Europe mourns loss of Pope John Paul II

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The Independent Online

Some 800,000 people gathered in a vast field in Krakow to sing hymns and watch Pope John Paul II's funeral on video screens, and schools and businesses closed across the country as Poland mourned a national hero.

Some 800,000 people gathered in a vast field in Krakow to sing hymns and watch Pope John Paul II's funeral on video screens, and schools and businesses closed across the country as Poland mourned a national hero.

Many in Krakow spent the night in the Blonie meadows after a Mass that drew a million people to the place where John Paul celebrated several Masses during his visits to the city where he served as bishop and archbishop.

People sang along with the hymns from the service in Rome as they watched on big television screens, and applauded the homily by the celebrant, Cardinal Josef Ratzinger.

In Warsaw, sirens wailed for three minutes to announce the start of the funeral to the capital. Stores and schools closed, major newspapers did not publish, and pictures of the Pope with black ribbons hung in windows everywhere. In John Paul's hometown of Wadowice, thousands gathered in front of the church where he was baptized.

Some 25,000 people packed Warsaw's Pilsudski Square where the Pope celebrated Mass before a million people during his first visit to Poland as Pope in 1979. Another 2,000 gathered in the Old Town in front of Saint Ann's Church to watch the funeral on huge television screens.

In London, more than 100 worshippers gathered for a morning service at Westminster Cathedral.

A mass was said at the main altar for the Pontiff and a steady stream of well-wishers came to light a candle before a shrine to the Pope in the Holy Soul's Chapel.

Others left messages in a Book of Condolence or knelt for a few moments silence in prayer.

Bells began to peal at 9am to mark the start of the funeral.

The chimes rang out as the flow of visitors to the church continued.

Dozens gathered in the cathedral's Holy Souls' Chapel to pay their last respects before a shrine of the Pontiff.

Meanwhile, a handful of people braved driving rain and cold conditions to watch a screening of the Pope's funeral in Trafalgar Square.

About 7,000 worshippers filled Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.

The entrance gates to the cathedral were closed as the service began at the Vatican because Notre Dame was full, but hundreds of people caught in the rain outside were able to follow the funeral on a giant screen.

A similar screen in the nave and smaller screens around the cathedral enabled worshippers to follow the service inside.

The telecast was part of the cathedral's round-the-clock observance that is to include a solemn requiem Mass tonight.

At Sacred Heart basilica overlooking Paris from the hill of Montmartre, about 500 worshippers watched the funeral silently on two giant TV screens installed inside.

Hundreds of believers attended services in Catholic churches in predominantly Christian Orthodox Romania as the country was plunged into a day of official mourning.

More than 100 worshippers visited St. Joseph Catholic cathedral in Bucharest to pay their last respects. People prayed and lit candles.

There were services held through the night in the Transylvanian cities of Blaj and Cluj, home to many of Romania's Eastern Rite Catholics, a creed which follows Orthodox ritual but is loyal to the Vatican.

In the Transfiguration Cathedral in Cluj, a city some 250 miles northwest of Bucharest, 1,000 worshippers gathered yesterday for a service. Priests announced there would be prayers and a wake stretching for 20 hours to mark the death of the Pope.

A huge portrait of the Pope was draped outside the cathedral with the words "Do not be afraid of God who became man." Some 200 people watched a screen broadcasting the funeral in the cathedral.

Despite the split between Roman Catholics and the Orthodox, the Pope earned a special place in many Romanians' hearts after he visited the country in May 1999.

Television stations broadcast the Pope's funeral live. Radio stations played somber music to mark the mourning and flags flew at half-mast.

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