VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis on Wednesday hailed Pope John Paul II's legacy as he marked the ninth anniversary of the Polish-born pontiff's death.
A crowd of tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims, including some from Poland, applauded when Francis recalled during his weekly public audience in St. Peter's Square that John Paul died on April 2, 2005, and will soon be made a saint.
Francis will lead the sainthood ceremony on April 27 in the square for both John Paul and Pope John XXIII. Francis urged the faithful to prepare for the event by "rekindling the legacy of faith that John Paul left behind." He added that the long-ailing John Paul, who led the church from 1978 until 2005, "even accomplished good with his suffering."
In Warsaw, a few hundred faithful watched a documentary dedicated to the pope on a giant screen in downtown Pilsudski square, where John Paul made historic speeches during his visits. They later held a prayer vigil by his relics — a glass and metal case holding a piece of robes stained with John Paul's blood from the May 13, 1981, assassination attempt he survived.
"The relics are a visible sign that he is still with us, they are a part of him," said Agnieszka Liwinska, who took part in the prayers. But she noted the small size of the crowd, compared to tens of thousands who filled the square with lights and flowers after the pope died.
"We remember him, but daily chores have laid claim on our time, that's why so few people are here," she said. The southern cities of Wadowice, where the pope was born Karol Wojtyla in 1920, and Krakow, where he served as priest and bishop for almost 40 years, also held prayers that started before 9:37 p.m. (1937 GMT), the time of his death.