St. Leo’s honors Pope

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 5, 2005

The entire world is mourning the Saturday morning loss of Pope John Paul II, and Demopolis and Alabama are certainly no different.

“The mood at mass Sunday was somber,” said Kay Courtney, a member of St. Leo’s Catholic church in Demopolis and the church’s secretary. “But you still have a feeling of rejoicing because you know he’s with God…we’re rejoicing in the new life he has with God.”

Courtney added that, like Catholics and non-Catholics the world over, the parishioners at St. Leo’s have always held the Pope in the highest esteem.

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“He’s always done what God wanted him to do,” she said, “and he showed that faith to the whole world.”

The whole world’s leaders have, in turn, responded to Pope John Paul’s death by expressing their solidarity with Catholics and others mourning the loss, and Alabama’s have been no different.

“Pope John Paul II was inspirational to millions of Americans, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, because he was a man of obvious integrity and compassion and because he had an abiding love of freedom,” Gov. Bob Riley said in a public statement. “His partnership with President Reagan to free those enslaved by communism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union was a turning point in the Cold War. It’s doubtful there has ever been a pope who so effectively translated his faith into such widespread admiration for man.”

Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was also effusive in his praise of the pontiff.

“Pope John Paul II was one of the towering religious and moral figures of our age,” he said in a public statement. “He was relentless in his campaign to save the world from falling into a ‘culture of death,’ and he also will be remembered for his attempts to foster greater understanding between Judaism, Islam, and Christianity…one of the highlights of my Senate career was meeting Pope John Paul II in 2003 during a congressional trip. He was a man of integrity who was filled with God’s spirit to a remarkable degree.”

St. Leo’s has, naturally, taken some modest steps to memorialize the Pope’s passing. Courtney said that Father Michael Wrigley’s homily Sunday was dedicated to the life of the Pope; a wreath adorned with a black sash has been placed above the church’s entryway; Sunday’s mass wax extended for extra prayers for the Pope and the church; and a framed photograph of John Paul has been placed in the sanctuary, lit by candle and also decorated with a black ribbon. The sanctuary will also undergo a brief change for this coming Sunday’s mass, Courtney said.

“We’re not going to have any flowers in the sanctuary, as a show of mourning,” she said.

Similar displays are expected all over the world as the globe comes to term with the loss of one its most impassioned fighters for freedom.

“Throughout his 26-year papacy, Pope John Paul was unafraid to challenge oppressive regimes, including communism in his native Poland and throughout the Soviet Empire,” said Sessions. “Power can come in many forms. Pope John Paul’s passing recalls the famous response of the atheist Stalin when he was criticized by the Vatican: ‘How many divisions has the Pope?’ he asked. Well, John Paul did not have an army but he did have spiritual power and now Stalin is dead and the Soviet Union has been consigned to the ash bin of history. No little credit goes to this magnificent leader for his role in these events.”