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Pope John II About to Touch Down in Toronto

Aired July 23, 2002 - 13:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: He's 82, he's ailing, and his aides have warned him against it. But Pope John Paul II is about to touch down for what may be one of his last visits to North America. Destination: Toronto. The pope to arrive this hour on a mission to nurture this flock.

CNN's Frank Buckley is awaiting the pope's arrival. He's in Canada's largest city.

Hi, Frank.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Kyra. We are in Toronto, eagerly awaiting the arrival of Pope John Paul II. He's history most traveled poke. This is his 97th international papal trip, and there's a great deal of excitement building here in Toronto.

We can show you a live picture at the airport, at Lester Pearson International Airport, as the official welcoming party prepares to welcome Pope John Paul II, dignitaries, cardinals, and notably a number of World Youth Day representatives, children, young people who are here. That is primary visit -- reason for the visit of the holy father. Seventy-seven young people were be there to greet the pope at the airport when he arrives very shortly.

Here to help us along in our coverage today is archbishop Terrence Prendergast, the archbishop of Halifax.

And, archbishop, first of all, thank you very much for being here with us. Tell us about this special moment of the pope's arrival in Canada. This is his third trip to Canada. How special is this moment for Catholics?

ARCHBISHOP TERRENCE PRENDERGAST: Well, it's very special in that he's coming here for the World Youth Day. And I think we're hoping it will give a now thrust to youth ministry. It's already had that effect in our diocese in Nova Scotia. We had a wonderful set of days in the diocese when we welcomed people from Texas and from South Africa, and that's gone all across the country, so this is the culmination of it.

I think it's -- as we see him as very elderly, and we feel it may be one of the last time he will be coming to Canada.

BUCKLEY: The holy father is 82 years old. He is suffering from Parkinson's Disease. In recent public appearances, we have seen just how difficult for him it is to stand, to walk, to perform the -- celebrate the mass. How difficult is that for you as an archbishop here in Canada to, first of all, see that?

PRENDERGAST: Well, of course, it's painful, that anyone that you care for and who is suffering, you take it to heart. There's also a sense in which he is witnessing to us the beauty of a relationship with Jesus that last all through one's life, and including the later stages of life, illness or through suffering. And he's a bit of icon in a way in the suffering church. The church is not always going through heady days; it's gone through suffering, as it has in North America of late. And so he's a witness to that.

BUCKLEY: Let's talk about the suffering in North America, as we continue to look at live pictures at Lester B. Pearson International Airport. The cardinals is there. We can see.

PRENDERGAST: Cardinal Carter himself is suffering. He's the one in the wheelchair. He's a former archbishop of Toronto.

Mr. and Mr. Chretien, the prime minister and his wife.

BUCKLEY: The prime minister, and Alene (ph) awaiting there arrival as well, making their appearance in the hangar there, but let's talk about the crisis that is facing Catholics. There's been a great deal of publicity in the United States about the sex abuse scandals. How does this pope handle that in this trip?

PRENDERGAST: Well, I'm not sure that he will handle it. I think he feels that this is a chance perhaps to speak of very positive things, give a message to the young people, and to give them hope and understanding, and so perhaps, if he will refer to it. It might be in a veiled way or an occasional passing statement, but I don't think that will be his focus at all.

BUCKLEY: We've been told it's not part of the official program, but the young people who attend World Youth Day can bring it up in living dialogue. I suspect that you in your position have had some of this dialogue yourself with young people. What are they saying to you?

PRENDERGAST: Well, actually, many of them really don't feel it's their issue. I think they feel it's an issue that has hurt other people. They're concerned about that. I think they're struggling with their own personal issue. I think since their basic concern is to find their place in the church, I'm not sure they worry too much about that. Some do, perhaps, and maybe they're not the ones who come to World Youth Day. But the ones who are coming, I have not found them at preoccupied about this. I spend 28 hours in the rail cart coming up from Nova Scotia with our young people. It never came across the topic, but there are many other things that came up.

BUCKLEY: As we continue our conversation, we're looking live at the Alitalia MD-11 that carries the pontiff here to Toronto. He is landed, and is approaching the hangar. Some special arrangements have been made in respect of the pope's health condition. One of the primary ones, he does not disembark from the main staircase. He will in fact alight from the back end of the plane, out of view of cameras, come down on a scissors truck, and then he is wheeled around into the hangar on a platform that stands 12 inches off the ground, and then will come in and make a brief speech to the people of Canada.

You're reaction as you see the plane on the ground for the first time?

PRENDERGAST: Happy that he's here. And I remember coming back from an Alitalia flight from World Youth Day two years ago, and it's good to be home. It's good that he's here with us. We can get started now.

BUCKLEY: We can tell you that as the plane comes to a stop, and there is a protocol to everything. In fact, every moment of the pope's arrival ceremony is planned. What will happen is the pope will not appear at the front door. Other members of the official delegation will appear at the front door. They will be greeting...

(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)

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