Echoes from the Canonisations’ Pilgrimage

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The testimonies of four pilgrims from our parish of the Holy Cross, giving their experience of the Pilgrimage to Rome for the Canonisations of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II are given below – the testimonies of Josephine Yamaki, Joseph S. Josephides, Elena Christophi and Berna Koutsidou.

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When Pope Francis announced his intention to canonise both Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II on the same day, I felt very excited and eager to be in Rome for this «once-in-a-life opportunity». I started preparing myself spiritually. I tried first of all to get to know these two great men and I was really impressed by their lives and teachings. I was praying them, asking for blessings… and waiting for our parish priest to organise something!

I wanted to go to Rome, to meet the Universal Church … but not alone! My deep desire was to be part of a parish pilgrimage group, coming from Cyprus!

Finally, this became a reality. We were a group of 28 pilgrims coming from Paphos, Limassol and Nicosia, of 11 different nationalities. The journey, the meals, the celebration of the Holy Eucharist (at the airport and the hotel) brought us closer together.

Once in Rome and especially in Vatican City, I was impressed by the cheerful and prayerful atmosphere, the diversity of the crowds coming from all over the world, reflecting the fact that both John XXIII and John Paul II were very popular in life and known for their efforts to reach out to ordinary people.

What struck me also was the number of families spending the night in their sleeping bags. This was for me witnessing their Faith and Love for the Church.

On Saturday, we had a free day. I joined French speaking groups and I had the chance to attend some lectures, have a guided visit of the Cloister of Trinita dei Monti, and enjoy a time of prayer very well organised by the French communities of Rome. Sr Marie-Simon-Pierre, the French nun who was miraculously cured by John Paul II, was there too and gave her testimony.

Sunday 27 April: Feast of the Divine Mercy. Most of us were standing at the very end of Via della Conciliazione, all united in prayer and giving thanks for the two new saints. Very moving:  The presence of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, the Litany of Saints, the Canonization Ceremony with the Veni Creator Spiritus, the moment when Pope Francis declares Blessed John XXIII and John Paul II saints of the Universal Church, the Procession with the Relics.

At the end of the ceremony, Pope Francis got into the popemobile and came down the Via della Conciliazione, a chance for him to get closer to some of the many faithful and greet them… I was one of them! This was my reward for having remained standing for almost nine hours.

Let’s all together give thanks for the two new great saints!

Josephine Yamaki

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The pilgrimage to Rome, of myself and 27 other Catholics (coming from 11 countries and living in Cyprus) for the canonisation of the two Popes (John Paul II and John XXIII), was the best experience in my life.

I never imagined that I would be among almost five million of faithful people praying and chanting in front of the Basilica of Saint Peter, for one single holy purpose: the sainthood of the two beloved Popes.

Sincerely I can say that since that day and thanks to this great event, I feel my faith to be stronger and deeper. I feel ready to be more active Christian, helpful to others less fortunate than me.

I warmly thank the three fathers (Zacheusz, Carlos and Miguel) and the other members of our group. They offered to me and my wife Elena a wonderful companionship, full of love and respect. We do feel the same for them.

May God and the two new saints bless our parish of Catholics in Cyprus and Cyprus as a whole.

Dr Joseph S. Josephides – Knight of the Holy Sepulchre (Jerusalem, Vatican)

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We started our trip to Rome in eager anticipation of the Mass for the Canonisation of Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II and as an added bonus we would combine this with a tour of Rome, and a visit to the Vatican City and Assisi.

However, what we experienced exceeded all expectations. Vatican City and Rome were packed with thousands of Catholics from all over the world: organised groups (including people on wheelchairs and small children) and also individuals who wanted to participate in the celebration. The churches held masses and vigils in different languages preparing the people for the great event. Saint Peter’s Square was all decorated with flowers and trees brought especially for the Mass. The people were praying, dancing, and singing in celebration of the Lord. A spirit of friendship, peace and love surrounded us.

On Divine Mercy Sunday (27th of April 2014) the streets surrounding Saint Peter’s basilica were packed with the faithful who went to attend the Mass. A large number spent the night in the nearby streets, despite the heavy rain, to secure a prominent position for the event. We were lucky; we managed to find space in the middle of the large crowd and were able to watch the Mass on one of the giant screens. Catholics from the four corners of the world came together to pray and participate in the Mass that Pope Francis would declare Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II as saints.  Flags and banners were raised for all to witness Catholicism in its full glory.

When Pope Francis appeared you could only hear one word ‘PAPA’. He was joined in this unprecedented canonisation of the two popes by Pope Emeritus Benedict. The Mass was a magnificent never-to-be-forgotten experience. We all felt uplifted as if a burden was taken away and we were granted a new lease of life. We all became one loving family in the presence of the Lord.

When the Mass was ended the Pope drove between the crowds giving us his blessing. Every single one of us was ecstatic. We all felt special and cherished.

For me this pilgrimage was a milestone in my life that strengthened my faith and made me a more confident Catholic.

Let us learn from the two new Saints to be channels of mercy and tenderness. Let us pray for a better and kinder world – one without poverty, suffering and war. God bless.

Elena Christophi

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Awesome!!! Exceptional!! A true blessing!!!

How do you describe a pilgrimage that leaves you in awe? It will take weeks to take it all in and ponder all what we saw.

Thank you for all your hard work in planning and organizing our recent pilgrimage to the Italian Shrines of Assisi and the canonisations of Blessed John Paul II and St. John XXIII. Thank you to our three priests who helped to make our pilgrimage a reality. You left no detail undone. Everything was well thought out and beyond our expectations: the flights, the transportation from airport to Rome, to Assisi, everything throughout our pilgrimage was timely and stress free.

Oh, what a gift to be able to go quietly and pray and contemplate what Our Lord was trying to show us.

We were blessed to have brought our three priests with us, Fr. Carlos, Fr. Miguel and Fr. Zacheusz. The chapels and corners where they celebrated mass every day for us was like little pieces of heaven. There were so many moments that were emotional. Truly we were blessed.

There are not enough words to express the gratitude I feel for all of you. Thank you for an  unforgettable pilgrimage.

Berna Koutsidou

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