Americans Mourn John Paul II

Quietly at home, or with heads bowed in church, Americans marked the death Saturday of Pope John Paul II, recalling him as a great leader who combined warmth with moral power, a call to care for the poor with an emphasis on liberty.

Bells tolled at Roman Catholic churches across the nation, as they did at the Vatican and around the world. Religious leaders of all faiths spoke out to honor the pope, as did political leaders. Flags were lowered to half-staff; blacks bows replaced Easter wreaths at a Wisconsin cathedral.

"We will always remember the humble, wise and fearless priest who became one of history's great moral leaders," said President Bush, who singled out John Paul's praise for the U.S. Constitution. "All popes belong to the world, but Americans had special reasons to love the man from Krakow."

Many mourners reflected on John Paul's long suffering and graceful acceptance of death. Others looked to the Polish-born pope's clear-voiced denunciation of communism. And others remembered his conservative church doctrine, some gratefully and others not.

In downtown Boston, a sign posted on the door at the St. Anthony Shrine (search) announced his death.

"I think his journey through suffering is complete. I'm proud, as a Catholic, of the way he died. He was a model of how to die with dignity," said Christine Hall, a 25-year-old teacher coming to church for confession. "He was surrounded by his loved ones at his home."

New York's Cardinal Edward Egan (search) remembered the pope as someone who lived his life following the church's teaching, citing how John Paul forgave the man who shot and almost killed him in 1981.

"He lived his life as his savior lived his," Egan said while celebrating Mass Saturday evening. "Now he has died, as the Lord did, so that he might be gathered into the arms of his Father in heaven as the Lord was gathered."

In Richmond, Va., Patrick Giprall sat in a pew, clutching his rosary beads and waiting to go to confession.

"I think he showed how we are all brothers," said Giprall, 65. "We may have our differences, but we are all family."

After a Mass in Washington at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (search), Lisa Jenkins of Orlando., Fla., offered her hopes for the future: "It's a sad day. I'm praying for the world to open its eyes for what he stood for — peace, morality and more."

People of different religious backgrounds and viewpoints all found ways to praise John Paul, whether for his efforts to unite people, his opposition to abortion or his stance on world politics.

The Rev. Billy Graham (search), the world's best-known Protestant, said John Paul "was unquestionably the most influential voice for morality and peace in the world during the last 100 years. ... He was convinced that the complex problems of our world are ultimately moral and spiritual in nature, and only Christ can set us free from the shackles of sin and greed and violence."

Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson (search) said he was "deeply grieved" and that the pope "has been the most beloved religious leader of our age — far surpassing in popular admiration the leader of any faith."

"Catholics worldwide have lost a monumental leader and the Jewish community has lost a treasured friend," said Rabbi Eric Yoffie (search), president of the Union for Reform Judaism (search). "John Paul II made it a special priority of his papacy to continue the process of reconciliation between the church and the Jewish people."

In Milwaukee, Aliyah Seck, a Muslim graduate student, recalled traveling with Christian friends to welcome the pope when he visited Senegal in 1992. Seck said he always respected John Paul. "My religion talks about peace all the time and the pope has been preaching peace his whole life, trying to bring people together."

Joan Bartolomei in Trenton, N.J., couldn't keep from choking up when she spoke about John Paul.

"It's hard for me to imagine the world without him," said Bartolomei, 54, active with her local parish. "He was a living example of the Gospel. He loved all people regardless of their faith, and he cared for all the poor people the way Jesus did."