Church bells have begun tolling across Rome and throughout Italy, signaling the death of Pope John Paul II.

As news of his death spread, Roman Catholics around the world began mourning and offering prayers for the death of the spiritual leader of the 1.1 billion-member Roman Catholic Church.

In his native Poland, people in the pope's hometown of Wadowice fell to their knees and wept at the end of a special Mass in the church where he worshipped as a boy.

Special masses are being held around the world, including Latin America, home to nearly half of the world's Roman Catholics.