- The Washington Times - Friday, April 8, 2005

KRAKOW, Poland — Poles knelt in a vast meadow yesterday and sang along with Pope John Paul II’s funeral, broadcast on giant screens, while Asians prayed at outdoor Masses as television linked millions around the globe to St. Peter’s Square.

About 800,000 people gathered in Krakow, the city where John Paul rose from priest to archbishop before becoming pope in 1978. Many had spent the night in the Blonie meadow after a Mass that drew 1 million to the spot where John Paul celebrated several Masses.

‘This was the most wonderful man in the world, and we want to thank him for everything he has done for us, for everything he has done for the world,’ said Genowefa Hanusiak, a 60-year-old retired teacher.

Schools, businesses and government offices closed as Poland mourned a national hero. John Paul, who died last Saturday at age 84, is credited with helping bring down communism in his homeland with his support for the Solidarity movement.

People in the Krakow meadow sang along with hymns from the service in Rome as they watched on big television screens, and applauded the homily by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger.

In the pope’s small hometown of Wadowice, people in front of his baptismal church wept as they watched his coffin being carried into St. Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican for burial.

The funeral was telecast live to churches and gathering places worldwide — from Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral to Mexico City to a seaside park in Manila.

In Mexico, church officials celebrating Mass at the stadium-style Basilica of Guadalupe carried articles of clothing the pope reportedly wore and a chair he sat in during visits to Mexico in 1999 and 2002.

In the residential districts of Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, choir music floated from open windows of homes where many residents tuned their televisions and radios to the event in Rome.

At Warsaw’s only synagogue, Jews and Catholics prayed together. John Paul was the first pope to visit a synagogue and the first to pray at Judaism’s holiest site in Jerusalem, where he slipped a note into a crack in the Western Wall apologizing for the suffering of Jews.

Throughout Asia, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs joined Roman Catholics in church services and prayers to honor the pontiff.

In Tokyo, the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, urged people to continue the pontiff’s legacy of peace.

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