April 8, 2005
PARIS - Nearly 1 million people prayed in a Polish field, North Americans slipped into pews before dawn and Asians gathered by the thousands at outdoor Masses in a global goodbye to Pope John Paul II on Friday.
The funeral Mass in Rome was telecast live to churches around the world - from Paris' famed Notre Dame Cathedral to a seaside park in Manila, Philippines, to churches across Africa.
"He has had a huge impact on us, we are the generation of John Paul II," said Florence de la Rousserie, 27, one of 7,000 worshippers who filled Notre Dame. "He has taught us all the rules of Christian morality, of spirituality. I am moved. I am sorry."
"He was a pope for humanity," said Assemian Omer Alain, 40, from Ivory Coast who was one of about 500 people at Sacred Heart basilica overlooking Paris from the hill of Montmartre. "He was a phenomenon. All religions were the same to him. He made no difference between Christian or Muslim."
About 800,000 people gathered in a vast field in Krakow, Poland, where the pope was once archbishop, to follow the funeral on a giant screen. Schools and businesses closed across the country as Poland mourned its national hero.
Television screens also were set up in churches across Africa.
In the residential districts of Congo's capital, Kinshasa, choir music floated from open windows of homes where many residents tuned TVs and radios to the event in Rome.
Flags flew at half-staff in Ivory Coast, a West African country wracked by civil war. The government closed its offices and asked people to observe the day of mourning.
In Moscow, several hundred people filled the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.
"I am Orthodox, but I am here today and not for the first time. The pope is a figure for whom I have great respect and interest. I liked his idea of unifying the churches," said Nadezhda Chekhova, a teacher in her 40s.
John Paul was credited with trying to heal rifts between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, but he never made it to Russia.
Spanish and Vatican flags with black ribbons hung from balconies and shops in Madrid, Spain.
Several thousand Slovaks gathered for an open-air Mass in a Bratislava suburb in the same spot where the pontiff celebrated a Mass for 200,000 faithful during his last trip to Slovakia in 2003.
Among the faithful, some of whom held Vatican flags, were Slovak government ministers, including Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda and his wife, Eva.
"I'm very sad that the Holy Father is no longer among us," Dzurinda said. "I am well aware of what he has meant for Slovaks, for myself and my nearest ones."
In London's cold, rainy Trafalgar Square, about 200 people watched a giant screen showing coverage of the funeral.
"I tried to get to Italy and get to Rome, but there were no hotels available and hardly any flights," said Maria Szczepankiewicz, 49, of north London, whose father immigrated from Poland. "I didn't want to be at home watching the funeral, I wanted to be with other people to get some kind of feeling."
Because of the time difference from Rome, the service was held before dawn in the Americas, but mourners still streamed into churches.
In Los Angeles, dozens gazed at a television at Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church, home to a mostly Polish congregation that the pope visited in 1976.
"We're sad and we are happy because now we know he is in heaven," said Stan Czerwinski, 49.
In Canada, about 2,000 people attended an outdoor Mass in the darkness near a statue of Pope John Paul II northwest of Toronto.
Throughout Asia, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs joined Catholics in church services and prayers to honor the pontiff.
In Tokyo, the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, urged people to continue the pontiff's legacy of peace.
"Firstly, we lost a great human being, a leader of a great religion," the Dalai Lama said. "Now it is important that we must carry all his messages and guidance with us. We must make every effort to fulfill his wishes."
Some 1,500 Japanese packed a memorial Mass at St. Mary's Cathedral, some spilling outside under the blazing sun. Mourners - some veiled in black, others dabbing their faces with towels - watched the service on a giant screen atop a truck.
In the Philippines, Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales called the gathering of the faithful in Asia's most populous Roman Catholic nation a "celebration of life" for John Paul, who endeared himself to Filipinos in two visits.
He was scheduled to return two years ago, but the long voyage was considered too taxing for his frail health.
"He said goodbye, but in the hearts of Filipinos, he still lives on," said Bing Saracarpio, a vendor selling flags and T-shirts bearing the pope's image.
In overwhelmingly Buddhist Sri Lanka, where the pope visited in 1995, private TV station ART interrupted regular programming to broadcast the funeral live after receiving hundreds of phoned requests. A special Mass was scheduled at St. Lucia's Cathedral in Colombo.
Some 14,000 people packed into a cricket ground in Adelaide for a memorial service for the pontiff, who last year criticized Australia for its secular trends and warned that attending Mass on Sunday should not be subordinate in a "weekend dominated by such things as entertainment and sport."
In predominantly Muslim Malaysia, more than 4,000 people, including representatives of the Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh communities, attended a memorial Mass late Thursday at St. John's Cathedral in Kuala Lumpur.
Churches all over Jordan held special Masses, and state-run Jordan Television carried the funeral live.