Pope John Paul II Has Died
After suffering heart failure brought on by two months of acute breathing problems and other rapidly worsening infections, Pope John Paul II passed away peacefully in his private apartment Saturday evening at 9:37 pm Rome time (1937 GMT).
"The Holy Father died this evening at 21:37 in his private apartment," said a brief statement released by the Holy See. "All the procedures foreseen by the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici gregis' promulgated by John Paul II on 22 February 1996 have been set in motion," it concluded.
News of the pope’s touched not only Catholics from his native Poland to the Americas, from Africa to Asia, but untold numbers of other admirers of one of the most popular and recognizable popes in history.
The death was announced to a huge crowd of people gathered for a vigil outside John Paul II’s apartment in Saint Peter’s Sqaure.
A serene moment
During his pontificate -- the third longest in 2,000 years of Christianity – John Paul II was a master at reaching the masses through the media, both at home in the Vatican, as well as on his visits to 129 countries.
Even during his last years of life which were marked by health problems, the pope still managed to travel abroad and inspire the masses. But, after he was rushed to the hospital on Feb. 1 with breathing problems, his final illness silenced the voice which had given hope to millions living under oppression.
In one of the most poignant moments of his pontificate, John Paul II was unable to give his traditional message to worshippers in Saint Peter's Square outside the Vatican on Easter Sunday and could barely raise his hand in silent blessing.
After that, his health worsened quickly. A few days later he was given the Viaticum, popularly known as the last rites. His health continued to deteriorate rapidly, while he slipped in and out of consciousness and his heart weakened.
Even when his blood pressure fell dramatically on Friday night and it became clear that his final hours were near, Vatican officials said he remained "serene" accepting his fate.