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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 April, 2005, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
UK Poles mourn death of 'father'
By David Fuller
BBC News, West London

Inside the church
Both tiers of the church were packed with worshippers
As the world mourns the passing of Pope John Paul II, thousands of his fellow countrymen from across London gathered at the capital's largest Polish church.

Mourners packed both tiers of Our Lady Mother in Ealing and spilled out into the spring sunshine, in total silence as they strained to hear the Polish sermon from the altar.

The priest's words were barely audible to many of the crowd, but as people knelt inside, the effect rippled outwards until the scores of worshippers outside the church were on their knees on the hard ground.

Some cried, but most were simply quiet and thoughtful, keen to pay their respects to what many described as "a member of the family".

"I feel sad, we've lost a great man," said Krystyna Andrzejczyk, 49.

"The majority of people, not just Catholics, say he was a great man, he tried to bring peace to the world.

"He was the first Pope to go round the world, not just to sit in his palace."

Mr and Mrs Maryniak
I am so very proud that Poland produced such a man
Ludwik Maryniak
Ludwik Maryniak, 81, who first moved to the UK during World War II, said many Poles felt very close to the man born Karol Wojtyla.

Mr Maryniak said: "He is the greatest man in the history of the Roman Catholic religion.

"I am so very proud that Poland produced such a man.

"Especially for people like me who fought in the war - we realise that belief is such a great thing."

Mr Maryniak said that during communist rule in Poland, it was very hard to get visas to leave the country and the only way he could meet his brother was if he visited Rome as a pilgrim.

"The day I met my brother the Pope held a special private audience for all the Polish pilgrims early in the morning - it was a wonderful thing to do," he said.

Many of the younger mourners at Sunday's service only moved to the UK this year and admitted they rarely came to church.

Outside the church
At least 100 people stood, or knelt, outside the church during the service
Greg Prokop, 25, said: "I felt I had to come. When I heard the news yesterday I almost started crying."

"He was a great guy. He did so much for Poland, he helped beat communism.

"So many people didn't even know Poland - hear of Poland - before he became Pope."

Father Pawel, who led the service, said all Poles felt a special bond with the former Archbishop of Krakow.

"He was the father - a real father to all these people. They loved him like a father.

"There is a deep feeling of loss, but also a great Christian hope."

'Inspiration to all'

Just over the road at the Anglican Church of Christ the Saviour, there was universal admiration for a "great religious leader".

"He was an inspiration to lots of people - a leader across the Christian communion - and across other religions," said Marina Campbell, 25.

She said: "His last few days were very dignified and his strength of faith is an inspiration to us all."

Father Andrew Davis
Anglican priest Father Davis called the Pope 'a towering figure'
Father Andrew Davis called him "a towering figure of the late 20th century".

"He had a great ability to talk about Jesus in a way that connected with all Christians, not just Catholics.

"He felt he had a mission to the whole world, to everyone."

Back at the Polish church, Ludwik Maryniak and his wife Janina said they felt relief he was finally at peace.

"We came to this church every night and day for the last weeks, praying for him."

"It's a very sad moment, but also a blessing that his suffering is over.

"He has gone through a door to a better life."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Catholics across Britain mourn the Pope's passing



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