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World Leaders Mourn Pope’s Death

DW staff (ktz)
April 3, 2005

World leaders expressed sorrow over the passing of John Paul II and commended him for his tireless dedication to promoting peace and human rights around the globe.

Tens of thousands gather in St. Peter's Square to honor the popeImage: AP

After the Vatican announced the death of John Paul II, words of sorrow and praise poured in from around the world as politicians and world leaders expressed great emotion over the passing of a man who not only headed the Catholic Church, but played an active role in promoting world peace and helping to bring about the fall of communism.

UN-Generalsekretär Annan beim Papst
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan meets with the Pope on June 16, 1998Image: dpa

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said the Pope was a “tireless advocate of peace” and had been a great supporter of the United Nations. In a statement, Annan said he was deeply saddened by the pope’s death. “Quite apart from his role as a spiritual guide to more than a billion men, women and children, he was a tireless advocate of peace, a true pioneer in interfaith dialogue and a strong force for critical self-evaluation by the Church itself.”

"The Catholic Church has lost its shepherd. The world has lost a champion of human freedom and a good and faithful servant of God has been called home," said US President George W. Bush. In a special televised address from Washington, the president said “Pope John Paul II was himself an inspiration to millions of Americans and to so many more throughout the world."

Lech Walesa und Papst Johannes Paul mit Galeriebild
Polish President Lech Walesa kneels in front of Pope John Paul II and kisses his hand at the end of a mass, in the city of Skoczow near the Czech border Monday, May 22, 1995Image: AP

Lech Walesa, who led Poland's Solidarity movement which won power after a decade of struggle and hastened the collapse of the whole Soviet bloc, said Polish-born Karol Jozef Wojtyla inspired people to work to end communism in Eastern Europe. "(Without him) there would be no end of communism or at least much later and the end would have been bloody," Walesa said.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder said: "Pope John Paul II wrote history. By his efforts and through his impressive personality, he changed our world." During his papacy, John Paul II exerted great influence over the peaceful unification of Europe, Schröder said in a statement of condolence. Time and again he spoke out for peace, human rights, solidarity and social justice; he was a tireless advocate of finding solutions for the world’s problems while respecting the different cultures and traditions of the world’s people. “He demonstrated that the fate of humanity is shared by all people.”

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the world had lost a religious leader who was revered by Catholics and non-Catholics alike for his unflinching struggle for what he believed was good and right. “He was an inspiration, a man of extraordinary faith, dignity and courage,” Blair said in a statement. “Throughout a hard and often difficult life, he stood for social justice on the side of the oppressed, whether as a young man facing the Nazi occupation in Poland or later in challenging the communist regime.”

Jose Manuel Barroso, EU Commission President paid tribute to the pope’s role in fighting for a more democratic Europe. “John Paul II will be remembered as someone who played an essential role in the reunification of Europe and in the advance of ideas of freedom and democracy in our continent. Europeans will never forget his struggle for peace and human dignity.”

Believers and non-believers honor his legacy

Die Menschen beten auf dem Petersplatz für den Papst
Faithful pray after the death of Pope John Paul II was announced in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Saturday April 2, 2005.Image: AP

In the hours after his death on Saturday evening, the faithful in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas said special prayers for the man who revitalized the Church and brought his vision of Christianity to the masses.

Hugo Chavez, President of Venezuela said John Paul II would be remembered for his preaching on world peace. “When the United States invaded Iraq, for example, John Paul II said it was an illegal and immoral act.

Galerie Papst 25 Jahre Jerusalem
Pope John Paul II rests his hand on the Western Wall in the Old City of Jerusalem in this March 26, 2000 photo.Image: AP

Even in Israel, the passing of the pope was met with an outpouring of emotion. Bobby Brown, Israel-based international director of the World Jewish Congress, said the Catholic Church had become an ally of the Jewish people under the pope after 2,000 years of Christian-Jewish hostility. “There is a shattering difference between the Catholic Church of 20 to 50 years ago and today, he said. In 1993, the Vatican forged full diplomatic ties with Israel.

Shimon Peres, Israeli vice Premier said that even though John Paul II represented Catholicism, “he managed with his talent and personality, to also represent our entire global partnership.”

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