"The Holy Father died this evening at 2137 in his private apartment," a brief Vatican statement said.
Procedures to be carried out in the event of the death of the Pope has been set in motion, it added.
His death was immediately announced to the crowds gathered on St
Peter’s Square, and was met with long applause, an Italian sign of
Bells tolled across the city of Rome and many people wept openly.
"Our Holy Father John Paul has returned to the house of the Father," senior Vatican official Archbishop Leonardo Sandri said.
In the Pope’s native Poland, people fell to their knees and wept as the news reached them.
CNN has a Special Report on Pope John Paul II which takes a look at life from his challenging childhood to his lengthy career in the Catholic Church. The Report looks back on his nomination as the successor to Pope John Paul I in 1978 –
Wojtyla chose the same name as his predecessor — whose reign lasted
just 34 days before he died of a heart attack — and added another
Roman numeral in becoming the first Slavic pope. He was also the first
non-Italian pope in 455 years (the last was Adrian VI in 1523) and, at
58, the youngest pope in 132 years.
"I was afraid to receive this nomination," he told the crowd from a
balcony overlooking St. Peter’s Square, "but I did it in the spirit of
obedience to Our Lord and in the total confidence in His mother, the
most holy Madonna."
There was more to it than forgetfulness, for John Paul displayed that
charisma during more than 200 visits to more than 125 countries over
the past 26 years. And as TIME noted in naming him Man of the Year in
1994, he generated an electricity "unmatched by anyone else on earth."
In his book "The Making of Popes 1978," Andrew M. Greeley offered a
close-up of the pope working a crowd: "His moves, his presence, his
smile, his friendliness, his gestures … have pleased everyone. … He
is great with crowds — shaking hands, smiling, talking, kissing
The Los Angeles Times reported that Poles waited for hours to see the
pope when he returned in 1997. At his appearance, the crowds grew
silent, "some falling to their knees and weeping as John Paul (parted)
the crowd on a path to the altar."
"Such an incredible moment," Krzysztof Gonet, mayor of Nowej Soli, told the Times. "You can feel the vibrations in the air."
The world changes when a human being dies. When a person as prominent as the Pope dies, that change is more noticeable to a greater number of people.