FW Catholics mourn the death of Pope John Paul II


The Mirror

Joining almost 1 billion Catholic faithful around the world, Federal Way’s Catholic congregations are mourning the loss of their spiritual leader. Pope John Paul II died April 2 from a septic infection of the blood and kidney failure. He was 84.

St. Theresa parish, located on Southwest 331st Street in Federal Way, held a rosary service and mass in memory of Pope John Paul II last Monday. St. Vincent’s Church, located at 30525 Eighth Ave. S. in Federal Way, is holding a mass at 7 tonight.

Father Thomas Vandenberg of St. Vincent’s said that as the primary shepherd of the Catholic church, Pope John Paul II played a role in people’s lives and his death has left an emptiness. “While he’s far away, there’s a personal affection,” Vandenberg said. “There’s a genuine sense of loss — not grieving like a member of your own household, but a genuine sense of loss.”

Monesa Grant, pastoral associate at St. Theresa, said there was sadness visible in the faces of congregants who came to services Sunday. “For many of us, we’re probably surprised that there’s such a sense of loss for us. I didn’t know I would feel so sad when I heard the news,” she said.

Pope John Paul II’s body is lying in state this week in Vatican City, where 2 million visitors are expected to pay their final respects to the holy leader. His body will be buried Friday in the crypt where his predecessors have been laid to rest.

Gov. Christine Gregoire, a Catholic, said the pope had been a blessing to her and her family and countless others since his ordination in 1978. “He had an uncommon ability to reach out to common people and to care for their spiritual, emotional and physical needs,” she said in a prepared statement.

The process to choose a new pope will begin following the days of mourning.

Vandenberg said while the church mourns Pope John Paul II’s death, Catholics don’t feel lost or directionless without him. “We will rejoice when a new pope has been selected,” he said, adding that everybody’s going to be watching to see who is chosen as the new pope. “He’ll set a tone,” Vandenberg said.

Grant said the local church will continue as it has been up to and after the naming of the next pope. “We trust in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit and the cardinals,” she said.

Meanwhile, many have said the next pope will have a large legacy to continue.

Though the pope, born Karol Wojtyla in Poland, never visited China or Russia, he was credited with helping tear down the Iron Curtain and end Communist rule in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

And while he wasn’t able to mend the rift between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches or bring reconciliation to the Middle East, several rabbis noted he was instrumental in bringing healing between Jews and Catholics.

Vandenberg, who was ordained during Pope John XXIII’s papacy from 1958-1963, said Pope John Paul II was a remarkable leader who led Catholics worldwide to believe in their own self-worth and the value of human life. “He stood for that wherever he went in the world, even if the dignity of the human person was not well-respected there,” he said. “The astounding thing about him was his accessibility to common people. He didn’t live in the Vatican. The world was his parish.

“They could relate to him much better than someone who didn’t know their land or their country,” he added. “He knew they mattered, and they knew they mattered in his eyes.”

Staff writer Erica Hall: 925-5565,

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