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Many mourn at St. Mary's

As the bells of Fargo's Cathedral of St. Mary's tolled Saturday afternoon, mourners had already gathered to pray for Pope John Paul II. George and Pauline Economon were watching TV in their Fargo home when they heard the pope had died.

As the bells of Fargo's Cathedral of St. Mary's tolled Saturday afternoon, mourners had already gathered to pray for Pope John Paul II.

George and Pauline Economon were watching TV in their Fargo home when they heard the pope had died. Within a half-hour the husband and wife were tacking black bunting around the door frame and cross outside the Fargo church.

"It's a sad time and a joyful time," George said, comparing the long-suffering pope's death to that of a family member.

"I really think he will be referred to not as John Paul II but as John Paul the Great," he said

People of different denominations and from different congregations trickled into the downtown church to pay respects. Inside, a handful of faithful sat quietly in the darkened church.

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Jon Wanzek was driving around listening to satellite radio when he heard the news. The Fargo man splits his time attending the Cathedral and St. Anne & Joachim Catholic Church in south Fargo, but drove to St. Mary's to pray upon hearing of the pope's passing.

"The grace of his death is a testimony to Christian and Catholic faith and the dignity of life," Wanzek said.

Bishop Samuel Aquila also found out while driving, between Belcourt and Rugby, N.D., for confirmations. The head of the Fargo Diocese said although there had been time to prepare for the pope's passing, there was still sadness as well as thankfulness for what the Holy Father had achieved.

"One's heart must be filled with gratitude for the life of John Paul II, the dignity of the human being and his love and devotion to the gospel message and Jesus Christ," Aquila said from St. Therese Little Flower Catholic Church in Rugby where he was preparing for a 7:30 special mass.

In a prepared statement Bishop Victor Balke of the Diocese of Crookston, Minn., said the pope's "worldwide efforts for peace and reconciliation through forgiveness," highlighted John Paul II's 25 years in the Vatican.

Even non-Catholics acknowledged the pope's impact.

Dave Acord had driven up from Minneapolis with his wife Diane to check out the church where his son Jason will be married in October.

"He left a strong mark on the Catholic religion, that's for sure," the Methodist man said on hearing of the pope's death.

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Greg Scott of Fargo, baptized Catholic but raised Lutheran, felt drawn to the church Saturday.

"The pope is reaching out to me," the Fargo man said, adding he was thinking of returning to the faith. "He was a great man."

Rita Herzog, a parishioner at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Moorhead, was at the Cathedral for confession. She said the pope's good deeds and hard work are now being rewarded.

"He can rest now," the Moorhead resident said. "He has certainly earned Heaven."

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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