Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta


Province Bishops Share Memories, Praise For Pope

By ERIKA ANDERSON, Staff Writer | Published April 7, 2005

In statements published in their diocesan newspapers or Web sites, the bishops of the Atlanta Province expressed their sorrow over the death of Pope John Paul II, while praising his pastoral leadership throughout his papacy.

Bishop J. Kevin Boland of Savannah spoke of the times he was able to meet with the Holy Father.

“I had the privilege of concelebrating Mass with the pope at his chapel at the Vatican on two occasions. The final occasion was a year ago this week during my last ‘ad limina’ visit to Rome. In spite of his advanced illness, the Holy Father gave a personal interview to each of the bishops in our group,” Bishop Boland said. “He was an intensely spiritual man who spent a lot of time in prayer. That was his most striking quality. When you arrived to celebrate Mass with him, he was already in prayer. When Mass was over, he continued with silent prayers of thanksgiving. There was nothing more important to him than prayer.”

The first time he met the Holy Father, Bishop Boland said, the pope made the connection between Savannah and Casimir Pulaski, the Polish count who died heroically in Savannah in the Revolutionary War.

“You felt very uplifted in his presence. No words were exchanged with him at these private Masses. So your abiding memory of him was that you met him in prayer.”

“When he did meet with you in the anteroom after Mass, his gaze penetrated you for the moment,” he said. “It was a fleeting moment, but he was very much aware of your presence, which leaves a lasting impression.”

Bishop Boland said that Pope John Paul’s legacy will be made of many aspects of his papacy, including his relentless fight for peace and human rights, and his many travels.

“He was widely traveled. The world was his parish. He knew no boundaries. He traveled only to countries whose political leaders made it possible for him to visit them, and yet his pastoral journeys were not political but always pastoral. His only mission was to visit with his people and tell them about Christ,” Bishop Boland said. “He was there to proclaim the word of the Gospel, which was frequently at conflict with the way of the world.”

Bishop Robert J. Baker of Charleston, S.C., also spoke of the lasting impression of Pope John Paul II.

“The legacy of his life has been a great one and has been recounted in the wonderful media coverage the past two days, but I believe the greatest witness of his life has been during his last days and years with us. He was unstoppable, a man of great spiritual energy, even in time of serious illness,” he said. “I was with him, along with Bishop (David B.) Thompson, my predecessor, just a little over a year ago for a 20-minute private visit that I will always cherish. As long as he humanly could, he was willing to give people like us the time of day.”

Bishop Joseph Gossman of Raleigh, N.C., called Pope John Paul the “voice of conscience” on pro-life issues and said that though little was known of the Polish cardinal when he was first elected, the Holy Father soon became “the most respected and loved Christian leader of our times.”

“To the world’s billion Catholics, he was a Shepherd, their Holy Father. An avid outdoorsman and actor in his youth, he would remain a philosopher, linguist, poet, statesman, theologian, prolific writer and history’s most traveled Pope until his death,” he said. “He went about the world prodding dictators, lecturing bishops and priests about confusing the Gospel with any political ideology, pleading for human rights, breaking down interfaith barriers; apologizing to the Jews, worshipping with the Muslims and making pilgrimages to Orthodox countries that had never seen a Pope before.”

In the Diocese of Charlotte, N.C., both Bishop Peter J. Jugis and Bishop-emeritus William G. Curlin expressed their prayers for the pope and their great appreciation for the guidance of the Catholic shepherd.

“News of the death of Pope John Paul II moves our hearts to turn to Our Lord now for His comfort and consolation,” Bishop Jugis said.

“For 26 years, the Holy Father has shepherded the Church with great wisdom. His faith and confidence in Christ have inspired countless numbers of people around the world to a deeper love for God. His zeal to make Christ known has taken him to all areas of the globe.”

Bishop Curlin said that his own conversations with the Holy Father filled his “heart with memories of this good and holy priest of God.” During the pope’s first visit to the United States, Bishop Curlin assisted during a papal Mass in Washington, D.C.

“During my years as a bishop, I was fortunate to have several private meetings with Pope John Paul. He was always concerned with the pastoral information offered him,” he said. “What a privilege to have occasions to concelebrate Mass with him in his private chapel in the Vatican; he was totally absorbed in his awareness of the presence of the Lord in the Eucharist. I recall also his gracious hospitality when welcoming guests to dinner in his apartment.”

As in the Archdiocese of Atlanta, the other dioceses in the Province will be celebrating special Masses of remembrance for the Holy Father.