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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Panel Discusses the Life of Pope John Paul II

Aired April 1, 2005 - 21:00   ET

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


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Pope John Paul II clings to life in what the Vatican says appears to be his final hours as millions upon millions around the world watch, wait and pray. We'll have all the latest with Vatican insiders from Rome, former first lady Nancy Reagan and more, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We have got lots of guests here, as we give you the scene. It's about 4:00 a.m. in Rome. Of course, early in the morning, dawn approaching in a couple of hours. And the pope hanging on precariously to life.

James Caviezel who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ" will be joining us shortly from Palm Desert.

In our studios here is Father Michael Manning. He's host of "The World and the Word" and "Society of the Divine World." He's pastor of St. Anthony's church in San Bernardino.

And you were telling me you that thought that Cardinal Mahoney of Los Angeles would be heading there tonight.

FATHER MICHAEL MANNING, THE WORLD AND THE WORD: I just heard that on the news as I was coming into the studio.

KING: Which tells you what?

MANNING: Well, it seems they're going to perhaps move things rather quickly. The two week period that they ordinarily give was one of saying, you have to get in your carriage or you have to get in your boat and come all the way to Rome. Now with airplanes it's much quicker.

Probably, they're going to be getting together and perhaps asking questions of one another of what they're going to do after the pope dies or even before he passes.

KING: Do they pre-politic?

MANNING: Oh, certainly they do. I'm sure they do. And when you say politic...

KING: Do some of them want to be pope? And made that known to fellow cardinals?

MANNING: I'm sure they would. I don't know. But I can't imagine someone not doing that. You have to play the right political cards and what not in order to be favorable to the others.

How do you do that? That's a fascinating thing.

KING: Let's check in with CNN correspondent Walter Rodgers in Rome. What's the latest at that early hour there, Walt?

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Larry, Pope John Paul II has been hovering between life and death for the last 24 and 36 hours. And now, he appears perilously close to the latter. All day, the Vatican has been preparing the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics for the end of this pontiff.

Earlier Friday, the cardinals, some of the cardinals here in the Vatican were summoned to the pope's bedside to say their last farewell. There was a very large mass at St. Peters Basilica. And at that time, the vicar of Rome, Cardinal Camillo Ruini said that -- and this was hours ago -- that the pope was now touching and seeing Christ.

Additionally, and well before that earlier Friday, there was a medical report saying that the pope was lucid. And at that point, the pope was told of the gravity of his health crisis. And indeed, he asked, according to Vatican officials, to be read from the New Testament the scripture of what is called "the Third Hour." "The Third Hour," being the time when Jesus was on the cross and traditionally gave up the ghost at about 3:00 in the afternoon. Very telling that Pope John Paul II in his last hours of consciousness and lucidity wanted that scripture read to him.

In St. Peters Square this evening, there was great public prayer. 70,000 people there at one point, praying, holding a candlelight vigil. And what was overpowering about that was the sense of silence there. No one made any noise -- Larry.

KING: Thank you very much. Walter Rogers will be on the scene throughout the night, of course.

Let's check in in Denver, Colorado with Sister Helen Prejean, the famed Roman Catholic nun, author of the acclaimed best-seller "Dead Man Walking" which was made into one of the best movies ever made, I think. Her next book is "The Death of Innocence: An Eye-witness Account of Wrongful Execution."

The pope has many contradictory qualities, sister. He is very conservative in the church, very liberal= socially with regard to rich nations, poor nations. And regard to capital punishment a staunch opponent. I gather that brings you even closer to him, right?

SISTER HELEN PREJEAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN: Yes. I'm thinking very much of him right now, Larry. Because so many times I would appeal to him in the case of somebody about to be executed. But the thing I'm most grateful to the pope is that he really took the teaching of the Catholic Church and changed it into principled opposition against the death penalty so that there are no exceptions, which he made clear when he came to St. Louis in '99 saying even those who have done terrible crimes have a dignity that must not be taken from them.

And I was very happy that providentially I got a chance to have a dialogue with him about this issue, because in his encyclical, the "gospel of Life," he had left a big loophole. And I said, your holiness, you're words, if you say the state can execute in cases of absolute necessity, your words are going to be quoted for death. And I urged him to close the loophole, which he did by changing the catechism.

So, I have nothing but gratitude for him in the way he helped the church come to principled opposition against the death penalty.

KING: Did he ever talk to any leaders, to your knowledge, out of executing?

PREJEAN: Well, when he was in St. Louis actually, with the governor, a man who was about to be executed, he talked him out of that execution and did save the life of that one individual.

What's even more important, though, than intervening for individuals was to change the teaching of the church. See, the traditional 1600 year teaching of the church was that the state had the right to take life for grave or grievous crimes in order to defend society.

Well, in his encyclical, "The Gospel of Life" in '95, the pope pushed the death penalty to the edge saying modern societies have a way to defend ourselves without executing. But then what he did was, he cut out of the catechism the criteria for extremely grave crimes, to remove that as a criteria on which the death penalty is based.

KING: Delia Gallagher is at the Vatican. She's managing editor "Inside the Vatican," CNN Vatican analyst, been reporting for us all day.

How does this work, now? Do they issue any kind of releases at various times? What happens?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Larry, in fact, over the past few days we've been surprised at the amount of information that has been released already on the pope's health. And at this stage, frankly, we expect the next release will be the final one.

The press office is open. The pope spokesman is on hand. But We don't expect there will be any more official news on the pope's health until the final bulletin -- Larry.

KING: Do you know, Delia, if doctors are around him? Who's with him now? Where is he now? Who's with him?

GALLAGHER: He is in his papal apartments presumably. That's not been confirmed. The Vatican hasn't confirmed exactly where he is or who is with him. But I can conjecture that he is in his papal apartments, because the pope himself didn't want to return to the hospital. He asked to stay at the Vatican. With him surely is his personal secretary, Don Stanislaw Dziwisz who has been by his side for 40 years, even before he became pope. He is a polish man and was helping the pope as his personal secretary in Krakow. There are also several Polish aids there and some Polish nuns who are in charge of running the household. So that this core group.

I don't think at this time that the cardinals are visiting him. We do know that earlier he received visits from the secretary of state, from Cardinal Ratzinger, and from an American cardinal, Cardinal Chofka (ph), who is the governor of the Vatican City-State.

So he saw some of his top curia cardinals this morning. However, I think at this moment, as we saw in hospital stays, the cardinals tend to stay away. They like to give the pope his privacy. And so I assume aside from his personal aides and the doctors, those are all the people that are in the room at this moment -- Larry.

KING: Thanks, Delia.

We'll be back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.

A reminder, we will have live editions of this program Saturday and Sunday night as well. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This the Vatican, about 12 minutes after 4:00 in the morning. There'll be no taped programing later tonight. Sometimes -- most of the times we repeat this program, but CNN International will be taking over later to carry you. So, anything you see on CNN will be live as it happens.

Joining us from Rome is Jeff Israely, "Time" magazine's Rome bureau chief.

This pope has so many facets, how, Jeff, will he be remembered remembered?

JEFF ISRAELY, "TIME" MAGAZINE ROME BUREAU CHIEF: Well, I think he'll be remembered substantially in two basic ways, as a man who, first of all, within the church, he redefined the papacy. He brought the papacy out to the people. Traveled the world, 100 papal trips, went to the farthest corners of the earth and made it -- made the papacy a missionary job, as well as the administrative leader of the church. And of course, he'll also be remembered as a world leader, who helped bring about the fall of communism. Who spoke out about injustice, who soon after helping to bring about the fall of communism criticized the excesses of capitalism. Someone with a real ear for global issues as well.

KING: A socialist at heart, right, Jeff, politically?

ISRAELY: I don't think he would use that word. But he certainly, his heart was with the poor, with the disadvantaged, with those who needed a hand up. But his heart was in many places many issues. He's talked about the doctrine of life, and life, in terms of what we would call social issues, abortion, euthanasia, would be considered a conservative. But life in other issues means helping- poor people to live better. So he had many facets, but there's a unique continuity to it. And he's a true believer, there's no doubt about that.

KING: I have often said, Father Manning, that the one person I would like to have interviewed would have been this pope, because he grew up among Jews, lived under Hitler and Stalin. Playwright, poet, spoke five languages, been shot, kissed the person who shot him. Very conservative in church matters, very liberal in matters of rich and poor nations. What -- he had a kind of quality, though, that he was nice to look at, right? Something about him?

MANNING: One of the things that I liked was his humor. I remember one of the early pictures. Have you ever seen somebody go like this, you know, when their pretending like they're superman or something, he did that with a bunch of kids. He pretended like this. And the kids -- I think the children reaction to him, young people was indicative of this wealth of goodness and joy.

KING: A very handsome man.

MANNING: Good man. And articulate and able to express himself with a lot of fun in saying, let's go skiing, lets go kayaking. And lets have a good time. And so many times we think of a pope, and gosh could a pope wear pants. And all of a sudden, you saw him there. You saw him hiking and moving. And all of a sudden the humanness of that. And it made the relationship between sometimes a church that can be so dogmatic and so distant, all of a sudden we started to see the closeness of Christ and say, he cares, he cares about the poor.

KING: Sister Prejean, what was he like to be with?

PREJEAN: I met him when we accompanied the body of Joseph O'Dell (ph). Joseph O'Dell was executed in Virginia. The pope had intervened in his case. And when I met him, actually, you know how they have a photographer taking your picture. The picture of me looking at the pope, was like, because he came in and looked so frail, this was in July, 1997, but very vibrant. And he -- I thanked him for changing, for helping the church take a stand against the death penalty. And he handed me a rosary and kissed me on the forehead, and the young woman lawyers whose had tried so hard to save the life of Joseph O'dell.

He was very much his own person. And the word I have from Vatican officials and people close there say, he personally intervened to change the church teaching on the death penalty. So when he really believed in something -- and I believe he did that because he was close to poor people. And he knew only poor people were going to be selected by governments to die. I think it was one of the factors that made him take such strong leadership on the death penalty.

KING: Jeff, the quality of feelings for him, world-wide, do you think?

ISRAELY: I didn't hear the question, Larry.

KING: Do you think the quality of feeling for him is world-wide?

ISRAELY: I think so. We've heard reports over the past two years, that he is -- he is well loved in the Muslim world. And -- and the church itself reaches world-wide now, from Asia to Africa to Latin America. I think he -- he manages to communicate with people from all different countries, from all different faiths, and he's grown into this role of world leader. That goes beyond just the leader of the one billion Catholic faithful. It's a personal connection with people that he's got.

KING: Very well said. We'll come back with more as the pope nears death. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now on the phone is former First Lady Nancy Reagan, who I know met with this pope on several meetings. What are your thoughts about him Nancy?

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: It was more than several. I met with him seven times, and twice alone. Which was a really wonderful, wonderful experience. But, you know, he and Ronnie had so many things in common, they both were actors.

KING: Yes.

REAGAN: They both loved the outdoors, loved sports. They both adored young people. They both had great senses of humor. They shared the title of a great communicator. When Ronnie was shot in '81, the pope was shot in '81. When Ronnie died in June of this year, the pope looks like he's going to die in this year. It's amazing how their lives crossed, you know.

KING: In fact, your husband died one day after President Bush we bestowed the medal of freedom on Pope John Paul.

REAGAN: That's right. That's right. And then, you know, there was a whole communist thing. They were -- the two of them, the pope and Ronnie, very involved with defeating communism.

KING: How well did they get along? I know that the pope had disagreements with world leaders. We've been talking about capital punishment and other things. Did they have a chemical reaction? Did they work well?

REAGAN: Oh, yes. Oh, yes. As a matter of fact, I have a picture in our library. The two of them are sitting and Ronnie is leaning forward, as if he's saying something terribly important to the pope and the pope is listening. I'd love to know what Ronnie was saying to him.

KING: You met with him, you said, alone twice? What were those occasions? REAGAN: Twice. One time I met with him at the Vatican, and that was on the drug program. And the second time I met him here, in California, when he came to visit the school.

KING: He sent a message when Ronnie died, when President Reagan died and called him a noble soul.

REAGAN: Yes.

KING: Wonderful line.

REAGAN: Wonderful line. Wonderful. It was quite an experience to sit with him alone. I was very privileged to have that opportunity.

KING: Spoke English well, didn't he?

REAGAN: Oh, yes, very well. Very well. Think of all those languages he spoke. My word.

KING: Also, we discussed this. A very hand some man.

REAGAN: Oh, very. Very. In that, he and Ronnie had in common.

KING: How do you deal with all this, Nancy, as we get older and you see all the people close to you around leaving us?

REAGAN: It's hard, isn't it? It's hard. But I guess you come to a certain point or stage and you just have to accept some things.

KING: Yes, you do. How's your health?

REAGAN: I'm fine, I think.

KING: Are you doing well? The nation is always concerned.

REAGAN: No, I'm fine. It's lonely, but I'm fine.

KING: We're all going to be in Washington, is it May 11th, I think?

REAGAN: May 11th.

KING: Nancy Reagan returns to Washington, and they're going to do it at the Reagan Building, right?

REAGAN: Yes. Uh-huh.

KING: We're all looking forward to it. And by the way, at the end of the show tonight, Nancy, "the Brilliant Tenor," Ronan Tynan is going to sing "Amazing Grace." You will remember he sang that at your husband's funeral.

REAGAN: I do remember and he's going to sing that in Washington on May 11th.

KING: All right. And finally, how do you think the world's going to remember this pope?

REAGAN: Fondly. Great -- with great affected. I mean -- I don't know. I don't know how to say it more than that. Hello.

KING: Yes. One in a million.

REAGAN: Yes. Yes. Yes, he was.

KING: Always good to talk to you, Nancy. Thank you so much.

REAGAN: Thank you, Larry. Good night.

KING: Good night. Former first lady, Nancy Reagan.

Anything to update us with, Delia Gallagher at the Vatican. anything at all?

GALLAGER: No, Larry, there is no official news. No word yet from the Vatican. As I said before, I think that the next bulletin will be the final one. An so, we cannot predict when that will come. You know, you were talking earlier about humorous stories about the pope. And I think it's one of the unique things about this pope, he's been able to combine this moral rectitude with a great sense of humor. And it's been something we've been able to watch as late as last year. When he was in St. Peters Square, I remember talking to the youth of Rome giving a speech. And this was time when he was having trouble breathing, slurring his words, it was difficult to understand him.

And at a certain point in his speech the pope stopped. He was trying to breath, of course, but the crowd didn't understand that. They started chanting, John Paul II we love you. And so the pope sort of looks up at the crowd and lets them continue. And 30 seconds goes by, and one minute goes by and the pope is still not picking up his speech. And you can see the priests around him getting concerned, sort of everyone wondering, has he lost his place. Does he know what's happening. There was great concern, even then of course, about his health.

Then we see his private secretary Stanislaw Dziwisz come up to the pope in the middle of this St. Peters Square, which is something -- very unusual that he would ever intervene and says something to the pope in Polish. And the pope says into the microphone, uh. And then he looks up at the crowd and says, they're telling me to get on with it. So, this an example of how this pope even at that late and debilitated stage that he was last year, maintained that sort of sense of humor, and of course that is his crowd control. That's the way he transmits it.

KING: Great story. Sister Prejean, do you plan to go to the funeral?

PREJEAN: No, I won't be able to do that. But I must tell you, as I'm praying for the pope, the words he chose to have read to him from the scriptures, were the part where Jesus hands over his life into the hands of God. And he had -- I can't help but think, I'm praying for him in these last moments, as I have done, as I have witnessed others execution. And I go, now, the pope, with all of us, is simply a human being, turning over his life to God. And so, I'm very touched by these moments, knowing they are his last and the great simplicity and beauty of the soul with which he's doing this.

KING: He will surely be missed, father.

MANNING: Very much so.

KING: And Jeff Israely, thank you. We're looking forward to your coverage of all this in "Time" magazine.

We thank Sister Helen Prejean, and father Michael Manning, and Jeff Israely of "Time" magazine reporting from Rome.

Will stay of course, Delia Gallagher will be checking in, Walter Rogers. We expect to hear from Jim Caviezel who played Christ in "Passion of the Christ." And lots of other guess coming right around the corner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In your great courage in passion, and propriety and the boundless energy with which you carry out your mission, you have set an example for the world. It's an example that challenges us all to live a life of charity, to live a life of prayer, to work for peace. And in that beautiful phrase of John the 23rd, to tend always toward heaven.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We begin this segment of LARRY KING LIVE with one of the foremost Catholic leaders in America, Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop since 2003 in the City of Brotherly Love, Philadelphia. He served in the Vatican for 30 years. We know that Cardinal Mahoney is on his way there. When are you going to go, Cardinal Rigali?

CARDINAL JUSTIN RIGALI, ARCHBISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA: It depends, Larry, on when the holy father actually dies. It will be shortly after that.

KING: And then you stay there for how long? You stay there right through the voting?

RIGALI: Probably. Probably we will have the preparatory meetings, and then after that, there is the period of mourning, the preparation for the conclave, and then the actual conclave itself.

So it will be an extended period of time. The conclave is scheduled to begin at 15 or at the most, 20 days after the death of the pope. So, we're talking about a couple of weeks right there.

KING: Do you think this early about who you might favor?

RIGALI: No. Actually -- actually, the procedure is, with the cardinals -- and the holy father has suggested this in his document -- is to -- it's only after the death of the pope when the cardinals gather, that you begin the serious consideration, because it's also at that time that the people of God, the people throughout the world are accompanying you with prayer. And prayer is a very important part of this decision-making. So all of this will come after -- after the death of the holy father and later on in Rome itself.

KING: Your Eminence, how well do you know this pope?

RIGALI: Oh, this pope, I've had the great honor of being with him from actually day two. I was on the balcony of the secretariat of state right next to St. Peter's Basilica at the moment that he was elected. The next day, I was presented to him. I was the director of the English Language Department in the Vatican Secretariat of State.

And it was exhilarating to know him for many years. I traveled with him throughout Africa, throughout Asia. The very first time I came to Philadelphia was with Pope John Paul II. And many, many other trips throughout Australia, New Zealand, the Fiji islands, throughout the world. So I had the opportunity to know the pope and above all, to admire him, and to be edified by his great love and generosity.

KING: And I guess then you're not surprised at how well he is handling the end of his life?

RIGALI: Absolutely. He has lived this way, and this is the consummation of his generosity and this is the final oblation of his life to God, and it is the way he lived, and now it's the way he dies.

KING: That's Cardinal Justin Rigali in Philadelphia, and I'll go across the state of Pennsylvania to Pittsburgh. Father John Bartunek joins us. Ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 2003, he is a member of the Legionnaires of Christ, author of "Inside the Passion" -- that's the behind-the-scenes look and commentary of Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." We will be talking to the star of that movie in a moment.

Father, you just became a priest. What are your thoughts tonight?

FATHER JOHN BARTUNEK, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE PASSION": Well, they're kind of mixed. On the one hand, there is a certain sadness and apprehension, because, you know, on the verge of losing someone who has been such an inspiration, who's really kind of accompanied me personally on my road to the priesthood and so many of my brother priests and seminarians.

But on the other hand, there's this sense of -- I don't know exactly what the right word is -- but a sense of, I don't know, jubilation or celebration. Here is a man who's finishing the race. He's been faithful and he's fought the good fight, and he is going to be receiving his reward when our Lord calls him, and so you kind of want to rejoice with that. I'm sure he himself is looking forward to the moment when he'll see the Lord for whom he's fought all these years and for whom he's worked face to face. So there is a mix of feelings going on. KING: Well said. And doing it with great grace.

BARTUNEK: Yeah, absolutely. You know, that's one of the things that is so inspiring about him. He really knows -- he always gives that sense that he knows who he is, and what he's doing, and what his mission is in life. And so he's not worried about it. He just rolls up his sleeve and gets to work and does the best he can. And that gives him that sense of simplicity, simplicity, that grace under pressure in all different situations. It's the kind of thing whenever I see him, whenever I've had the chance to be in his presence, I've always said, I want to be a priest like that. That's the kind of priest I want to be.

KING: We'll be right back with more as the priest that is now the cardinal that is now the pope, nears his final moments. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us in New York is Father Richard Neuhouse, who became a Roman Catholic priest in 1991 after previously being a Lutheran minister. He's founder of the Institute for Religion and Life, editor in chief of its journal, "First Things," and was the only Roman Catholic on "Time" magazine's recent list of the 25 most influential evangelicals in America.

Father Neuhouse, Roman Catholics aren't evangelicals, are they?

FATHER RICHARD NEUHOUSE, FOUNDER, INSTITUTE FOR RELIGION AND LIFE: Well, of course we are. "Evangelical" comes from the word evangelia (ph), which means the gospel of Jesus Christ. So anybody who is deeply committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ is an evangelical. And especially those who want to evangelize others, which means to share the gospel with them.

KING: Did this pope have anything to do with your change?

NEUHOUSE: I've often thought about that, Larry. And I'm not exactly sure how to answer it. I'm persuaded that history will refer to Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II, will refer to him as John Paul the Great, just as we now, in church history, refer to Pope Leo the Great and Pope Gregory the Great, that future generations, this generation will call him John Paul the Great. So extraordinary has been his impact, in both his public presentations and in my own experience with him on many different occasions and personal conversation.

What you sensed here, and I think what the world saw, was an energy, an energy of devotion, a spiritual, intellectual, moral energy and a vision that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a proposal of excitement and joy to the world. That God so loved the world he gave his only we gotten son. I mean, is that love, joy, radical invitation to discipleship. And I think that's what marks him.

KING: Father Bartunek, in fact, you're not even Catholic, right? You as well as as Richard Neuhouse, who is Luthren, you are what? BARTUNEK: Christian, pure and simple, a bible Christian. The beginning of my journey happened when I was a college studying my journey to the faith, the Catholic faith, started when I when I was studying in Rome as a college student.

And I will never forgot I had a couple of encounters with the pope there, not personal ones in the sense that I had a meeting with him, but I went to some masses that he celebrated, Christmas Eve in St. Peters Square and St. Peter's Basilica and he made a deep impression on me. Just exactly what Father Neuhouse is saying, he's a man who exudes a spiritual energy, you know that he's praying, you know that he's in contact with God. And that he finds God in the people he deals with and he serves God there. And it's contagious when you're with him. It's contagious.

KING: Joining us in Philadelphia is Father Jonathan Morris, vice rector of the Seminary of the Legionnaires of Christ. Do you agree with Father Neuhouse and Father Morris, this pope being called great?

FATHER JONATHAN MORRIS, SEMINARY OF THE LEGIONNAIRES OF CHRIST: Without a doubt, Larry. Actually, I'm joining from Rome, very close here to St. Peter's Square.

KING: Oh, they told me Philadelphia. You're in Rome?

MORRIS: I'm in Rome. And I'm really breathing in that same spirit that Father Bartunek mentioned, that spirit of tranquility and peace, of spiritual depth that John Paul II has really exuded in his whole life.

So it's a very special grace to be here so close to him in these last hours.

KING: Anything further news there Father Morris?

MORRIS: It doesn't seem like anything is breaking this moment. However, the Vatican has been very clear and very up front about the situation of the pope which has been very refreshing for all of us following the pope so closely, not only in our houses but also in our hearts.

We've been able to imagine very, very -- in a very specific way what it must be like to be there with John Paul II. Because when you seen the way in which he lived his life, we know he's dying in the same way in which he lived, which is a blessing to all of us and teaching us the way we ought to live our own lives.

KING: Deepak Chopra, as a author, spiritual teacher and a non- Catholic, how do you view this pope?

DEEPAK CHOPRA, SPIRITUAL TEACHER: Larry, you and I are the only people on this show who are neither Christian nor Catholic. But I think we'd all agree that this pope was a giant among men, that he was a visionary leader, he was a leader, he wielded not only spiritual and religious influence but political influence and he did a lot of good to the world. He had the courage of his convictions to stand up for them.

I happened to not agree with a lot of things, but I respect that he was so convinced of what he stood for, that he was independent of everyone who did not agree.

The issues on women's rights, on abortion, on choice and many others, not withstanding the Catholic scandals in the Catholic church, he rose above them and was able to lead not only the 1 billion Catholics in the world but all of us who come from other faiths.

KING: Well said.

Father Neuhaus do you plan on going to the funeral?

NEUHAUS: Yes, I'll be leaving shortly after the formal announcement. And will be staying on through the meetings of the preparatory sort and then the conclave. As Cardinal Rigali said, it will be at least 2 1/2 weeks, quite possibly as 3 1/2 weeks.

And I think that all of the people there will be very, very much engaged in understanding the legacy of John Paul II, also the unfinished work of John Paul II, the great visionary commitments he made in Jewish/Christian relations, in terms of Christian unity. There's so many areas where he set forth a vision, set out an agenda and did not live to see it fully realized.

KING: Thank you, Father Neuhaus.

When we come back, James Caviezel, who played Jesus Christ in "The Passion of the Christ" will join us. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now, one of my favorite actors, a very special person, too -- James Caviezel. He joins us from Palm Desert, California. He played Jesus in Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ." He met with Pope John Paul in March 2004. And as you know, is a devout Roman Catholic.

What was it like when you met him, James?

JAMES CAVIEZEL, ACTOR: Well Larry, I went into the Vatican and they took me from one room into the next. And immediately, I was intimidated. You know, I had an opportunity to meet him in 1984, I could have seen him and I didn't, and I always regretted it. So, when we were in Rome, I had this chance.

And finally, when I walked in the room, there he was, he was like 100 yards away. And by the time I got to him, I was so out of breath. and he looked at me, how are you? Jim Caviezel, not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.

He said Jim Caviezel, what have you learned in playing Jesus Christ? I said, well, holy father, I've been hanging out with -- he goes, yes I said I think Jesus was Italian. He said, what? I said well, he didn't leave home until he was 30. He always hang out with the same 12 guys and his mother, believed he was God so he had to be Italian, you know. I said, you're not upset with me.

He said, no, I always believed he was Polish.

KING: What is it like for you tonight, James? Feeling as death approaches?

CAVIEZEL: Well, I mean, I think all good things come to an end, but he will be John Paul the Great. He's a man who really influenced me quite a bit.

A long time ago, when I heard him speak, he said, set yourselves apart from this corrupt generation, be saints. And he said to a group of young people. This man really, I felt, reached out to my generation, especially the young people. And I was a part of that. And I think that inspired me. He was an actor, I thought, you know, hey, if the pope is an actor, maybe I can be an actor.

KING: It ought to have particularly thrilled you that he so enjoyed your performance.

CAVIEZEL: Oh, it was an honor to meet him, especially in that circumstance. And I was so glad to, you know, be able to tell him that, you know, he was a part of the reason why I was able to play that.

KING: How has -- as playing that -- we only have a little over a minute left -- playing Jesus, has that affected or changed you at all?

CAVIEZEL: I knew that before I took the role, that it would probably be like that. You know, I guess, in similar ways, guys like Christopher Reeve, who were great actors at Juilliard and goes on and plays Superman and everyone knows him as Superman, he's still a fine actor, but people identify him that way. And this is a different kind of Superman, you know.

KING: Have you ever doubted your faith?

CAVIEZEL: Sure. I always have doubts. I fear, but I go forward, you know. I know -- I look at it like I have no choice, I just -- I try to continue to do the right thing, you know.

KING: James, I look forward to having you right -- I look forward to having you right here in the studio with us. Thank you. I'm sorry for the delay in getting to you. But maybe you can join us again tomorrow, because you're wonderful to talk to. Thank you.

CAVIEZEL: Thank you, Larry.

KING: James Caviezel, he played Jesus Christ in "The Passion of the Christ."

Very special close coming. Don't go away. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us from New York is one of my favorite people, Ronan Tynan. His new CD is "Ronan." He's the incredible Irish tenor who has performed all over the world. He is going to close the show for us tonight.

You will be performing -- Nancy Reagan told us -- you're going to be performing at her -- when she returns to Washington, right?

RONAN TYNAN, TENOR: That's right, actually. That's right, Larry. She is returning in May, and I have written a song called "Passing Through," which was about my mom, who had Alzheimer's. And Nancy and I had a lovely conversation many years ago about that same topic.

KING: Have you ever sung for this pope?

TYNAN: I have. I sang for this pope actually in 1981, eight months after I had my limbs amputated.

KING: We'll talk about that one night when we have you on for the full program.

But here's Ronan Tynan, ladies and gentlemen. This is in his new CD, "Ronan." For us, "Amazing Grace."

(RONAN TYNAN SINGS "AMAZING GRACE")

KING: Amazing. What a voice, what a night. Want to thank all of our guests for being with us. This has been a very special edition of "LARRY KING LIVE," and we'll do it again tomorrow night. We'll be back live tomorrow night from here in Los Angeles, and then we'll be back live Sunday night, from New York. Tomorrow night in Los Angeles; Sunday night in New York, for live editions of LARRY KING LIVE, as we await this expected outcome.

Right now, let's go to New York. Aaron Brown, by the way, is on his way to Rome, so doing double duty tonight is Paula Zahn. She will sit in and anchor "NEWSNIGHT." And there she is.

This has been some week.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: It has been a draining week on so many different levels. We were reflecting on the fact that we can't remember the confluence of events like this, where we've had basically a national death watch and an international death watch going on at the same time, and we've seen such an outpouring of support tonight. I think it's wrenching for any of us covering it.

KING: Go get'em, Paula.

ZAHN: Thanks, Larry. And we will see you in New York later this weekend.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


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