To express her feelings about the late Pope John Paul II, Slavic languages Prof. Bogdana Carpenter recited on the Diag last night “Ode to the 80th birthday of Pope John Paul II,” a poem by renowned Polish poet and Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz. The poem embraced the pope as a father figure who gave the poet certainty in moments of doubt.
Carpenter, along with about 150 other students, faculty and community members, gathered yesterday for a candlelight vigil on the Diag in memory of the life and recent passing of Pope John Paul II.
Father Dan Reim from Saint Mary’s Student Parish furthered this feeling of admiration for the pope. Reim said the pope had called today’s youth crucial in the making of a better planet, sponsoring 19 World Youth Days during his pontificate.
Adam Urban, a member of the Polish Student Society, echoed Reim’s sentiments.
“We, the youth of the world, have kept him going all these years with our love and support,” Urban said.
The inter-faith vigil was sponsored by the Polish Student Society and the Polish Club. The late pope was born in Poland in 1920 and was especially beloved by many Poles, who considered him a catalyst of the fall of Communism in Poland.
Romuald Szuberla, an alum and member of PSS, said one of the goals of the vigil was “to gather and unite everybody,” as Pope John Paul II had done. The main goal, Urban said, was to invite those of other faiths and people from the whole community.
Rabbi Jason Miller, assistant director of Hillel, said he was honored to memorialize Pope John Paul II as a rabbi representing the Jewish community at the University — and especially as someone with Polish heritage. “We feel (Pope John Paul II) built bridges between the Jewish and Catholic communities,” he said.
Praising the pope for apologizing in 2000 to the Jewish people for the Catholic Church’s past wrongs, Miller read the prayer Pope John Paul II had left on the Western Wall in Jerusalem, the world’s holiest site for Jewish people: “We are deeply saddened by the behavior of those who in the course of history have caused these children of Yours to suffer and asking Your forgiveness, we wish to commit ourselves to genuine brotherhood with the people of the Covenant.”
Organizers said the loss was especially devastating to the Polish community because they shared a common heritage with the pope.
Urban said the Polish reaction to the passing of Pope John Paul II could be likened to the American reaction after Sept. 11, because Poles continue to mourn deeply.
“Fortunately,” Urban said, “there’s no perpetrator to chase after.” Instead, he said, there remains the legacy of a great leader — not “Poland’s greatest son,” as he is sometimes called, but “Poland’s greatest father.”
Business junior Aisha Jukaku, who is also vice president of the Muslim Students’ Association, said a few members were present at the candlelight vigil.
Jukaku said Pope John Paul II treated the Muslim community very well. “The pope stood up for justice and freedom all over the world, and we are very sad that he’s no longer with us,” she said. “We send our condolences to the Catholic community.”
The vigil ended with one of Pope John Paul II’s favorite songs, “Barka,” invoking singing and tears among some participants.