His death was met with tributes from around the world.
However, there were a few dissenting voices who said his anti-contraception doctrine contributed to needless deaths.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair's reaction was typical of world leaders.
"The world has lost a religious leader who was revered across people of all faiths and none. He was an inspiration, a man of extraordinary faith, dignity and courage," he said.
"Throughout a hard and often difficult life, he stood for social justice and on the side of the oppressed, whether as a young man facing the Nazi occupation in Poland or later in challenging the communist regime."
Lech Walesa, the former Polish president and Solidarity leader, said that without the Pope there would have been no end to communism or "at least much later and the end would have been bloody".
Holy Land grief
Margaret Thatcher, the British prime minister at the time of communism's collapse, agreed.
"His life was a long struggle against the lies employed to excuse evil. By combating the falsehoods of communism and proclaiming the true dignity of the individual, his was the moral force behind victory in the Cold War."
News of the Pope's death plunged the Holy Land into grief, with black flags in the traditional birthplace of Christ expected to usher in an official mourning period.
"His life was a long struggle against the lies employed to excuse evil. By combating the falsehoods of communism and proclaiming the true dignity of the individual, his was the moral force behind victory in the Cold War"
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher
Prayers were to be held in Roman Catholic churches around Bethlehem, a town where the pontiff is remembered with fondness because of his millennium visit to Israel and the West Bank five years ago.
To many Palestinian Christians, the Pope was someone who identified with and supported their cause.
"He was a true example of someone who defended human rights, who defended the hungry and the sick in the world, and who worked hard to protect the family," said Hanna Nasir, the town's Palestinian mayor.
"He was also an example for interfaith cooperation. He was a clear supporter of the Palestinian issue and the Palestinian people and that is why he welcomed Yasir Arafat so many times to his palace."
During the 2000 visit, John Paul II called for an urgent solution to the plight of the millions made homeless after the creation of Israel in 1948.
But despite the tributes there were some dissenting views.
Peter Tatchell, a British gay and human rights activist, said historians would judge the Pope harshly.
"Millions of children in developing countries are orphaned, having lost their parents to Aids because of the Pope's anti-condom dogma"
Gay and human rights activist Peter Tatchell
"His opposition to the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV has condemned millions of people to die an agonising, needless death," he said.
"Millions of children in developing countries are orphaned, having lost their parents to Aids because of the Pope's anti-condom dogma."
And Jerzy Urban, the ex-spokesman of Poland's past communist rulers, said: "As a godless atheist, I never cared much for the church or the papacy. I disliked the fact that the papacy bore down so heavily on Poland. Now I fear that a cult will emerge after his death."