Byline: By NORMAN SILVESTER
THE Pope died with dignity last night with his closest aides at his bedside.
The Vatican announced the death of 84-year-old Pope John Paul II at 8:53pm after his condition deteriorated rapidly throughout the day. The leader of one billion Catholics passed away in his private rooms in the Vatican as more than 50,000 people prayed outside in St Peter's Square.
His death ended a two-day battle for life after his condition deteriorated on Thursday.
Pope John Paul then got worse on Friday after he suffered a cardiovascular collapse. He died yesterday evening when his heart finally gave out.
The Pope's final words were: 'I am happy... you should be.'
The Pope wrote a deathbed letter helped by his secretary Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz as he slipped in and out of consciousness.
Vatican officials said three Polish nurses attending to the Pope were moved to tears by his message.
The letter went on: 'Let us pray together with joy to the Virgin Mary in whom we entrust everything faithfully.'
The Pope was in his apartment on the third floor of the Apostolic PalaceThousands of pilgrims, including huge numbers of children, waited anxiously outside for news.
A Vatican spokesman said: 'Even in death and in his suffering, the Holy Father insisted there be no tears and we should be happy.
'It is the mark of the man - totally devoted to God, the Virgin Mary and his people.'
Yesterday, a crowd of more than 50,000 gathered in vigil as they waited for news of the Pope's passing.
One group of nuns from Ireland said: 'We can only hope and pray.
'The Holy Father has done so much for us - it is only right that we are here with him now. …