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Remembering John Paul II's final hours, 15 years later


Learn more about his life with this documentary: "John Paul 'the Great,' a Pope Who Made History." 

Available on Rome Reports Premium

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While St. Peter's Square currently looks like this, April 2, 2005, it was like this.

“May our prayerful silence accompany these first moments of the Holy Father John Paul II with Christ in Heaven.”

John Paul II's health began to decline two months earlier, on the night of Feb. 1, 2005, when he was urgently hospitalized at Gemelli Hospital.

He had breathing difficulties, the flu, and a swollen throat.

For a few weeks, this hospital in Rome became a pilgrimage destination. Hundreds of people visited, just to be near to him. John Paul II greeted them often from the 10th floor window of the clinic.

At the end of February, they did an emergency tracheotomy. He couldn't speak, but he did not stop seeing pilgrims.

CARD. DARÍO CASTRILLÓN
"We will never hear the Holy Father speak again. In the worst case, when the president of a major company cannot speak, he can write.”

That year, the pope was unable to attend the Easter ceremonies.

FR. RANIERO CANTALAMESSA
Preacher of the Pontifical House
"Come back soon, Holy Father. Easter without you is not really Easter."

CARD. SERGIO SEBASTIANI
"We are witnessing the Passion of Christ, but also the Passion of the representative of Christ."

This was his last blessing to the pilgrims, on Wednesday, March 30. It was painful gesture, representative of his final hours.

The day after, he could no longer celebrate Mass, and received the viaticum, his last communion.

The pope's spokesman confirmed the end was near.

JOAQUÍN NAVARRO-VALLS
"The pope is conscious, extraordinarily calm, with the relative problems of respiratory distress. It's a new image for me. Logical shortness of breath... If there is anything new we will stay in touch.”

In those last few hours, thousands of people went to St. Peter's Square to say goodbye to him.

The light went on in his room and it was confirmed - something had happened. It was 9:37 p.m. on April 2, 2005.

The loud clanging of a Vatican bell also mourned his death.

In the Apostolic Palace, the ritual of recognition and the blessing of his remains took place. Then also, the destruction of his ring and sealing of his apartments.

Then, the burning chamber in the basilica was opened.

An estimated three million people came to pay him homage.

Many leaders came to his funeral. For a few hours, they seemed to put aside any disputes, as a tribute to a common friend.

CARD. JOSEPH RATZINGER
We can be sure that our beloved pope is now at the window of the Father's house. He sees us and he blesses us. Yes, bless us, Holy Father.

During Mass, a meaningful and spontaneous cry arose.

Thousands of people asked the Church to declare him a saint as soon as possible.

It didn't take long. Benedict XVI celebrated his beatification in record time, just six years later.

Later Pope Francis officially declared him a saint on April 27, 2014.

His tomb, in St. Peter's Basilica, is now one of the most-visited places by pilgrims.

For many, John Paul II is more than a saint. He's a father, a friend and also, an intercessor.

JMB
Translation: Melissa Butz