Bay Area Catholics celebrate John Paul II


Parishioners went to Sunday service with one thing in common, to celebrate a man on his way to becoming a saint. And, while they represented countries from around the world, no one was more proud than those who share the same homeland as Pope John Paul II.

"I love the man for his charismatic values and for everything he had to offer to people, how kind and polite and caring he was," Joanna Batory of El Sobrante told ABC7.

More than two decades ago, the pope's visit to San Francisco packed cathedrals and filled a stadium. On the day he was beatified in Rome, the Bay Area's faithful turned out once again packing St. Mary's Cathedral for a celebration of their own.

"The beatification of holy men and women is a proclamation by the church of how great God is," Archbishop John R. Quinn told mass attendees.

It was at Mission Dolores Basilica in 1987 that Pope John Paul II held a 4-year-old boy dying of AIDS, an image that still connects him to many Bay Area Catholics.

"We're part of the family and my mother received communion from him in this costume when he was here in 1987," recalled Caria Tomczykowska, president of the Polish Arts and Culture Foundation in Oakland.

However, not everyone was celebrating. A small group of clergy sex abuse victims and their supporters protested outside. To them, Pope John Paul represents a dark chapter in church history.

"He did nothing in the face of serious complaints that were formally made to the Vatican and the church hierarchy. He did nothing," said Tim Lennon with the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

"He basically was the guy that was giving the instructions to cover these things up," Melanie Sakoda said.

Others see it differently and say they will continue their prayers to John Paul until he is formally declared a saint.

"I just couldn't be prouder and happier today," Tomczykowska said.

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