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1978: Catholics mourn Pope's death

VIDEO : Catholics mourn a popular Pope

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church has died after the shortest papal reign in history.

Pope John Paul, the surprise candidate elected just 33 days ago, died of a heart attack while reading in bed.

The body of the "smiling pope", who charmed crowds with his easy manner, is lying in state in the Clementine Hall in the Vatican, and a growing throng of mourners are gathering to file past it.

The church's cardinals must now return to Rome to elect a new pope in the secret Sistine Chapel ballot.

Cardinal Albini Luciano was chosen to be Pope on 26 August after one of the shortest voting periods in the Vatican's history.

Despite his brief reign, the Italian son of a socialist stonemason had become very popular with Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

US President Jimmy Carter said Pope John Paul had "captured the imagination of his Church and the world" during his few weeks in office.

'Great shock'

Catholic Archbishop of Liverpool Derek Warlock, who was in Rome when he heard the news on the radio, said there was a feeling of great grief for someone people had come to love so much.

"I don't think anyone could believe it - they kept repeating it over and over again - and Rome has been in great shock for the greater part of the day," he told the BBC.

The Church of England Archbishop of Canterbury, Donald Coggan, said he hoped the conclave of cardinals would choose a similar man to replace John Paul.

"There was so much about his character that appealed to many of us," he said.

In Context
Two weeks later the conclave elected the first Polish pope - Karol Wojtyla, who took the name John Paul II.

A whiff of conspiracy hung over the Vatican, and some Catholic groups called for a full investigation into the circumstances of John Paul I's death.

They believed the liberal, working-class pope was poisoned in a plot by the Papal See's traditionalist wing.

But no post-mortem was carried out and an investigation was not held.

Allegations of an assassination re-surfaced 20 years later from Cardinal Aloisio Lorscheider - one of the dead Pope's closest allies - but the accusations never became generally accepted.


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