|This article originally appeared in
World Church News - 14 April 2001
Youths exchange cross on Palm Sunday in Rome.
In a Palm Sunday Mass, Pope John Paul II reminded the 50,000 people gathered in St Peter’s Square of the voluntary nature
of the Passion. 'Jesus handed himself over to the Passion voluntarily. He was not crushed by forces greater than himself', the
Pope said, but 'freely faced the death of the cross and, in death, he triumphed.'
The Mass also marked the handover between nations hosting the World Youth Day gathering. The centrepiece of the
celebration was a four-metre wooden cross that had been carried through Italy, writes Eric J. Lyman from Rome. Italian youths
presented the cross to a group of young people from Canada, which will host the World Youth Day in July 2002. Last year’s
World Youth Day in Rome was one of the highlights of the Jubilee. Gesturing to the cross, the Pope said that Jesus, 'without
sin', is 'crucified before us'. He is free, the Pope added, 'even though he is nailed to the wood'.
The liturgy began with a procession of youngsters from Canada and Italy bearing palms and olive branches. They were joined
by others from Croatia, France, Luxembourg and Spain. The young people were followed by the Pope, who rode in an open
jeep trailing a procession of cardinals, bishops and priests. Among them were Cardinal Aloysius Ambrozic, Archbishop of
Toronto, and Cardinal Francis Stafford, who as president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity organises World Youth Day. The
Pope, who said he planned to attend the activities in Canada in 15 months’ time, said the theme of that celebration would be:
'You are the salt of the earth; you are the light of the world.' He ended with a farewell and a promise: 'Until we meet in Toronto!'
Pope John remains serene in death.
A leading cardinal present when the coffin of John XXIII was opened after 38 years said recently the Pope looked as if he had
The remains of the Pope, who reigned from 1958 to 1963 and called the Second Vatican Council, were examined in January,
when a group of high-ranking Vatican officials gathered before his coffin in the caves under St Peter’s Basilica. In order to
afford better access to pilgrims wanting to pray at his tomb, the body of John XXIII is in the process of being removed to a site
close to the main altar in the basilica itself. The inspection was a formality, to comply with Vatican regulations.
When they opened the coffin, bishops, medical staff and workmen were astonished to find the Pope’s face still intact. His body
– clad in white robes, with red silk gloves and a velvet cap – also showed no signs of decay, journalists were told on 27 March.
After John’s death, technicians at Rome’s Institute of Legal Medicine injected formaldehyde, a preservative, into his body to
allow it to be displayed in public before burial, as has been the custom with popes since the 1950s.
Cardinal Virgilio Noe, who is in charge of St Peter’s Basilica, told journalists: 'It was as if he died yesterday. The serenity he
had in life, he took with him to his death and he still had it 38 years later.'
'The objective fact is that the body is preserved,' said Fr Ciro Benedittini, vice-director of the Vatican press office. But 'this does
not allow one to comment or hypothesise on supernatural events, which could not be corroborated by what has happened'.
Vittorio Messori, a theologian and writer, said when the body of someone beatified is found to be intact, 'it is a sign, an
anticipation of the resurrection, and as such is a confirmation of his saintliness'. Medical experts said the phenomenon was
rare but not unheard of. They pointed to the lack of oxygen, the initial treatment of the body with formaldehyde, and the
enclosure of the corpse inside three coffins, creating a vacuum.
John’s body is in a lead coffin, while officials discuss how to treat the corpse.
List of saints brought up to date.
The Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments has completed its revision of the Roman Martyrology, a
calendar of the Church’s saints and their feast days. It includes the 446 saints canonised by Pope John Paul II and the 1,200
people he has beatified.
The original martyrology was published by Gregory XIII in 1584, and the last revision was published in 1960 in the time of John
XXIII. The latest version is expected to reflect changes in the calendar approved by Paul VI, such as the demotion of SS George
and Christopher because so little was known of them.
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