A mournful Czech nation was joined by world leaders in its farewell to Vaclav Havel on Friday at his funeral service, ending a week of public grief after the death of the playwright who led the 1989 revolution to transition to democracy.
Hundreds of citizens met inside St. Vitus Cathedral, a part of the Prague Castle, and were joined by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, The New York Times reported. Outside of the cathedral, thousands of Czechs gathered to watch large video screens and listen to the service through loudspeakers.
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“We will terribly miss him but we will never, ever forget him,” said Albright, who is of Czech origin, in Czech, the Associated Press reported.
Havel’s wife, Dagmar, family members and friends were also in attendance. Czech President Vaclav Klaus, Havel’s political arch rival, was also present, the AP reported.
At noon church bells and sirens rang across the country and people paused to remember Havel. Factories stopped production, Christmas shoppers stood still and in town squares many people sang the Czech national anthem, the Daily Telegraph reported.
“Europe owes Vaclav Havel a profound debt,” said Cameron before leaving London, the Daily Telegraph reported. “Havel led the Czech people out of tyranny ... and he helped bring freedom and democracy to our entire continent.”
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Havel died in his sleep on Sunday at the age of 75 from respiratory illness, the Daily Telegraph reported. Since then, thousands of Czechs have paid their respects to him by walking past his body laid out in a cultural center in Prague and then at the St. Vitus Cathedral. Friday was the third and final day of national mourning for Havel.