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  April 10, 2005

Reflecting on the Great Pope John Paul II

By Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg

The death of Pope John Paul the Second produced an unprecedented, worldwide outpouring of sorrow, veneration, and love, that culminated with Friday’s funeral mass at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. Many New Yorkers rose more than two hours before the dawn to watch television broadcasts of the services. For my part, I was honored to represent the people of our city by leading a delegation to Rome, as the guests of Edward Cardinal Egan, to attend that solemn and historic ceremony.

John Paul the Second was the spiritual leader of three and a half million Roman Catholic New Yorkers—and he was also profoundly respected and admired by New Yorkers of all faiths. When he visited our city in 1979 and again in 1995, we all experienced firsthand the power of his magnetic and life-loving personality. When he called New Yorkers to respect human dignity, and to give solace to the least fortunate among us, that message resonated in all our hearts. And when he posed for photos before the Statue of Liberty, and described us as “the capital of the world,” this city of immigrants knew that he understood and appreciated the special heritage and dreams of New York—and we embraced him as one of our own.

We also appreciated how, over and over again during his remarkable 26-year papacy, John Paul the Second used his tremendous spiritual authority to reach across borders and boundaries and bring people of all faiths together. Because tolerance and acceptance of others are so important to New Yorkers, we deeply respected John Paul the Second for being the first Pope to visit both a synagogue and a mosque. And we will never forget that as Pope, he made a pilgrimage to the site of the death camp at Auschwitz, and that he prayed at the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

The New Yorkers who accompanied me to Rome last week came from many communities and backgrounds. Our delegation included: former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone of Astoria; current City Council Majority Leader Joel Rivera of the Bronx; Congressman Vito Fossella of Staten Island; Christine Bekker McMullan, the president of the Polish National Alliance of Brooklyn; and Jimmy Boyle, a past president of the city’s Uniformed Firefighters Association. The delegation vividly portrayed the diversity of Catholic New York.

As many of you who are listening to W-I-N-S this morning prepare for Sunday worship services, the deeply moving events of the last week may well be uppermost in your minds. Let me assure you that New Yorkers of many faiths share your sorrow at the passing of a great and good man, and we hope that his successor will show the same wisdom and humanity that he did.