CLEVELNAD, OH: On Tuesday April 5, 2005, His Eminence, Metropolitan Michael took part in a special mass offered in memory of Pope John Paul II, at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in downtown Cleveland.

The celebrant of the liturgy was His Excellency, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla, DD., Ordinary of the Cleveland Roman Catholic Diocese and was attended by five bishops, nearly 100 priests and over 1000 religious, seminarians and laity from all regions of the Cleveland diocese.

His Eminence, Metropolitan Michael near the image of Pope John Paul II, following the liturgy The spirit of the service was solemn but warm and with a sense of unity of purpose. As the procession moved from the cathedral sacristy down Superior Ave. to the E. Ninth St. entrance and into the nave of the historic church, the cathedral choir sang the antiphon, "Grant him eternal rest, O Lord and let your light shine on him forever." Metropolitan Michael was joined in the procession by Bishop James Ryba (Fisher) of Holy Spirit Pro-Cathedral, Eastlake, Ohio. The Archbishop-Metropolitan and Bishop James were seated in chairs within the sanctuary, near the altar, cathedra and ambo.

*In his homily, Bishop Anthony M. Pilla called the pope “a builder of bridges,” reaching between people of different faiths, between countries and even between people in the Catholic Church.

“Almost everything about this man spoke to unity, or as he soon called it, solidarity,” Bishop Pilla said of the pope.

From his first day as pope, the bishop said, John Paul confidently called to the world, “Do not be afraid.” In the face of oppression, hunger, war, injustice and other human challenges, Bishop Pilla said the pope’s message remained steady and constant.**

Concelebrating the requiem liturgy were Cleveland Auxiliary Bishops, A. Edward Pevic, DD., and Roger Gries, OSB, DD. Among the principal concelebrants was the Reverend Thomas Tifft, rector of St. Mary Seminary & Graduate School of Theology, operated by the Cleveland Diocese.

During the distribution of communion, the choir sang a popular Polish hymn to the Mother of God, “Serdeczna Matka,” also known to Ukrainians as "Serdechna Mati." Together with the bishops, priests and deacons, Archbishop Michael & Bishop James participated in holy communion at the altar. This sign of Christian love and solidarity was truly in harmony with the heart of the deceased pontiff and a reflection of the spirit of the church of Cleveland.

When greeting Bishop Pilla prior to the liturgy, Metropolitan Michael told the bishop, "When I travel to various parts of our Archeparchy, I always tell the clergy and laity about the wonderful and positive spirit of the (Roman Catholic) Church of Cleveland, its many and diverse ministries and its beautiful liturgical celebrations. I am proud to say that I am an alumnus of the seminary and a product of its formation."

The Archbishop-Metropolitan received a Master of Arts Degree in Sacred Theology with honors, from the Cleveland diocesan theological school named above. At that time, Fr. Tifft was Academic Dean and professor of historical theology and among the other professors was the V. Rev. David M. Petras, SEOD, who taught Byzantine and Eastern Christian liturgy, history and sacramental theology.

Father Tifft, seminary rector, and the Metropolitan reminisced about the years past and spoke about current ecclesiastical duties. Archbishop Michael's former professor mentioned the pride that the local church has that one of its students has been called to lead the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church in the Diaspora. It should be noted that the Cleveland diocesan seminary has produced numerous bishops over its 150+ year history.

Speaking in the cathedral following the mass, Archbishop-Metropolitan Michael remarked that, "It is entirely appropriate that so many of us from diverse backgrounds and various parts of the greater Cleveland area gathered here tonight to honor Pope John Paul II. This historic and sacred cathedral has long been an icon of the religious unity and diversity of the people of the Northeastern Ohio. The Holy Father will be pleased that we prayed together here tonight, in unity of faith and devotion."

His Eminence, Metropolitan Michael & Bishop James near the image of Pope John Paul II, following the liturgy Metropolitan Michael added that "the leadership that Bishop Pilla has provided for almost 25 years, to the people of the metropolitan area has been characterized by a humble but serious spirit of Christian witness, with a particular focus on the Gospel virtues of justice and liberty for all people. Its success can be seen in the fruits of tonight and other liturgical celebrations throughout the diocese. With this the Holy Father too is well pleased from his place of rest with the Lord."

Many worshippers remained in the cathedral church for a time afterwards, to pray before a purple-draped picture of the late pontiff and to share their thoughts on his life and ministry with one another.

More pictures forthcoming from The Catholic Universe Bulletin.

*Begin excerpt from The Catholic Universe Bulletin, April 8, 2005, Cleveland, OH
**end of excerpt

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