The Final Hour

Hawaii remembers
John Paul II working
for diversity in church

Pope John Paul II told Hawaiian activist Mililani Trask that the Catholic Church needs to affirm a positive role among the world's indigenous people.

"I saw him as an advocate for poor and marginalized people, more than any other pope has ever been," said Trask, who met John Paul II in 1993 when she accompanied Mother Teresa of Calcutta to Rome.

Trask is one of many island residents with memories of meeting or seeing the pope. A dozen Hawaii people were participants in the 1995 beatification of Father Damien DeVeuster in Brussels. Others remember the pope's general audiences in St. Peter's Square as a highlight of European tours.

A woman prayed during Mass yesterday at Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu.

Trask said the pope "demonstrated that the church was serious in recognizing the contributions of Christians not from the mainstream white society." He did that in appointing bishops and cardinals and in naming saints, significant numbers of whom were people from Africa, Asia and the Americas.

He streamlined the church's process of recognizing the "heroic virtue" of martyrs and others, bringing more than 1,300 people to the second step of beatification and canonizing more than 480 people.

Highlights in the life of Pope John Paul II

May 18, 1920
Born in Wadowice, a small city near Krakow, Poland. He was the second of two sons born to Karol Wojtyla and Emilia Kaczorowska. His mother died in 1929. His eldest brother, Edmund, a doctor, died in 1932 and his father, a non-commissioned Army officer, died in 1941.

He made his First Holy Communion at age 9.

Confirmed in the church. Upon graduation from Marcin Wadowita high school in Wadowice, Poland, he enrolled in Krakow's Jagiellonian University and in a school for drama.

The Nazi occupation forced the closure of his university in 1939 and he had to work in a quarry and then a chemical factory to earn his living and to avoid being deported to Germany.

Aware of his call to the priesthood, he began courses in the seminary of Krakow, run by Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, archbishop of Krakow. At the same time, he was one of the pioneers of the "Rhapsodic Theatre."

Ordained as a priest in Krakow. Soon after, Cardinal Sapieha sent him to Rome where he worked under the guidance of the French Dominican, Garrigou-Lagrange.

He finished his doctorate in theology. Returned to Poland and was vicar of various parishes in Krakow as well as chaplain for the university students until 1951, when he took up again his studies on philosophy and theology.

Appointed auxiliary bishop of Krakow by Pope Pius XII.

He was nominated archbishop of Krakow by Pope Paul VI, who made him a cardinal on June 26, 1967.

Started his pontificate on October 16. He has since completed 104 pastoral visits outside of Italy and 146 within Italy. As bishop of Rome he has visited 317 of the 333 parishes.

Associated Press

Trask saw that as part of "a larger strategy of bringing cultural and racial diversity into the church, and addressing some ethical and moral issues the Catholic Church has sidestepped in the past." An example was the 1980 beatification of Kateri Tekakwitha, the first Native American in the sainthood process. The story of the Mohawk Indian woman baptized in the 1600s includes the racial discrimination and physical abuse she experienced in a Catholic boarding school, Trask said.

Trask attended Mass in the small papal chapel within the Vatican, where Mother Teresa and her entourage were given front-row seats. Afterward, the pope singled them out for conversation in a small group audience. With Trask was her sister Kahala-Ann Trask-Gibson.

"He looked at me and my sister and said, 'You are native Americans.' We told him, 'We are Hawaiians.' He said the church had a long history with the world's indigenous people and the church needed to demonstrate that this was meaningful. This meant a great deal to me, that he recognizes native people. I was very personally moved by him."

"He saw himself as a player in the global world of politics, an advocate for peace wherever there was controversy," said Trask, a Big Island resident who has served on the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues for the past three years. "This pope was extraordinary in the history and legacy he leaves to all Christianity."

The pope was personally interested in recognizing Mother Teresa after her death in 1997, putting her on the fast track to sainthood. The nun who founded a religious movement to help India's poorest people was beatified in October 2003, an event that Trask also attended.

"By recognizing her, he was also addressing a controversy," Trask said. "There are people within the church critical of Mother because she baptized only those who wished to be Catholic. If they were Buddhist or Hindu, she would get a Buddhist or Hindu priest for them. He was recognizing religious diversity."

The pope recognized that he needed help in pronouncing Hawaiian words, and he sought help from Eugene Sabado, a retired state court clerk. It was just before the June 4, 1995, ceremony honoring Father Damien began that Sabado was brought backstage.

The pope recited, "Ma kakou pakahe a pau ka maluhia a ma ka aloha o Iesu Christo," Sabado recalled. "He asked me, 'Is this correct?' I told him it was. He could have said anything, I was so nervous." The translation: May the peace and love of Jesus Christ be with you.

Sacred Hearts Brother Richard Kupo received communion from the pope at the Damien beatification Mass. "He nodded at me," recognizing him as a Hawaiian, Kupo believes. When the leader of the Hawaii delegation, the Rev. Joseph Bukoski, was introduced, his ethnicity also intrigued the Polish pope. "He said, 'Polish? From Hawaii?' He was curious about that," Kupo said.

"You could see him pick up energy from youth," recalled Chaminade University religion professor Regina Pfeiffer, one of 30 people to attend a noontime campus prayer service for the pope yesterday. She had accompanied 120 teenagers from Hawaii to a 1993 World Youth Day in Denver that John Paul attended. Thousands of American youngsters attended the event, which involved an evening vigil service and early Mass the next day, she said.

"It was tiring even for young people. He would seem weary when he entered, but you could just see him renewed by the presence of people," Pfeiffer said.

At Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, churchgoers attended Mass conducted by Rev. Tom Gross, Roman Catholic diocesan administrator.


Pontiff on the ‘verge of death’
as millions pray and weep

VATICAN CITY » Pope John Paul II was near death as dawn broke today, his breathing shallow and his heart and kidneys failing, the Vatican said. Millions of faithful around the world paid homage, many weeping as they knelt with bowed heads, others carrying candles in prayer for the 84-year-old pontiff.

The pope "is on the verge of death," Cardinal Javier Lozano Barragan, head of the Vatican's health care office, told the Mexican television network Televisa. "I talked to the doctors and they told me there is no more hope."

Addressing the crowd at St. Peter's Square, where as many as 70,000 people prayed and stood vigil in the chilly night, Angelo Comastri, the pope's vicar general for Vatican City, said, "This evening or this night, Christ opens the door to the pope."

In a sign of the pope's decline, several cardinals said they were heading to Rome, including Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, and William Keeler, archbishop of Baltimore. After the official mourning period following the death of a pope, cardinals hold a secret vote in the Sistine Chapel to choose a successor.

Newspapers in Italy devoted most of their editions today to the suffering of the Polish pope, whose given name is Karol Wojtyla. Il Tempo showed a photo of the white-clad pontiff with his back turned to the camera, with the headline, "Ciao, Karol."

Thousands of faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican early this morning as Pope John Paul II's health deteriorated.

The Vatican said yesterday morning that John Paul was in "very grave" condition after suffering blood poisoning from a urinary tract infection the previous night, but that he was "fully conscious and extraordinarily serene." The pope was being treated by the Vatican medical team and declined to be hospitalized.

By last night, the pope's condition had worsened further, and he was suffering from kidney failure and shortness of breath but had not lost consciousness as of 9:30 p.m., the Vatican said.

During the morning, John Paul had participated in Mass and received some top aides at his bedside, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

Hospitalized twice last month after breathing crises, and fitted with a breathing tube and a feeding tube, John Paul has become a picture of suffering. His papacy has been marked by its call to value the aged and to respect the sick, subjects the pope has turned to as he battles Parkinson's disease and crippling knee and hip ailments.

It is not clear who would be empowered to make medical decisions for an unconscious pope. The Vatican has declined to say whether John Paul has left written instructions.

John Paul's health declined sharply Thursday when he developed a high fever brought on by the infection. The pope suffered septic shock and heart problems during treatment for the infection, the Vatican said.

Septic shock involves both bacteria in the blood and a consequent over-relaxing of the blood vessels. The vessels, which are normally narrow and taut, get floppy in reaction to the bacteria and can't sustain any pressure. That loss of blood pressure is catastrophic, making the heart work hard to compensate for the collapse.

Even the fittest patients need special care and medicine to survive.

Yesterday morning, John Paul asked aides to read him the biblical passage describing the 14 stations of the Way of the Cross, the path that Christ took to his Crucifixion and burial, Navarro-Valls told reporters. The pope followed attentively and made the sign of the cross, he said.

John Paul also asked that Scripture of the so-called "Third Hour" be read to him. The passage is significant because according to tradition, Christ died at 3 in the afternoon.

"This is surely an image I have never seen in these 26 years," the usually unflappable Navarro-Valls said.

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