by Steven Ertelt
April 8, 2005
The Vatican (LifeNews.com) — Pope John Paul II was laid to rest on Friday in a ceremony attended by millions and watched by hundreds of millions of people around the world. The burial marks the end of the journey for a Catholic Church leader who continually pressed forward on pro-life issues.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger presided over the funeral and his sermon was interrupted numerous times with applause.
"These are the seeds of immortality which he leaves us before we confide him to earth, therefore of hope and great gratitude," he told the sea of faces. "We can be sure that our beloved pope is now at the window of the house of his Father and he sees us and he blesses us."
"He gave of himself to the very end," Ratzinger said.
The pontiff’s steadfast belief in the value of human life of those whose lives are threatened by abortion, euthanasia or infanticide was an inspiration to people like Heartbeat International President Peggy Hartshorn, who directs a national group helping pregnant women.
"Pope John Paul II, arguably the most outstanding Christian leader of our times, consistently and beautifully taught the value of every human life through his political actions and his philosophical and religious writings," she said.
John Paul’s encyclical "Gospel of Life" (Evangelium Vitae) was a motivation for many Catholics to become involved in the pro-life movement.
In addition to defending the pro-life stance against abortion, the Pope’s writings applauded the work of pregnancy centers.
"Thanks to the work of such centers, many unmarried mothers and couples in difficulty discover new hope," the Pope’s encyclical said.
Pope John Paul II also reached out to women who have had abortions to offer them hope and healing and to renew their relationship with God.
"As a result of your own painful experience, you can be among the most eloquent defenders of everyone’s right to life," the Pope wrote.
The College of Cardinals has set a date on which they will meet to select a new pope to replace Pope John Paul II. They chose April 18 to officially begin the conclave, a secret ballot process involving 116 Catholic cardinals that will result in a new pope.
The cardinals will vote twice a day until a new pope is selected. John Paul’s successor must be chosen on a two-thirds ballot and if no one emerges after two weeks, the cardinals can vote for a new pope on a majority ballot.
No single cardinal has emerged as a top candidate to replace John Paul, but the cardinals appear to be strongly united on following the outspokenly pro-life pope with someone of similar views.
"Perhaps the best way to sum it up: we need another John Paul," Cardinal Wilfrid Napier of South Africa said.