by Laura Clarke.

Non ci sar unaltro papa come lui. There will be no other pope like him, said an elderly lady at the news of the death of John Paul II, wiping the tears from her eyes. She was one of many people in St Peters Square to have been overtaken by emotion at the knowledge that the pope was no more: men, women and children, many of whom had been waiting for the news for hours in an increasingly emotionally charged atmosphere as the crowds built up throughout the late afternoon and early evening. It was just after 22.00 local time, and people were beginning to filter away following the conclusion of the rosary. Cell phones began to ring and people started spontaneously bursting into tears, having learned of his death from family or friends watching television or listening to the radio elsewhere. A few moments later, the crowd was invited to join in another moment of prayer, then to be told: The pope has returned to his fathers house. People who had started to leave stopped in their tracks and everyone turned towards the papal apartments, the lights in the three windows blazing. There was a spontaneous burst of applause, followed by a long moment of silence, broken only by the play of the twin fountains in front of the basilica and the sound of muffled crying. Then more prayers alternated with more spontaneous applause, as people began pouring into St Peters Square: groups of faithful but also Saturday night revellers and curiosity seekers wanting to be part of the occasion. At around 22.30 St Peters bell began to toll, announcing in irregular chimes the news that everyone already knew.