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Locals React To The Pope's Death

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Catholics across the Triangle are remembering Pope John Paul II for the impact he had worldwide.

"I know that we've lost a most wonderful leader of not only the church, but the world,” Catholic Dixie Long said. “He's loved by all, both Catholics and non-Catholics."

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Kevin Moran added that it’s a sad day, “but also a time of remembrance for a man that served his church and his people for such a long time."

Catholics in the Triangle flocked to mass Saturday night to hear words of comfort from their priests.

Less than three hours after the Vatican announced the pope was dead, parish members gathered at St. Michael's Church in Cary for Saturday evening mass.

"Oh, it's very sad,” Mary Popke said. “Tear came to my eyes."

Father Robert Staley said it's tough to maintain the ongoing Easter celebration with this loss.

“This pope has touched so many people in their hearts and we just feel the loss of someone who has been a great leader," Staley said.

At Sacred Heart Cathedral in downtown Raleigh, Monsignor Michael Shugrue led Catholics in a special prayer service.

“For the blessing that he has been to our world and to our church," Shugrue prayed. “This pope was not afraid to speak the truth to power."

Debbie Wright came to say goodbye to her spiritual leader surrounded by others who understood her pain.

“I feel a big hole in my heart I just feel like a piece of my heart is gone," Wright said.

She went to Mass just before this service and spent much of the afternoon in silent prayer.

“I personally felt his prayers a lot so I want t pray for him as much as I can," she said.

Wright always wanted to see Pope John Paul II speak in person.

She had planned a trip to St. Peter’s Square for later this year.

“I'm very sad that he's not going to be there," she said.

It’s a sentiment shared by Catholics everywhere.

At Our Lady of Lourdes in Raleigh, a portrait of the pope adorns the alter. They will hold a special mass Monday at noon, which will air live on the WRAL NewsChannel and Fox50.

Raleigh Bishop Joseph Gossman issued a statement Saturday night calling the pope " the voice of conscience on moral and ethical issues, war, the death penalty, abortion and euthanasia."

Gov. Mike Easley, a Catholic, remembered Pope John Paul II as a "leader and passionate communicator."

In a written statement, Easley said the “pope united people around the world and supported those who were the most vulnerable, including the hungry, sick, weak and poor.”

Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) referred to the pope as an "example of moral conviction to people of all faiths, who used his influence to promote individual dignity and respect for every human life.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) added that Pope John Paul II was a “tireless advocate for the cause of freedom, helping to liberate Eastern Europe, including his native Poland, from communism.”

“Today is a very sad day, not only for Catholics, but for all people,” he said.

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