by Lee Pellegrini

O'Neill Plaza, noon, April 4. Photo by Lee Pellegrini

The words of the late John Paul II carried across O'Neill Plaza in the amplified voice of student after student during a memorial service held two days after his death, April 4:

On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and return to the ways of peace. (Northern Ireland, 1979)

Radical changes in world politics leave America with a heightened responsibility to be for the world an example of a genuinely free, democratic, just, and humane society.

Have no fear of moving into the unknown. Simply step out fearlessly knowing that I am with you, therefore no harm can befall you.

It is unbecoming for a cardinal to ski badly.

On an afternoon variously hot in the sun and chill in the shadows, University President William P. Leahy, SJ, told the 500 students, faculty, and staff gathered on the plaza that John Paul II "showed us how to live with faith and hope—and in recent weeks how to die with trust and confidence. . . . He was ever the pilgrim, moving through life, preaching in word and deed."

Afterward, students formed lines to pen messages in memorial books honoring, as sophomore Melissa Pelletier told a BC Chronicle reporter, "the only pope we ever knew."

The memorial books will be housed at the Office of Campus Ministry together with the annual Books of the Names of the Dead, commemorating members of the BC community. Photo by Lee Pellegrini

The memorial books will be housed at the Office of Campus Ministry together with the annual Books of the Names of the Dead, commemorating members of the BC community. Photo by Lee Pellegrini

In the ensuing weeks, and well after the selection of Benedict XVI as the successor pope, Boston College historians, theologians, and academics from other disciplines served as a source of informed Catholic perspective for the national media. "It is hard to list all the things [John Paul II] will be remembered for," theologian Harvey Egan, SJ, told the Boston Herald. "His fidelity to Church doctrines. His courageous stance against communism. His incredible eloquence and firm adherence to morality. His near rock-star status. He's a truly historic pope."

 

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