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Canadian Catholics mark Pope's passing

Canadian Press

Toronto — Two Canadian cardinals who will help choose Pope John Paul's successor spoke Sunday of his unique qualities as Roman Catholics across Canada celebrated mass and mourned the loss of their spiritual leader.

"It's difficult to replicate, difficult to analyze — it was simply there," Aloysius Matthew Cardinal Ambrozic said of the Pope's connection with Roman Catholic youth. "This Pope somehow did things you didn't expect popes to do."

A large portrait depicting John Paul in flowing white robes with arms open greeted parishioners at St. Michael's Cathedral in Toronto as the cardinal celebrated Sunday mass.

Cardinal Ambrozic recalled the numerous travels of "the pilgrim Pope," the role John Paul played in the fall of communism in Europe and his special connection with youth.

"He had tremendous faith in the young," said Cardinal Ambrozic, who rode alongside the Pope during many of his meetings with young Catholics. "Personally, I feel I have lost a friend."

In Quebec City, police blocked off part of the old city to traffic as hundreds of worshippers descended on Basilique Notre-Dame.

Nathalie Ouellet huddled with her five children under a canopy in front of the church, taking shelter from a steady drizzle. There was no room for them inside the church.

"It's very impressive; I'm glad to see so many people here," Ms. Ouellet said. "It helps us, as Christians, to see we are supported in our loss, in our faith."

Inside, Marc Cardinal Ouellet recalled an offer John Paul made to God 19 years ago.

In a public prayer, the Pope, then 65, said he would gladly serve as an example by suffering the declining health and diminished faculties of old age. It was an offer that later came true as John Paul was struck by a long list of ailments, including severe arthritis and Parkinson's disease.

"It was a gesture of abandon and trust," said Ms. Ouellet. "It was an act that showed John Paul believed profoundly in the divine mercy of which Jesus was evidence."

At the Anglican Holy Trinity Cathedral, across the square from its Catholic counterpart, the church bells rang half-muffled to mark the passing of the Pope.

In Vancouver on the second Sunday of the Easter season, the altar at Holy Rosary Cathedral was adorned with lilies and a picture of John Paul.

"He's like the glue for all Catholic people," said Shenna Cazenas. "It's sad. It's depressing in a way. He had this aura that holds us all together."

Outside the cathedral, John Mitchell was chased away for begging, but not before saying: "I had a lot of respect for him. He helped people when they needed it. He was someone to look up to."

At St. Joseph's Basilica in Edmonton, overflow parishioners were made to stand in the narthex, or foyer. Many took comfort in each other's embrace while others closed their eyes and bowed their heads in prayer.

"People are deeply moved by the death of the Holy Father because they were deeply moved by the life of the Holy Father," said Most Rev. Thomas Collins, the archbishop of Edmonton, before celebrating mass. "His integrity . . . is something that has touched the hearts of so many people."

Edmonton's Catholic community will hold a candlelight vigil Monday night under a huge sculpture of a white dove. The Pope used the statue as a shelter when he spoke there in 1984.

Parishioners in Halifax also reflected on the Pope's visit to their city.

"I remember he was here in Halifax and it was just a peaceful time and he was a peaceful man," said Youmna Daniel, 60, of the '84 visit to Canada. "That's all he asked for, peace. It's something to remember all your life."

Three Canadian cardinals — Ouellet, Ambrozic and Jean-Claude Turcotte of Montreal — are headed to Rome for the funeral and to elect a new pope. They are among the 117 cardinals, known as a conclave, who will choose a successor to John Paul from among their ranks.

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