After 26-year reign, pontiff dies at 84

4/3/2005 5:02:13 PM

Pope John Paul II 1920-2005

Roman Catholics all over the world gather to mourn

Saturday, April 2, 2005

"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 Saint Peter's Square," a Vatican statement said.

Archbishop Stanislow Dziwisz presided over a Mass for the pontiff in his final hours.

"During the course of the Mass that the viaticum (communion for the dying) was administered to the Holy Father and, once again, the sacrament of anointing the sick," the statement said.

Archbishop Leonardo Sandri asked for a few moments of silence as he announced the death to the thousands of faithful who had congregated in St. Peter's Square. People in the crowd bowed their heads to pray, some of them in tears.

Then they burst into applause.

"Let perpetual light shine on him, and let him repose in peace," Sandri said.

A Mass in the pope's honor will be celebrated at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, he said.

The pope was known for his energy, intellectualism and activism on the global stage, but he was slowed in recent years by Parkinson's disease and crippling arthritis.

His health had deteriorated severely during the past few weeks. By Saturday, John Paul was slipping in and out of consciousness after his heart and kidneys started to fail in the wake of a urinary tract infection. (Full story)

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said that despite his precarious health, the pope had decided to remain in his residence at the Vatican, rather than returning to Gemelli hospital in Rome, where he had been hospitalized twice since February.

He was administered the sacrament of anointing the sick, formerly known as last rites or extreme unction, Thursday night.

Navarro-Valls said the papal transition process is under way, as part of the procedures the pontiff enacted in 1996

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II was remembered Saturday as a "champion of human freedom," a "tireless advocate of peace" and a man with a "wonderful sense of humor" who was easy to talk to.

The charismatic pontiff, who led the world's 1 billion Catholics for 26 years, died at 9:37 p.m. Saturday (2:37 p.m. ET) in his private apartment, the Vatican said. He was 84.