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World Mourns Pope John Paul II

From bells tolling at mighty Notre Dame Cathedral (search) to prayers said on an earthquake-ravaged Indonesian island, the world mourned Pope John Paul II (search) on Sunday as a beloved and admired spiritual and moral leader, a champion of peace and builder of bridges.

In John Paul's native Poland, 100,000 people filled a square in Warsaw (search) where the pope celebrated a landmark 1979 Mass credited with contributing to the fall of communism.

"I have a sense of great loss and emptiness now," said Ann Pszczol, a 23-year-old student, after an open-air Mass attended by thousands in Lagiewniki outside Krakow, where the pope served when he was Archbishop Karol Wojtyla.

Pilgrims burned candles at the grotto at the healing shrine in Lourdes, France, where the pontiff prayed twice during his last foreign trip in August.

In New York, parishioners — among them, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani — packed St. Patrick's Cathedral for a standing-room only Mass on Sunday.

"He showed us how to live and he showed us how to die," said one parishioner, Joan McDermott. "He reached out to people of all faiths, not just Catholics and Christians."

In Puerto Rico, Rosario Salazar, 72, pulled on her crucifix and wept. "We were blessed to live in the time when he was pope," she said in a cathedral in Old San Juan bedecked with black mourning wreaths.

People from every continent — and of every faith — found something in the life of the pope to praise.

"The Jewish people will remember the pope, who bravely put an end to historic injustice by officially rejecting prejudices and accusations against Jews," Israel's President Moshe Katsav told Israel Radio.

During a 2000 visit to the Holy Land, the pope left a note at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall and expressed sorrow for suffering of Jews at Christian hands, particularly during the Holocaust.

A year later, his visit to the revered Omayyad Mosque in the Syrian capital, Damascus, was the first by a leader of the Roman Catholic church to a Muslim place of worship.

Sheik Salah Keftaro, a prominent Syrian Islamic cleric, said: "Muslims and Christians alike have lost the pope, and we are in a deep sadness for his loss."

The Buddhist spiritual leader Dalai Lama, in a message released by his office in exile, said: "Pope John Paul II was a man I held in high regard."

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, praised John Paul's efforts to reach a reconciliation between the Catholic and Orthodox churches.

On the Indonesian island of Nias — devastated by last week's deadly, magnitude-8.7 earthquake — a priest led special prayers at Santa Maria Cathedral. Nias is among the few Christian-majority areas in Indonesia, the world's most-populous Muslim nation.

"Physically, he has gone, but his spirit still lives on among Catholics around the world," Father Michael To said in Nias.

In Sierra Leone, Archbishop Joseph Ganda said John Paul "brought the papacy to Africa so that today there are Africans who can be proud to say: 'I have seen the pope without going to Rome."'

In Ethiopia, the patriarch of the African nation's 40 million-strong Orthodox church called the a bold man who helped reconcile warring religions."His greatest achievement was his reconciliation with other traditions and religion," said Abune Paulos.

At Kiev's main Catholic church, Ivan Dynka, 46, appeared shaken and was choked with tears. "The holy father was always telling us about peace and tolerance. I am praying that he finds his place with the Father," he said. John Paul visitied predominantly Eastern Orthodox Ukraine in 2001.

Bells tolled in churches everywhere. In Paris, the great bell of Notre Dame sounded 84 times — once for each year of the pontiff's life. Some 25,000 people filled the esplanade in front of the packed cathedral where a special Mass for the pope was celebrated.

Bells also rang in Monaco, the Mediterranean principality neighboring France, where Prince Albert expressed his family's pain over the pope's death even as his own father, Prince Rainier III, clung to life.

"We are so thankful to His Holiness to have so often, and again recently, accorded his apostolic blessing on our father," said a message by Albert released Sunday by the palace.

In China, where worship is allowed only in government-sanctioned churches, believers sang hymns and prayed in Beijing's Southern Cathedral at Xuan Wu Men.

"God has called him to rest in his arms," the Rev. Sun Shangen said.

The Beijing government, which cut off ties with the Vatican shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power in 1949, expressed its condolences and said it hoped to improve relations with the pope's successor.

In India's eastern city of Calcutta, nuns of the Missionaries of Charity, founded by Mother Teresa, grieved in hushed prayers.

Government leaders also paid tribute. In the French capital, President Jacques Chirac said before a special evening Mass at Notre Dame that the world had lost "a tireless defender of human dignity."

"He leaves a profound imprint in the memory of everyone — Christians and non-Christians alike," he said.

"Pope John Paul II wrote history," German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said. "Through his work, and through his impressive personality he changed our world."

Even in Cuba, the Communist Party youth newspaper published a letter of condolence from President Fidel Castro who declared three days of mourning.

"Humanity will preserve an emotional memory of the tireless work of His Holiness John Paul II in favor of peace, justice and solidarity among all people," Castro said. He called the pope's January 1998 visit to Cuba a "transcendent moment."

"Humanity will preserve an emotional memory of the tireless work of His Holiness John Paul II in favor of peace, justice and solidarity among all people," Castro said.

In Colombia, where nearly 90 percent of the nation's 44 million people are Catholic, President Alvaro Uribe declared two days of national mourning. He joined thousands of Colombians at Mass on Sunday.

In Barbados, Roman Catholic priest Harcourt Blackett said: "We can only hope the Lord sends someone of his caliber to lead the church into what seems like a very uncertain future."

"The pope will be remembered most for his moral teachings and how he spoke out firmly abortion and euthanasia."