MSNBC

World leaders pay tribute, the faithful grieve

NBC correspondents report on reaction from around the globeDispatches from
around the world:

- April 3 , 2005 |Baghdad | 7:00 a.m. ET

Sadness and fear in Iraq

Tom Aspell

News of the pope's death reached Iraq's 800,000 Christians in the early
hours of Sunday morning causing sadness mixed with trepidation and fear for
their future.

Special masses were scheduled in Baghdad's 45 churches serving Chaldeans,
Eastern-rite Catholics who are autonomous from Rome but who recognize the
Pope's authority.

Many of them still speak Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The other
significant communities are Assyrians, Syrian Catholics, Armenian Orthodox
and Armenian Catholic Christians who fled from massacres in Turkey in the
early 20th Century.

On Sunday, Andreas Abuna, the Auxiliary Bishop to the Chaldean Patriarch of
Iraq, said all Christians here would be praying for the pope's soul. Bishop
Abuna said he himself has special reason to mourn the pope's death:

"I will never forget the Holy Father because he ordained me bishop in Rome
on Jan. 6, 2003," he said. "All my life I will pray for him."

Christians have inhabited Iraq for about 2,000 years, tracing their ancestry
to ancient Mesopotamia and surrounding lands.

Before the first Gulf War of 1991 they numbered more than one million, but
at least 200,000 have emigrated since then, fleeing a failing economy and
recent attacks on Christian targets in Mosul, Baghdad and elsewhere.

Under Saddam Hussein the Baathist regime kept a lid on anti-Christian
violence. Some Christians, notably Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, help
positions of power in overwhelmingly Muslim Iraq. But after Saddam's removal
there were frequent attacks against Christian churches, and threats against
largely middle-class Christians, particularly in Mosul and Baghdad. Dozens
were kidnapped for ransom.

Pope John Paul was a vocal critic of both the first Gulf War and the
U.S.-led invasion which toppled Saddam Hussein. He visited more than 20
Islamic countries during his reign, but canceled plans for a trip to Iraq
during the 1990's after his closest aides convinced him his security could
not be guaranteed.

- April 3, 2005 | Moscow | 7:00 a.m. ET

'Humanitarian number one'


Preston Mendenhall
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Late night broadcasts carried news of the pope's death at 11:37 p.m. Moscow
time on Saturday. Russia was not, however, on the list of the more than 100
countries Pope John Paul II visited during his 26-year papacy -- by his own
admission a regretted hole in the most-traveled pontiff's itinerary.

While the pope did much to improve relations the Orthodox Church during his
papacy, time ran out on his mission to build bridges to Russia's dominating
faith. The Catholic and Orthodox churches split in the Great Schism of 1054.

The pope reconciled with Greek, Romanian and Georgian Orthodox, but never
won an invitation from Patriarch Alexey II to visit Russia. Alexey is
believed to be wary of losing Orthodox believers to the Catholic faith.

In Russia, the pope is remembered for his historic role in bringing down the
Iron Curtain of communism, put in place by the Soviet Union, which for
decades dominated John Paul's homeland of Poland.

Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet president, told Italian TV in an
interview Sunday that the pope was `humanitarian number one on the planet.'

President Vladimir Putin calledthe pope `an outstanding public figure, whose
name signifies the whole era. ... I have very warm recollections of meetings
with the Pope. He was wise, responsive, and open for dialogue.'

Recalling historic visit


Mary Murray
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Cubans offered tears of sympathy and words of praise for Pope John Paul II,
who succeeded in building a bridge of tolerance between Cuba's communist
government and the island's Catholic community.

`After closely watching news of the Pope's health the Cuban government and
people share the pain of Catholics in Cuba and all over the world... We will
never forget the pope's visit here in 1998... his words for peace... his
courtesy to president Fidel Castro when he visited the Vatican,' said Cuban
Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque just 30 minutes after the pope's
passing. Perez Roque confirmed that a `high-level government delegation'
planned to attend the funeral without saying if that included Castro.

During the pope's historic 1998 visit to Cuba, Lucia Alvarez stood for hours
in front of her church, Havana's El Ermita de los Catalones parish, to catch
a glimpse of the `Popemobile.'

`That visit strengthened my faith,' she remembers. `He was an inspirational
man who came and showed his concern for the Cuban people, the poor, the
forgotten.'

The papal visit lasted just five days but, according to Alvarez, helped to
erase 40 years of hostility between her church and the government. `He made
me proud to be a Catholic,' she said, weeping.

The pontiff was not only responsible for the release of 500 political
prisoners and reinstating Christmas as an official holiday on the island but
for the transmission of four open-air masses over the government-owned
television and radio. Religious broadcasting is prohibited over Cuban
airwaves and, until 1992, the constitution characterized the state as
`atheist.'

Below a massive portrait of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in the Plaza of the
Revolution and speaking to over a million that included Fidel Castro and the
entire Communist Party Politburo, Pope John Paul II launched moral
criticisms at both Havana and Washington. He pleaded with Castro for to
allow `justice, freedom and human rights' while admonishing the U.S.
economic embargo of Cuba as `unjust and ethically unacceptable.'

Marta Moya, a translator, was one of millions of Cubans who watched every
papal appearance on the island and appreciated the pope's plea for
reconciliation. `Being a pope is not as easy as you think,' she said. `You
have to take positions on political issues and I think he accomplished that
with a lot of dignity.

With the local media reporting few details from the Vatican, Cuban Catholics
on Friday tried tuning to Miami radio stations for updates on the Pontiff's
condition.

By nightfall, they learned firsthand from their cardinal, Jaime Ortega, that
the pontiff was indeed on the verge of death. Cuban authorities had given
the cardinal six minutes of unprecedented airtime on the national newscast.

The only other occasion Ortega had appeared on Cuban television dated back
to January 1998, on the eve of the papal visit to the island.

- April 3, 2005 | Islamabad| 06:45 a.m. ET

Bringing different faiths closer
President General Pervez Musharraf in his message of condolence over the
death of Pope John Paul II said the pope II had rendered incredible services
for peace. `

The Pope had brought people closer `belonging to different faiths' said
Musharraf, who has been promoting the idea of `enlightened moderation' among
the Muslims all over the world and is known as an advocate of `east-west
dialogue.'

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz in his message said the pope would be remembered
for a long time for his services to people.

The right-wing conservative party Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan chief Qazi
Hussein Ahmed credited Pope John Paul II with playing historic role in
bringing peace and tranquility amongst different religions.

`The pope kept a constant contact with various religious leaders including
Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan to peace global peace' Qazi said in a statement.

He said the pope sent out a Vatican City to Pakistan last year to discuss
intra-religious harmony and invited his party leaders to visit Vatican. `I
feel sorry now for not being able to travel to Vatican on the invitation'
Qazi said.

He said Pope John Paul II was a broadminded leader who supported the family
values advocated by Islam, especially the role of women in the society and
their rights. `We greatly admire him for his services to humanity and his
advocacy for religious tolerance' Qazi said.

By Asif Farooqi