Vatican says Pope John Paul II has died
02 April, 2005
VATICAN CITY, April 03 (Online): Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-traveled pope, died Saturday night in his Vatican apartment. He was 84.
"The Holy Father died this evening at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) in his private apartment. All the procedures outlined in the apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis' that was written by John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996, have been put in motion."
A Mass was scheduled for St. Peter's Square for Sunday morning.
The pope died after suffering heart and kidney failure following two hospitalizations in as many months. Just hours earlier, the Vatican said he was in "very serious" condition but had responded to members of the papal household.
His condition deteriorated suddenly on Thursday night with a high fever caused by an infection of the urinary tract.
The infection brought on "septic shock and a cardio-circulatory collapse", the Vatican said in a statement.
The Pope then received the Saint Viaticum, a Catholic rite for the sick and dying.
The Vatican had announced on Friday that though he was gravely ill he had been conscious, lucid and serene.
Millions of Catholics across the world gathered in churches and in the open air to pray for the Pope.
The pontiff had been suffering from breathing troubles, exacerbated by the progress of Parkinson's Disease, an incurable condition from which he had been suffering for nearly a decade.
He appeared briefly at the window of his Vatican apartment on Easter Sunday to bless the faithful, but was not able to speak.
It was the first time during his 26-year pontificate that the Pope had delegated the main Easter ceremonies to his cardinals.
He tried again to speak to the faithful a few days later - a sign of his extraordinarily strong will, correspondents say.
Since his surprise election in 1978, John Paul traveled the world, inspiring a revolt against communism in his native Poland and across the Soviet bloc, but also preaching against consumerism, contraception and abortion.
John Paul was a robust 58 when the cardinals stunned the world and elected the cardinal from Krakow, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.
In his later years, however, John Paul was the picture of frailty, weighed down by ailments that included Parkinson's disease. Although he kept up his travels, he was no longer able to kiss the ground.
Fall of communism
John Paul's papacy nearly ended in 1981 when he was shot and seriously wounded as he toured St Peter's Square in Rome.
After a long period of recovery he visited and forgave the would-be assassin.
John Paul's reign saw radical changes in the world including the collapse of communism and the spread of Aids.
Although plagued by ill health throughout the latter part of his papacy he maintained his international schedule and in 2000 made a poignant pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
He also made a final, nostalgic return to his homeland in 2002.
Born Karol Wojtyla in 1920 near Krakow, Poland, John Paul was an excellent sportsman in his youth.