The following is a statement from Dr. Sean Brady, Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland released at a Press conference in St. Patrick's Cathedral, Armagh, Northern Ireland, on the death of Pope John Paul II. The statement was read out after a short prayer in the Irish language. "Pope John Paul II - Witness to hope and champion of life." On behalf of Bishop Duffy, Bishop McAreavey and myself, can I thank you first of all for coming here this morning to be with us in what is a moment of great sadness for each of us personally, for Catholics throughout the world and for so many others who have been touched by the life of our beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. Last night a life of outstanding faith and generous service to Christ and the whole human family serenely departed this world with the death of our beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II. This morning we mourn with heavy hearts and an immense sense of loss the death of a loving Pastor, a gentle teacher and a courageous leader. But we also thank God on this Easter morning, for his holy life, his inspiring example and his unfailing affection for Ireland and the Irish people. For those who have the eyes of faith, it is not without significance that the Holy Father passed to his eternal reward after the celebration of the vigil Mass of Divine Mercy Sunday. This was a feast the Holy Father himself initiated during the great Jubilee year 2000 when he canonised the Polish religious sister from his home city of Krakow, Sr. Faustina. With that providence in mind, I would like to take this opportunity to offer the sympathy of the Catholic Church in Ireland to the people of Poland and in particular to the Polish community in Ireland. As Poland's Cardinal Wyszynski said on the election of the late Pope, 'Rejoice Poland for you have been asked to give the finest of your sons, one who has grown to maturity amid the trials and suffering of our nation.' Today, with justifiable pride, they give that son back to his loving creator. The legacy of Pope John Paul II for both the Church and the world will be immense. It will include his deep reverence for human life, in all its stages,his solidarity with those who suffer around the world, his immense intellectual capacity, evidenced in the extent of his writing and teaching, his love of the Eucharist, his love of the Mother of God and of the Church. He was a man of our time, yet not afraid to challenge the culture and values of our age. He gave it reasons for living and reasons for hope. He was also ahead of our time in his message of global solidarity, his vision of a civilisation of love among all the people and nations of the world, in his respect for the human person and, to the very moment of his death, in his powerful witness to the Gospel of life. He was in every sense a witness to hope and a champion of life. The deep sense of peace and serenity which accompanied him into death, was of course, rooted in his life of frequent prayer and contemplation, particularly his prayer before the blessed sacrament. His deep and intimate relationship with Christ was the source of his great calm and courage in the face of so many challenges, not least the physical challenges of his later years. He often repeated the words of Jesus, 'Do not be afraid.' He will also be remembered for his desire to bring the strength and unity of Peter to his Catholic flock across the world, but anxious always, in every country he visited, to hold out the hand of friendship and solidarity to people of every culture, language and creed. We remember with particular gratitude this morning his visit to our own country in 1979, a visit which we had hoped he would have been able to complete later this year. But alas, the Lord has called him on another journey. As we accompany him on that journey in prayer, I make my own the opening words of today's Mass which he himself used in his homily on this very Sunday five year ago, 'Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, his steadfast love endures for ever.' * Dr Sean Brady is Archbishop of Armagh, Primate of All Ireland and President of the Irish Bishops' Conference. * Dr Brady was accompanied at the press conference by Dr Joseph Duffy, Bishop of Clogher and Dr John McAreavey, Bishop of Dromore. * The Catholic Communications Office has a special feature on its website to mark the death of Pope John Paul II which includes an online Book of Condolence and statements from the Vatican and the Irish Bishops' Conference (www.catholiccommunications.ie/popejohnpaulII). * On 16th October 1978 Cardinal Wojtyla of Krakow, Poland, was elected the 264th Pope of the Catholic Church, and took the name John Paul II. * Pope John Paul II visited Ireland on 29th, 30th September and 1st October 1979. Ireland was the third pilgrimage of his Pontificate. * Audio links to the Pope's 1979 homilies and speeches in Ireland, are available on www.catholiccommunications.ie in the "Special Features Archive".
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