Mourners streamed into churches across the United States early Friday to watch Pope John Paul II’s funeral, paying their last respects to a man who endeared himself to Americans during his 26-year papacy.
In the pre-dawn darkness, nearly 200 Catholics and non-Catholics watched on a large projection screen at the St. Stanislaus church in Cleveland. A few people wiped tears from their eyes as the pope’s simple wooden casket was shown.
“I just was moved to see it with other Christians,” said 26-year-old Magdalene Pesch. “It’s a good devout atmosphere in which to do it.”
The funeral drew millions to Rome for one of the largest religious gatherings of modern times. Presidents, prime ministers and kings joined pilgrims and prelates in St. Peter’s Square on Friday to bid farewell to the pope.
In Chicago, which has one of the largest Polish populations outside of Warsaw, parishioners filled the Five Holy Martyrs Church and mourned the death of a countryman who brought dignity and freedom to their homeland.
The Polish-born pope made five trips to the United States — more than any other pontiff. He celebrated Mass at the church each time he visited Chicago in 1969, 1976 and then as pope in 1979. He last visited the United States in 1999.
In Los Angeles, dozens watched the services on a large-screen television at Our at Lady of the Bright Mount church, which the pope visited in 1976.
Stan Czerwinski, 49, and his wife traveled about 50 miles from their home in Camarillo to watch the funeral at the church, which has a mostly Polish congregation.
“We’re sad and we are happy because now we know he is in heaven,” Czerwinski said.
A group of firefighters in Holyoke, Mass., watched in the basement of their brick fire station.
“John Paul II was not only a strong leader, he was a genuinely good person. He practiced what he preached. And you can see that in the way everybody — the whole world — has come together today,” said Lt. Jeff Przekowpowski.
About 150 people watched the funeral on two large screens at the National Shrine of the Little Flower Catholic church in Royal Oak, Mich., a suburb of Detroit.
“At home, it wouldn’t be as special, but at church, it would be more special,” said 8-year-old McKenna Lynch, who came to church with her mother, Janie.
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