Pope John Paul II, the Polish pontiff who led the Roman Catholic Church for more than a quarter century and became history's most-travelled pope, died yesterday night in his Vatican apartment. He was 84.

"The angels welcome you," Vatican TV said after the announcement came from papal spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls.

"The Holy Father, John Paul II, died at 9:37pm in his private apartment. All procedures foreseen in the Apostolic Constitution 'Universi Dominici Gregis,' promulgated by John Paul II on Feb. 22, 1996, have been activated," his statement said.


In Monday's Birmingham Post

A special 12 page supplement commemorating the life and times of Pope John Paul II, including a special message from the Archbishop of Birmingham, memories of his visit to Coventry and reaction from the city's Catholic community.


It was distributed to journalists via e-mail. John Paul expired as cardinals were leading some 70,000 people at St. Peter's Square in prayers for him in his "last journey."

Bells tolled at the Vatican and across Rome, and Vatican, Italian and EU flags were being lowered to half-staff across the capital.

In a statement issued early today, the Vatican said the pope's body was expected to be brought to St. Peter's Basilica no earlier than tomorrow afternoon. The statement did not give a precise cause of death.

The College of Cardinals is to meet at 10am tomorrow in its first gathering prior to a secret election to be held later this month to choose a successor to John Paul. The cardinals were expected to set a date for his funeral.

The pope died after suffering heart and kidney failure. Just a few hours earlier, the Vatican had said he was in "very serious" condition but responded to members of the papal household.

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