ROME (CNS) -- With songs, videos, testimonials and prayers, Catholics of every age and many countries gathered in Rome to remember Pope John Paul II on the eve of his beatification.

"I feel him present here in the Circus Maximus," the pope's former secretary, Polish Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz of Krakow told the crowd in Rome's ancient racetrack April 30. "I feel him returning tonight."

The vigil began with a two-minute video clip of Pope John Paul talking to young people in 2000, struggling at first to find the words and then bantering easily, to the delight of the crowd.

The video set the evening's tone of remembrance, and it was followed by a torchlight procession to an image of Mary, evoking the late pope's special devotion to the mother of Jesus. The vigil featured a live satellite link-up to five Marian sanctuaries around the world, including the pope's former Archdiocese of Krakow, Poland.

Pope Benedict XVI closed the event with a prayer to Mary and a blessing, telecast live from the papal apartment at the Vatican.

The crowd on a wet evening in the Circus Maximus was small at first but swelled to an estimated 200,000, many of whom planned to pray the entire night in preparation for the beatification Mass in St. Peter's Square the next morning. One of the many homemade banners read in Engish: "Karol, we are here with you."

Brother Tristan Abbot of the Cayman Islands, a member of the Society of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity, was among those who came to remember and pray. "John Paul II is our hero. He taught us what it is to love. ... We want to emulate him. We want to have his courage," he said.

Lady Joy Okechukwu from Abuja, Nigeria, came to Rome with 41 people from her archdiocese. Asked why she considered Pope John Paul II a saint, she said: "His humility, his kind heartedness, his love for the Blessed Virgin Mary. I love her too."

Thousands of candles glimmered in the darkness as a Philippines choir sang "Ave Maria." In an amateur video montage made by Rome students, young people said in simple language what they appreciated about the late pope -- especially his spiritual depth and his ability to reach out to all kinds of people.

The crowd cheered French Sister Marie Simon-Pierre, whose cure from Parkinson's disease was accepted as the miracle that paved the way for Pope John Paul's beatification. The nun beamed as she recounted her unexpected healing.

She said when she was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2001 at the age of 40, she found it difficult to watch Pope John Paul, who suffered from the same disease. "I saw in him the image of my illness. But I admired his strength and courage," she said.

When the pope died, she felt a great emptiness, as if she had lost someone who could sustain and support her. Two months later, her condition had worsened. Then, after prayers to the late pope, she awoke early one morning feeling well rested.

"I felt something had changed in me, and I was healed," she said. The crowd in the Circus Maximus erupted in applause.

Earlier, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Pope John Paul's spokesman, told the crowd that he would sometimes find the pope kneeling in prayer, surrounded by small pieces of paper, which he would read one by one. They were prayer intentions that arrived by the thousands -- relatives of the gravely ill, parents of drug addicts, people looking for answers.

"All the pain of the world came to him. And he nourished his prayer with the needs of the others. I don't think there was room in his prayer life for his own intentions," Navarro-Valls said.

Cardinal Dziwisz, the pope's personal secretary for some 40 years, said he knew he was living and working next to a saint -- even before his election as pope in 1978.

The cardinal said he could remember only two times when Pope John Paul showed anger. One was during a trip to Sicily in 1993, when the pope vehemently denounced the Mafia in language that surprised even his close aides.

"It frightened all of us," Cardinal Dziwisz recalled.

The other time he saw the pope angry, he said, was just before the start of the U.S.-led war against Iraq in 2003, when the pope publicly warned that military action would never resolve the problems. "He was right," Cardinal Dziwisz added.

The vigil included recital of the luminous mysteries of the rosary, an innovation of Pope John Paul, led by pilgrims at the five sanctuaries connected via video, in Poland, Tanzania, Lebanon, Mexico and Portugal. The five mysteries were dedicated to intentions dear to the late pope: young people, the family, evangelization, hope and peace among peoples, and the church.

Eight churches in the center of Rome were being kept open all night so that people could pray until the opening of St. Peter's Square at 5:30 the next morning for the beatification Mass.

Events Calendar

October 2014
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
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10:00 AM
St. Anthony Parish, prospect, Prospect, United States
St. Anthony Parish in Prospect will again operate its Pumpkin Patch during the month October. It will be open Oct. 4-31, and all proceeds will support the parish's HOPE Ministry, which assists local [...]
Date :  October 04, 2014
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07:30 AM
Anthony's Ocean View, New Haven, New Haven, United States
The Foundation for the Advancement of Catholic Schools (FACS) will host its annual Archbishop’s Columbus [...]
Date :  October 10, 2014
11
08:30 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Caritas Christi Center in Hamden will host a contemporary presentation of the discipline of centering prayer as silent communication with God [...]
12:00 PM
152 Litchfield St., Torrington, Torrington, United States
Oktoberfest 2014 will be held to benefit the Torrington Cluster of Roman Catholic Parishes (St. Peter, St. Francis of Assisi, Sacred Heart and St. Mary) from noon to 6 p.m. Oct. 11 at 152 Litchfield St., [...]
Date :  October 11, 2014
12
01:00 PM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes in Litchfield Shrine will have its annual harvest dinner at 1 p.m. Oct. 12 in Pilgrim Hall. [...]
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – The 25th anniversary celebration of the Diocesan Rosary Rally will take place from 2-3:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Archbishop Leonard P. Blair will give a talk titled [...]
Date :  October 12, 2014
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07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
Date :  October 14, 2014
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06:00 PM
Holy Family Passionist Retreat Center, West Hartford, United States
"Incorporating Prayer into the Classroom Setting: An Evening Workshop for Parish Catechists," will be [...]
06:30 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
The film 'Places in the Heart' will be shown, discussed and studied from 6:30-9 p.m. Oct. 15 at the [...]
07:00 PM
St. Peter Claver Parish, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
WEST HARTFORD – The Archdiocese of Hartford’s Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) will sponsor a workshop on the need for criminal justice reform at 7 p.m. Oct. 15 at St. Peter Claver [...]
07:00 PM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington , Farmington, United States
  On Wednesday, October 15, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington is offering "Autumn [...]
07:00 PM
Most Holy Trinity Church, Wallingford, Wallingford, United States
WALLINGFORD – Peter Wolfgang, executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut, will give a [...]
09:00 AM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington , Farmington, United States
  On Wednesday, October 15, Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center in Farmington is offering "Autumn [...]
10:00 AM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, Hamden, United States
"Are You Here for Me, Lord?" a program for the bereaved, will be presented by Sister Mauryeen O'Brien from [...]
Date :  October 15, 2014
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09:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its semi-annual tag sale from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 18 and [...]
Date :  October 16, 2014
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07:00 PM
Sacred Heart Church, Southbury CT, Southbury, United States
Sacred Heart Parish in Southbury and its adult choir music ministry will have a Taize prayer service at 7 p.m. Oct. 17 at the church. Taize is an [...]
Date :  October 17, 2014
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07:00 PM
Academy of the Holy Family, Baltic, Sprague, United States
The Baltic Council of the Knights of Columbus will sponsor a benefit dinner for the Academy of the Holy Family at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the academy, located  at 54 West Main Street in Baltic. [...]
07:00 PM
Montfort House, Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its annual Fine Dining and Wine Pairing fund-raiser from 7-10 p.m. Oct. 18 [...]
08:30 AM
Doubletree by Hilton, Bristol, Bristol, United States
Magnificat for women will have a breakfast at 9 a.m. Oct. 18 at the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol. Registration opens at 8:30. The speaker will be author Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle.  The [...]
09:00 AM
Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary, Bloomfield, United States
The eighth annual “Unbound: Freedom in Christ Conference” will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Archdiocesan Center at St. Thomas Seminary in Bloomfield. Based on Neal [...]
09:00 AM
Holy Angels Parish Center, South Meriden, Meriden, United States
Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson and abortion survivor Gianna Jessen will be the [...]
Date :  October 18, 2014
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01:00 PM
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden, Hamden, United States
Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden will have an open house from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19.
01:00 PM
Notre Dame High School, West Haven, West Haven, United States
Notre Dame High Shool will have an open house from 1-3 p.m. Oct. 19.
01:00 PM
Sacred Heart Academy, Hamden CT, Hamden, United States
HAMDEN – Sacred Heart Academy, an independent Catholic college preparatory school for young women in [...]
02:00 PM
Cathedral of St. Joseph, Hartford, United States
Annual anniversary Mass for couples celebrating significan wedding anniversaries.
02:00 PM
St. Mary Star of the Sea Church, Unionville, Farmington, United States
UNIONVILLE –The Legion of Mary of St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish will host a living rosary program in [...]
04:00 PM
St. Justin Church, Hartford, United States
St. Justin Parish will host an Interreligious Harvest Festival at 4 p.m. Oct. 19. Local Catholic and [...]
Date :  October 19, 2014
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05:00 PM
Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville, Southington, United States
The Office for Catholic Social Justice Ministry (OCSJM) will present awards for exceptional efforts in social justice ministry at its annual dinner Oct. 21 at the Aqua Turf Club in Plantsville. It [...]
05:00 PM
Aqua Turf Club, Plantsville, Southington, United States
Click here
07:00 PM
Caritas Christi Center, Hamden, United States
"How to Live an Inspired Life and Inspire Others" is the title of a workshop schuled for 7 p.m. Oct. 21 at [...]
07:00 PM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington, Farmington, United States
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center will offer a program entitled "Returning to the Church of My Youth" presented by Deacon Art Miller.  Deacon Miller will share his reflections on the [...]
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
09:00 AM
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center, Farmington, Farmington, United States
Our Lady of Calvary Retreat Center will offer a program entitled "Returning to the Church of My Youth" presented by Deacon Art Miller.  Deacon Miller will share his reflections on the [...]
Date :  October 21, 2014
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07:00 PM
Holy Spirit Parish in Newington, Newington, United States
Holy Spirit Parish in Newington will host a concert by Elisabeth von Trapp, granddaughter of the legendary Maria and Baron von Trapp, whose story inspired “The Sound of Music,” at 7 p.m. Oct. 24.Ms. [...]
12:00 AM
Lourdes in Litchfield, Litchfield, United States
Lourdes-in-Litchfield will have its semi-annual tag sale from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Oct. 16, 17 and 18 and [...]
Date :  October 24, 2014
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08:00 AM
Goodwin College, East Hartford , East Hartford, United States
EAST HARTFORD – International Catholic speaker, author and radio host Jon Leonetti will be the keynote [...]
08:00 AM
Notre Dame High School, West Haven, West Haven, United States
Notre Dame High School admissions test
Date :  October 25, 2014
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01:00 PM
Xavier High School, Middletown, Middletown, United States
Open house at Xavier High School in Middletown for young men in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
Date :  October 26, 2014
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06:00 PM
Infinity Hall, Hartford, Hartford, United States
HARTFORD – Malta House of Care will sponsor a new fund-raising event at a new venue in October. “A Little Night Music Under the Stars” will be held from 6-8 p.m. Oct. 28 at Infinity Music Hall and [...]
07:00 PM
Chiara Center, Meriden, Meriden, United States
Thomas Finn, Ph.D., will present a six-session educational and psychological workshop designed to help [...]
Date :  October 28, 2014
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12:00 AM
Holy Family Retreat Center, West Hartford, West Hartford, United States
Holy Family Retreat Center will present "From Control to Compassion," a weekend retreat for men and women with Father Michael Crosby, Oct 31-Nov 2. It wil explore the causes and consequences [...]
Date :  October 31, 2014

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