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Pope John Paul II dies in Vatican -

Gaurasundara - Sun, 03 Apr 2005 08:11:20 +0530
BBC: Pope John Paul II, the third longest-serving pontiff in history, has died at the age of 84.

The Pope died in his private apartment at the Vatican at 2137 local time (1937 GMT) on Saturday, surrounded by his closest Polish aides. Many thousands of people gathered in Rome's St Peter's Square to pay tribute to the pontiff, while church bells throughout the city began tolling. The Pope had suffered worsening health problems including a heart condition.

Our Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father.
Archbishop Leonardo Sandri Senior Vatican official

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said a mass was held at his bedside by senior officials before his death, at 2000. The Pope then received the Viaticum, a Catholic rite for the sick and dying.

Long applause

The Italian government has declared three days of mourning.

The Pope is to lie in state in St Peter's Basilica from Monday afternoon, the Vatican said. The funeral date has not been set but it is not expected before Wednesday. Pope John Paul II died after suffering from heart and kidney problems and unstable blood pressure.

Minutes after his death, the Vatican issued a brief statement to confirm the news, adding that procedures to be carried out in the event of the death of the Pope had been set in motion.


1920 - Born near Krakow, Poland
1964 - Archbishop of Krakow
1978 - Elected first non-Italian Pope for 450 years
1981 - Assassination attempt
2002 - Final visit to homeland

The Pope's death was immediately announced to the crowds gathered in St Peter's Square. The news was met with long applause, an Italian sign of respect, followed by several minutes of silence as the crowd took in the news. "Our Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father," senior Vatican official Archbishop Leonardo Sandri said. The BBC's Peter Gould, at the Vatican, says people in the square stood in groups, comforting one other.

In the Pope's native Poland, people fell to their knees and wept as the news reached them. Tributes have been coming in from political and religious leaders in other parts of the world. US President George W Bush said the world had lost a champion of freedom.

A wonderful beacon of truth and justice for the world

John O'Byrne, Dublin, Ireland

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was deeply saddened by the death of a Pope whom he described as a tireless advocate of peace.

The Cardinal Chamberlain of the Roman Catholic Church, Eduardo Martinez Somalo, is now in charge. He has to seal the papal apartments and summon the cardinals from around the world to elect the Pope's successor. The cardinals, many of whom are already on their way to Rome, must meet no more than 20 days after the Pope's death to choose a successor. A preliminary meeting has been arranged for Monday morning.

Breathing trouble

The Pope's condition deteriorated suddenly on Thursday night with a high fever caused by an infection of the urinary tract. He had been suffering from breathing troubles, exacerbated by the progress of Parkinson's Disease, an incurable condition from which he had been suffering for nearly a decade.

He appeared briefly at the window of his Vatican apartment on Easter Sunday to bless the faithful, but was unable to speak. It was the first time during his 26-year pontificate that the Pope had delegated the main Easter ceremonies to his cardinals.

Polish-born Karol Wojtyla became Pope in 1978, taking a conservative stand on issues like abortion and contraception. He was the most widely travelled pontiff and visited more than 120 countries during his 26-year papacy.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Gaurasundara - Sun, 03 Apr 2005 08:19:45 +0530
Pope John Paul Dies, World Mourns
By Philip Pullella and Crispian Balmer

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope John Paul II, whose globetrotting papacy inspired millions but left a divided Church, died Saturday, ending years of painful physical decline for the Polish prelate once known as God's Athlete.

"Our beloved Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father," said Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, announcing the death to a huge crowd that had gathered under the Pontiff's windows to pray for a miraculous recovery that never came. The Vatican said the Pope, who reigned over the world's 1.1 billion Catholics for more than 26 years, died in his apartments at 9:37 p.m (1437 EST), surrounded by his closest Polish aides.

As the news spread through Rome, thousands of faithful streamed to the Vatican to join those already there, paying respects to a man who helped undermine Communism in Europe while upholding traditional Church orthodoxy. The slow mourning toll of one of the great bells of St. Peter's Basilica made the only sound to cut the stunning, tearful silence in the Vatican.

The exact cause of death was not immediately given but the Pope's health had deteriorated steadily over the past decade with the onset of Parkinson's Disease and arthritis. Earlier this year it took a sharp turn for the worse. He had an operation in February to ease serious breathing problems, but never regained his strength and last Thursday developed an infection and high fever that soon precipitated heart failure, kidney problems and ultimately death.

"The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd. The world has lost a champion of human freedom and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home," President Bush said in a televised address from the White House.

Just two hours after his death, around 130,000 people were in St. Peter's Square, police estimated. Necks craned up toward the lighted windows of the Pope's apartments where his once vigorous body lay. "I can't believe that's it. I know God will provide a new Pope but we'll miss him so much," said Adrian McCracken, an Irishman who kept pressing his fingers against his eyes and apologizing for crying.


The Vatican announced that the Pope's body would lie in state for public viewing in St. Peter's Basilica from Monday afternoon at the earliest. No date was set for a funeral, but it was not expected to happen before Wednesday. Italy announced three days of national mourning, while his native Poland will hold six days.

Vatican Secretary of State Angelo Sodano will say a Requiem Mass for the Pope Sunday at 10.30 a.m. (0830 GMT) in St. Peter's Square. The conclave to elect a new Pope will start in 15 to 20 days, with 117 cardinals from around the globe gathering in the Vatican's Sistine Chapel to choose a successor. There is no favorite candidate to take over. The former Archbishop Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was himself regarded as an outsider when he was elevated to the papacy on Oct. 16, 1978.

In his native Poland bells rang out across the country and sirens wailed in the capital Warsaw as news of the Pope's death dashed any lingering hopes of a miraculous recovery. "I am overwhelmed by pain. I have prayed for two days and thought that a miracle will happen, but it didn't happen and now we can only weep," said Teresa Swidnicka in Krakow. Wojtyla, who saw his country occupied by the Nazis in his late teens, cut his teeth as a clergyman when Poland was run by atheist pro-Soviet communists after World War II.

Apart from his battle against communism, John Paul will be remembered for his unswerving defense of traditional Vatican doctrines, drawing criticism from liberal Catholics who opposed his proclamations against contraception, abortion, married priests and women clergy. In death, tributes poured in from around the world.

"The world has lost a religious leader who was revered across people of all faiths and none. He was an inspiration, a man of extraordinary faith, dignity and courage," said British Prime Minister Tony Blair.


The first non-Italian pope in 455 years, John Paul threw off the stiff trappings of the papacy, meeting ordinary people everywhere he traveled -- 129 countries and territories in all. But as the years passed, his energy faded. Once a lithe athlete and powerful speaker, he suffered a series of health dramas, including a near-fatal shooting by a Turkish gunman in 1981. By the end of his life he could no longer walk and his voice was often reduced to a raspy whisper. Earlier this year, the breathing crises silenced the "great communicator" and he failed dramatically in two attempts to address the faithful last Easter Sunday and again Wednesday.

The Vatican said the Pope received the Roman Catholic sacrament reserved for the sick and dying shortly before dying. "The Holy Father's final hours were marked by the uninterrupted prayer of all those who were assisting him in his pious death," a Vatican statement said. While many people loved the man, his message was less popular. Critics constantly attacked his traditionalist stance on family and sexual issues. In the United States, there was a widespread feeling that the Pope responded too slowly to sex abuse scandals that rocked the Church in 2002.

But the Pope was also an untiring advocate of Christian unity and inter-religious dialogue. He was the first pontiff to preach in a Protestant church and a synagogue and to set foot inside a mosque. A decade after witnessing the fall of Soviet-bloc communism, the Pope fulfilled another dream. He visited the Holy Land in March 2000, and, praying at Jerusalem's Western Wall, asked forgiveness for Catholic sins against Jews over the centuries.

"We all feel like orphans tonight but our faith teaches us that those who believe in the Lord live in him," Archbishop Renato Boccardo told the crowd at St. Peter's. Some Catholics hope the next Pope will be more liberal. But John Paul appointed more than 95 percent of the cardinals who will elect his successor, thus stacking the odds that his controversial teachings will not be tampered with.

(Additional reporting by Jane Barrett, Phil Stewart, Antonella Cinelli, Rachel Sanderson, Raffaella Malaguti)
Gaurasundara - Sun, 03 Apr 2005 10:10:43 +0530
The Guardian:

To the end he raged against the dying of the light. 'At a certain point, a few moments before he died, the Pope raised his right hand, moving it in an obvious, if only faint, gesture of blessing, as if he were aware of the crowd of the faithful present in the square who at the time were following the saying of the rosary,' said Father Jarek Cielecki, editor of the Vatican news service.

'As soon as the prayer was over, the Pope made a very great effort and said the word "Amen". A moment later, he was dead.'

In the minutes that immediately followed news of the pontiff's death the sound of pealing bells was interrupted only by crying among more than 60,000 people packing St Peter's Square in Rome last night. As many recited the rosary, the city was united in its grief at the news of the the Pope's death. An unnatural hush gripped the city. Vast traffic jams spread through the roads leading to and from the Vatican as Romans trying to reach the square edged over the cobbled streets alongside partygoers.

Yet, astonishingly for a city of legendarily impatient drivers, not a single car horn was sounded.

Throughout last night prayers were relayed to the crowd through loudspeakers placed high up in the brilliantly illuminated, sweeping collonades that embrace the square. The front of the Catholic world's most important place of worship also blazed with light. Many of those in the square were young, some wearing leather jackets, others fashionably dressed in their low-cut jeans and ultra-pointed boots.

Anna Dall'Oglio, aged 19, said: 'This was a moral obligation for me. I felt I had to be here at the end. I was not in agreement with some of the things he said, but I admired him enormously as a person. I loved his readiness to laugh.' Virgilo Carga, a hospital worker from Riano, near Rome, saw John Paul II as 'a political Pope'. 'If it wasn't for him the fall of the Wall at the end of communism would never have happened,' he said. His wife, Giuseppina Mura, said: 'I felt him to be very near because he was so open, because he talked to the young, especially about peace. He was very young at heart. And I care a lot about peace.'

Meanwhile, in Poland the faithful wept and prayed in grim silence. 'This is a terrible shock, I don't know what to say. He meant everything to us,' said Maria Drapa, one of several thousand who held a vigil in the Pope's home town of Wadowice. In Krakow, where the man born Karol Wojtyla began his steady rise to the Vatican, thousands fell silent and many people fell to their knees and wept. 'I am overwhelmed by pain. I have prayed for two days and thought that a miracle will happen, but it didn't happen and now we can only weep,' said Teresa Swidnicka, one of the mourners.

The bells tolled last night at Westminster Cathedral in central London, bringing hundreds of Catholics to pray. Far from the typical noise of the capital on a Saturday night, inside the marble-walled cathedral there was a sepulchral hush, pierced only by the saying of prayers. Worshippers gathered among the wooden pews, some with eyes that were still raw from weeping. A few clutched rosary beads and studied them pensively.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, who heads the church in England and Wales, led the worshippers in a prayer, paying tribute to the pontiff: 'He was a faithful standard bearer on earth of the mystery of your forgiveness and grace on earth.' It was followed by a hymn. Later other priests recited prayers as the mourners continued to come. Cathedral staff distributed leaflets entitled 'Prayers upon the death of Pope John Paul II', bearing a colour illustration of the Pope's face, as soon as the news was confirmed. On the back of the leaflet was a 'Prayer for the new Pope'.

A quiet, patient queue formed at the cathedral's Holy Souls Chapel where a makeshift book of condolence was opened. One entry said: 'Thank you for all you have done to the Church. I pray God that we, with the help of the Holy Spirit, will follow your example.' Roderic O'Sullivan, 60, who lives nearby, said: 'I heard the bell tolling and I had to come. The death of a Pope who had such a long reign has an effect on all Catholics. He will be remembered as a man who had a profound influence on both the church and the world.

Michelle Ramsingh, 27, from Westminster, said: 'He's the only Pope I've known in my lifetime, so there is grief and mourning, but also thanksgiving. I am here to pray that he rests in peace and give thanks for his life as an influence on the Catholic Church. The challenge for the next Pope is to remain faithful to his beliefs, just as John Paul refused to bend to certain views in society. We want to be equally proud of the next Pope.'

A spokesman said that a solemn requiem is to be held at the cathedral this morning, followed tomorrow by Solemn Vespers of the Dead, which the Prime Minister, a senior member of the royal family, representatives of heads of state, senior diplomats and representatives of other religions of other Christian traditions, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, are expected to attend. Earlier in the day, many of those who flocked to St Peter's Square in Rome had expressed relief the Pope's suffering was finally coming to an end. 'We are here praying for him while he is about to set out on his last voyage,' the American cardinal, Edmund Szoka, a Vatican official, told the crowd during a service.

Throughout the day the scene in the square had at times been festive, with children chasing pigeons and families picnicking on pizzas. At other times it turned quiet, when only the trickle of the fountains and the hum of rosary prayers could be heard. Under a lamppost in the centre of the square some followers had left candles. A bouquet of tiny yellow flowers with a note attached, written in a child's handwriting, said simply: 'Stay with us John Paul, don't leave us.' A painful reminder of the Pope's imminent demise came when workmen in the square started dismantling an awning on the steps of St Peter's Basilica. The removal of the canvas traditionally used to shield the Pope from the sun during outdoor masses, was to clear space for the pontiff's funeral.

But then, Rome, while in a state of shock, has been preparing for the Pope's demise for days, making plans to house the tens of thousands of pilgrims expected to flock to the city over the coming days. In recent days, portable toilets and ambulances have appeared in ever greater numbers near the Vatican. The pilgrims' desire to be near the Holy Father was such that some city buses had begun skipping intermediate stops to rush pilgrims straight from Rome's main train station to St Peter's Square.

City officials had also lined up fairground pavilions and sports stadiums to house the faithful, and the Italian state railway had started to add additional trains to bring the faithful direct to the holy city. Perhaps unsurprisingly, given the groundswell of grief that is rising up in Rome, the commemoration of John Paul II has already begun. In Vatican City, the Vatican post office announced that it would issue a special stamp which can be used only when a new pope is elected.

The courage Pope John Paul II showed in his final days sparked a sustained outpouring of reverence. His brave battle to continue as spiritual head to more than a billion Catholics drew admiration from supporters and opponents alike. But it was not until last Thursday night that the full gravity of his condition was acknowledged. The Vatican put out a statement at 10.22pm saying the pontiff had been stricken with a high fever as the result of a urinary-tract infection and was being treated with antibiotics. More important than the content of the announcement, however, was its timing. The Vatican has never been known to make anything public at such a late hour - a clear indication that the Pope's condition was not just serious but critical. It was a sign, too, that the Vatican was willing to keep the world informed of his progress.

It emerged that the infection had set off a 'septic shock' that sent the pontiff's body temperature soaring and his blood pressure plunging and eventually prompted heart failure. Hours later, and even with the help of an artificial respirator, the Pope was struggling for breath. The stabilisation of the Pope's condition in the hours that followed enabled steps to be taken the following day for an orderly succession. A stream of senior prelates was ushered to his apartment.

His callers were precisely those who might be expected to hear a dying Pope's final instructions: Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Vicar-General of Rome charged with making the official announcement of his death; Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, his closest ally, who, as dean of the college of cardinals, will supervise the election of his successor; Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Secretary of State, and his two deputies, and Cardinal Casimir Szoka, the Vatican City governor. The sixth visitor was the most junior, the least known and the most significant: Paolo Sardi, a Vatican envoy who is also vice- chamberlain, one of two officials responsible for the central administration of the church in the interregnum between Popes.

Once Sardi had left, everything appeared to have been made ready for the end. Shortly before 7.30 on Friday evening, Cardinal Ruini appeared to indicate that the time had come. At a special mass attended by all of Italy's leading politicians, he dec lared that the Pope 'already sees and already touches the Lord. He is already united to our only saviour.' It would be more than a day before the final announcement of his death came.

But the Pope was to hang on for another 26 hours.

'A Pope is never ill', or so an old Roman saying has it, 'until he is dead'. Down the centuries, the Curia - the central administration of the Roman Catholic church - has sprung a good few surprises on the faithful, frequently announcing that pontiffs had gone to meet their maker when no one outside the Vatican's great walls had any idea they were even ailing. Back in St Peter's Square, as the early hours of the morning slipped by, a group of youths began to sing, 'Alleluia, he will rise again'. Others resumed reciting the rosary; a priest raised a Polish flag partly draped with a black cloth. Bells tolled at the Vatican and across Rome as flags of the Vatican, Italy and the European Union were lowered to half-mast.

Giulio La Rosa, a 23-year-old student in Rome, burst into tears. 'I'm not a believer, but I came here because I believe in him as a builder of freedom,' he said. 'He was a marvellous man. Now he's no longer suffering.'
Gaurasundara - Sun, 03 Apr 2005 10:35:22 +0530
Obituary: Pope John Paul II

Karol Wojtyla's election as Pope in 1978 stunned the Catholic world. Not one expert had tipped the 58-year-old bishop of Krakow for the top job.

His stand against Poland's Communist regime had brought him respect. But he was not part of the Vatican "in-crowd" and, above all, he was the first non-Italian pope in more than 450 years. He went on to become one of the most familiar faces in the world. His papal odyssey covered more than 120 countries and he earned himself the reputation of an international fighter for freedom. But, to his critics, John Paul II was the arch-conservative - an autocrat whose pronouncements on abortion, contraception and women's rights have had an effect on millions of lives.

Theologian in hiding

The youngest pope of the 20th Century was born near Krakow, Poland, in 1920. As a young man he excelled at sports, including soccer and skiing. He also had a great love for the theatre and, at one time, seriously considered becoming an actor. World War II and the Nazi occupation saw Karol Wojtyla working as a labourer. He studied theology from 1942 and was forced into hiding in 1944 following a crackdown on religious teaching. Continuing his studies after the war, he was ordained a priest in 1946. Rapid promotion followed and by 1964 he was archbishop of the city. Three years later he was a cardinal.

Throughout, he had continued his theological studies and was often seen in Rome, but no more than dozens of other cardinals from distant and obscure dioceses.


"The Year of the Three Popes" came in 1978. Pope Paul VI died at the age of 80. His successor, elected in a single day, took the name John Paul in memory of his two predecessors. Thirty-three days later he, too, was dead. Once again the College of Cardinals conducted the centuries-old ritual of a papal election in the Sistine Chapel. After two days of deliberation, Karol Wojtyla became the next successor to St Peter. Taking the name John Paul II, the new pontiff signalled a new era in Catholic affairs. He was dynamic and approachable, an instantly recognisable leader for the world's largest Christian community.

Above all, he travelled. On an early trip to Ireland, he appealed to the men of violence to return to the ways of peace. American Catholics saw him reject all calls for a change in moral teaching.

Ecumenical services

But his insistence on getting close to crowds almost led to his death in May 1981. Leaning out of his vehicle in St Peter's Square, he was shot and seriously wounded by a Turkish fanatic. After a long recovery, he visited and forgave his would-be assassin. In 1982 he visited Britain. This was a historically charged trip made all the more important as it occurred during the Falklands crisis. For the first time since the Reformation, the Pope met the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Pope appealed for a peaceful end to the Falklands issue, a plea which was mirrored in a visit to Argentina days later. He participated in a number of ecumenical services with the Church of England, something unthinkable in previous eras.

Huge crowds, Catholic and Protestant, attended his every move and the talk was of union between Rome and Canterbury - a union which today seems as far away as ever, because of the issue of women priests.

Influential in eastern bloc

With the break-up of the Soviet bloc, relations between the Kremlin and the Vatican gained a new significance. In 1989, Mikhail Gorbachev visited Rome, the first time a Soviet leader had crossed the threshold of St Peter's.

"The Pope," he told his wife Raisa at the time, "is the pre-eminent moral authority in the world. But he's still a Slav." The understanding between the two men undoubtedly eased the way to democracy in the eastern bloc. The collapse of Communism coincided with increasing demands in the West for a compromise on religious teaching. By consistently rejecting these calls, John Paul effectively closed the debate before it had started. He was a complex man. While calling for action to combat world poverty, he insisted that contraception was morally unacceptable. He said that he wanted to improve the status of women while writing that motherhood should be a woman's natural aspiration.

Reign saw great change

He frequently criticised the liberalism which he saw all around him. Homosexuals incurred both his wrath and his pity, to the dismay of campaigners for gay rights. Although dogged by ill-health in later years, the journeys continued - to Cuba, Nigeria, former Yugoslav republics and the Holy Land, each with its own particular set of pastoral and political problems. In 2002, the Pope made an emotional and nostalgic final visit to his homeland, flying over his birthplace in Wadowice and visiting the graves of his parents and brother in Krakow.

Once again, vast crowds turned out to see the man many Poles regarded as a living saint and who had, they believed, played a key role in liberating them from Communism. John Paul's reign also saw other radical changes throughout the world - including the emergence of Aids. And he had to deal with an increasing number of sex abuse scandals which have recently beset the Catholic Church. Throughout his reign, his work to maintain the dignity of mankind against what he saw as the dangers of modern life, together with his personal magnetism, made Pope John Paul II one of the most remarkable men of his times.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Advaitadas - Sun, 03 Apr 2005 12:29:08 +0530
I am not an expert in Catholic history, but John Paul II appears to me to be the greatest pontiff ever because of

1. His great courage.
2. His outspoken, unmixed message.
3. His moral 'conservatism' (holding on to timeless values and virtues).
4. His 'progressive' political views (opposing oppression and social injustices).
5. His pacifism.
6. His integrity.

I heard that he ensured that he will be succeeded by a similar hero.
We sincerely hope that he will.
adiyen - Sun, 03 Apr 2005 13:23:14 +0530
Apparently he entered priesthood when his country was occupied by the Nazis who had forbidden the training of new priests, at great personal risk.

I was also particularly moved when he visited prison to personally offer his assassin forgiveness. He didn't have to do that.

In light of his achara, I believe we ought to be be justified, in the tradition of Vaishnava magnanimity, proclaiming

Sadhu! Sadhu!

at the passing of this soul.

Tamal Baran das - Mon, 04 Apr 2005 04:15:58 +0530
He has visited my country many times. I saw him just once in a crowd of people, and he did look to me as a very determined and spiritual person.
Great person, and i will certainly miss him in this world.
He was example until the very end.