CHANTS of prayer reverberated around the world as Pope John Paul II breathed his last breath on April 3.
Everyone knew the end was near for this much loved leader of the Catholic world, but the loss has overwhelmed faithful and non-faithful alike.
Tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of people filled St Peter’s Square and surrounding streets, waiting patiently to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II.
The solemn, prayerful pomp of the ceremonial transfer of the Pope’s body from the Apostolic Palace to St Peter’s Basilica on April 4 was replaced by informality and expressions of simple piety as the public lined up to view the Pope’s body.
While a few people gave up, most seemed content to wait, chatting with friends, reminiscing about the Pope, praying the Rosary or talking on their mobile phones.
Pope John Paul II died after a long struggle with illness, ending a historic papacy of more than 26 years.
The Vatican announced the Pope’s death at 9.54pm Saturday (Rome time) or 5.54am (Australian Eastern Standard Time) Sunday, two days after the pontiff suffered septic shock and heart failure brought on by a urinary tract infection. The Pope died at 9.37pm Saturday, the Vatican said.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls later said, “The Holy Father’s final hours were marked by the uninterrupted prayer of all those who were assisting him in his pious death and by the choral participation in prayer of the thousands of faithful who, for many hours, had been gathered in St Peter’s Square.”
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who had served as the Pope’s secretary of state, celebrated a memorial Mass for the Pope the next day in the square.
The cardinal said Pope John Paul had spent his entire papacy promoting the “civilisation of love” against the forces of hatred in the world and had called the Church to be a “house of mercy, to welcome all those who need help, forgiveness and love”.
The Pope’s requiem Mass was to be celebrated on Friday morning (Rome time).