Pope John Paul II responds to the crowd during his introduction at the Kiel Centre in St Louis, in January 1999,
Pope John Paul II responds to the crowd during his introduction at the Kiel Centre in St Louis, in January 1999,

World mourns Pope?s death



IT was with a quiet sadness that the congregation filled Coffs Harbour's St Augustine's Church yesterday to mourn the passing of Pope John Paul II.

"Today we join our prayers with the prayers of millions of other people around the world for Pope John Paul II," Father Paul McDonald said.

Pope John Paul II died at 5.37am (AEST) on Sunday, aged 84, after losing his battle with a long illness.

"It's a sad day for us all," one woman said at St Augustine's Church.

Another said it was like losing a father.

"I haven't known any other pope, it's just devastating," she said.

When his death was announced to nearly 60,000 people gathered at St Peter's Square, they broke into applause in a gesture of respect, as tears and prayers flowed.

Within an hour, St Peter's square filled with an estimated 130,000 people.

In his 23 years as priest, this was Father McDonald's first mass without Pope John Paul II.

A human rights and peace advocate, Pope John Paul II will be remembered for his role in the collapse of communism, his championing of the downtrodden, and for his unprecedented apologies of past errors of the Catholic church.

But he dismayed many with his conservative views on contraception, abortion, euthanasia and homosexuality.

Born in Poland in 1920 and elected to the papacy on October 16, 1978, Karol Wojtyla was the first non-Italian pope in more than four centuries.

With a 26-year reign, he was the third longest-serving pope in the history of the Roman Catholic Church.

Prime Minister John Howard said the Pope's role in the demise of Communism would be his most telling legacy.

"His opposition to Soviet communism was based on his faith and his belief in human freedom and human dignity," Mr Howard said.

Mr Howard said the Pope's strong defence of the traditions of the Church was another key trait.

"His steadfast defence of the values and the beliefs and the traditions of the Church, he was an impressively strong man in defending his faith against what he regarded as negative modernist trends."

Father McDonald will hold a special mass at St Augustine's Church for the Pope at 5.30pm on Tuesday.



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