Lyon said goodbye to the Polish Pope
Maria Teresa Diupero
The Polish inhabitants of Lyon joined the prayers of the whole world when the first information about the deterioration of the Holy Father's health was given. The special place for prayers was the Marian sanctuary, which the Pope had visited during one of his pilgrimages to France. The historical event was commemorated by the Latin inscription placed on the plaque, 'John Paul II prayed in Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere. From here he blessed the city of Lyon and his inhabitants on 8 October 1986'.
On Saturday 2 April 2005, after the death of the Pope had been announced, crowds of believers came to Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere about 10.00 p.m. in order to pray for him and at the same time to stress his love and dedication to the Blessed Mother. The Basilica, which is a votive church, dedicated to Mary, knows such crowds. In difficult and turning moments the Lyonians always come to the hill of Fourviere, to their Mother in order to ask her for help and rescue or relief in pain. On 2 April we were moved by the view of small children sleeping on their parents' arms who came to the sanctuary to pray for the Pope in spite of the late hour. Cardinal Philippe Barbarin greeted and thanked everyone for coming to that place.
On Sunday 3 April, the Feast of God's Mercy, Cardinal Barbarin celebrated Mass for the late Pope. The faithful prayed in all churches of Lyon believing that God had taken the Holy Father to him. The entire Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere was decorated with white and yellow flowers. Other churches also saw to it that there was a special, beautiful decor; in almost all churches the Pope looked at us from his portraits...
In the Polish church, during a solemn Mass, the Poles prayed with their chaplains: the parish priest Fr Tadeusz Smiech and his assistant Fr Jozef Kolek. The Holy Trinity Church in Lyon, where the Polish parish is, is also a French church. Our Polish priests look after two parishes. For 25 years there has been a special devotion to God's Mercy in this church, the devotion that was so dear to our Polish Pope. And it was only three years ago that the church accepted Polish faithful. Thanks to Fr Smiech the relics of Saint Faustyna Kowalska were brought to the church in 2003. On the Sunday of God's Mercy both Polish and French believers gathered in the sanctuary. The church was full of flowers. A magnificent picture of the Pope was placed in the main altar next to the picture of St Faustyna. Words become silent in the light of such a symbol, such a picture...
After the Mass, during which Fr Jozef presented in a meaningful and deep way the universal values of John Paul's pontificate, the Poles remained for the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and the relics of St Faustyna. They prayed for the late Pope who was so dear to us. Naturally, we prayed the favourite prayer of John Paul II. Fr Tadeusz gave a talk about the Holy Father, expressing his filial, full of love and gratitude, relationship to him and his mission. At the end of the prayer there was a concert of the French singer Jean-Yves Marie Tourbin, composer of religious music. Gifted with a marvelous voice, the friend of the Holy Father sang about the Pope and the Blessed Virgin. We also had the occasion to hear his songs composed to the words of St Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort - the beloved saint of the Pope.
The Lyonians are regarded to be cold people. One could not tell that while looking at crowds praying in churches, people of various ages who many a time seemed to be saying, with tears in their eyes, 'Let us be inheritors of John Paul II. Let us pass his legacy to people and the world'.