Pope John Paul II dies

Saturday, April 2, 2005

Stock image of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican
Stock image of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican

John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła) 1920-2005

After months of failing health, His Holiness Pope John Paul II passed away today, April 2, at 9:37 p.m. local time (19:37 UTC). He was 84 years old. An email message to journalists from the spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls from The Vatican confirmed the death at 20:00 UTC.

The Pope had a tracheostomy earlier this year to help him breathe, and then lost his ability to speak last week. On Thursday March 31 he developed a urinary tract infection that led to septic shock and cardiovascular collapse. A nasogastric feeding tube was inserted to help him regain strength. The Pope elected not to return to Rome's Gemelli hospital, but instead to stay in his own apartments where he was tended to by his personal doctors and Vatican medical staff.

The same night, he was administered the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick also known as the last rites. On Friday April 1, the Vatican said he was having difficulties with both his heart and his kidneys.

Italian news agency Agenzia Giornalistica Italia reports the pope's final message was "I am happy, you be happy, too. Let's pray together with joy. I entrust everything to the Virgin Mary with joy".

A description of the last moment of the holy father from father Jarek Cielecki, director of the Vatican service news and of the Italian TV catolic Tele Padre Pio, tells us the last moment of life of this great man. "The Holy father died looking at the window, gathered in prayer. As such he was conscious. Just before dying, the Pope raised his right hand in a sign of blessing, as if he was aware of all the people gathered in prayer. Then, as soon as the prayer ended, the Pope did a huge effort, said the word 'Amen' and died."

The Vatican has announced that the funeral will take place on Wednesday, April 6 and that the Pope's body will lie in state from Monday, April 4.


Many have paid tribute to the Pope and his more than quarter-century reign:

  • Nancy Reagan in an interview with Larry King compared the lives of the late Pope and of her late husband Ronald Reagan, saying, "He and Ronnie had so much in common. They were both actors." Noting other similarities between their lives, including their shared interests in outdoor activities and the fact that attempts were made to assassinate them both in 1981, she concluded by saying, "It's amazing how their lives crossed."
  • Paul Martin, the Prime Minister of Canada, said, "What the Pope really stood for is the bringing of all faiths together."
  • Ann Widdecombe, British MP, in an interview with the BBC said, "It's being talked of already, not only by Catholics but by the world, as a great Papal reign," adding from her personal experience of having met the Pope, "I felt I was in the presence of God just for being in the presence of that Pope."
  • His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, in an announcement to ITV News in front of Westminster Cathedral, described the late Pope as "One of the greatest leaders of our modern world; one of the greatest Popes in the Church's 2000 year history." Clearly moved, he concluded his remarks saying "The Church will miss him; the world will miss him; and I will miss him."
  • In a public statement, George W. Bush, President of the United States, said "All Popes belong to the world, but Americans had special reason to love the man from Krakow." He stated that "We will always remember the humble, wise, and fearless priest" and concluded by describing the late Pope as "a son of Poland who became Bishop of Rome and a hero for the ages".
  • Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, the President of Italy, said "All the Italians, me too, are mourning for the Holy Father... I'll never forget extraordinary events like the Jubilee meeting. John Paul II has left a mark in the history, he'll be remembered as one of those men who indicated a way... the overcoming of the divisions between East and West, a world order sustained by the peace. [...] We have admired the Pope for the strength of his ideas, his courage, the extraordinary opening to the dialogue with all the religions. It will keep on living in our hearts."
  • Buckingham Palace issued a statement where Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom expressed her "deep sorrow" at the passing of Pope John Paul II.
  • Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said that the Pope's death was a "great loss for all of humanity."
  • Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury said "Pope John Paul was a leader of manifest holiness and a faithful and prayerful friend of the Anglican Church."
  • The Muslim Council of Britain said "Pope John Paul II bestrode the international stage for nearly three decades with a simple message of peace, justice and freedom. He was a man of extraordinary faith, courage and compassion."
  • Dr. Manmohan Singh, the Prime Minister of India, said "Pope John Paul II was a great reconciler to religion and a humanist."
  • Bono, the lead singer of U2, said of the Pope, he was the "best frontman the Roman Catholic Church ever had".

Reaction around the world

Oratory Church of St Aloysius Gonzaga, Oxford, with the flag of the Vatican City flying at half mast the day after the death of Pope John Paul II.

The announcement of Pope John Paul II's death in Saint Peter's Square at 19:58 UTC was met with applause, a traditional Italian gesture of respect, followed by silence. The Italian government declared three days of national mourning. (Earlier in the day, all major Italian sporting fixtures had already been cancelled.) It was reported that he had already been dubbed 'John Paul the Great' by many in the tearful crowd in St Peter's Square.

In Krakow, Poland, a crowd gathered in the square outside of the Archbishop's residence. The Polish government declared a period of national mourning, from today until the funeral.

Many Catholic churches around the world remained open to allow people to pray, or held special masses. In Dublin, Ireland, the Pro-Cathedral remained open until midnight to allow people to pray privately for the deceased Pope. In the United Kingdom, Westmister Cathedral remained open to allow people to sign a book of condolence.

The flag of the United States flying over the White House was lowered to half mast.


Wikipedia has more about this subject:

Born Karol Józef Wojtyła in Wadowice, Poland on May 18, 1920, Pope John Paul II became the first non-Italian pope in 455 years when he was chosen on October 16, 1978 to lead the Roman Catholic Church following the sudden death of Pope John Paul I.

His more than 100 trips abroad have attracted enormous crowds (some of the largest ever assembled). With these trips, John Paul has covered a distance far greater than that traveled by all other popes combined. They have been seen as an outward sign of the efforts at global bridge-building between nations and between religions that have been central to his pontificate.

Pope John Paul II has beatified and canonized far more persons than any previous pope. It is reported that as of October 2004, he has beatified 1,340 people. Whether he has canonized more saints than all his predecessors put together, as is sometimes claimed, is difficult to prove, as the records of many early canonizations are incomplete or missing.

First diagnosed in 2001 and confirmed by the Vatican in 2003, the Pope had suffered from Parkinson's disease during the last few years of his life. This restricted him to only speaking a few sentences at a time and also affected his hearing and mobility.


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