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Pope Benedict Celebrates his Predecessor John Paul II

Pope Benedict has celebrated mass in Saint Peter's Square to mark the third anniversary of the death of his predecessor John Paul II. Before a crowd of tens of thousands of pilgrims, Benedict spoke of John Paul's human and supernatural powers, of his exceptional spiritual and mystical sensitivity. Sabina Castelfranco has this VOA report from Rome.

More than 60,000 pilgrims turned out in Saint Peter's Square to remember the Polish pope, John Paul II, who died three years ago on April 2. The solemn mass was presided over by his successor, Pope Benedict, the leader of the Roman Catholic Christian Church.

Pope Benedict spoke of John Paul II as a loyal and brave servant with many human and supernatural qualities, and exceptional spiritual and mystical sensitivity. Pope Benedict said, "April 2 will remain impressed in the memory of the Church."

"We are reliving with emotion those hours on Saturday night when the news of his death was received by a huge crowd in prayer which filled Saint Peter's Square," he said. "For various days," he added, "the Vatican's basilica and this square were truly the center of the world."

The now Archbishop of Krakow, Stanislaw Dziwisz, was present at the solemn celebration. For nearly 40 years he was Pope John Paul's private secretary. He remembers the late pope's final days when he was old and suffering, but the people loved him.

He says they loved him for his way of behaving in old age and with his sickness. He gave back dignity to death because he was not scared.

Shortly after John Paul's death, Pope Benedict put his predecessor on the fast track for possible sainthood, waiving a customary five-year waiting period.

Earlier this week, a Vatican official of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints said a report analyzing documentation to support the canonization process has been concluded.

The report summarizes and analyzes all the documentation about John Paul's life and virtues that has been gathered since his death, including testimony from witnesses and the late pontiff's own writings.

Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, prefect of the congregation says, John Paul II was a man of intense prayer, with a very deep faith, a Christian, a believer who lived his faith in a deep an intimate manner in communion with God. He added that he certainly considers John Paul II a saint.

Crowds at John Paul's funeral on April 8, 2005 chanted "Santo Subito" - "Make him a saint now".

Pope Benedict said John Paul II personally experienced the huge tragedies of the 20th century and for a long time asked himself what could limit the tide of evil. He added that for his predecessor only the ever-present love of God could defeat the destructive power of selfishness and hatred, and the arrogance of those who are evil.