That was in 1979, the year after John Paul assumed the throne at the Vatican. For a city that measures time by White House turnover, his papacy spanned five presidencies: those of Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and President Bush.
On the day after John Paul's death, many faithful keened at the loss.
At Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in San Antonio, some wept as they remembered a papal Mass celebrated in Spanish in a plaza across the street. Thousands had lined up in 1987 to see John Paul drive by in his "Popemobile," blessing the crowd on his way to say Mass in a working-class Mexican American neighborhood.
"He gave his blessing to all the people here in the barrio, and a little piece of his heart stayed here in this plaza," said Minerva Garcia, a retired nurse.
Polish Americans took pride. "He was always an important figure in our community. Obviously, he became universal," said Stefan Lopatkiewicz, 56, of Washington, an Episcopalian who attended McCarrick's Mass. "He was above all a humanitarian and a tremendous politician."
At the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, which the pope visited in 1979, more than 6,500 attended a noon Mass. Crowds standing in the back and the side aisles strained to glimpse Archbishop Gabriel Montalvo, the Vatican's ambassador to the United States, who led the service.
During Communion, the archbishop served wine with a chalice that John Paul bequeathed to the basilica 26 years ago. Near the altar was a portrait of the late pontiff, a black band draped across the corner.
At the Cathedral of St. Thomas More in Arlington, Bishop Paul S. Loverde sought to console 500 mourners. "We feel deeply the loss of our Holy Father," he said, wearing a silver cross on his neck, a gift from the pope. "There is a profound sense of loss at the human level. There's an immense void in our church and in our world."
As many grieved and others celebrated his accomplishments, some churchgoers looked ahead to what the next papacy might bring.
Lawrence Tremonti of Rockville said he hoped the next pope would grant "more autonomy to laypeople as opposed to the hierarchy of the Catholic Church." He added that the practice and belief of many Catholics on such matters as birth control had differed from "the pope's message."
In interviews, some parishioners said the next pope should make more room for women in the church hierarchy. Others said he should continue John Paul's focus on human rights and world peace. And others urged a cleaving to tradition. Edward Rios, 31, a Bolivian immigrant who lives in Arlington, said it might be time for a non-European pope.
In remarks before and after he celebrated Mass, McCarrick did not tip his hand on how he might vote in the coming conclave. He urged prayers for the cardinals -- "that we be wise, that the Lord be with us, that the Holy Spirit guide us in what is probably the most momentous choice of our lives."
Staff writers Cameron W. Barr, David Cho, Manny Fernandez, Annie Gowen, Hamil R. Harris, Joshua Partlow, Sudarsan Raghavan and Debbi Wilgoren in Washington and staff writers Kimberly Edds in Los Angeles, Jonathan Finer in Boston and Sylvia Moreno in San Antonio contributed to this report.