John Paul II died on Saturday, April 2, 2005, at the end of the vigil Mass of Divine Mercy Sunday, the feast that he himself instituted five years earlier for the universal Church. A few minutes before his death, at 9:37 p.m. Rome time, a Mass had been celebrated in the Pope’s private apartments, during which he was given the Holy Viaticum and the Anointing of the Sick.
John Paul II had designated the second Sunday of Easter to be Divine Mercy Sunday in a surprise announcement at the canonization, on April 30, 2000, of Sister Faustina Kowalska, a Polish nun who died in Krakow in 1938. The essence of St. Faustina’s mission was to proclaim God’s mercy toward every human being. Her spiritual legacy to the Church is devotion to Divine Mercy, inspired by a vision in which Jesus himself asked that a painting be made of his image with the invocation “Jesus, I trust in you” appearing below. St. Faustina also wrote in her diary that Our Lord said to her: “Poland is dear to My Heart in a very special way. If Poland is faithful and obedient to My Will, I will raise it high in power and sanctity; it will project the spark that will light the world and prepare it for My second coming.” This spark out of Poland was certainly Pope John Paul II himself.
In 1981, at the Shrine of Merciful Love in Italy, John Paul II stated: “Right from the beginning of my ministry in St. Peter’s See in Rome, I considered this message (of Divine Mercy) my special task. Providence has assigned it to me in the present situation of man, the Church and the world. It could be said that precisely this situation assigned that message to me as my task before God.”
During his last journey to Poland in August of 2002, the Holy Father visited the Divine Mercy Shrine of Lagiewniki, near Krakow, where Sister Faustina lived and died. John Paul II said: “How much the world is in need of the mercy of God today! In every continent, from the depths of human suffering, a cry for mercy seems to rise. In those places where hatred and the thirst for revenge are overwhelming, where war brings suffering and the death of innocents, one needs the grace of mercy to pacify the minds and the hearts and make peace spring forth. In those places where there is less respect for life and human dignity, one needs the merciful love of God, in whose light we see the ineffable value of every single human being. Mercy is needed to ensure that every injustice may find its solution in the splendour of truth.
“So today, in this Sanctuary, I solemnly wish to entrust the world to Divine Mercy. I do so with the burning desire that the message of God’s merciful love, proclaimed here through Saint Faustina, may reach all the inhabitants of the earth and fill their hearts with hope. May this message spread from this place to our beloved homeland and throughout the world. May the binding promise of the Lord Jesus be fulfilled: from here has to come out “the spark that will prepare the world for his final coming.”
John Paul II had prepared a short homily from his deathbed that was to be read on Divine Mercy Sunday. It was indeed read, not by him but by a Vatican official after the Mass at St. Peter’s for the eternal repose of Pope John Paul II. It was an urgent plea for a greater understanding of Divine Mercy and was read as follows:
“As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is a love that converts hearts and gives peace. How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy!
“Lord, who reveal the Father’s love by Your death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You today: Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Amen.”