c. 2005 Religion News Service VATICAN CITY _ Pope John Paul II, who devoted his life to serving God, spent his last days, hours and minutes seeking God in the serene knowledge that he was about to die, say those who were with him at the end. The 84-year-old Roman Catholic pontiff died at 9:37 p.m. (2:37 p.m. EST) in his private apartment in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced. In St. Peter's Square, directly below the pope's fourth floor windows, tens of thousands of people who had gathered to pray the rosary for him learned of his death from Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the Argentine prelate who has often read papal homilies and messages when speaking was difficult for John Paul. “The pope is dead.
c. 2005 Religion News Service (UNDATED) Pope John Paul II launched an unprecedented “examination of conscience,'' culminating in a sweeping mea culpa on the first Sunday in the first Lent of Christianity's third millennium. “In this year of mercy the Church, strong in the holiness which she receives from her Lord, should kneel before God and implore forgiveness for the past and present sins of her sons and daughters,'' John Paul declared at a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica on March 12, 2000. “Let us forgive and ask forgiveness!'' In the wake of John Paul's death Saturday (April 2), what he called a “purification of memory,'' or what might be called a “theology of apology,'' may also stand as one of the most important, and least-recognized, legacies that he leaves behind. More than a generic statement of regret, John Paul's millennium sermon referred specifically to the violence of holy wars among Christians and the Inquisition against non-believers, and, as if to ensure his message would not be lost on future generations, he had several cardinals _ many of them considered potential successors _ read more detailed indictments of Catholic sins.