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Last Updated: Sunday, 3 April, 2005, 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK
NI mourners' prayers for Pontiff
Candlelight vigil for the Pope in Belfast
Vigils were held for the Pope across Northern Ireland
Thousands of worshippers have joined in special prayers for the Pope at church services across Northern Ireland.

St Patrick's Cathedral in Armagh, the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland, was packed with worshippers mourning the death of Pope John Paul II.

Messages of sympathy were issued by religious and political leaders from all communities in the province.

Books of condolences have been opened at various locations for the Pope, who died aged 84 after a long illness.

Crowds of people also gathered for a special Mass at the Pro-Cathedral in Dublin on Sunday.

'Outstanding faith'

Archbishop Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, said Pope John Paul II was a "gentle teacher and a courageous leader".

"A life of outstanding faith and generous service to Christ and the whole human family has serenely departed this world," he said.

"We thank God for his holy life, his inspiring example and his unfailing affection for Ireland and the Irish people.

"We join countless others around the world in grateful memory and prayerful interception for his eternal happiness and peace."

Karol Wojtyla's life as Pope was varied, colourful and he was an influential figure on the world stage
David Trimble, UUP leader

Church of Ireland Primate Archbishop Robin Eames conveyed his "deepest sympathy" to the Catholic Church in Ireland.

"Pope John Paul showed immense personal courage in fulfilling his duties when it was so obvious his health was failing," he said.

"That courage together with a powerful intellect and constant devotion to duty throughout his long Pontificate assured him of a significant place in history."

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Ken Newell described the late Pope as a man of "great courage" who stood up for what he believed to be right.

1979 visit

"His travels around the world were remarkable giving pastoral care and encouragement to his flock," he said.

"Few will forget his visit to Ireland and the vast crowds that greeted him and his call to the men of violence to lay down their arms."

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy said Pope John Paul II was "a great leader of the Catholic Church and a towering figure in 20th Century history".

"I know that Catholics will especially remember his visit to Ireland in 1979 with great fondness," he said.

"The many people who like me were privileged to meet him during his long Papacy will recall a man of great warmth, dignity and profound faith."

SDLP leader Mark Durkan said the Pope's "powerful spirituality" had impressed people during his 1979 Irish visit and "ever since".

"His impassioned plea for peace touched the heart of our nation and left a deep impression on me and countless others across Ireland," he added.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said: "People throughout Ireland have had a close affinity with Pope John Paul II since his historic visit here in 1979 and there will be deep sorrow across the country this evening at the news of his death.

POPE IN IRELAND
The Pope was warmly greeted during his Irish visit

"Although stricken with Parkinson's Disease in recent years, Pope John Paul showed huge courage and determination as he continued to travel and to lead the Catholic Church worldwide."

Ulster Unionist Party leader David Trimble offered his condolences to Catholics in Northern Ireland.

He said: "Karol Wojtyla's life as Pope was varied, colourful and he was an influential figure on the world stage, but we will all remember him for his time as a Cardinal in Poland and the Polish Catholic Church's role in standing up to and ending Communism."

Democratic Unionist leader Ian Paisley said he understood how Catholics must feel following the death of the Pope.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said the Pope had been a towering figure of our lifetime and paid tribute to his passionate pleading on his visit to Ireland calling for an end to armed struggle.

Plea for peace

"I have no doubt that this moving appeal played no small part in the development of the framework for peace on this island whose completion was of such continuing concern to him.

Your thoughts on John Paul II

"Ireland was one step along his pilgrim way."

Irish President Mary McAleese said the Pope had lived an "extraordinary life".

"The story of Pope John Paul II is that of a man of immense faith and conviction and in latter years, great personal courage," she said.

"We are proud that Pope John Paul II was the first Pope in history to visit Ireland and that, in the final years of his life, it was his ambition to return to our midst."

Pope John Paul II made Ireland the third pilgrimage of his 26-year pontificate when he visited for three days in September and October 1979.

He made an impassioned plea for peace in Northern Ireland, but did not visit there.




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