(dpa) - Pope Benedict XVI paid homage Wednesday to his predecessor John Paul II during a Mass in St Peter's Square marking the third anniversary of the Polish-born pontiff's death.
"Among the many human and supernatural qualities, he had an exceptional spiritual and mystical sensibility," Benedict said of John Paul for whom the Vatican has begun the process of beatification - the first step towards sainthood.
Benedict led the Mass before thousands of faithful many of whom held aloft portraits of John Paul while others waved red-and-white Polish flags or the Vatican's yellow-and-white.
"We relive with emotion the hours of that Saturday evening when the news of (John Paul's) death was announced to the great crowd which filled St Peter's Square," Benedict said recalling John Paul's passing on April 2, 2005 at the age of 84.
The Polish-born pope's entire life was dominated by an unwavering belief that "there is no other source of hope for mankind other than God's mercy" Benedict said.
"Let us give thanks to the Lord for having gifted to the Church this faithful and brave servant," said the pontiff at the end of his homily.
Benedict following his election as pope in April 19, 2005 waived for John Paul II the normal five-year waiting process for the start of a beatification process.
The Vatican's office examining sainthood causes in currently examining reports of possible miracles attributed to the late pope's intercession.
John Paul died after a pontificate which lasted almost 27 years.