Millions of mourners gathered in churches, parks and around television screens across Asia yesterday to say farewell to Pope John Paul II as his funeral took place in Rome.
As the ceremony got underway, hundreds of nuns, priests, and families sat on chairs or on the grass under a ferocious tropical sun at Manila's Luneta Park, for a mass to be celebrated by Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosalesfor.
"Pope John Paul II We Love You," read one giant streamer. "Farewell Pope John Paul II. Thank You For Your Legacy -- The Culture of Life," read another.
In the eastern Indian city of Calcutta a giant television screen was set up at Mother House, the mission established by Catholic nun Mother Teresa to take care of the sick and poor.
"We offered our morning prayer for the Pope," said Sister Christie of the Missionaries of Charity. "Nuns of the Missionaries of Charity will also organize a special mass after the funeral of the holy father."
Several thousand people attended a one-hour mass in St. Thomas Church in the heart of the city yesterday morning, said Calcutta Archbishop Lucas Sircar.
Nationwide, India marked its third day and final day of official mourning for the Pope, with flags at half-mast at government offices and all official entertainment postponed.
Australian officials marked the funeral by announcing a bridge in the southern city of Adelaide would be named after Mary MacKillop, a local woman who was beatified by the pontiff in 1995 and is destined to become Australia's first saint.
In Japan, where the pontiff was well regarded for making a 1981 appeal for peace when he visited atomic-bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Crown Prince Naruhito took a deep bow before a photograph of the Pope and offered a small bouquet of white flowers at St Mary's Cathedral.
All Christian schools in Karachi, the largest city in predominantly Muslim Pakistan, were closed for the Pope's funeral with a special prayer session to be held at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
Archbishop Evarist Pinto told reporters Christians there had praised the pontiff for defending the basic teachings of the religion.
"The service will also include thanksgiving prayers," he said.
Pakistan has more than three million Christians among its 150 million population. Half are Roman Catholics.
"He resolutely opposed divorce, homosexuality, and contraception and always made the effort to teach from the scripture," Christian intellectual Anil Datta said. "We hope the Papal office can uphold his mission in the coming days."
Many of the region's leaders have left their countries for Rome or sent envoys. Before leaving, Philippines President Gloria Arroyo praised the leader of the Catholic faith for providing a moral impetus to the bloodless "people power" revolt that toppled her corruption-tainted predecessor in 2001.
Arroyo also joined the chorus of church leaders in predominantly Roman Catholic Philippines calling on Rome to select another conservative Pope.
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