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Pope John Paul II is dead
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April 03, 2005 01:45 IST
Last Updated: April 03, 2005 10:23 IST

Pope John Paul II died on Saturday.

He died at 2137 local time [0107 IST], a statement issued by the Vatican said.

"All the procedures foreseen by the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici gregis' promulgated by John Paul II on February 22, 1996 have been set in motion," the statement said.

The funeral will take place on Wednesday, the Vatican said.

The Pope's health had been deteriorating for the past few months. He had suffered a heart attack on Friday and had bouts of fever apparently due to urinary tract infection. He was given the Viaticum, popularly known as the last rites, which is administered to those near death, on Friday.

He was born Karol Wojtyla at Krakow, in southern Poland, on May 18, 1920. His mother died when he was eight and he was brought up by his father.

He was elected as the religious head of Catholics in 1978 when he was just 58, the youngest Pope of the last century. He was also the first non-Italian in over four centuries to assume papal powers and the 264th Pope.
His papacy was the third longest in the 2,000 years of Christianity.

Pope John Paul II was proficient in 11 languages and had travelled to 129 countries, thus becoming the most widely travelled Pope. His ability to get his message across to the masses through the media earned him the moniker of 'The Great Communicator'. His conservatism meant he was opposed to contraception, abortion and women priests.

The Pope, who had been suffering from Parkinson's disease, had been in and out of hospital in the last couple of months. On February 1, he was admitted to the hospital with breathing problems. Doctors performed a tracheotomy on him.

However, his health continued to deteriorate. For the first time during his 26-year papacy, he could not preside over the Palm Sunday Mass.

On Saturday, as his condition became grave, he drifted in and out of consciousness and his organs also failed.

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