April 2, 2005
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 him, as did political leaders. Flags were lowered to half-staff.
"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 America'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 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."
"The church is my family," said T.J. Jessie after a Mass in Louisville, Ky. "The parish priest is like a dad, the bishop is like an uncle, and the pope is like granddad, the head of the family - the one everyone respects."
After a Mass in Washington at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, 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."
Leaders from many faiths spoke out.
Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson 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."
The Rt. Rev. Wendell N. Gibbs Jr., bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Michigan, said: "His ability to spread the message of Christ's love for all people, and to communicate that message in eight languages, made him not only a gifted communicator for his Church but a beloved figure around the world."
In Chicago, many businesses in a predominantly Polish-American neighborhood closed early, said Bogdan Pukszta, director of the Polish American Chamber of Commerce in Chicago.
"Concentrating on business as usual is tougher ... it's impossible for many," he said.
In Los Angeles' downtown cathedral, Marisol Carbajal, originally from Chile, broke down in tears. "There are no words to describe the pain I feel, and I can't even explain exactly why," she said in Spanish.
Her husband, Jose Carabajal, said the couple's son asked why - if the pope was so close to God - why his illness was so prolonged?
"I've asked myself that as well," Carbajal said, "but I think that in going that way he ... produced this feeling in the world that we need to be united."