Church leaders pay tribute to Pope

By John HowardReligious Affairs CorrespondentCHURCH leaders from across East Anglia have paid tribute to Pope John Paul II as the region mourns his death.

By John Howard

Religious Affairs Correspondent

CHURCH leaders from across East Anglia have paid tribute to Pope John Paul II as the region mourns his death.

The Rt Rev Richard Lewis, Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, spoke of how the Pope would be hugely missed by the Roman Catholic community throughout the world.

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"He has been Pope for 27 years and many Catholics will find it impossible to imagine how anyone can take his place. John Paul was a man who was not afraid to speak his mind and his leadership has been marked by a spiritual strength," he said.

"At times when others might have wavered, John Paul sent a clear and unequivocal message to his people. In more recent years he has come to be regarded as a saintly figure, particularly in Italy. We remember the Roman Catholic Church in our prayers and we think of Catholics as they mourn their loss."

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The Rt Rev Michael Evans, the Roman Catholic Bishop of East Anglia, added: "He gave himself completely to his calling from God and has given us a powerful example of what it means to be a faithful follower and friend of Jesus Christ.

"He has survived not only physical illness and suffering, and the assassin's bullet in 1981, but also the challenges of communism, secularism, individualism and materialism.

"His whole ministry challenged our modern world to revere human life from beginning to end, to value the young and the old, to cherish family life, and to speak the truth in love. 

"Even in his most recent frailty and suffering, his whole persona spoke of the wonder of God's love, which is always there for each of us."

The Rev John Gladwin, Bishop of Chelmsford, said: "The passing of John Paul II has brought to an end one of the most courageous papacy's in the history of the Church.

"John Paul's deep faith and love of our Lord was the foundation for his extraordinary ministry and powerful leadership. We thank God for him and the impact his ministry had on millions across the world.

"John Paul II worked tirelessly for unity and for peace in the human community. Members of the Church of England will join with Christians of all traditions and members of the wider community in sending our love and prayers to our brothers and sisters in the Catholic Church – especially to Bishop Thomas and the people of the diocese of Brentwood.

"We all mourn the death of Pope John Paul II. I ask that prayers be offered in every church in this diocese, thanking God for John Paul II, praying for comfort for all who mourn his loss and asking the Lord to guide the church in wisdom and faith as its seeks a new chief pastor and pope."

The Rt Rev Dr Anthony Russell, bishop of Ely, said: "His Holiness Pope John Paul II was a spiritual leader of world stature. He was a man of action and a great Christian communicator who had a global impact beyond the Vatican. He earned great respect for his stand against Poland's communist regime.

"During his long reign as pope, the papacy has had a more significant role in the world than it's ever had before. He touched the hearts of Roman Catholics and non-catholics across the world.''

Meanwhile, 820 students and 80 staff at St Benedict's Catholic College, Colchester, will join together in the college hall this morning for a memorial mass for Pope John Paul II.

They will enter the hall to the toll of the college's church bell and will pass the papal flag, which will be flying at half-mast.

Alan Whelan, college principal, said "On Friday during the school day it was obvious from the large numbers of students visiting the college chapel for a private prayer that they have been very upset at the thought of the passing of a very well-loved Pope, a Pope who always displayed a great love and affection for young people.

"Monday's mass is being organised so as to allow students channel their grief through the prayers of the memorial mass."

During the week all students, staff and family members will have the opportunity to sign a special book of condolences.

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