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Analysis of Pope John Paul II's Illness

Aired February 24, 2005 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Pope John Paul rushed to the hospital for the second time this month, undergoing a tracheotomy to ease his breathing after a relapse of the flu. What's this mean for the frail 84-year-old pontiff and for the church? We'll ask the Reverend Billy Graham, Jude Dougherty, another personal friend of the pope and dean emeritus of Catholic University's school of philosophy; Father John Bartunek, who has met the pope while stationed in Rome and closely followed the making of Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ"; Delia Gallagher in Rome, managing editor of "Inside the Vatican"; Father Michael Manning, Catholic priest, host of the international program "The Word in the World"; and CNN's senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. In Rome today, Pope John Paul II underwent surgery today to put a tube in his throat to ease his breathing. The 84-year- old -- it's the second time in a month he's gone to the hospital with flu-like symptoms. According to one Italian news agency, the pontiff was conscious in his hotel room after the tracheotomy and breathing with the help of a respirator.

We have a major panel, but we're going to spend a few moments on the phone with our long-time friend, Reverend Billy Graham, evangelist since the 1940s. He has ministered in person to millions of people around the globe. He comes to use from Asheville.

How are you, Billy?

REV. BILLY GRAHAM: Hello, Larry. I appreciate the opportunity of saying a word about the pope.

KING: How are you feeling?

GRAHAM: I'm feeling fine. I've got some of the same problems he has, like Parkinson's and some problems of old age. I'm two years older than he is.

KING: What -- first, before we get to the flu and this illness, what does Parkinson's do to you as you age?

GRAHAM: Well, the main thing it does with me is it's causing me to tremble a little. And I have had a mild case compared to the pope, but I have sympathized with him and I love him as a friend, and I think he has been the greatest moral and spiritual leader of the last 100 years.

KING: Really? Why do you put him that high? GRAHAM: Yes, I think a great deal of him. I've been to see him several times. I was preaching in Krakow in the cathedral at the time he was elevated to being pope. I was there as his guest because he was a cardinal, Wojtyla. And I'll never forget that experience.

KING: Why do you place him on such a high level, say, in the history of this century?

GRAHAM: I don't know anybody else that I could put as high as he is. He's traveled the whole world, giving his version of the Gospel and spreading the Catholic faith. And I've admired him, and I've told a number of people that I'm going to continue preaching as long as the pope does. And I do not believe that we're seeing the very last of him tonight. I believe that the Lord is going to answer the prayers of many people, and he's going to gain his strength.

KING: He said recently in an article in "Newsweek," that pain -- pain that he's feeling now -- he feels is almost part of his ministry, that that's what he's led to lead (ph) about. Do you ever feel that way?

GRAHAM: I think that's right. Certainly, the problems I've had have given me a new spiritual outlook in my life and a much deepening in my life. And I feel that when I preach to people that I'm much more involved in it than I would have been otherwise.

KING: Have you ever discussed his illness with him?

GRAHAM: No, I didn't get that.

KING: Did you ever discuss Parkinson's with him?

GRAHAM: No, I didn't. But I was with him, I think, three times at the Vatican. And each time, it was a social visit. We exchanged gifts and we talked. And on one occasion, I asked him to pray for me, which he did.

KING: Finally, Billy, there are some calling for him to resign. What do you think of that?

GRAHAM: No, I think that in his mind and heart, he wants to go the final mile, and I think he should be allowed to do that because his stature around the world is so great with all religious groups and people of every ethnic background. He is the leader, spiritual and moral, of our generation.

KING: When will you, Billy, publicly preach again?

GRAHAM: Probably in June, when I come to New York, perhaps. I'm not sure yet.

KING: Well, we look forward to seeing you. The best of luck to you, Billy.

GRAHAM: Thank you and God bless you.

KING: Long-time friend Reverend Billy Graham from his home in Asheville, North Carolina.

Let's get the latest on what's happening the Vatican. Delia Gallagher is the managing editor of "Inside the Vatican." What's up to the minute the story, Delia?

DELIA GALLAGHER, MANAGING EDITOR, "INSIDE THE VATICAN": Well, the latest news we have, Larry, is that the operation was a success, the pope's spokesman coming out, telling us that the operation went successfully and that the pope is resting at the moment.

As far as the Vatican is concerned, of course, the day-to-day operations continue as they always have. We saw this just two weeks ago, when the cardinals continued in all their positions and the day- to-day functionings go as normal. Of course, there are a couple of things that the pope only can do, such as appointing bishops, very important for some of the local churches. But that is something which can be postponed until he gets back to the Vatican.

You know, one thing we want to point out here, Larry, is that this is a pope who doesn't like to be in the hospital. He wants to get back out there as soon as possible. And we've seen a pattern of this. And it's probably the reason why he's back here today, because he probably pushed it a little bit too hard two weeks ago when he got out, and he wanted to get right back into the game. And that's why he's had this relapse, and hence, the tracheotomy.

KING: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, we hear a lot about flu, of course. What connection between the flu and surgery?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he had significant breathing problems, as Delia mentioned. Twice in one month now, he's been hospitalized. He probably never really recovered the first time.

The connection between the two is when your breathing problems become so significant, oftentimes you have to try and correct that by securing the airway. What's interesting, Larry, is that most commonly, just a breathing tube is put in from the mouth directly into the airway. I actually have a model here. I just want to show you for one second...

KING: Sure.

GUPTA: ... what I'm talking about. Basically, they put the tube in from the mouth into the airway. They didn't do that in the pope, probably because his airway was so inflamed. In fact, they took this device, which is a tracheotomy device, made an incision in his neck and actually placed this directly into his airway here. So in fact, what he is now breathing through, this airway in his neck, probably connected to a ventilator, as he will be maybe for several days still, Larry. Hard to say about that. But that is the connection between the two.

KING: What effect on that illness would Parkinson's disease have? GUPTA: It's a good question. I mean, Parkinson's disease people typically think of as tremors and rigidity, as the Reverend Billy Graham was just talking about. It can affect other things as well. A couple things come to mind. The upper part of your airway is a big muscle, as well. That muscle can also become constricted. Add that to someone who already has the flu, who's also 84 years old, and it can become a big problem.

Also, people have Parkinson's have trouble just walking, getting around, also have trouble with the muscles that allow them to take deep, full breaths, which can make them more likely to develop things like pneumonia. So these are things, as well, that could contribute -- longer term, though, Larry.

KING: Jude Dougherty, how do you know the pope personally?

JUDE DOUGHERTY, DEAN EMERITUS, CATHOLIC U. SCHOOL OF PHILOSOPHY: Well, my relationship goes back to 1976. He was in this country, I think, mainly for the Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. He had agreed to lecture at Harvard and at Berkeley, and a friend called me and said, Can you make a platform available for him in Washington? So I knew about him as a professional philosopher.

Friends had reported on his activity in Krakow, organizing colloquia. I was never a part of those colloquia, but I knew enough to recognize that he would be a very interesting guest. So I had him to Washington at the Catholic University of America, where he spoke as a philosopher. I'm a professional philosopher, and it was in that capacity that I had him first to Washington.

KING: Was he an eloquent speaker?

DOUGHERTY: Well, eloquent is not the word for it. Let's say he was profound, and profound in a way in which most of us were not accustomed to recognize. He comes out of a phenomenological tradition, and he was, in effect, giving as a lecture part of his book, "The Acting Person." He was talking about community, individuality, sacrifice, but in a language that sounded strange to most American ears. It was not a lecture that one would give as a homily in a church. It was a professional lecture, and it required that type of attention on the part of the audience.

The audience in Washington consisted mainly of the philosophical community, representatives of the Jewish community because of the Krakow contact, and others. No one who attended that lecture has ever forgotten him. I have people coming to me yet who remember it and thank me for having been a part of the audience on that occasion.

KING: Let me get a break, and we'll come back and bring everybody else into the panel. We'll include your phone calls later. Don't go away.


GIANNI LETTA, ITALIAN PRIME MINISTER'S SPOKESMAN (through translator): When he woke up with the same spirit, he went like this with his hand, as though he wanted to say, I'm still going to approach you. So it means he's fine. The doctors are satisfied with the way he has undergone the surgery, and also as far as the first hours after the surgery.



KING: Father John Bartunek has met the pope twice. He's the author of "Inside the Passion: An Insider's Look at the Making of `The Passion of the Christ,'" currently stationed in Rome, but with us tonight in Washington. What were the occasions upon which you met him, Father?

FATHER JOHN BARTUNEK, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE PASSION": Well, when I was studying as a seminarian in Rome, I had a chance to serve the pope's mass.

You know, this is a -- it's a very emotional moment when the pope goes into the hospital for me, and I think for -- I was -- I'm a recently ordained priest. And this pope actually had a deep influence on my own vocation to the priesthood. Fifteen years ago, I wasn't even a Catholic. And I was a college student traveling and studying in Italy. I went to midnight mass in St. Peter's with the Holy Father, and I was inspired by his spirit of prayer, by his presence. And it was the beginning of a journey that led me to the Catholic faith.

And then 10 years later, I was a seminarian studying in Rome, and I had a chance to be with the pope on the altar in St. Peter's Basilica, assisting him, looking into his eyes. He really is -- in a sense, became kind of a spiritual father for my own vocation.

KING: Do you understand his strength now?

BARTUNEK: Oh, I think I understand his strength better every time I hear him, every time I see him. He's really carried the banner of courage. I think he's shown us what it is to be a man, to be a man who follows Christ, who's willing to stand up for what he believes, who's willing to sacrifice himself for others. He's been an inspiration for me, and not just for me, but for all the seminarians that I studied with. We look to him constantly. We see him, we listen to his words and we're inspired to keep going, to fight the good fight.

KING: Father Michael Manning, you were telling me how you were meeting with a cardinal who was there, of course, when they voted him in.

FATHER MICHAEL MANNING, HOST, "THE WORD IN THE WORLD": Cardinal Manning was the cardinal of Los Angeles, and we were having a meeting together. Having the same name together, we had a little bit of a friendship. And I asked him, I said, What happened? You can't tell all the secrets that go on in the conclave. But he said it was very wonderful, that they were altogether. And the vote, I think, was going between two people, and it was rather contentious. And then Cardinal Manning just said very simply, The Holy Spirit took over, and all of a sudden, there was just a flood of feeling of support for this Pole. I mean, who would expect a man from Poland to all of a sudden take over the reins of the Catholic church? And he just kind of smiled and he said, The Holy Spirit moved...

KING: And he is an enigma, in that areas of church -- he's extremely strong -- extremely conservative.

MANNING: Very conservative. Well, conservative, believing that's the truth.

KING: Politically, he's a socialist.

MANNING: Yes. Very much so.

KING: He grew up under communism and fascism.


KING: Thinks we should share the wealth more, opposed to capital punishment. What's your read on him?

MANNING: I think that he's a man who's deeply dedicated, trying to touch the reality of Jesus. And I think Jesus is the same way. Jesus is very conservative, very conservative with regard to the importance of making sure that you're loving in the right way, but at the same time, a wonderful, wonderful openness to loving other people -- anybody...

KING: Very opposed to...

MANNING: ... Jews, Muslims...

KING: Very opposed to war, right, this pope?

MANNING: Very opposed to war. He came out and he said, No. He said, This isn't the time. Please. Something else than this.

KING: Is there talk, Delia, of resignation?

GALLAGHER: Well, of course, there is speculation always that the pope might resign. It is possible within the cannons of the Catholic church for a pope to resign, providing he does it of his own free will and with his full mental capacities. So the pope would have to write a letter saying that he resigns.

However, this pope has stated on a number of occasions that that is not his intention. He sees this as a vocation, Larry. This isn't a job from which he can resign. He is the father of this church. And furthermore, it's a vocation which he believes God has given to him, and it will be God who decides when he should go.

KING: Dr. Gupta, he says in a recent article in "Newsweek" that suffering is good. Suffering is what he's called to do. Medically, how bad is he suffering? GUPTA: Well, I think that, you know, one good piece of all of this is that suffering or pain can be fairly well controlled. I imagine that before he went into the hospital and was taken from the Vatican -- which, by the way, has a very good medical facility in and of itself -- was taken to the hospital, he was probably having some distress, some difficulty breathing. And that can be uncomfortable, for sure. But as far as pain goes, either before the operation and certainly, post-operation, I'm sure his pain is actually fairly well controlled, Larry.

KING: We'll take a break, be back with more. We'll go to calls at the bottom of the hour. Don't go away.


KING: On his first visit to the United States as pope, Pope John Paul went back to Catholic University and other locations he had visited. Remember that, Jude?

DOUGHERTY: I do, indeed. And I think his visit as pope exemplified an aspect of his character. I think he was very pious, that is, paying a debt to people who had hosted him when he was merely archbishop of Krakow. He went back to every place he had been before, and as far as I know, nowhere else. He came to Catholic University. Of course, he went to Chicago. He went to Iowa. He had been to all those places before, where he had formed friendships, and I think he was paying his former hosts back in a way. And he's remained faithful to them over the years. I have always had access to him when visiting Rome, the opportunity to chat over a meal and to go through some of the problems confronted by the church.

Now, earlier, someone said, Who would have thought they would have elected the Pole? Well, I did. When Montini died -- that is, Paul VI -- I was traveling in Greece with a colleague of mine from Holland. And I could hardly pronounce his name, Wojtyla, but I said, They will elect the Pole. And my rather sophisticated colleague said, Well, they would never elect an outsider. He wouldn't know where all the bodies were buried.


DOUGHERTY: Well, those of us who have now had 26, 27 years of his pontificate, know what an attractive human being he is, even after the assassination attempt. It is my impression the church would find it very difficult to find a superior man, someone superior to John Paul II. As a matter of fact, on the day he was elected, I told my family, Today we will have a new pope, and he will be our friend, Wojtyla, and he will call himself John Paul II. And at about 1:00 o'clock, my wife called me and said, Guess what? And of course, it was done.

KING: He's also an extraordinarily handsome man. Father Bartunek, you were raised in what faith?

BARTUNEK: I was an evangelical Christian before becoming a Catholic. KING: OK. But what happened -- what was his presence that night when you were in St. Peter's that drew you to him to eventually become a priest? It was him, wasn't it?

BARTUNEK: It was him. You know, when you're a college student, you do what you can to get as close as you can to important people. So I got my hands on some almost front row tickets. I was sitting with the diplomatic corps in St. Peter's Basilica, even though I wasn't Catholic. But I wanted to get close to him because I'd heard so much about him.

And the thing that struck me during that mass, even though I didn't understand what the mass was, was how he spent whole time praying. He wasn't on stage. It wasn't a big production. He was praying. There was connection with God going on there. And it stuck with me.

About a year-and-a-half later, I was back in Europe, and I had a chance to go to World Youth Day in Czestochowa. This was 1990, just after the Berlin Wall had come down and communism was crumbling, and it was the first time that young people from the countries of Eastern Europe had been able to travel, to leave their country. And we all gathered around John Paul II in Czestochowa. The whole city was just a river of young people from all different countries, and he brought it together. We didn't speak the same language, but we communicated perfectly. No one slept. We spent all night in the streets, just talking, getting to know each other. And it was him. It was him who was inspiring us to really look for something more meaningful in life and to break down borders. He really has been, you know, all through my journey a real inspiration.

KING: Father Manning, who will be the determining factor, if he cannot lead? Is it all his decision?

MANNING: Very much his decision. The movement on to another pope I don't think would ever happen until he dies.

KING: He will not resign.

MANNING: I don't think he would resign. I think that it would be -- how -- would you imagine someone wanting to pick up the job with him in the shadows? I think it could be a cause of division. And so the thought of -- if he's incapacitated, perhaps there'll be a time of an interim government, and allowing the things to move ahead, but not -- not that he would resign. I don't think so.

KING: Dr. Gupta, does Parkinson's affect mental facilities?

GUPTA: Typically not, Larry. You know, what you usually see is the tremor that is so characteristic, some rigidity of muscles, as well. People often develop what's known as "masked facies," meaning they have no expression, really, on their face. And that gives people the impression that they're not listening or not engaged, when, in fact, their mental faculties can be quite sharp -- normal, in fact, Larry.

KING: Delia, what is the mood, if we can get a prevailing mood, there in Rome?

GALLAGHER: Well, frankly, Larry, the mood is very calm at the moment. People are happy that the operation was a success and are just waiting to see how this plays out. The main concern here at the moment is for the pope's voice because we have to see what are the consequences of a tracheotomy on the pope's voice, which is really one of his last great instruments. You know, he was barely even able to speak very loudly in the last few days, but he does eke out those words, and those are important. And so there is some concern about how that's going to work in the next few days and weeks.

KING: Dr. Gupta, what effect does tracheotomy have on the speaking voice?

GUPTA: Certainly, while he has the tracheotomy in, he won't be able to speak. Most likely, he's connected with a ventilator now and, you know, just cannot make any noise now. Afterwards, typically, Larry, once the tracheotomy comes out, you can speak, and because the incision's actually below where the voice box is, your voice can actually return to normal, as long as he's healthy in other ways.

KING: We'll take a break and come back, start to include your phone calls, and I'll reintroduce our outstanding panel. Don't go away.


KING: We're back. Our guest earlier was Reverend Billy Graham discussing the condition of the Pope in the Vatican. Our panel remains, they are in Washington, Jude Dougherty, the Dean Emeritus, School of Philosophy, Catholic University. Knows the pope personally.

Father John Bartunek, has meet the pope twice, author of "Inside The Passion: an Insider's Look at the Making of the Passion of the Christ." Currently stationed in Rome.

In Rome is Delia Gallagher, the managing editor of "Inside the Vatican."

Here in Los Angeles, Father Michael Manning, host of word in the world.

And in Atlanta, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the CNN senior medical correspondent.

We'll go to some calls. Phoenix, hello.

CALLER: Hi. As a Polish-American...

KING: Phoenix are you there?

CALLER: Yes, hello.

KING: Yes, go ahead.

CALLER: Yes, as a polish Catholic American, I've been thrilled to have John Paul. Have a two part question. Does anyone have any idea who might follow in his foot steps, and do you think that he has opened the way for a non-Roman participants in the Papacy?

KING: Good question. Jude, do you want to take it?

DOUGHERTY: Well, I am not an authority on -- as it were, inside the Vatican. But the successor might come as a surprise. I have a list that is familiar to you, I'm sure, but I wouldn't be able to at this time around predict who might become pope.

KING: Father Bartunek, could it conceivably be an African?

BARTUNEK: Oh, definitely. The holy spirit's been making surprising choices for the last 2,000 years. And he might -- you know, there's an old saying, they say in Italy, however, that any cardinal who goes into the conclave popeable, comes out of the conclave still a cardinal. So, making predictions is always kind of dangerous. You never know what could happen. It could be -- you know it could be someone from Africa, it could be someone from South America. I think one of the things this papacy has really contributed to is reawakening a sense of the universality of the Catholic Church. That we're all one family on all the continents throughout the globe.

KING: Delia, are there strong rumors as to who it might be?

GALLAGHER: No, Larry. There's a lot of speculation, as usual. But one the things this pope has done, has opened up the College of Cardinals to an international representation, and so that means that the likelihood the pope, the next pope could come from a different continent, certainly a different country, is more likely than at any time before. So, that is something to keep in mind.

KING: Dr. Gupta, what's the effect of surgery on an 84-year-old person?

GUPTA: You know, operation itself is a very common operation, tracheotomy, done at every hospital probably in the world. The biggest concern or bigger concern, I should say, really is the general anesthesia, Larry. A lot of people know about this, but general anesthesia can be very hard on anybody, when you're 84-years-old and have all these other medical problems that's what we've been talking about, that's really the bigger western. He should bounce back, as we say in the medical lingo, within a few days, I think. He's in his hospital room now. I think we'll probably see him sitting up even in the next couple of days, hopefully engaging, not speaking, but engaging through gestures. Communicating that way in the next couple of days well.

KING: Father Manning, could we have a non-Italian pope again?

MANNING: Oh, certainly. Certainly. And you -- and with the way it's shifted from being exclusively Italian to now including all continents, it's very, very open to that. And the world is continually, especially with TV, able to see and know people like it never did before. We can know people in Brazil and Mexico.

KING: We could have a Hispanic pope?

MANNING: Oh, very much so. That's a very good possibility. We know how much he loves, for example, Mexico. We thought of perhaps the cardinal of Mexico. That'd be interesting to have that kind of a move in that direction.

KING: Desert Hot Springs, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. This is Mary from Desert Hot Springs.


CALLER: You partially answered my question, but how long does this take? Is someone on their list that's picked out for this?

KING: Jude, what's the -- what happens? Let's say the pope -- lets say the pope passes on. We all pass on. What happens?

DOUGHERTY: Well, we have authorities on who constitute papabilia (ph) in every newspaper, I guess, in every center worldwide. The cardinals who are not beyond the age of being part of the electorate meet, and it takes place as long as required. This time around, I think there are some restrictions on how many votes are required. I'm not privy to that type of information, so I can't honest honestly answer that question.

KING: Do you know it, Father Manning?

MANNING: Well, what happens is there's probably, if it were to happen right now, there's 119 cardinals that would be eligible. When you reach the age of 80, you're no longer eligible to go to that. And it's going to be a two-thirds vote with 119, that would be two-thirds plus one.

KING: Is anyone else present other than the cardinals?

MANNING: They do allow certain people like medical people, that the -- the pope has written -- the pope has written a 28-page explanation of what's going to happen at the election that follows his death.

KING: Do people run for the office? Like someone get up and make a speech, I should be pope.

MANNING: I would imagine that there probably are political factions in that. And I don't think you would stand up and say, "vote for me." But i Would imagine if there -- if there's was a conservative direction or a liberal direction, there would be a grouping of people together, and trying to get their thoughts across with this person.

KING: Delia, would you gather speeches are made on behalf of candidates?

GALLAGHER: Well, here's what happens, Larry, from the time that the pope dies, you've got about a 9 to 15-day period of funeral services. And those funeral services, Masses, are held by the cardinals. And the cardinals during that time give a homily, and they give an idea of where, maybe, the direction of the church should be going. They don't, obviously, name names for the next pope. But they give us an idea of what they're looking at, more progressive or from another continent, as you say. You know, the growing Catholic communities in South America and Africa.

So, we take close attention to what they say during that time. And then the conclave begins about 15 to 20 days after the death of the pope. And that is when they will go in and obviously, politic a little bit amongst themselves, because they have to come to a two- thirds plus one majority.

KING: During those days, Father Bartunek, is there an acting pope?

BARTUNEK: Is there an acting pope? The head of the College of Cardinals is kind of in charge of the process. He's not an acting pope. It's not an office that you can kind of take over for a temporary period. It's an anointing of the holy spirit. But Cardinal Ratzinger who is head of the College of Cardinals, is now the senior cardinal will kind of be in charge of the process. I'd like to mention, Larry, when you meet the cardinals, the men who will be making the decision, you know, what's foremost in their mind for most of them -- I've met a few of them -- is really what's best for the church now. And where is God leading the church. And how can the church help the world, and bring the message out to the world better. That's what they're thinking about when they're in that process.

KING: Dr. Gupta, would you gather medical exams are given to all the leading candidates?

GUPTA: You know, that's an interesting question. I don't know whether -- what sort of medical fitness they have to have in order to become the pope. I imagine there are physical exams that are sort of routine in nature. I don't know how invasive they are. For example, if you're at risk of heart disease. If you're at risk of having a heart attack, is that something that precludes for example. I don't know the answer to that.

KING: Tampa, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello, sir.


CALLER: Thank you for taking my call, sir. I'm a Catholic, and not so much that this panel, but the last few years, especially since the pope has been ill, we believe Catholics believe, that the pope's position has been given to the pope by God himself. So in saying that, I would like one of the panelists to address that. How can, especially a Catholic, ask a pope to resign or step down if his position was given by God himself? It's almost blasphemy? Thank you very much.

KING: Jude, do you feel that way, that it would be blasphemy to ask the pope to resign?

DOUGHERY: Well, years ago someone put the question to him, are you prepared to resign? And he responded humorously, to whom would I submit my resignation? I think he's going to die with his boots on. And we're seeing through an illness that has to be an inspiration to many who are suffering around the world. I think what is remarkable is how attractive he is as a human being, even under these conditions, to young people.

KING: Very well said. We'll take a break and come back. More phone calls. Don't go away.



NICOLA CERBINO, GEMELLI HOSPITAL SPOKESMAN (through translator): The flu that led to the hospitalization of the pope at the Gemelli Hospital had some complications over the last few days, with episodes of lack of breathing, a difficulty in breathing, which were already caused by stenosis. This critical situation led to an elective tracheotomy. The result was positive, and the pope is fine, and he's going to spend the night in his room.


KING: Delia Gallagher in Rome, managing editor of "Inside the Vatican," give us a little idea here of first, if he were to pass away, do they announce it immediately? Is the church open enough to let the world now? And then what's the process? Cardinals come from all over the world?

GALLAGHER: Absolutely, Larry. Well, in the first instance, they have to ascertain the pope's death. And they have a little tradition to do that. There's a man called the chamberlain, who's the man that's in charge during the time that the pope passes away until a new one is elected. He's a Spanish cardinal, Martinez Somalo. He has to tap the pope on the head three times after the doctor has declared him dead and call his name. And when the pope doesn't respond, he tells another cardinal, the Cardinal Ruini, who's the vicar of Rome, the pope's sort of bishop in Rome, and Cardinal Ruini makes that announcement to the press. So that's the tradition, and those are the technicalities.

Of course in this day and age, with TV and wire reports, we might get something out before all of that is able to take place -- Larry.

KING: And then the cardinals gather from all over the world, and there's about a 15-day period before they vote?

GALLAGHER: Then they've got to have -- exactly, you've got to have nine to 15 days, at least nine days, for the papal funeral masses. And those are those masses that the cardinals who are currently in Rome will be giving, and will be giving their homilies at in their talks. Then during that time, the other cardinals from around the world will have to come into Rome in time for the conclave to take place. The chamberlain, the Spanish cardinal, will set the date for the conclave to begin, and that is that time when they go into the Sistine Chapel and they elect the new pope. They do a couple of hours in the morning, two ballots in the morning, two ballots in the afternoon, and that's when we'll see the black smoke, if they haven't elected a pope, or the white smoke, to signify that they have elected a new pope.

KING: Does the body lie in state?

GALLAGHER: And the body will have been buried at that point. The body lies in state for the nine days during the funeral masses.

KING: Usually open casket?

GALLAGHER: Presumably, open casket, yes. There is usually a huge line of people that want to go through St. Peter's to give their last regards to the pope. And that's why they do a kind of state funeral for the pope here.

KING: Father Manning, you say no, you don't think...?

MANNING: No, I was just thinking of the -- they had a terrible problem with the death of Pius the XII. The embalming was done improperly, and they had to really close the -- I was just thinking of that.

KING: Port Richie, Florida. Hello.

CALLER: Yeah, hi, good evening, Larry.


CALLER: This question is for Father Manning. Father Manning, in the history of our Roman Catholic Church, have we ever had a pope resign because of health reasons?


CALLER: I'd like to say one more thing, God bless (UNINTELLIGIBLE). Thank you.

MANNING: Yes, it has happened in the past. But it certainly is not something that is going to be easily taken at this time.

The big concern is that there might be a division. That as soon as he would resign, and let's say the new pope were to make a statement that he felt was really important contrary to what John Paul had been moving in one direction, it could cause great division. And for that reason, I think we're going to try to hold on.

KING: But the pope is the word of God to you, right? He speaks for God, is that correct?

MANNING: At times. At times. KING: At times? When does he or when doesn't he?

MANNING: Well, he might say "I like Coca-Cola," and that doesn't mean that all Catholics are going to buy Coca-Cola, but when he makes a statement about morals, when he comes and says about the Lord, and he speaks about abortion. Yes, we speak...

KING: Waldport, Oregon, hello.

CALLER: Yes, I would like to send my blessings to the pope and prayers from our church, and I also have a question. The question is where is he laid when he does die?

KING: Father Bartunek, do you know?

BARTUNEK: Well, typically, and especially most recent popes, are buried right in St. Peter's Basilica on the lower level. They have different crypts dedicated to different popes. You can visit Pope Paul VI's tomb there, Pope Pius XII, Pope John XXIII, blessed Pope John XXIII, was -- his crypt was actually moved to the upper part of the basilica so that visitors can pray in front of his tomb now. So I imagine -- I haven't seen preparations, but I imagine that he will be buried in the lower level of St. Peter's Basilica there in Rome.

KING: Halifax, Nova Scotia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, good evening, Larry, I watch your show all the time.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: I have a question for Dr. Sanjay Gupta. What kind of an impact could this have on him now after having this surgery today?

GUPTA: Yeah, you know, when you look at operations like this, several things have changed. First of all, he's going to have this device in his neck, limiting his ability to speak, really to communicate as well. He's going to be on the ventilator as well for some time probably. If all goes well and he doesn't develop a pneumonia or any other life-threatening sort of events, he should be able to recover from this. The period of time, though, is hard to say. A couple of weeks, probably at a minimum, a month or so, we're looking at possibly as well.

KING: Fear is infection?

GUPTA: Yeah, very much so. When you talk about the flu, Larry, everyone quotes these numbers, you know, tens of thousands of people die every year from the flu. It's not the flu itself. It's really the complications of flu, like a bacterial infection of the lungs, a bronchitis, things like that, Larry.

KING: Carmel, California, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Larry. Does the pope receive a flu shot prior to his recent illness?


KING: Do you know? Don't tell me they didn't have a shot for the pope. Jude, do you know if he got a flu shot?

DOUGHERTY: No, I would have no way of knowing that.

KING: You know that, Father -- who's that, Jude?

GUPTA: Sanjay. Yeah, we've checked into it, and he did get a flu shot, Larry.

KING: I figured he was eligible.

GUPTA: That's right.

KING: Over 80, you know, a little on the ill side. There's humor in everything.

We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: Delia Gallagher, before you -- Delia has to leave us -- before you leave us, what will the situation be in the Vatican after he comes back? Will there be like a mini clinic there? What will be set up?

GALLAGHER: Well, absolutely. I think that they'll be closely monitoring him in his own papal apartments, as they have been, Larry. But the problem of course there is that he's only got a few nuns and the priests around him, a very close circle, whereas here at the Gemelli Hospital, he's got a big team of doctors and nurses who can monitor him in a medical way 24 hours a day.

KING: Delia, thanks very much for your always great contribution.

Dr. Gupta, wouldn't it sound from that that it's best to keep him in the hospital as long as possible?

GUPTA: Yeah, you know, it's interesting, as soon as they made the mention that they're going to transfer him from the Vatican to the hospital, sort of gets our antennas up. It would probably make sense to him to be in the hospital, especially if he's still on the ventilator, Larry. We've talked about that. And after someone has this operation, they usually are on this machine to give them breaths and to make them more comfortable so they don't have to struggle at all to breath on their own. And that's certainly that would be in a hospital only, Larry.

KING: Rockford, Illinois, hello.

CALLER: Hi, how are you doing.

KING: Fine. CALLER: I wanted to say first off, all this stuff is kind of depressing about where he'll be buried. I think that he'll make it to be 100. He's a strong man. For all the priests that are on the panel, if I could ask the pope a question, I would like to say to him but I can't so I'm going to ask you -- what do you think is going on in the world? I mean, with the war, the tsunami, California fires, all these floods? I mean, it states in the Bible a lot of these things, and I -- it's just kind of scary.

KING: Father Bartunek, we'll ask it of you.

BARTUNEK: Well, I think that the natural disasters, the difficulties of the wars, those were all spoken about by Christ himself, that they're going to come, they're going to be there. They're kind of like birth pangs, birth pangs leading toward the culmination of history.

But on the other hand, you know, these kind of things have been happening nonstop for the last 2,000 years. It's just that we didn't know about them because we didn't have TVs all around the world and radios. So when there were natural disasters halfway across the globe, we didn't hear about it where we were living. We only heard about the ones that were in the local area.

So I think our awareness of these kinds of difficulties is growing. And I think that's -- you know, the pope recently wrote a document, made a statement about the use of the means of social communication, the media, which can help build a sense of compassion, a sense of brotherhood throughout the globe, throughout the world, in the face of these kinds of difficulties and disasters.

KING: If it's been going on for 2,000 years, Father Manning, does that mean the message has failed?

MANNING: Not at all. I'm filled with all kind of positive belief that as the caring and the love and the challenge that Christ gives to care for the poor, like people like Mother Teresa reaching out to people that are dying in the streets...


KING: ... why are there people dying in the streets?

MANNING: Well, it calls me, especially with that and here in the wealth that we have here in the United States to be more responsible to try and to make sure that that doesn't happen. The call, the call means if I'm blessed and I see people not blessed, I need to go out and take care of them.

KING: Dr. Gupta, before we leave, it's going to take a special kind of guy to get through this, isn't it?

GUPTA: You know, he's got a lot of things going against him, Larry, as we've talked about that a lot. Eighty-four years old, a lot of medical problems. But on the other hand, he's gotten through a lot of these things already as well, and certainly he has access to some of the best medical care in the world, not only in the hospital, but even when he goes back to the Vatican. It's going to be a long road. And no one would dispute that. But he has some things very much in his favor.

KING: Yeah. Thank you all very, very much.

And we, of course, wish him nothing but the best. I'll be back in a couple of minutes to tell you about tomorrow night. Don't go away.


KING: A rarity in the Northeast, a man is scheduled to be executed shortly. We're going to have the families of the victims as our special guests tomorrow night.

Aaron Brown is standing by to host "NEWSNIGHT" out of New York. He is a raconteur. He is a -- oh, I like the striped tie.


KING: It's a nice look. I like the stripes.

BROWN: Thank you.

KING: And Aaron will be picking up right on where we left off on the situation in the Vatican. Mr. Brown, it's yours.

BROWN: Thank you, Mr. King.


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