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VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II, the leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, died Saturday at the age of 84.

Pope John Paul II giving a blessing, Feb. 2005 (AP photo/Osservatore Romano)

The Pope passed away at his apartment in the Vatican as tens of thousands of people gathered outside in St. Peter's Square to pray for him.

Vatican officials earlier said his breathing became shallow, his kidneys had stopped functioning and his blood pressure plummeted because of septic shock linked to a urinary tract infection.

INDEPTH: Pope John Paul II

His health had not been good in recent years. He had Parkinson's disease and arthritis; his health deteriorated rapidly in February, when he was rushed to Rome's Gemelli hospital suffering from flu-related breathing problems.

He lost about 40 pounds after undergoing a tracheotomy, leading doctors to insert a feeding tube on March 30 to help him take nourishment.

The Vatican said he received the sacrament known as the Anointing of the Sick, commonly called Last Rites, on Thursday night.

Papal visits to Canada

John Paul visited Canada three times during his papacy, in 1984, 1987 and 2002.

INDEPTH: Catholicism in Canada


Canada has three active cardinals who are eligible to vote to name John Paul II's successor:

Marc Cardinal Ouellet, who has been archbishop of Quebec since 2002; Aloysius Matthew Cardinal Ambrozic, who has been archbishop of Toronto since 1990; and Jean-Claude Cardinal Turcotte, who has been archbishop of Montreal since 1990.

About 44 per cent of Canadians consider themselves Roman Catholics, according to the latest census figures available.

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