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Pope, Vatican mourn Reagan

Vatican Press Office Director Joaquin Navarro-Valls told reporters at the weekend that Pope John Paul II had learned "with sorrow" about the death of former US President Ronald Reagan.

A statement released by the Vatican after the President's death paid tribute to "the contributions of President Reagan, who influenced the lives of millions of people, especially in Europe, but also in his own country."

Navarro-Valls added that the Pope was praying for the Reagan - with whom he had reportedly enjoyed a particularly warm personal rapport.

The papal spokesman also reminded reporters that during his exchange of greetings with current US President George W. Bush the previous day, the Holy Father had sent his regards to Mrs Reagan, recognising that the former President was gravely ill.

Vatican officials, who were accompanying the Pope on his weekend trip to Switzerland when the news of the President's death arrived, pointed out that it was during the Reagan Administration that the US first established full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

They also pointed to the late President's enormous influence on recent European history, and especially the end of the Cold War.

Vatican officials pointed to Reagan's characterisation of the Soviet Union as an "evil empire", and his memorable challenge to Russian leader Mikhail Gorbachev, issued in Berlin, to "tear down this wall."

Navarro-Valls announced that the Holy See, as well as the US bishops' conference, would send a representative to the state funeral for Reagan in Washington.

Pope, Vatican mourn Reagan (Catholic World News 7/6/04)

John Paul II Pays Tribute to Reagan (Zenit 6/6/04)
The Forum: Of Reagan and the Catholic Church (Catholic World News 7/6/04)
Reagan, dead at 93, drew Catholic support, opposition on his policies (Catholic News Service 7/6/04)
Pope Ends Visit to Switzerland Calling His Pilgrimages a 'Duty' (New York Times 7/6/04)
Pope battles through Swiss visit (AAP/ninemsn 7/6/04)
Pope Exhorts Swiss to Recover Missionary Spirit (Zenit 6/6/04)
Reinvigorated pope completes visit to Switzerland (New York Times/Salt Lake Tribune 7/6/04)
Swiss faithful appear to energize pope (Associated Press/Indiainapolis Star 7/6/04)
Pope in Switzerland (Independent Catholic News 7/6/04)
In visit to Switzerland, youths see display of papal tenacity (Catholic News Service 7/6/04)
The Pope's weekend trip to Switzerland (Catholic World News 7/6/04)

8 Jun 2004