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(AFP) - Tears and prayers filled an orphanage in northern Armenia on Friday as nuns and children watched the funeral of Pope John Paul II, who helped build the home after a 1988 earthquake.

"Right now we are with 60 orphans of the orphanage and we are watching the pope's funeral with tears in our eyes," Sister Arusiak, the director of the "Mother of God - Armenia" Catholic center in the northern town of Gyumri, told AFP by telephone.

"We prayed for the peace of the pope's soul. It is a great loss for all the Catholics in the whole world. He was an exceptional spiritual leader with his humanism and courage," she said.

According to the Catholic Church some 150,000 Catholics live in Armenia, whose 3.2 million population belongs mainly to the Orthodox Armenian Apostolic Church.

Pope John Paul II visited Armenia's capital Yerevan in 2001 to celebrate the 1,700th anniversary of Christianity in the country -- the first to adopt Christianity as the official religion. Catholicos Garegin II, the spiritual leader of the Apostolic Church, Prime Minister Andranik Markarian, as well as the head of the Armenian Catholics, attended John Paul II's funeral at the Vatican.

(AP-Photolur photo)
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