At press conference, bishop offers remembrances of pope - Catholic Courier

At press conference, bishop offers remembrances of pope

Bishop Matthew H. Clark began a Saturday, April 2, press conference about Pope John Paul II’s deteriorating medical condition just moments before the Holy Father passed away.

The bishop described as “an incredibly exciting time I’ll always remember” his own tenure as a young priest in Rome during the months in which the Catholic Church experienced the election of two popes.

He noted that John Paul II, the second pontiff to be elected in 1978, soon began to travel, taking “his message to the whole world, literally. He was very consistent, very strong, very open. In season and out of season he brought that message. Sometimes it was welcome and sometimes it was not.”

In the his last hours, Bishop Clark said, “figuratively, at least, the whole world is at his bedside, tending him in his last moments and praying for his peaceful passage into eternal life.”

Also speaking at the conference was Father John Mulligan, pastor of the cathedral parish and one of the Diocese of Rochester’s two vicars general. Father Mulligan recalled that “it was the Holy Father who ordained Bishop Clark a bishop, and this always told of the wonderful connection that we have with the Holy Father.”

Bishop Clark said his ordination by Pope John Paul II “was the beginning of a relationship that I’ve treasured. That was the beginning of our acquaintance that has developed over the years,” through five ad limina visits, two World Youth Days and several papal visits to North America.

Bishop Clark commented on the pope’s impact and “tremendous exposure to the world community” as well as his many serious meetings with world leaders. “It’s no wonder, I think, that people pay attention now when they realize this man is going off the world stage,” he said.

The bishop also noted that the pope’s death will have a strong effect on young people, especially those under the age of 26, who have no recollection of any other pope.

“I express my sympathy to them,” said the bishop, who noted the pope’s “great affection for young people and, I think, respect for them, which I always thought was mutual. He conducted himself as a person who had values and gifts to share, but I always thought he seemed to manifest a desire to learn from them as well, to find out what they were seeing, what was going on in their minds and hearts.”

Bishop Clark said the Holy Father led gatherings of young people “as an orchestra leader would, and it was such a wonderful interplay. The young people, I really think, will feel a great loss.”

Although the next pope will bring to his role different gifts than those offered by John Paul II, Bishop Clark encouraged people to “let him be himself and try to discover what gifts he brings to the church, as I am sure he will.”

Bishop Clark said the church is now at a moment when we have to “express our faith in God’s providence,” support the new pope and grow with him.

— Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier

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