Skip navigation

Millions around the world mark final journey

Reuters News Service, with AFP and AP


ions of Roman Catholics who could not get to Italy bid farewell to the Pope in myriad services around the globe yesterday.

"It is almost like being there in Rome," Georgina Vega, a primary-school teacher, said at a mass in the Basilica de Guadalupe, Mexico's holiest shrine. "Being here with a candle, sharing the warmth with others, transports me there."

The funeral went well beyond Catholic countries. It was watched in Egypt, Israel and even in Iran.

The last journey of a man who travelled the equivalent of 30 times the circumference of the Earth during his reign, was his shortest -- a few hundred metres from church to crypt.

In Poland, the Pope's birthplace, cannons roared, sirens wailed and church bells tolled for the funeral of their greatest native son.

Poles gathered at churches and open-air masses, where giant video screens were set up, to bid farewell to a man who inspired their fight against communism and pushed them toward mainstream Europe.

In Shanghai, China, portraits of John Paul decorated the St. Ignatius Cathedral, Shanghai's main Roman Catholic church, but one run by a state-sanctioned body that rejects ties with Rome.

Today, thousands of mourners are expected at a government-approved memorial mass, even though Beijing avoided sending an envoy to John Paul's funeral because of a spat over the Vatican's relations with rival Taiwan.

Thousands in mostly Orthodox Ukraine packed churches in the Catholic west of the country to mark the funeral. The Pope is revered there for leading a revival of local Catholicism after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Roman Catholic churches and those belonging to Ukraine's thriving Greco Catholic, or Uniate, minority were full across Lviv, a town of 800,000 near the Polish border, which John Paul visited in 2001.

Flags flew at half mast outside most public buildings. Many mourners wore black as they carried flowers to churches and lit candles in memory of the Pope. Black ribbons were tied to most taxis, trams and buses. As the funeral mass began in Rome, local radios observed a minute of silence.

In Baghdad, Iraq's state-owned television, Al-Iraqiyah, carried the proceedings live with commentary reminding viewers of the pontiff's compassion for the war-torn country and his opposition to the 2003 U.S.-led war.

In Jerusalem, which the Pope visited for the church's Jubilee Year in 2000, state and private television showed the service in Rome live, remembering how John Paul had called for greater tolerance in the Holy Land.

Roman Catholic schools were closed in Ireland, although the decision by authorities not to declare a national holiday angered some church leaders.

Meanwhile in India, nuns from the charity set up by Nobel peace laureate Mother Teresa in the eastern city of Calcutta offered special prayers for the Pope.

His popularity in India increased after the 2003 beatification of Mother Teresa, even though Christians constitute just 2 per cent of India's billion-plus population.

In Lebanon, where about 38 per cent of 3.5 million people are Christians, bells tolled, a scene repeated in many European countries, such as Portugal and Belgium.

The Pope was also being remembered across Africa. In the South African township of Soweto, a special mass was held in remembrance of the man who had opposed apartheid in their country.

In northern Armenia, tears and prayers from nuns and children filled an orphanage that John Paul helped build after a 1988 earthquake.

Recommend this article? 0 votes

Back to top