Shock and disbelief marked the news of the death of Pope John Paul I as it was flashed around the world on Friday (29 September), only thirty-three days after his election.
Shock and disbelief marked the news of the death of Pope John Paul I as it was flashed around the world on Friday (29 September), only thirty-three days after his election. His was the shortest reign of a Pope this century, but the 65 year old leader of the world's 700 million Roman Catholics had already achieved considerable popularity with his humble approach to the papacy.
SYNOPSIS: In Rome thousands of people gathered outside the Vatican City, stunned by the news. Many were in tears as they waited to pay their last respects as the Pope lay in state on a simple catafalque.
Italian leaders and cardinals prayed beside the body in fres???ed hall of the Vatican -- among them Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti and President of the Senate Amintore Fanfani. Before his election Pope John Paul was Cardinal Albino Luciani, Archbishop of Venice, but little known outside Italy. He was found dead by his personal secretary, and a Vatican spokesman said he had died before midnight, from a heart attack.
In France Catholics reacted with shock and deep sadness to the death of the Pope. French radio broadcast frequent news flashes, interspersed with solemn music and at Notre Dame cathedral in Paris mourners assembled to pay tribute.
In communist Poland black drapes were placed in churches in Warsaw and, in common with Catholic communities all over the world, the faithful gathered to mourn a leader they had already grown to love for his simplicity and cheerful personality. Shortly before his death Pope John Paul told a group of bishops the church must teach the higher ideals of Christianity as well as working to alleviate human misery.
In London flags flew at half mast on government buildings and British Cardinal Basil Hume, regarded by many as a possible candidate for the papacy, spoke about his impressions of the late Pope.
Pope John Paul's brother, Eduardo Luciani was in Adelaide, Australia when the death was announced. Head of a regional chamber of commerce in Italy, he was attending an Italian film festival and told reporters through an interpreter that his brother had been surprised and frightened when chosen as Pope.
Signor Luciani said he felt pain at his brother's death, but accepted it as the will of God.
Pope John Paul's successor must be elected by a conclave of cardinals -- all of whom were in Rome only a month ago -- starting between the 14th and 18th of October. Already telegrams have gone off around the world calling them to the funeral and another conclave. And, as before, there is no obvious successor in sight.