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Canadians mourn Pope's passing

Globe and Mail Update

Canadians mourned the death of Pope John Paul II Saturday after a day of prayer services and sombre reflection across the country as the faithful awaited word on the ailing Pontiff's fading health.

Throughout the day, Roman Catholics attended church services coast-to-coast, offering prayers for the 84-year-old Pope even as news coverage from Rome left little hope that the ailing religious leader - who visited Canada three times, most recently in 2002 - would recover from his latest health crisis.

For Father Henryk Laciak at Winnipeg's Our Lady of Victory, the day's developments were particularly hard.

On April 11, 1965, the Pope - then a Cardinal in Poland - ordained Father Laciak.

"He was a real spiritual father for me," Father Laciak, 63, said in an interview.

"He was really kind and loving and he was well respected and loved by all the priests, he was especially admired for his sincerity."

As well, he said, the Pope was a popular speaker.

"When he was scheduled to say some kind of homily or so on, he always brought in lots of people. They liked to listen to him," he said. "He always had something to say."

Even before word of the Pope's death was delivered, Father Laciak said sadness is evident throughout his congregation.

"Everyone is sad because the Pope is really loved and respected, but they're accepting God's will," he said in an interview before the Vatican's announcement.

A similar sombre mood was evident in Toronto as the faithful awaited word on the Pontiff's condition, many suggesting that the Pope's passing would leave a void not easily filled.

"He's going to be very hard to replace because he's so recognizable not only to Catholics but around the world," Monsignor Samuel Bianco of Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral said.

"There's a sense that he's an important and prominent religious figure but he also had a big - and still does - political influence in the world," Monsignor Bianco said.

A noon hour service at St. Michael's on Friday, he said, was to be dedicated to prayers for the ailing Pontiff, who has visited Canada three times.

At this point, he added, the mood among worshippers has been solemn.

"I think people are much more sober about it, that this is a much more difficult time, that it would be certainly quite miraculous were he to recover now, that's the sense I have from people and from my own sense too personally," he said.

At a morning mass at St. Agnes Glebe church in Halifax on Friday, many parishioners said that they are saddened by the Pope's ailing health and that they are praying for his recovery.

A few of those attending said perhaps it is time for John Paul to rest after a very long papacy.

One man said the Pope will be remembered for what he did for the world's youth.

A woman called him one of the most popular popes ever.

Another parishioner described the pontiff as tough, sincere, good and someone who will be difficult to replace.

In Montreal, a mass was held at St. Joseph's Oratory.

Many people there, also praying for the Pope, were there 21 years ago, when John Paul visited the Oratory.

They say they are still touched by their experience seeing him and shaking his hand.

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said the Pope's reach is felt by all Ontarians and beyond.

"The Pope remains an inspiration for millions around the world," McGuinty said.

"I think he's been an inspiration that has exceeded far beyond his purview of the Vatican and Roman Catholicism."

With reports from Canadian Press

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