East Texas Man Shares Pope's Ancestry, Age

In Tyler tonight, hundreds gathered at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.

"We pray in a very special way for the respose of the soul of our holy father, John Paul II, that he may be abundantly blessed in eternity for the wondrous ways he cooperated with the grace of God," Monsignor Joe Strickland said to the parishioners at mass.

It was their regular mass, but under a different mood.

One member of the church was especially emotional because he shares the pope's ancestry and age: He's an 84-year-old Polish man, who says he will miss Pope John Paul II.

"We all love him," Tony Jarecki said. "And being a Catholic, we understand that. And yes, I feel very, very fortunate to live during his period."

"I think what's interesting to me is that even in this very non-Catholic area, so many non-Catholics respect this man and see him as a man of God, a man absolutely of Jesus Christ," Father Strickland said.

"I am so thankful that he is not in pain anymore," Mary Anne Jarecki, Tony's wife, said. "And he has gone to meet his maker. And I'm sure probably straight to heaven."

"He's with his maker," Betty Pulley, another parishioner, echoed. "And that's what he's worked for all his life. So there's a bad side and a good side. But we will miss him."

A special prayer service for the Pope will be held tomorrow afternoon at 3.

Julie Tam, reporting.