Overflow crowd turns out for local memorial

The pope had a special place in his heart for youths, Bishop Thomas Tobin said.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Pope John Paul II's legacy was the "gift of hope" he gave to the world, Bishop Thomas Tobin said Friday at a memorial Mass at St. Columba Cathedral.
About 1,000 people attended the noon service, many of them schoolchildren. The church's 800 seats were filled to capacity, folding chairs were added and standing worshippers lined the walls -- all there to pay tribute to the man who served as spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church for 26 years.
Paul Sperro of Boardman doesn't usually attend Friday Mass. But he drove to Youngstown for the service.
"I came for him. I wanted to honor the pope," Sperro said. "He made an impression on me."
Pauline Petrosky, principal of St. Nicholas School, brought 22 eighth-graders, all in red sweat shirts, to the service.
"We were going to bring four [pupils]," Petrosky said, "and one boy said, 'We all have to go.' So we're here. This will be something they will remember forever. It was such a beautiful service."
Commitment to youths
Bishop Tobin noted the number of children at the service, adding that it was a tribute to the pope's commitment to youths.
"He had a special place in his heart reserved for young people," Bishop Tobin said. "I cannot think of a better role model than our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II."
As he spoke of the pope's life and work, a number of worshippers dabbed at their eyes. The crowd was a mix -- toddlers and schoolchildren to the elderly, and people dressed in everything from business suits to jeans and football jerseys.
John Paul had many roles, Bishop Tobin said: pilgrim, peacemaker, pastor and pope.
"Il Papa ... the Holy Father of our Catholic family," Tobin said. "This explains so clearly the loss we feel. We've lost our spiritual father ... and fathers are always hard to replace."
The memorial Mass will be broadcast over the Ecumenical Television Channel at 9 a.m. today and at 7 p.m. Monday. The channel is available on local cable systems throughout the Mahoning Valley.

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