Area Catholics pray for pontiff
As the pope slipped closer to death Friday, thousands of Roman Catholics in the Inland Northwest made the sign of the cross and prayed for their spiritual leader.
Many were devastated. Yet while most people accepted the imminent passing of Pope John Paul II, others beseeched God for a miraculous recovery.
“It’s sad to see him like this,” said Bernard Bolivar, who attended noon Mass Friday at Our Lady of Lourdes Cathedral. “The pope is like a grandfather to us. I pray he gets better.”
Doors to several churches in the area remained open Friday to allow people to pray for John Paul II. Students at Gonzaga University gathered in the chapel, located on the third floor of the university’s Administration Building. As the bells chimed in the noon hour in Coeur d’Alene, three people knelt inside St. Thomas’ chapel to pray for their dying pope.
“We pray for his health and well-being,” said Betsy Crutchfield of Hayden, who was there with her husband, Graham. Earlier in the morning, Crutchfield also remembered the pontiff during morning Mass at St. Pius X.
More than 100 people attended noon Mass at Our Lady of Lourdes, where the Rev. Dennis Cagantas asked the congregation to pray for John Paul II during his journey “back to the loving arms of God.”
Even before the service, many whispered their “Hail Marys” as they fingered their rosary beads in the dimly lit sanctuary.
Chinzia Escobido was raised Catholic, but she doesn’t normally go to Mass unless it’s Easter or Christmas. When she heard the news of the pope’s imminent death, however, she felt compelled to come to church.
During this sad and historic moment, something inside reminded her “that you are always part of this church,” Escobido said.
Churches in the Diocese of Spokane will have prayer services, special Masses and rosaries to mourn the pope, said the Rev. Steve Dublinski, vicar general for the Diocese of Spokane. Some of the parishes also plan to place portraits of the pontiff in their sanctuaries, adorned with votive candles and flowers.
Bishop William Skylstad of Spokane was en route to Rome Friday. As president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Skylstad was scheduled to meet with cardinals and other congregation leaders, Dublinski said. Those meetings inevitably would be canceled if the pope dies, he said. Skylstad is also scheduled to appear on ABC’s “This Week,” which will air in Spokane on Sunday at 3 p.m. on KXLY-TV, channel 4.
Meanwhile, Catholics in the Inland Northwest continue their vigils, praying for a man who has shaped the spirituality of Catholics throughout the world.
“He has really been an inspiration,” said Jean Hoerner, who went to noon Mass with her four young children. “He has lived a Christian life and has been a role model. I expect he’ll be made a saint.”