The death on Saturday of Pope John Paul II has had a profound effect in Ireland as it has throughout the world.

The President, Mary McAleese expressed pride that he was the first Pope in history to visit Ireland and that, “in the final years of his life, it was his ambition to return to our midst.

A national delegation led by the President Mary McAleese will attend the Pope’s funeral, but there are no plans to hold a national day of mourning.

“We won’t have a national day of mourning as such but between now and the day of the funeral we will fully participate,” said the irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, who described the Pope as “a wonderful man” who had worked tirelessly to create better relations with other faiths.

Gerry Adams extended condolences on behalf of Sinn Féin. Paying tribute to the Holy Father, Mr. Adams recalled having the honour of greeting Pope John Paul briefly in the summer of 2002.

“People throughout Ireland have had a close affinity with Pope John Paul since his historic visit here in 1979 and there will be deep sorrow across the country this evening at the news of his death.

“Although stricken with Parkinsons Disease in recent years, Pope John Paul showed huge courage and determination as he continued to travel and to lead the Catholic Church worldwide.

Hardline unionist Ian Paisley, who once called the Pope the “anti-Christ”, said that the Pope’s death was a reminder that “everyone must come to death” but allowed Catholics their grief.

“We need to learn that everyone on Earth no matter what position he holds or the claims he makes or the support he has must come to death and eternity,” Dr Paisley said.

“We can understand how the Roman Catholic people feel at the death of the Pope and they are entitled to express their sorrow and grief,” he added in a statement.

In 1988, the DUP leader repeatedly shouted “Anti-Christ!” as the Pope began a speech to the European Parliament on unity in Europe. Members of parliament shouted to drown out his insults before he was wrestled out of the European Parliament chamber.

The Primate of All Ireland, Dr Sean Brady has spoken of his sadness at the death of Pope John Paul II.

In a statement, Dr Brady said: “A life of outstanding faith and generous service to Christ and the whole human family has serenely departed this world this evening with the death of our beloved Holy Father, Pope John Paul II.

“We mourn with heavy hearts and an immense sense of loss the death of a loving Pastor, a gentle teacher and a courageous leader. We thank God for his holy life, his inspiring example and his unfailing affection for Ireland and the Irish people.

“We join with countless others around the world in grateful memory and prayerful intercession for his eternal happiness and peace.”

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