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World Prays, Reflects on Pope John Paul II

Saturday, 02 April 2005 12:00 AM

Italy suspended all weekend sport events — including Serie A soccer, a playoff for the Italian ice hockey title, basketball and volleyball league matches, and amateur sports — as a sign of respect for the critically ill pontiff.

After the long agony of John Paul's very public battle with failing health, some prayed death would come peacefully. At Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, worshippers and tourists lit candles beneath a 1997 photo of the pope that recalled his earlier vigor.

"It's a time of sadness and a real time of reflection on what the pope has done in his 26 years as pope," said Mike Miller, an American visitor. "A really great man, and it's a very somber time."

Candlelit photos of John Paul also were displayed in London's Westminster Cathedral; a basilica in Algiers, Algeria; and at St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna, Austria.

In London, Bishop Alan Hopes told about 400 people attending Mass that John Paul "has been on a journey throughout his life and this is his final journey."

"He has said he has been searching for God all his life and now He has come to him. I think he is at rest in that," Hopes said.

In Vienna, Regina Fischer said the pope's suffering moved her to come and pray, even though she was not a regular churchgoer.

"I want him not to get better, but to have a death with dignity," she said.

The pope's condition was front-page news across much of Asia but not in China, where the state-run media ignored it. The communist government broke ties with the Vatican in 1951. Worship is allowed only in state-approved churches but millions of Chinese Catholics, risking arrest, belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.

Even as John Paul lay gravely ill, the Vatican said Saturday that Chinese authorities recently arrested three officials from China's non-government controlled Catholic Church.

Beijing worshipper Li Guojun said he wished China would resolve its dispute with the Vatican.

"You do not have to believe in God, but why do you fear the pope?" Li said. "Politicians talk about human rights a lot. Why don't they consider the thought of so many Catholics?"

In Pakistan, a mainly Muslim country that the pope visited in 1981, children lit candles as their tearful teachers and many others gathered at a Roman Catholic church in the central city of Multan to pray.

In the small northern Iraq town of Tel Kief, a crumbling village of mud-brick homes bearing crosses above front entrances, Chaldean Catholics also offered prayers. Tel Kief is about 12 miles north of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.

"We feel very bad about the pope, but this is the choice of God," said Adel Changu, a 55-year-old Chaldean, whose community makes up a sliver of Iraq's estimated 26 million people. "The pope represents love for everyone. He only wants peace for the people and he doesn't pay attention to their differences.

"Of course, the pope didn't want this war in Iraq because he's always against blood and violence," said the shopkeeper, wearing a shabby green dishdasha robe as U.S. Army soldiers patrolled the narrow, rubbish-strewn streets outside. "He only wanted peace for Iraq, and that's the lesson everyone in our country should take from him. We'll pray for him."

In Croatia, where nearly 90 percent of the country's 4.5 million people consider themselves Roman Catholics, President Stipe Mesic canceled a trip so he could monitor news about the pope, and people flocked to churches.

Some 1,500 people gathered at the famous 13th-century Gothic cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

At a noon Mass in St. Mary's basilica in Wadowice, the southern Polish town of 20,000 where the pope was born 84 years ago, the Rev. Krzysztof Glowka told a packed church that "we are here to be with John Paul in his agony, to experience, together with him, this great mystery of life that is death."

"Now as a sick and dying person he is teaching us the most important lesson, the lesson of dying and the lesson of perseverance," he said.

A dozen elderly women prayed for John Paul through the night in St. Mary's. As the sun rose, townspeople and foreigners joined them, including Croats who detoured from a trip to Prague, Czech Republic, to pray for the pontiff in the church where he was baptized.

"This has been the longest morning for me in my entire life," retiree Jadwiga Byrska said. "Everything is in God's hands now."

The first non-Italian pope in centuries, John Paul had a manner that made people around the world consider him one of their own.

Even non-Catholics embraced John Paul, crediting him for ending wars, spreading democracy and combating religious animosity. He transformed the papacy from an arbiter of religious doctrine to a global advocate for peace, understanding and responsibility.

Alfred Donath, head of the Swiss Confederation of Hebrew Congregations, said John Paul was an "excellent" pope.

"He worked to bring Jews and the Catholic Church closer together," Donath said. "He was the first Pope to visit a synagogue. He also traveled to Israel and visited the Wailing Wall. We'll never forget that he presented his excuses to the victims of the Holocaust for the attitude of Catholics during the Second World War."


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Italy suspended all weekend sport events - including Serie A soccer, a playoff for the Italian ice hockey title, basketball and volleyball league matches, and amateur sports - as a sign of respect for the critically ill pontiff. After the long agony of John Paul's very...
Saturday, 02 April 2005 12:00 AM
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