President Carter said yesterday that the death of Pope Paul VI has stilled "a strong voice for reason, for moderation and for peace."

Carter joined political and religious leaders from many parts of the world in expressing sorrow and praising the Pope's leadership during his 15 years as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

In a statement issued by the White House, the president said Pope Paul's life and work "have served personally as a source of great moral inspiration."

He continued: "As a man of peace and profound spirituality he will be greatly missed, not only by all Roman Catholics but by all people, whatever their religious convictions.

"Pope Paul's world travels at no small expense to his own physical well-being, exemplified his role of pilgrim, carrying the message of peace and love to the far corners of the world, including an inspiring visit to the United States (in 1965)."

Carter, a Baptist, said Paul VI will be remembered for his efforts to bring about unity within the Catholic Church and to unify all Christians. The pope's voice, the president said, "served as a clear moral beacon to a troubled world."

Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), brother of the only Catholic U.S. president, described Pope Paul as a deeply compassionate man, who shared my own particular concern for the plight of refugees and other victims of war and catastrophe around the world."

Religious leaders of different faiths noted that during Pope Paul's reign the Roman Cathollic Church went through a difficult period of modernizatiiton of ritual and custom.

Evangelist Billy Graham said at his home in Montreat, N.C., that "history may show that he was one of the most significant popes in modern times."

Graham said: "Pope Paul presided over the Roman Catholic Church when it was going through one of the most critical periods in it history. In one sense, he witnessed a revolution within the Roman Catholic world that has developed for decades. In another sense, he sought to give that revolution direction and guidance."

The Most Rev. John R. Quinn, archbishop of San Francisco and president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the U.S. Catholic Conference, called Paul VI "one of the century's greatest popes." He praised Pope Paul for his "superb skill" in guiding the second Vatican Council and said he was a man of "extraordinary vision" who was "unmoved by criticism and undaunted by obstacles."

In strife-torn Argentina. Juan Carlos Cardinal Aramburu, archbishop of Buenos Aires, said Pope Paul "suffered greatly whenever something bad happened in the world, especially acts of violence."

A spokesman for Timothy Cardinal Manning, archbishop of Los Angeles, said it was fitting that the pope died on the day of the Feast of the Transfiguration. The feast commemorates the occasion when, according to the NewTestament, Jesus, in the presence of the apostles, was suffused with a strange light and a voice from heaven affirmed him as the son of God, saying, "This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased."