Tolling church bells and wails of sirens across Poland marked the start of the funeral of native-born Pope John Paul II yesterday.
At 10:00am in the capital Warsaw, as the funeral ceremonies got under way in distant Rome, a 26-gun salute was fired to mark the 26-year pontificate of John Paul II.
Trams and buses, and even the few pedestrians in the streets of the capital stopped as the solemn ceremony began.
People around Poland had attended special masses ahead of the funeral ceremonies at the Vatican, which were broadcast live on television and radio throughout the pope's homeland and on giant screens in many cities, including Warsaw and Wadowice, the southern town where the pope was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920.
Huge crowds gathered in Warsaw's Pilsudski and Zamkowy squares to watch live, giant-screen broadcasts of the funeral.
It was at a mass celebrated for one million worshippers in Pilsudski Square on June 10, 1979 that the Pope uttered the memorable phrase: "May the spirit come down and renew the face of this land."
Those words were interpreted by many in John Paul II's native land as an exhortation to stand up to the oppressive communist regime.
In the southern city of Krakow, where Karol Wojtyla spent 40 years of his adult life before being elected pope in 1978, hundreds of thousands had gathered on Blonia esplanade to watch live broadcasts of the ceremony.
Police said 300,000 people were in front of the giant screens set up in the vast field on Krakow's periphery, where the pope celebrated mass for some three million faithful on his last visit to Poland, in August 2002.
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