Thousands of Africans flocked to churches across the continent to remember Pope John Paul the Second, as many more gathered around televisions to watch his funeral in Rome. Several African states declared Friday a national holiday or a day of national mourning for the pope.
Among the African clergy who witnessed the event was the Reverend Father Alex Longs of the Archdiocese of Jos in northern Nigeria. He has been studying psychology for the past four years at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Vatican City. He told English to Africa reporter William Eagle that he was impressed by the emotion of the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. Father Longs had celebrated mass with Pope John Paul the Second in attendance and says that the “holy spiritual awe was always there.” He says that’s why so many people want the late pontiff proclaimed a saint.
Father Longs says the pope was undoubtedly influenced by his environment, especially the totalitarian rule of communism in his native Poland. He says the exposure to totalitarianism is likely one reason the Holy Father spoke so often of freedom and suffering.