- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

Political and religious leaders in the region prayed yesterday for a dying Pope John Paul II and said his life is a model for humanity that reaches far beyond Catholicism.

“The pope has been a shepherd in the fight to help the poor, the homeless and the afflicted,” D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams said.

Mr. Williams, a Catholic, said he was praying for the pope, 84, and called him an inspiration and world leader who touches people of many faiths.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, the Catholic archbishop of Washington, led hundreds of tearful worshippers in a somber Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Northwest, amid reports that the pope was near death.

The cardinal delayed his trip to Rome for the annual meeting of the papal foundation, amid reports Thursday night that the pope’s already fragile health had worsened. He has rescheduled the trip for tomorrow, pending the pope’s condition.

Vatican officials said Thursday that the pope had a urinary-tract infection that had caused a high fever, then heart failure. He received the sacrament for the sick and dying — formerly called the last rites.

Vatican radio announced early yesterday that the pope seemed to be responding to antibiotics, but that his condition deteriorated, with shallow breathing and kidney failure. The pope declined to be hospitalized and was participating in the prayers of aides who had gathered at his bedside, officials said.

Cardinal McCarrick declined to speculate about a possible successor for the pope.

“As long as we have a pope, we have a pope,” said the cardinal, who presides over about 560,000 Roman Catholics in the region. “Never give up hope.”

Hundreds more people continued to file through St. Matthew’s after the noon Mass, when many feared the pope would not live through the day.

“He was my father,” said a tearful Dorothy Pawlowski, 25, of Fairfax. “He was just a wonderful man. He touched so many people, young and old.”

At the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Northeast, visitors left flowers and rosary beads before a statue of the pope.

“He believed in the worth of all individuals and in the common man,” said Shirley Baker, 62, visiting from Reserve, La. “He fought to see justice for everyone, and I think that’s the legacy he’s going to leave.”

The center has several events planned for when the pope dies, including an exhibit titled “Celebrate the Legacy,” featuring more than 150 gifts that he has received from dignitaries around the world. Among them are a box made of Chippendale wood and sterling silver from Ronald and Nancy Reagan.

“My thoughts are with the pope and his followers,” said Stephen B. Katz, the director of the D.C. chapter of Jews for Jesus. “I think he did a good job in reaching out to the greater Christian world. This is a time for his followers and all Christians to realize he, like Jews for Jesus, shares in the ancient Jewish hope for Resurrection.”

Political leaders in Maryland and Virginia joined in their praise of the pope.

A spokeswoman for Lt. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine , a Catholic, said: “Like Catholics all over the world, the lieutenant governor’s prayers are with the pope.”

Former Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore said people around the world, regardless of their faith, have benefited from the pope’s example.

“He has left his mark upon humanity as a healer that transcended all religions,” Mr. Kilgore said through a spokesman.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, and Mr. Kilgore, a Republican, are the two main candidates for governor. Gov. Mark Warner did not issue a public statement.

In Maryland, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said they would wait to issue a statement.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. called the pope “a great moral leader for people of all religions.”

“One of the highlights of my life was to meet the pope, talk to him and shake his hand,” he said. Mr. Miller, a Catholic, said he met the pope twice, once at Andrews Air Force Base and once in Baltimore.

“He took one look at me, saw I was a lawyer and quickly averted his eyes.” said Mr. Miller of the Baltimore meeting in 1995. He said the pope instead spent more time talking to his wife and a small child.

Christina Bellantoni, S.A. Miller, Gary Emerling contributed to this story.

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