VATICAN CITY, APR 3, 2005 (VIS) - At 10.30 today, Divine Mercy Sunday, before hundreds of thousands of people who filled St Peter's Square, Via della Conciliazione and adjacent streets, Cardinal Angelo Sodano presided at a Eucharistic concelebration for the repose of the soul of John Paul II, who died yesterday evening at 9.37.

In his homily, Cardinal Sodano spoke of the pain over the loss of "our father and pastor, John Paul II," but emphasized that for 26 years he had "always called us to look to Christ, the only reason for our hope."

"For more than a quarter of a century he has taken the Gospel of Christian hope to all the squares of the world, teaching everyone that our death is nothing more than a passage to our homeland in heaven. There our eternal destiny lies, where God our Father awaits us."

The cardinal indicated how "this is our faith, this is the faith of Christians. Our pain is immediately transformed into an attitude of profound serenity. I too was a witness to such serenity, standing in prayer before the Holy Father's bed in his final moments, the serenity of the saints, the serenity that comes from God."

"As today we weep for the death of the Pope who has left us, we open our hearts to the vision of our eternal destiny. ... We know that, though we are sinners, we are accompanied by the mercy of God the Father who awaits us. This is the sense of today's Feast of Divine Mercy, established by the dear departed Pope John Paul II himself, as one of the legacies of his pontificate, to underline this most consoling aspect of the Christian mystery."

"This Sunday, it would be moving to re-read one of the most beautiful Encyclicals, 'Dives in misericordia', written in 1980, the third year of his pontificate." In that document, said the cardinal, John Paul II "invites us to look to the Father Who is 'merciful and is God of all comfort, who consoles us in all our afflictions'," and to "Mary, Mother of Mercy."

Cardinal Sodano highlighted the many times the Pope has repeated over the years "that mutual relations between men and between peoples cannot be based only on justice, but must be perfected by merciful love which is typical of the Christian message. For this reason John Paul II led the Church of the third Christian millennium to be a new Good Samaritan on the paths of the world, on the roads of a world still shaken by fratricidal wars. In this way, the Pope became the cantor of the civilization of love, seeing in that term one of the most beautiful definitions of 'Christian civilization.' Yes, Christian civilization is the civilization of love, radically different from those civilizations of hatred which, in the 20th century, were the consequence of so many ideologies."

May the Pope, "from heaven, watch over us always and help us to 'cross that threshold of hope' about which he spoke to us so much. May this his message always remain engraved in the hearts of the men and women of today. John Paul II repeats once more the words of Christ: 'the Son of Man came into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him'."

Cardinal Sodano recalled that John Paul II "spread this Gospel of hope in the world, calling all the Church to embrace the men and women of today, to raise them up with redeeming love. Let it be our task to take up the message of he who has left us and bring it to fruit for the salvation of the world."

"And to our unforgettable Father," he concluded, "we say with the words of the liturgy: 'May the angels lead you to Paradise! In Paradisum deducant te Angeli!' May a joyous chorus welcome you and lead you to the Holy City, the heavenly Jerusalem, that you may find eternal rest. Amen!"