TV is `our way of walking with him'

Broadcast: In the Baltimore area, early-morning viewers gather to watch live coverage of the pope's funeral and to pay final respects.


A World In Mourning

The Death of Pope John Paul II

April 09, 2005|By Molly Knight | Molly Knight,SUN STAFF

Hours before sunrise yesterday, the marble hallways of St. Mary's Seminary and University in Roland Park echoed with the footsteps of more than 30 young men who came together to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II.

Gathered in the refectory around a large-screen television broadcasting live coverage of the funeral service, the seminarians expressed little regret that they were unable to make the pilgrimage to Rome for the historic event.

"We all would like to be there, but this is just as good," said Justin Pino, 24, of Erie, Pa. "The pope wanted people to walk with him, and this is our way of walking with him one last time."

Across the state and country, viewers rose in the middle of the night for the pope's 2 1/2 -hour Requiem Mass in Vatican City. While sipping coffee in their kitchens or sitting on their living room sofas, they took in the images of the majestic funeral: the cardinals' red vestments blowing in the breeze, aerial views of the crowds, a lone wooden coffin.

The images struck a particularly emotional note at St. Mary's, the oldest Roman Catholic seminary in the country. On a trip to Baltimore in October 1995, the pope made a brief visit to the school.

"I've been the most impressed by the shots of all the people who are there to say goodbye -- from dignitaries to Jewish rabbis," said Walter Riley, 44, a seminary student from Worcester, Mass. "He was really the first pope to reach out to all faiths -- a man of peace, of love and of goodness."

Riley, who said the pope inspired his decision to join the seminary, added: "I wouldn't miss this for the world."

For some viewers, it was difficult to explain the decision to tune into real-time coverage of the service, which was rebroadcast throughout the day. Some said the urge came from the closeness they felt to the pope, even if they had never met him. Others said they wanted to be a part of history.

Whatever their reason, most viewers said they didn't give a second thought to rousing themselves for the broadcast, or driving through a dark drizzle to watch with friends.

"Just as we'd attend the funeral of a friend of family member, we're attending this one now," said Kate Moss, 25, a speech pathologist in Baltimore. "I'm here because the Holy Father has had a dramatic impact on my life and, like the rest of the church, I wanted to mourn his loss today."

Moss joined a small group of young Catholics who congregated at the Glen Burnie home of Richard Legendre, 24.

By 3:30 a.m., the group had formed a circle around the television set in Legendre's basement, where they watched the service in silence.

"There's something about seeing this at the very moment it's happening that's special," said Margaret Adams, 27, a youth minister at Our Lady of the Fields in Millersville. "All the dignitaries are there, and I have friends there -- and by watching it, it feels like we're all connected."

Adams, a graduate of the John Paul II Institute at Catholic University in Washington, said that like many in Legendre's group, she felt the pope connected to young people.

"He understood us in ways many people don't," said Adams, who attended World Youth Day in Denver, a gathering of young Catholics during the pope's visit in 1993. "He had the heart of a young person."

Legendre agreed.

"Through example, he showed young adults how to live," said Legendre, a graduate of Villa Julie College. "He also showed us how to die with dignity."

Adams and Legendre said they considered joining the hundreds of thousands who journeyed to Rome for the funeral but could not afford the price of plane tickets.

By 6:30 a.m. yesterday, the live broadcast of the service came to a close when the pope's remains were carried into St. Peter's Basilica for a private burial. While most of Legendre's guests headed to work, school, or home for a nap, the seminarians at St. Mary's attended an 11:30 a.m. Mass in remembrance of the pope.

Until a new pope is chosen, a portion of the seminary's exterior will remain draped in black cloth. Inside, the pew where Pope John Paul II once knelt will be marked by a flickering candle and cluster of flowers.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.