Pope dies from heart and kidney failure
The 84-year-old spiritual leader of the Roman Catholic Church passed away on Saturday night, at 1937 GMT or 2:37 am on Sunday Beijing time.
Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said of Pope John Paul II died two days after suffering heart and kidney failure and two months of acute breathing problems and other ailments.
The Pope's body was to be brought to St Peter's Basilica this afternoon for the faithful to file past in homage, he said.
A crowd of more than 100,000 filled the space under the windows of the pope's Vatican apartment on hearing the news of his death. The throng shrank to 5,000 mourners in the pre-dawn hours.
Inside the Vatican, cardinals made preparations for the nine days of mourning that follow a pope's death, and for the conclave that will be called later this month to elect a successor.
The cardinals are to hold a congregation today to plan his funeral.
Italy's ANSA news agency, citing reliable sources, said it would take place on Thursday at the earliest.
Among those extending condolences yesterday were UN chief Kofi Annan, the Chinese Foreign Ministry and two Chinese Catholic groups.
Annan hailed the Pope as a tireless advocate of peace and a pioneer of inter-faith dialogue. Israel and the Palestinian Authority also voiced their condolences.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement: "We express our condolences over the death of Pope John Paul II," and, "we are willing to improve our relations with Vatican on the basis of the two principles."
The two principles are the Vatican should terminate "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan of China and vow that it will not interfere in China's internal affairs, including any intervention under the pretext of religious affairs.
Liu said China would adhere to the two basic principles in dealing with China-Vatican relations. China hopes the Vatican, under the leadership of a new Pope, can create favourable conditions for the development of China-Vatican relations, Liu said.
According to the spokesman, Pope John Paul II once apologized for the wrongs done the Chinese people by a number of Catholic missionaries during the colonial period, adding that the Pope said the Vatican had religious ties with Chinese Catholics which should not tamper with the unity of the Chinese nation or impair China's independence and sovereignty in any form.
Liu said the Pope's remarks were conducive to the improvement of relations between China and the Vatican.
The Catholic Patriotic Association of China and the Chinese Catholic Bishops College sent a telegram to the Vatican yesterday morning expressing condolences.
"It is very sorrowful to know that Pope John Paul II has passed away at the call of God, to rest with the Lord for good," the telegram reads. "It is a great loss for the pastoral and evangelical work of the Universal Church."
"We sincerely express our deep condolences, on behalf of more than 5 million Catholic clergy and faithful in China, and pray God grant him an eternal reward," it said.