Local pilgrims, Cardinal meet up in Rome for Mass

By Alicja Pozywio | Staff writer
Sunday, May 8, 2011

On the day after the beatification of Blessed John Paul II, Cardinal George celebrated Mass for all the pilgrims who came to Rome from the Archdiocese of Chicago for the occasion.

“It is good to be with you at this moment after the beatification of Blessed Pope John Paul II at the church of St. Bartholomew. As people who share having come from Chicago, we thank God for this special moment,” said Cardinal George at the beginning of his homily in the Basilica di San Bartolomeo all’Isola, his titular church in Rome.

Most of the congregation was made up of those who made the pilgrimage organized by the three newspapers from the Archdiocese of Chicago: Catholic New World, Katolik and Catolico.

During his homily, the cardinal discussed the day’s Gospel reading, in which the risen Jesus forgives St. Peter.

“Like St. Peter, Karol Wojtyla knew he was a sinner and in his repentance he came in contact with God’s strategic role: God’s mercy,” Cardinal George said. “God is merciful because love is eager to forgive. Pope John Paul counted on that mercy and preached it to others and he, the bishop from Poland, became the master of the universal church.”

Participating in the beatification Mass was “a glorious moment for which all of us who were present will thank God for many years to come, because it was a moment when we were able to be free,” the cardinal said.

Cardinal George said also that the world changed because of Karol Wojtyla’s life and ministry.

“He spoke as a theologian and a philosopher as a poet and wordsmith as an actor and sportsman. … When he spoke he drew attention to Christ whose vicar he was,” said the cardinal.

The Basilica of St. Bartholomew where the Eucharist was celebrated was a symbolic place for the occasion. It is the resting place of the relics of St. Bartholomew the Apostle as well as the relics of St. Adalbert, one of the patrons of Poland, John Paul II’s native land.

“Relics are signs of saints’ presence even after death,” the cardinal said, noting that during the beatification ceremony a reliquary containing the blood of Pope John Paul II was placed on the altar. “We all remember how the blood of John Paul II was spilled on St. Peter’s Square during the assassination attempt which almost killed him early in his papacy.”

At the end of his homily, the cardinal reminded worshippers that the pope’s assignment to him makes him an honorary member of the Roman clergy.

“Chicago is here because I’m here and here I pray that the church in Chicago will be strong as the union with the See of Rome and the universal church,” said the cardinal.

The Mass was also an occasion for the pastors of two St. Bartholomew churches — one in Rome and one in Chicago — to meet and exchange gifts, as Father Jason Malave, the pastor of St. Bartholomew Parish, 3601 N. Lavergne Ave., was representing his parish as a pilgrim on the beatification trip.

Pilgrims said the opportunity to pray with the shepherd of the Chicago church was important to them, whether they came to Rome with the archdiocese’s group or on their own.

“Being here with the cardinal is an especially wonderful way to give thanks to God for the gift of John Paul the Great,” said Anthony Zawila, who traveled to Rome as part of the organized group from the archdiocese.

Zawila met the Polish pope in 1997 in a private audience.

Michael O’Neill learned about the cardinal celebrating the Mass in Rome through the Catholic New World. He came to Rome on his own because John Paul II had been important to him in his life.

“The cardinal gave a beautiful and touching homily. He made all of us from Chicago feel very special,” he said.