By Melissa Butz
It’s been 15 years since the death of the pope who marked an era in Catholic history.
Fifteen years ago today, at 9:37 p.m., St. Peter’s Square was completely full and millions of Catholics around the world were weeping: Pope John Paul II had died.
The last blessing Pope John Paul II gave pilgrims on earth was on Wednesday, March 30, 2005. The evident difficulty was telling of his final hours.
The day after, he was unable to celebrate Mass, and he received his last communion.
The Holy Father’s spokesman confirmed the end was near.
“The pope is conscious, extraordinarily calm, with the relative problems of respiratory distress,” explained Joaquín Navarro-Valls of the Vatican at the time. “It’s a new image for me. Logical shortness of breath… If there is anything new we will stay in touch.”
On April 2, 2005, the light went on in his room and it was confirmed – he had died.
The rite of recognition and the blessing of his remains took place in the Apostolic Palace. Then also, the destruction of his ring and sealing of his apartments.
An estimated three million people came to pay him homage.
Many leaders came to his funeral. For a few hours, they seemed to put aside any
disputes, as a tribute to a common friend.
“We can be sure that our beloved pope is now at the window of the Father’s house. He sees us and he blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father,” said Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.
Just six years later, he was beatified by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, before Pope Francis declared him a saint on April 27, 2014.
His tomb in St. Peter’s Basilica, is now one of the most-visited sites by pilgrims.
Saint Pope John Paul II had a 27 year papacy.
He suffered from Parkinson’s for 13 years before his death at age 84. His funeral was at the Vatican on April 8, 2005 with around three million pilgrims in attendance.