San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Millions Mourn Pope

The grief of the nations of Central Americawas uttered in the pealing of church bells inchapels across the isthmus following theannouncement of the death of Pope John PaulII, 84, Saturday afternoon.Flags have flown at half-mast throughoutCentral America. Millions of Catholic believers aremourning; incense burns in sanctuaries throughoutthe region and heads are bowed in daily prayer.Somber-faced, and some swollen-eyed, parishionerstrickled into the Metropolitan Cathedral in San José forseveral hours following the official death announcementuntil a 5 p.m. mass in memory of the Pope.The sanctuary was glutted with people of all ages,some kneeling, some forced to stand in the aisles, for acommemoration that eulogized the man as a saint.“SAINTS don’t die; they live forever through theirluminous teachings, their sublime example and ourmemories of them,” the assembly of clergy intonedbefore the hundreds of visitors. “That the bells of all thechurches of the world toll, a saint has arrived with God;Juan Pablo has died. Amen.”Costa Rica, an officially Catholic country that guaranteesreligious freedoms for other creeds, was visibly affected by the Pope’s death. On Tuesday,the government signed a decree allowingpublic workers to leave work for two and ahalf hours yesterday morning to attend thecountry’s official funeral mass in honor ofthe Pope.More than 3,000 mourners stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the Metropolitan Cathedraland spilled out into Central Park for thepontiff’s memorial service yesterday.Among the protracted succession of speechesin homage to John Paul II, Archbishop ofSan José Hugo Barrantes announced themunicipality’s agreement to erect a monumentto the man that will grace the cathedral’sgardens.The pope’s visit here in 1983 (TT,March 5, 1983), lingers in the memories ofeven those who were children at the time,and is one of the first touchstones for griefpeople mention when speaking about theimpact of his death.CONSIDERED the most often seenand most well-traveled pope in history,Central American leaders, many of whomhave met with him, spoke of the “travelingpope” on personal terms.The Presidents of Costa Rica,Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua flewto Rome to attend the pope’s funeral today,while the President of El Salvador, EliasAntonio Saca, sent a delegation headed byhis wife, Ana Ligia.In Nicaragua, a country where 85% ofthe country’s 5.2 million identify asRoman Catholic, President EnriqueBolaños declared a full week of mourning,one of the longest periods of mourningto be declared anywhere in the world.While the country mourned the pontiff’sdeath through prayer and a mass celebratedat Managua’s Metropolitan Cathedral,some Nicaraguans complained that theextended mourning period had prohibitedseveral towns from celebrating their annualpublic festivals, which are not allowed duringperiods of national mourning.FORMER Nicaraguan PresidentVioleta Chamorro, who was in office duringthe pope’s last visit to that country in1996 (TT, Feb. 9, 1996), referred to PopeJohn Paul II as a “saint” who was concernedabout the welfare of the poor.Panamanian Archbishop José DimasCedeño said “We have to pray often, withhope in the resurrection, follow the testimonyleft by Pope Juan Pablo II and alsopray for the Cardinals, who have to electthe next pontiff.”In El Salvador, the left-wing FarabundoMartí Liberation Front, former Salvadoranguerrillas, issued a statement rememberingthe Pope’s call for peace during his 1983visit to the country (TT, March 11, 1983),three years into the 12-year civil war thatclaimed more than 75,000 lives. The Popecalled on Salvadorans to become “craftsmenof peace.”IN Honduras and throughout theAmericas, speculators point to Archbishopof Tegucigalpa, Cardinal Oscar AndrésRodríguez, as a potential successor to JohnPaul II (see separate story).Ricardo Maduro, President ofHonduras, spoke only briefly on the possibilityof the election of Rodríguez, sayingit would be “extraordinary.” He reservedhis most eloquent comments for the pope.“The pope was the voice most oftenheard, the most luminous street lamp, themost constant force for international equityand we continue living with the examplethat was his life every day,” he said.Costa Rican President Abel Pachecosaid, “We are faced with an irreparableloss. He was a man who changed historyand a man who united the planet.”Pacheco laid the fall of the Sovietempire at the pope’s feet, saying it “dissolvedin large part because of the actionsof His Holiness.“He was a saint, but with his feet onthe ground; a man with calloused handsbecause he was a miner, a man who couldplay guitar, a man who knew how to loveall of us and a man who we feel is a part ofthe people.”BELIEVERS of all ages and clergy ofall ranks gathered in the MetropolitanCathedral Saturday following the announcementof the pope’s death.Bishop of the diocese of CiudadQuesada, Ángel Sancasimiro, said the popewas “the number-one leader, and there isnot another person capable of attracting somany people as he.”Though he is saddened by the Pope’spassing, he told The Tico Times, “I alsohave feelings of joy because my faith tellsme the pope has entered in the Kingdom ofGod, in the glory.”Herald of the Gospel José MaríaSanabria told The Tico Times the pope’spassing “is not an absolute sadness – it’s amixed joy because he was a great pope, butanother will come. Only the Holy Spiritknows who it will be, and it will be a joyfor us to see who comes.”AMONG those standing in the aislesSaturday for lack of seating, MargaritaQuintero, a maid and Nicaraguan immigrant,called the death “painful – he was avery good father.”Francisco Durán, an unemployed oddjobsman, said the pope “has a lot of charityfor the whole world. He went to manycountries; he was loved by everyone.Thanks to God he is resting now. I hope thenew pope will be the same as he was.”Cardinals under the age of 80 fromaround the world, of which there are 117,will gather to elect a successor in a votingritual called the conclave, scheduled forApril 18.The election of Pope John Paul II onOct. 16, 1978, blindsided many insiders.Former Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, Archbishopof Krakow, Poland, was elected at age 58.He was the youngest pope in 132 yearsand the first non-Italian pope chosen in455 years.(Nicaragua correspondent Tim Rogersand EFE contributed to this report.)

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