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Vatican: Pope John Paul II is Dead

Pope John Paul the Second has died at the age of 84, ending a 26-year reign that redefined the papacy. The pope died after suffering kidney and heart failure following two hospitalizations over the past two months.

It fell to Archbishop Leonardo Sandri, the Vatican's Argentine Deputy Secretary of State to bring the sad news to the tens of thousands of people gathered in Saint Peter's Square. Dear brothers and sisters, he said, at 9:37, our beloved Holy Father, John Paul the Second, has returned to the Lord. Let us pray for him.

Upon hearing the news of the pope's passing, some people held their hands up to their faces in disbelief. Others in the crowd sobbed uncontrollably.

John Paul, the most traveled Pope in history, visited more than 120 countries to tend to his flock. He also sought to build bridges to other religious faiths and confessions.

But he will be remembered most for his role in the collapse of communism in Europe and for his unyielding defense of traditional church doctrine as the leader of more than one billion Catholics.