- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005


Mourners streamed into churches in early morning darkness across the United States yesterday to watch Pope John Paul II’s funeral on television, paying their last respects to a man who endeared himself to Americans during his 26-year papacy.

Nearly 200 people watched on a large projection screen at the Shrine Church of St. Stanislaus in Cleveland. A few people wiped tears from their eyes as the pope’s simple wooden casket was shown.

“I just was moved to see it with other Christians,” said 26-year-old Magdalene Pesch. “It’s a good, devout atmosphere in which to do it.”

The funeral drew millions to Rome for one of the largest religious gatherings of modern times. Presidents, prime ministers and kings joined pilgrims and prelates in St. Peter’s Square yesterday to bid farewell to the pope.

In Chicago, which has one of the largest Polish populations outside of Warsaw, parishioners filled the Five Holy Martyrs Church and mourned the death of a countryman who brought dignity and freedom to their homeland.

Polish-born John Paul II made five trips to the United States as pope — more than any other pontiff. He celebrated Mass at the church each time he visited Chicago, in 1969, 1976 and then as pope in 1979.

In Los Angeles, dozens watched the services on a large-screen television at Our at Lady of the Bright Mount Church, which he visited in 1976.

Stan Czerwinski, 49, and his wife traveled about 50 miles to watch the funeral at the church, which has a mostly Polish congregation and used Polish television’s coverage of the service.

“We’re sad and we are happy because now we know he is in heaven,” Mr. Czerwinski said.

The Rev. Jim Wehner, rector of Saint Paul’s Seminary in Pittsburgh, said he watched the funeral with a dozen pajama-clad seminary staff members and students.

“I’m 36 years old. I was 10 years old when he became the pope, which means my only experience of the church has been under this pope,” Father Wehner said.

“Just seeing all those cardinals and bishops and all the people makes you proud to be a Catholic and to be able to live during a time when Pope John Paul II was the pope,” said John Allemang, 19, a first-year student watching at Saint Paul’s.

Firefighters in Holyoke, Mass., watched in the basement of their fire station.

“John Paul II was not only a strong leader, he was a genuinely good person. He practiced what he preached. And you can see that in the way everybody — the whole world — has come together today,” Lt. Jeff Przekowpowski said.

The day’s first sunlight began streaming through the stained-glass windows at St. Stanislaus in Cleveland just as the funeral service was ending. The Rev. Mike Surufka thanked those who came, saying it was special to share in a time of prayer celebrated around the world.

“It’s one of life’s memorable events,” he said.

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