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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 April 2005, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Pope John Paul II's final moments
Pope John Paul II
The Pope reportedly followed the prayers outside his window
The final hours of Pope John Paul II's life were marked by "the uninterrupted prayer of all those who were assisting him in his pious death", the Vatican says.

He died at 2137 (1937 GMT) on Saturday, in the company of 13 people - old friends and aides from his home country, Poland, and his Italian doctors and nurses.

At 2000 (1800 GMT) Mass was celebrated in the Pope's room in his private apartments, during which the pontiff was given the Holy Viaticum and the Sacrament of Anointing of the Sick - the second time he was given the Catholics' last rites since Thursday when his health suddenly worsened.

Then, moments before he died, the Pope stared at the window of his room overlooking St Peter's Square where thousands were praying for him.

According to Father Jarek Cieleski, a Polish priest who is director of Vatican service news and the Italian Catholic television station Tele Padre Mio, the Pope raised his right hand in a sign of blessing to the crowds reciting the Rosary.

"Once the faithfuls' prayer ended, the Pope made a huge effort and pronounced the word 'Amen'," he said. "An instant later he died."

It was not clear how Father Cieleski learned the details.

Quick announcement

Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, John Paul's trusted personal secretary who had reportedly never left the pontiff's death bed, held the Pope's hand as the Polish sisters recited the Rosary in tears, La Repubblica newspaper reported.

Immediately after the Pope died, top Vatican officials were allowed in, including Secretary of State Angelo Sodano and the camerlengo Cardinal Eduardo Martinez Somalo - who is now in charge at the Vatican.

The death of Pope John Paul II was broadcast by the electronic media about 15 minutes after he passed away - and as crowds were thinning out on St Peter's Square in the late evening.

The people had been keenly observing the traditional signs like the closing of the shutters in the Pope's bedroom and the tolling of the basilica bell.

Then, through loudspeakers priests recited the old prayer of "Salve Regina" - traditional on these occasions.

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