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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Mourners -- some hidden behind dark sunglasses -- filtered into the Cathedral of the Madeleine handfuls at a time Saturday afternoon, offering silent prayers for the fallen Pope John Paul II.
The Rev. Patrick Elliott left parishioners to their private mourning, and instead supervised the installation of funeral bunting -- or black banners -- over the cathedral's entrance.
Though he said he was sad, Elliott said the timing of the pope's death was reassuring -- so close to Easter and the celebration of Christ's resurrection.
"We have the joy of knowing that while the body is dead, the soul is returning to its creator," Elliott said.
Throngs of Catholics inundated cathedrals and parishes across the world to mourn the pope's passing, and Ivan Madrigal expected the same in Utah's largest city.
"I do not know why no one is here," a disappointed Madrigal said as he loaded his two daughters into their vehicle after visiting the cathedral.
The native of Colombia wanted his daughters, 10-year-old Alejandra and 12-year-old Laura, to experience the historic day and felt it important to take them to the cathedral because Madrigal married a Mormon, and the girls are being raised in that faith.
"I think it will be an end because he was the peacemaker around the world," he said after snapping a digital photograph of the girls in front of the 96-year-old Gothic-style cathedral.
Milton Orozco, a 26-year-old construction worker, rushed to the cathedral immediately after learning of the pope's death.
"Last night, I was very sad because the pope was suffering, but now I'm more happy. He's with God now," said Orozco, who said he felt a special kinship to John Paul because he was born the year his papacy began.
Salt Lake City Diocese Bishop George Niederauer said Pope John Paul II's embrace was universal, welcoming people of all faiths and backgrounds.
"He was sustained by prayer, strengthened through suffering and generous in sacrifice and love," Niederauer said in a prepared statement. "He was a man of great hope, calling us to be not afraid."
Gov. Jon Huntsman had a letter of condolence hand-delivered to Niederauer on Saturday.
"It was with sadness and a heavy heart that I, along with other Utahns, learned of the passing of Pope John Paul II. I write to express my most sincere condolences over the passing of such an extraordinary leader with a deeply human touch," the letter says.
Just blocks from the downtown Cathedral, the 175th annual conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was being conducted at the Conference Center.
President Gordon B. Hinckley opened the afternoon session Saturday by announcing the pope's death to 21,000 faithful at the center and millions more listening or watching the conference worldwide.
"We join those throughout the world who mourn the passing of Pope John Paul II, an extraordinary man of faith, vision and intellect, whose courageous actions have touched the world in ways that will be felt for generations to come," President Hinckley said.
"The pope's voice remained firm in defense of freedom, family and Christianity. On matters of principle and morality, he was uncompromising. In his compassion for the world's poor, he has been unwavering. He will be greatly missed," President Hinckley said.
Listening to conference proceedings near Temple Square, former Catholic Tim Grenz said he had prayed for the pope, calling him a man who fought for the "the good things in the world."
Grenz, 51, of Salem, Ore., said he empathized with Catholics, who love and respect the pope in the same way that Mormons revere the 95-year-old Hinckley.
"President Hinckley is not a young man and the Lord will call him home someday," said Grenz. "It's a very difficult, sad thing."
Hours before John Paul II's death, a mass dedicated to the severely ill pope was held at the Salt Lake City cathedral, where prayers were offered for a peaceful death if recovery were not possible.
"We pray that he may be at peace and find the joy and hope of the master which he so beautifully and powerfully served," Niederauer told about 200 parishioners.
Skip Lamar, who converted to Catholicism 32 years ago, called John Paul II an exemplary symbol for the church and for him personally.
"Under his lead, I've been able to maintain a sobriety of 30 years," said the 62-year-old ex-Navy man who plans to retire May 19 from his truck-driving job.
Philippine Cannefax, an 81-year-old housewife who normally volunteers and attends services at a Catholic church in West Jordan, offered prayers at the morning service "so the pope can go home in peace.
"It is sad, and it is a joy at the same time," she said.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)