Prayers and Tears as World Mourns Death of the Pope; People across Wales Join in Tributes to Charismatic Leader of Catholic Church

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Byline: By ED JAMES

TRIBUTES from Britain's political and religious leaders poured in last night for Pope John Paul II as millions of churchgoers gathered to mourn his passing.

The 84-year-old pontiff finally succumbed to his long struggle against illness. He died in his Vatican rooms at 8.37pm (BST) on Saturday night.

Cardinal Cormac MurphyO'Connor, leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, led a Requiem Mass attended by around 2,000 people at Westminster Cathedral.

Worshippers spilled on to the piazza in front of the cathedral when there was no space left inside.

Among the congregation were the prime minister's wife, Cherie Blair and health secretary John Reid who were both dressed in black.

The Cardinal said that during the service there had been a sense of gladness that the Pope's suffering was now over.

'Over the years it has been quite difficult to watch the pope getting weaker and weaker and more and more frail.

'Somehow when the final suffering was over we knew the battle is over and the victory is won,' he said.

He described John Paul II as 'one of the greatest leaders of our modern world' and said his most notable achievement was the way he had turned the papacy into a moral voice not just for Christians, but for people across the world in a way none of his predecessors had managed.

In Liverpool, during mass at the city's Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Archbishop Patrick Kelly wore the red robes worn by the Pope during his tour of Britain in 1982.

The Archbishop said the atmosphere at the Catholic Cathedral had been one of 'triumph' over the last few days.

He said: 'It sounds all wrong but people feel they have been with their brother in what is the last challenge for every Christian, to die.'

The Archbishop of Canterbury added his voice to those paying tribute to the 'courageous' late Pope.

Dr Rowan Williams said the Pope's example of how to deal with suffering had been particularly poignant so close to Easter.

He said he believed John Paul II would be 'a very difficult man to follow' but that the trend towards closer relations between the Christian churches would continue.

'In a world that seems to be shrinking because of travel, there is no way a Pope can be simply a leader in his own community.

'That is a page that can't be turned back.'

The Queen paid tribute to John Paul II, saying he would be remembered best as a peacemaker.

Buckingham Palace said in a statement: 'Her majesty remembers the untiring efforts of Pope John Paul II in promoting peace and good will throughout the world.'

Abdur Rashid Siddiqui, vicechairman of the Islamic Foundation, UK, said John Paul II's greatest impact had been his 'uncompromising refusal to neither bow to the whims of our time nor to those who wield power in today's world.'

Meanwhile, on the political stage the three main parties suspended campaigning for the day as a mark of respect. …