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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Developing Story: The Life of Pope John Paul II as it Nears End

Aired April 2, 2005 - 07:00   ET

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


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon from Rome.
I'm Bill Hemmer.

The world is waiting and the pope is speaking, but just barely. Hours ago, we're told he mentioned these words: "You have come to me, and for that I thank you."

Those strained words just hours ago, as this special edition of CNN's AMERICAN MORNING begins now in Rome, Italy.

ANNOUNCER: This is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien at the CNN Broadcast Center in New York and Bill Hemmer in Rome.

HEMMER: And good afternoon from Rome, Italy.

Two o'clock in the afternoon here.

We want to welcome our international viewers on CNNI and as we continue our live coverage here from Rome.

We have come to Italy to be as close to the story as possible, because at this point, it is unclear the true condition of Pope John Paul II.

It was about 90 minutes ago when the Vatican made another public statement, through the Vatican spokesperson. We'll try and interpret the language we heard and try and gain a better understanding of how the pope is doing now.

Also, we'll talk about the pilgrims. They are here by the thousands already, gathered in St. Peter's Square behind me. Many of them talk about Pope John Paul II as a friend, and we'll get to their stories as we continue our coverage here this hour.

First, though, we want to go back to New York City and say good morning there to Soledad O'Brien, my partner -- Soledad, good morning.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, Bill, good morning to you.

The Vatican, as you well know, gave us its most recent update on the pope's failing health just about two and a half hours ago. Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls says the pope is in "a compromised state of consciousness." But he says there is no talk at the moment of a pope being in a coma. The pope is said to be able to open and close his eyes, and when he is spoken to, he is said to respond by opening his eyes.

Medically speaking, the Vatican says the pope's heart and breathing are unchanged since yesterday, when low blood flow and shallow breathing were reported.

Carol Costello is with me this morning. She's going to join us in just a few minutes.

We're going to have much more from here in New York this morning.

But first, let's head it back to Bill in Rome -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad.

There is more we can talk about here. We talked about yesterday at great length about the significance of the press office of the Vatican staying open, staying open and waiting for any possible word in the change of the pope's condition. We also understand earlier today that that has not changed. The press office will not close. So, again, another indication of the seriousness right now with the condition of the 84-year-old pope.

I mentioned the statement given by the spokesperson 90 minutes ago. We want to go to Jim Bittermann on that, across town, also with me here in Rome, Italy -- and, Jim, you were listening to that.

What did you hear as significant from that statement from the Vatican?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what struck me, Bill, is that what the papal spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, has said really painted a very grim and a pretty graphic picture of what the pope is going through right now. Basically, he said at about 7:30 this morning the pope suffered some kind of attack or some kind of change that was the onset, he said, of a compromised state of consciousness. Now, what he means by that, we're not exactly sure.

But it was so sudden that those around him decided that they would celebrate mass. Now, this is commonly done with any Catholic who's suffering and dying, to celebrate a mass near death. It's just part of the things that you do if you're Catholic. And so they celebrated mass and the spokesman said that the pope was able to speak. He was able to speak in what he called "interrupted sentences." So we take that to mean he was able to say a few words here and there.

And those around him then reconstructed a sentence which they believe, and it was the sentence you mentioned earlier, which they believe only was directed at the young people in the square who had gathered and spent the night out in St. Peter's Square last night in solidarity with the pope.

One of the things that was very interesting about what Navarro- Valls had to say is that the pope did not slip into a coma. He was very insistent on that point, that the pope had not slipped into a coma, someone they have been refuting all the way along. There had been rumors earlier this week that the pope had gone into a coma. And the reason for that is that if the pope goes into a coma, what happens next is anybody's guess, because as far as we know, there may have been a letter written, but it's never been confirmed, that the pope had left instructions for what to do should he not be able to decide on his own medical treatment. And then the question would be who would decide on how the pope should be treated from that point onward, if he were in a coma -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Jim, thanks for that.

Jim Bittermann across town here in Rome.

We want to bring in our Vatican analyst now, Delia Gallagher, with me here, as well.

And I want to talk more about the statement.

What do we know of his degree of consciousness based on what Navarro-Valls offered two and a half hours ago?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Bill, Navarro-Valls made a point to say that the pope is not in a coma. So that's the first thing we do know. The second point is that he said this compromised state of consciousness was something which could be seen when the pope closed his eyes, for example, and wouldn't respond at certain times. That was his indication that they weren't sure whether maybe he was sleeping or that this was a question of coming in and out of consciousness.

So that's all that the pope's spokesman told us. And, of course, if you consider that this pope is a very tough man, so in a way it's not a surprise that it would take such a sort of long lengthy time for him to go, because I think he is somebody who hangs in there. He's very tenacious.

HEMMER: The other thing they said, and quite specifically, and they gave us a time for this, too, at 7:30 a.m. local time, which is about seven and a half hours ago, they talked about this compromising moment.

How do we interpret that?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think they are just trying to be as specific as possible. I don't think that we need to read anything into it in terms of the pope's health. I think that the Vatican said, for the last few days, has been trying to give us as much detailed information as possible and also the pope's spokesman needs to cover himself and say, you know, he said this is as of 9:00 a.m. this morning. I called in, however, before I came to give this briefing, just to make sure that the situation had not changed. So it's moment by moment for them.

HEMMER: Who do we know that might be visiting with him, or perhaps even coming in and out of the room where he's being taken care of? GALLAGHER: Well, we know for sure in the room is, of course, his private secretary, Don Stanislaw Dziwisz, who has followed the pope for the last 40 years. He also has some assts there and a few Polish nuns, three Polish nuns who run his household.

Yesterday, he did meet with some cardinals. You know, the cardinals tend to stay away from the pope at a time like this. When he went into a hospital, they didn't want to bother him. They wanted to keep -- reserve his privacy. But a few cardinals, a top few cardinals, did come in yesterday to see the pope, one of whom is an American, Cardinal Szoka. He's here at the Vatican, the governor of the Vatican city state, Cardinal Ratzinger, of course, a very important cardinal here at the Vatican, and the secretary of state, Angelo Sodano. So a few of them are visiting.

HEMMER: Delia, don't go far. I'll be talking with you throughout the day here in Rome.

Delia Gallagher, our Vatican analyst.

We should also point out, we were given an indication a short time ago that at around 5:00 local time, which is three hours from now, we may get another statement from the Vatican. It's not firm, but it was intimated during that press conference earlier today that that word may come then. So we'll be standing by for that.

Also, in a moment, we'll talk with our bureau chief. Alessio Vinci has been here since day one on this story. We'll get to Alessio in a moment here.

But first, back to Soledad again in New York.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks.

So what else are we learning this morning about the pope's condition?

Robert Moynihan is the editor-in-chief of "Inside the Vatican."

He's our guest this morning from Washington.

Nice to see you, Robert.

Thanks for being with us.

What are you learning about the pope's condition now?

ROBERT MOYNIHAN, EDITOR, "INSIDE THE VATICAN": Well, it's very clear that he doesn't have the vibrancy to keep all the body functions going. I spoke yesterday about the idea that he seemed to be dying, as it were, from the feet up. First, he couldn't move. He was in a wheelchair. This made circulation difficult. That probably contributed to the urinary tract infection, because his -- he was sitting or lying continually.

Now we are in a condition where it sounds to me as if he had a slight stroke this morning. That's why I think they mentioned that time in particular. Not a serious one, but something that, as they put it delicately, compromised his consciousness. So it seems that he slips -- he's not in a coma. They've made that quite clear. But it seems that he slips in between the two.

O'BRIEN: Jim Bittermann referred, as you heard just a moment ago, about a rumor of a letter potentially left behind or left by the pope in case he were to be incapacitated in any way.

What do you know about that?

MOYNIHAN: Well, I know that there is the rumor. People have spoken of that for a number of years now. And it's believed that in order to avoid the danger of a irreversible coma blocking a conclave for years, in a sense, almost a Terri Schiavo situation, that the pope would say if I'm in a coma or if I fall into a coma that I can't recover from and yet I'm not going to die rapidly, then consider that I am resigning this post and elect a new pope in my place.

That's just a rumor. And that he would have given that either to his private secretary, Don Stanislaw, as Delia mentioned, or to the secretary of state, Angelo Sodano. But we don't know that that's the case. And the only -- there's no precedent for it, really, except that Paul VI did think about doing the same thing, because he was quite ill the last two years of his life and he thought that perhaps he ought to resign. But he didn't do it.

O'BRIEN: Even with the pope's diminished strength and even with the severity of the illness getting worse and worse, he has been able to appoint a dozen or so cardinals in recent times.

Is there a strategy there?

MOYNIHAN: Well, first, he didn't appoint cardinals. He appointed bishops. And there was a rumor that he would create cardinals, another 15 or 20 cardinals. That rumor spread on Easter Sunday, a week ago, that he would name new cardinals before this illness reached this point. And that did not happen. So we're going now with 117 cardinals into a conclave instead of another 15 or 20, that people for six months now have said are going to be named imminently. Those are not named, and that includes some people that should be cardinals, like the new Archbishop of Paris.

But he did name 17 bishops yesterday and it was the last, really, conscious and strong act of his pontificate. But really those names, I think, might have been agreed on several days before and just announced yesterday.

O'BRIEN: You have said that Pope John Paul II changed the papacy.

What do you mean by that?

MOYNIHAN: Well, he brought it into the modern world. The pope, in a sense, in previous centuries, and certainly for the hundred years prior to this pope, the pope was almost a prisoner in the Vatican. Paul VI did make a trip outside of Rome, but they hardly ever left Rome. They would go -- they would write their encyclicals, they would preach, they would celebrate the liturgy in St. Peter's Basilica, but they hardly would travel.

John Paul II made that first step to globalize the church, globalize his preaching mission. So he started to travel. And he made over 100 trips around the world. And then he got rid of a lot of the trappings of the papacy's traditional form and he acted like a modern man. He would wave, he would smile. Previous popes would be very distant and you would see them, almost as it were, from the back. John Paul, too, in a sense, turned toward the world. He put his face in front of the world.

O'BRIEN: Robert Moynihan is the editor-in-chief of "Inside the Vatican."

Thank you for being with us this morning.

We certainly appreciate it.

As we continue, of course, to continue to watch for any sign of change in the pope's condition, we want to check back in with Carol Costello -- good morning to you.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad.

As the pope nears the end of his life, his followers in every corner of the world gather and pray.

We want to share some of those images with you now, so let's go to the pictures.

These are from Jerusalem. Church leaders celebrating mass. The pope's last visit to the Holy Land five years ago.

In the Philippines, small flickers of hope that the pope might still recover. Nearly 80 percent of the country's 68 million residents are Catholic.

Catholics in Ukraine also paying respects to the Holy Father, gathering to pray together in churches around the country.

And halfway around the world, more services for the pope. Most Cubans actually got word of the pope's condition in a rare televised appearance by the archbishop of Havana. The communist government there allowing the broadcast.

Even in Baghdad, Iraqi priests held mass for the pope, remembering his calls for peace in their country. The pope strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Also, in Brazil.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL CLAUDIO HUMMES, ARCHBISHOP OF SAO PAULO STATE (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): The pope loves Brazil and our people love the pope. And that's why I am asking at this moment that the people, all the population, pray for the pope, for his well being.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: As you can see, tens of thousands gathering to pray for Pope John Paul II.

An interesting thing in Rome, last night, 70,000 gathered in St. Peter's Square. You could hear a pin drop. They were so quiet, as if they were listening for those shutters to open and for some word to come to them about the pope's condition.

O'BRIEN: As all of us are, even if we are not there, but here. And we've seen people streaming in, as well, today.

All right, Carol, thanks.

There are other stories, though, making headlines this morning.

Let's check down in Atlanta, where CNN's Tony Harris is with a check of the other stories that are making news -- good morning, Tony.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning, Soledad.

Now in the news, six more deaths reported in violence in Iraq. A car bomb exploded this morning outside a police station 12 miles south of Ba'qubah. Five people were killed, four of them police officers.

A Florida medical examiner has completed the autopsy on the body of Terri Schiavo. It's been returned to her husband, who says it will be cremated. The brain damaged woman died on Thursday at a hospice in Florida. Results of the autopsy may not be available for weeks.

Rock star Neil Young is hospitalized in New York for treatment of what his agent calls a dangerous brain aneurism, which is a bulge in a blood vessel. The agent says Young, who is 59 years old, underwent neuro radiology and is expected to make a full recovery.

Civilian volunteers are reporting to Tombstone, Arizona, signing up to patrol a stretch of the U.S.-Mexican border. The so-called Minutemen Project officially begins Monday. And it appears about 450 volunteers will be on patrol, and some of them will be armed. They'll report sightings of illegal immigrants and smugglers.

Let's get back to Rome now and to Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: Tony, thank you.

Moments ago, Italian radio just announcing that all football games, all Italian soccer games, will be canceled for the weekend. This as a sign of respect now for the pope in his current condition.

Also, the Vatican saying that the first signs have emerged about the pope losing consciousness. But he is not in a coma. Medically speaking, how are we to interpret that? We'll talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta in a moment here, as our coverage continues, live in Rome, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back to a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

The Vatican saying this morning that the pope is not in a coma, but has begun showing the first signs of losing consciousness.

CNN's senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta joining us now from the CNN Center in Atlanta -- Sanjay, good morning.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

Yes, you know, this whole thing began about 40 hours ago now, when we heard that the pope had developed a urinary tract infection that subsequently spread into his bloodstream. We got some word yesterday around noon and then didn't hear anything for several hours. The first update now, about 16 hours later, says that the general cardiac and respiratory and metabolic conditions of the Holy Father are substantially unchanged.

So, really, not much change, according to the Vatican, over about a 16 hour period, despite the septic shock that we've heard so much about and despite the fact that the blood pressure had some variations, as well.

They went on to say that the start of a compromised state of consciousness was observed now. This is parsing some words here maybe a little bit, Soledad. Not using the word coma. They're very specific not to do that, even though there was some reports, not confirmed reports, of coma yesterday.

Now, the compromised state of consciousness, that simply seems to mean that maybe he's in and out of consciousness, some periods of time where he's just not arousable. Again, some sparse details now this morning. But it appears that things have been -- are somewhat no change from yesterday -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: So, then, Sanjay, does that surprise you when you hear the phrase in and out of consciousness?

GUPTA: No, it really doesn't surprise me. The thing that surprises me is that he's still in and out of consciousness at this point in his illness, you know, given how grave things looked yesterday in terms of the septic shock. And, Soledad, we talked a lot about this, but when someone has septic shock, which is also an overwhelming infection, typically what happens is the blood pressure lowers and subsequently the blood flow to various organs is lowered, as well, including the brain. And therefore it is not uncommon at all for someone to lapse into unconsciousness or some form of coma at that time.

That does not appear to be the case, at least as of the last Vatican report, that he is in a coma.

O'BRIEN: Sanjay, obviously there's a reason why the Vatican would like to stress that the pope is not in a coma. But give me a sense of the real medical distinction between being in a coma and being in a compromised state of consciousness. They almost sound like they should be exactly the same thing.

GUPTA: Yes, you know, it's interesting, coma itself is actually a very generic term. But for the lay public, what it typically means is someone who is just not arousable, who is neither aware nor arousable. So if you really try and wake this person, try and get them to follow a command like wiggle a thumb or hold two fingers up or anything like that, they just don't do that. Someone who is in a minimal state, you know, has intermittent periods where they are going to follow commands, where they are going to open their eyes and they are going to be seemingly aware.

The fact that we've heard so much about this, that he was able to utter a sentence, is very significant in the sense of that distinction between coma and some sort of minimal state of consciousness -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta for us this morning.

Sanjay, thanks.

GUPTA: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Of course, we're going to continue to check in with you throughout the morning.

GUPTA: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And we are going to continue, as well, to watch the Vatican and get an update on the condition of the pope.

Stay with us, everybody.

We're back with the very latest from Rome in just a moment.

Plus, as you can see from these pictures, thousands jamming into St. Peter's Square to witness history and murmur prayers into a chilly night.

That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Back here live in Rome, Italy.

You can see behind me St. Peter's Square. Thousands lingering there and still thousands more are waiting to go inside of St. Peter's Basilica, lining up on the right hand side and waiting patiently, upwards of an hour, to enter the church there. A massive church that took well over 100 years to build, so massive at one point it could hold 60,000 pilgrims inside. And we were speaking with a number of them about an hour ago, and all of them talked about the special feeling they have standing in St. Peter's Square.

Many of them also talk about Pope John Paul II as a friend. A very interesting choice of words about the intimacy they feel with this man in his 26 years as head of the Roman Catholic Church.

It was late last night when things got dark here in Rome, Italy when so many came out to pay their respects.

And Walter Rodgers was here last evening.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

WALTER RODGERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was preternatural, the silence in St. Peter's Square. Seventy thousand people. Some gathered mournfully. Others still harbored hope. But it was that eerie silence of so many people in one place, all so quiet, that was so overwhelming.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was just something so fantastic, so sensitive, so silent. And like my daughter said, it was, it was just peaceful.

RODGERS: Those faithful even unto the end brought their candles, answering the call of their church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just felt the need to come to this square. I am Catholic and I wanted to come and pray with the other pilgrims for this pope. He's been our pope for so long, I thought it was -- actually, a once in a lifetime experience. So I wanted to come and be with the other people.

RODGERS: There were Italians, Indians, Poles, French, Germans. It's what you'd expect of a global church of 1.1 billion souls. This Capucine monk said he felt an overwhelming feeling not of sadness, but confusion. Yet, in his words, "also a sort of calm because of the peace he brought to everyone's lives."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrible, tremendous, very sad, indeed. Sad. Seeing the sufferings of the Holy Father, I have no words.

RODGERS: The eerie vigil persisted, as if by standing silent witness, these believers might work a miracle.

(on camera): All night people entered and departed St. Peter's Square because they felt they simply had to be here. Perhaps no single individual can fully grasp the immensity of Pope John Paul II's papacy now. Yet everyone here seemed to want to participate in this moment in history.

(voice-over): That sense of history, for the first Slavic pope, was inescapable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I definitely felt like there was something of history with me being there because it's just such a momentous occasion for this pope, in particular, to be dying, and for me to be in Rome at this time. RODGERS: Yet for others, a sense of past tense was inescapable.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was a really great man.

RODGERS: And everyone here felt that, too.

Walter Rodgers, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

HEMMER: And they are still coming here to the Vatican.

The latest word that we got, about two and a half hours ago, was that nothing has changed in the pope's condition since last night.

When our coverage continues here live in Rome, we'll check back in with our team of analysts and correspondents on this special edition of CNN's AMERICAN MORNING, live in Rome, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

It's just about half past the hour on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

I'm Soledad O'Brien in New York.

HEMMER: And I'm Bill Hemmer live in Rome, Italy, awaiting for any word now, Soledad.

The Vatican says they may make another announcement about two and a half hours from now, which would be 5:00 local time here, 10:00 in the morning back there in New York City.

We want to take you back to a moment, a moment in time for the Roman Catholic Church, October 22, 1978. On that day, the College of Cardinals stunned the world when, for the first time in more than 450 years, there is no longer an Italian head of the Roman Catholic Church. It was a man from southern Poland, who we now know as Pope John Paul II.

His reign as pontiff would double the normal time for any pope, 26 years now, and still counting, as of this moment.

Alessio Vinci is our Rome bureau chief.

I want to talk to Alessio now, because you have been on this story since the very beginning.

Do you remember that day?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, actually, you know, it's funny you actually mention it, Bill. I was not in Italy. I lived in Luxembourg at the time. However, I remember the Italian media reporting that when this name was pronounced outside the balcony here in St. Peter's Square, right behind us, the Italians believed it was a black pope. I mean so much -- so little they knew about this man, Karol Wojtyla, they had no idea who he was.

And, you know, when we think about go forward from here now, we don't know who the next pope is going to be. There are, of course, king makers and big names here. The cardinal, the secretary of state, the cardinal, head of the congregation for the doctrine. And, you know, they are big names.

But there's also sometimes surprises. And Karol Wojtyla was, back then, a big surprise.

HEMMER: Let's talk about the current day now.

You believe the stated incapacitation is a critical one.

What are you gauging in that when it comes to the church and a successor?

VINCI: Well, when Navarro-Valls says that the pope is not in a coma, he's basically saying the pope is not incapacitated, because that condition would really throw the church into chaos. There is no provision in canon law for an incapacitated pope. There is -- there are vice presidents, there are deputy prime ministers, there is no vice pope.

If the pope is not dead, there can be no election of a new pope and there can be no two popes at the same time.

So the popes can resign, but they have to express that wish willfully, openly, freely and they cannot be coerced to it. So, of course, if the pope becomes incapacitated, nobody will know what is the next step.

HEMMER: One of the things we heard from that Vatican spokesperson earlier today, he said the pope is speaking to god.

Are you surprised in any way by the frankness we've heard so far from the Vatican on this?

VINCI: Yes, that statement was from a top Vatican cardinal yesterday during a homily at a church here, just outside the Rome city center. Yes, we've really noticed, in a change of language, in how cardinals and how the Vatican is now addressing the condition of the pope. This is a structure, the Vatican and the cardinals, who were never really happy to discuss the health of the pope. They have been quite forthcoming now.

Church officials who only a week ago would not even want to discuss with me the health of the pope today are talking about the pope being in his final moments, today are talking about the pope talking to god and seeing god.

So all this, of course, gives us even more and a graver indication that, indeed, he is in his final moments.

HEMMER: Give me another sense of the atmosphere here. We've been on the ground about four hours.

VINCI: Right.

HEMMER: Clearly not enough time for us to take it all in.

Back to the 1st of February, when he went to the hospital for the first time for that flu, you had been on the story every day since then.

VINCI: Right.

HEMMER: What is your sense of where we are today, given the emotion and the mood, around Vatican City?

VINCI: You know, the story of the sick pope is an old story. I mean I've been here almost four years, or more than four years now, in Italy. And most of my stories about the pope have been about his health. So there is nothing new about talking about the health of the pope.

But up until a couple of days ago, we have been speaking about health of the pope, but a pope who will recover, not a pope who will die.

And for the first time now and throughout this last, you know, recent years and about his ailments, this is now a pope who is dying. And we are witnessing this. And this is the clearest, the biggest difference between reporting on the story back in early February, even in early March.

HEMMER: Thank you, Alessio.

We'll talk to you a bit later here, our Rome bureau chief.

A couple of headlines on the Vatican from earlier. Nothing has changed since last night with regard to the pope's condition.

And also, Soledad, they're indicating that mass was celebrated in his presence. And a number of Vatican observers are hanging on that key line, in his presence, saying that he did not actively participate in it.

So the questions continue to be what is his current condition.

More from Rome in a moment -- back to you now there.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks.

Well, the Reverend Joseph Galante worked at the Vatican for almost a decade. He was appointed bishop of the Camden, New Jersey diocese last April.

And Bishop Galante joins us from Philadelphia this morning.

Nice to see you, sir.

Thank you very much for being with us.

BISHOP JOSEPH GALANTE, DIOCESE OF CAMDEN, NEW JERSEY: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: In the decade that you spent at the Vatican, you got to know the pope very well. He was a prolific writer, obviously, well traveled.

What do you think people do not know about this pope that we all know about so much?

GALANTE: Well, in my experience, the most striking impact that the pope would have hade on me as I had contact with him was the depth of his prayer. I really believe that he was a mystic.

O'BRIEN: Continue.

I'm sorry, we're having some audio difficulties.

So tell me a little bit about the lunches you used to have. I've heard that you had lunch with him very frequently.

What was that like? And what did you discuss?

GALANTE: Well, it wasn't that frequently. It was once or twice a year. I was in the office, the congregation that worked with religious throughout the world. And when we would go in for lunch, we would talk basically about religious life and the situation of religious around the world, but also the Holy Father had a wonderful sense of humor. He was very easy to talk to. And one was very relaxed whenever you were in his presence, even if it was (AUDIO GAP)...

O'BRIEN: Again, I apologize for the audio difficulties we are having, Bishop.

I want to ask you a little bit about the conflict between the modern and yet traditional pope. As you well know, this is the first pope who visited the White House. He was very politically adept. He was well traveled, spoke many languages, used e-mail, media savvy, and yet, at the same time, certainly very traditional in his writings and in his decisions.

Are Americans, do you think, is the American church conflicted about that?

GALANTE: Some people may be, but generally, no, because there are things that can be adapted and changed, but there are some perennial truths. And I think one of the conflicts that people may feel when we in our own culture seem to think that truth is more subjective than objective, and the Holy Father and the church speaks out for the fact that there are objective truths which transcend a particular era, a particular century, a particular culture.

And that will always be a conflict, no matter who the pope is, but because the church presents and seeks to present unchanging truth. And it is not, in a sense, dogma by majority vote. And sometimes that's not very popular.

O'BRIEN: That being said, then, who do you think the cardinals look to, potentially, to be the next pope?

GALANTE: Well, there's an old saying in Rome, the cardinal who goes into a conclave as the pope comes out as a cardinal. I don't think there's any way to even predict, as I heard earlier on your show. They talked about the surprise that Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was when he was elected pope.

I -- it's very hard to imagine what will surface in a conclave because there's going to be a lot of prayer, but there will also be a lot of discussion. And as the cardinals look at what the church needs at this point, it may -- I expect there to be a surprise, as the man who will be elected pope.

O'BRIEN: We will see.

Bishop Joseph Galante joining us this morning.

Thank you very much.

We certainly appreciate it.

GALANTE: Thank you, Soledad.

Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: It is time to get another check of the headlines this morning with Tony Harris.

He is at the CNN Center in Atlanta -- hey, Tony, good morning again.

HARRIS: Good morning, Soledad.

And good morning, everyone.

Here are some other headlines now in the news.

Terri Schiavo's autopsy is finished, but it could be several weeks before the results are known. The autopsy could determine the extent of her brain damage. Her husband Michael plans to cremate the body.

In Minnesota, police investigating last month's school shooting say the FBI has seized about 30 computers from Red Lake High School. They're looking for any evidence that may link other students to the shooting rampage. Ten people died, including the teenaged gunman.

The FBI makes a new discovery nearly 10 years after the Oklahoma City bombing. Agents found bomb making materials buried at a former Kansas home of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols. Agents have seized this home or searched it several times before. Nichols is serving life sentences on federal and state charges for his role in the 1995 bombing. Former Clinton national security adviser, Sandy Berger, faces a July sentencing for illegally taking classified government documents. Berger pleaded guilty yesterday to taking copies of the documents from the National Archives and destroying some of them. Under a plea agreement, he would pay a $10,000 fine and surrender his access to classified materials.

Those are the headlines.

Now back to Bill in Rome.

HEMMER: Tony, here in Rome, Italy, the Vatican throws out a lot of numbers at you for the past 26 years for Pope John Paul II.

One number is very telling, though. They say over his 26 years as pontiff, he touched more than 60 million people directly in his travels around the world. In a moment here, we'll introduce you to one small boy suffering from AIDS who the pope touched dearly in his life.

Back in a minute live in Rome, after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Our next guest has known the pope since 1976, even before he became pope.

Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete is a professor of theology at St. Joseph's Seminary here in New York.

He's also a columnist for the "New York Times magazine."

Nice to see you, Monsignor.

MSGR. LORENZO ALBACETE, ST. JOSEPH'S SEMINARY, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE": How are you?

O'BRIEN: Thank you for talking to us.

ALBACETE: Good morning.

O'BRIEN: I'm well, thank you.

You use the pope's writings a lot in your teachings. His plays and his poetry more necessarily than even his teachings to the church.

ALBACETE: Oh, much more so.

O'BRIEN: Why?

ALBACETE: When I first met him in '76, I was -- he was surprised or interested that I'd been a scientist, a physicist. And so the discussion was what is the base language to convey what is deep in a human person's heart? And he said certainly it's not scientific language. It's not technical language. He said it's not even prose, he kept saying. It is poetry engaged in a drama. So I thought this is really -- the guy's primary vocation is to be an actor and a playwright and a poet. In fact, when he went to school, he responded to living through the drama of the destruction of his family and of his friends by the Nazis by studying what? Religion.

O'BRIEN: Drama.

ALBACETE: Yes, literature, too.

That's what he started out. That's what he wanted to do.

So I said well, one way to get to know this guy is to read his plays and his poetry. So I would do a -- I wrote even a book about it and I wrote, I would teach my students whatever I had to teach, theology, but using more the plays and the poetry and even the text.

O'BRIEN: Many people have said that the legacy of Pope John Paul II is the focus on faith.

Would you agree with that?

ALBACETE: Yes, but I would worry a little bit because the word faith has the implication -- it's too abstract. I would say that his legacy is to show that the faith shows itself in the concern for the human person. In recognizing and promoting the dignity of every human being as a protagonist in a great drama whose destiny is infinity. Faith allows you to recognize that.

O'BRIEN: He was tenacious...

ALBACETE: Oh...

O'BRIEN: Certainly when he was in better health, to be traveling so much and being, I think, a visible and physical symbol of the Catholic Church.

How great of a loss is it now with his very diminished health and his imminent, if you listen to the Vatican, his imminent death?

ALBACETE: But it is the last act of the same play. Now he is perhaps in the big moment. This is a performance. This is the last number. This is -- I'm using it as in a positive sense because people, unfortunately, use that in a, oh, that's just show business. Oh, it's just a performance.

But these words have to be rescued. To act freely is to perform. To matter is to be a protagonist. So I think he is -- this is it. This is a biggie. And that's why I always knew he would never resign. It would be like running away from the number that puts sense to everything else.

O'BRIEN: Then how big of a void does he leave behind?

ALBACETE: Enormous, but that's it. Another person comes, for god's sake, the least he should do is imitate this. Each one should be himself and that's it. I believe that the Holy Spirit, who I really do believe will have something to do with his successor, works through our temperaments, our characters. And I guess this was what the Holy Spirit thought was needed for this time. We'll see what he comes up with next time.

O'BRIEN: Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete of St. Joseph's Seminary.

ALBACETE: Thank you very much.

O'BRIEN: Nice to see you.

Thank you very much for talking with us.

ALBACETE: Thank you.

Bye-bye.

O'BRIEN: And let's go back to Rome and Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, throughout his travels, seven different times the pope made a trip to the United States. But during one trip in 1987, a very special visit in the city of San Francisco, where he met a 4-year-old boy by the name of Brendan O'Rourke. Brendan had AIDS. He died three years later in 1990.

His mother, Elaine, tells us how special that visit was to her and how special that visit was to her son.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELAINE O'ROURKE, BRENDAN'S MOTHER:

I'm Elaine O'Rourke and my son Brendan had been diagnosed with AIDS when he was four years old. We were desperate for a cure for Brendan, but we were not seeing this as a way to have Brendan cured. We were just seeing this as a way to bring comfort and blessing to him and our family.

We were sitting right about here when the pope came in and we were surrounded by, you know, all sorts of faithful. And as he made his way up we were very excited. And then he paused here, stopped, and that's when the whole embrace happened. And Brendan reached out and the pope embraced him. And everybody around us was clapping and you could see a lot of people had tears in their eyes and it was just, it was beautiful and quite memorable.

It just seemed so natural. And the grabbing of the pope's ear, that was just something Brendan did when anybody was hugging him or holding him. A good cold ear is something that Brendan liked to grab onto.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: God loves you. God loves you all. He loves those of you who are sick, those who are suffering from AIDS.

O'ROURKE: It introduced AIDS to the world, I think, in a way that they hadn't been willing to see it before. It was seen as a disease that only certain people were getting and instead of just a disease that people were getting. And this broke down barriers, I believe. It put a human face on the tragedy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: A live picture to show you from Vatican City this morning. We are watching for any sign of change in the pope's condition. Also watching this morning, Carol Costello, with a look at those who are watching and waiting around the globe -- Carol, good morning again.

COSTELLO: Yes, a lot of prayers are being said this morning in all parts of the globe, you're right about that.

As you might imagine, there's been an outpouring of emotion and support all around the world at shrines, at churches, at cathedrals. In Moscow, church services this morning for the pope. Also this morning in Paris, the bells of Notre Dame, as thousands of worshippers and tourists crowd inside to pray and light candles.

In London's Westminster Abbey, much more of the same. Also, prayers and praise for the pope here in the United States.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL WILLIAM KEELER, ARCHBISHOP OF BALTIMORE: He is certainly one of the great figures of our day. He's a giant. And in his giant way he has touched the hearts of literally millions who have seen him and heard him speak around the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: That sentiment much echoed this morning.

For more on the prayers being offered for the pope around America, CNN's Kelly Wallace standing by at St. Patrick's Cathedral, a few blocks from here in New York City. And Chris Lawrence is at St. Hyacinth's Cathedral in -- that's hard to say -- St. Hyacinth's Cathedral in Chicago.

First to Kelly -- Kelly, what's the word?

I know it's raining there this morning. But a mass is planned, right?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A mass is planned, Carol, starting at 8:00 a.m. But really only a handful of people inside the cathedral. You know, it is a rainy day, as you said. It's probably fair to say the weather matching the mood of many New Yorkers, including some four million Catholics, I believe, who are in the New York and the surrounding areas.

We were lucky enough, though, Carol, to meet two people who came here to pray for the pope. They live in New York, but they came here. They actually had a private audience with the pope some six years ago. They have a friend who is a Polish priest who was studying in Rome and introduced them to the pope.

Eva and Marty Bober, those are their names.

And I asked Eva what it was like to meet the pope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVA BOBER, SATTBROOK, NEW JERSEY: That was one of my biggest dreams and finally it happened. And today is a very, very sad day for me, because we are praying for a miracle. That's why we came to New York, to the cathedral, hoping for it. And we're going to go and pray.

MARTY BOBER, SATTBROOK, NEW JERSEY: If the dear lord calls him, I guess, you know, that's -- he has to go, I mean, you know, it's every -- it's going to happen to everyone, but, you know, it's just so sad that he's got to go right now, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Still holding out hope for a miracle.

You know, the pope definitely touched New Yorkers during his two visits to New York; the first one in 1979, the second one and the last one, 1995, about 10 years ago. The highlight of that, the pope with a public mass in Central Park. More than 100,000 people, Carol, gathering on the Great Lawn on what I believe was a somewhat of a rainy day. And very interesting, Carol, the pope delivered the mass in Latin and at the end everybody was applauding. And he said you are applauding, you're applauding, but you didn't understand. So, showing his humor.

And, again, the thoughts and prayers of a lot of New Yorkers with him today -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Sometimes you can just feel the spirit.

Kelly Wallace live in New York this morning.

People of Polish descent share a special relationship with the pope.

Let's bring in Chris Lawrence now from Chicago -- good morning, Chris.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, Carol.

It's very sad here. I wish I could explain it or describe it a little bit better. But it's just something about sitting in the pews here at St. Hyacinth and you can just feel it, something different. Even though the church is decorated, still has the decorations from Easter, which is one of the happiest times in the Christian faith, there's just a very sad feeling when you look at the people's faces as they sit there in the pews this morning. Many have come out here very early to start praying. And last night, though, there were nearly 2,000 people here for a special mass for the pope. And one woman that we spoke to said she felt as if almost that the pope had always been there for her and the least she could do is pray for him.

(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

LAWRENCE (voice-over): Gabriella Tulej had been planning a spring break vacation with her kids for two or three months. She canceled it in minutes when she heard the pope was sick.

GABRIELLA TULEJ: I love him very much.

LAWRENCE: As the pope's kidneys failed and his breathing became shallow, Gabriella took her kids to church to pray for him.

TULEJ: God wants him. That's -- he always says I have to go when I have to go.

LAWRENCE: More Polish people live in Chicago than any city outside Poland. To them, John Paul II has been more than a pope. He's been a strong Polish nationalist. And that means something here.

ANDREW CECHMAN: I'm proud to be Polish, because we are from the same country. And I love the pope.

LAWRENCE: Across the Midwest, churches opened their doors as people poured in to pray.

MIKE STALLEAUMER, RELIGION TEACHER: What we choose to do is celebrate his life and what a wonderful gift and a blessing he's been.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: You have come to accept each other.

LAWRENCE: A younger, healthier pope presided over mass in Chicago more than 25 years ago. Like a lot of Catholics today, Gabriella can't really remember a pope that wasn't Pope John Paul II.

TULEJ: I love him. I saw him two years ago in Rome when I was in Rome. And I love him very much. And I don't know what's -- what's going to be after him.

(END VIDEO TAPE)

LAWRENCE: A lot of Catholics, especially the younger Catholics here, asking themselves that very same question here this morning -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Chris Lawrence live in Chicago this morning.

It's so wonderful to see those pictures of the pope young and vital and walking through the streets. And then you come to realize how long it's been since you've seen him up and walking.

O'BRIEN: No question about that. All right, Carol, thanks.

COSTELLO: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Well, the Vatican acknowledging for the first time that the pope has slipped in and out of consciousness.

We're going to get back to Bill Hemmer in Rome just ahead.

Stay with us.

You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR, SATURDAY MORNING: Welcome back everyone. I'm Bill Hemmer live in Rome, Italy. Behind me St. Peter's Basilica where thousands are coming now to pay their respects to the pope and hope, as some say, another wave from the balcony that we have seen now so many times for the past 26 years.

It was three and a half hours ago when we got the last statement from the Vatican. At that time, saying nothing has changed for the pope's condition from last night. They also indicated several hours ago the pope uttered some words that sounded something similar to this, according to Vatican spokesperson: You have come to me, and for this I thank you. Again, strained words from the pope several hours ago.

At 5:00 local time, here in Rome about two hours from now, we do anticipate the strong possibility that the Vatican will give us another update on his condition. This was not firmly stated earlier. It was just a strong possibility given the statement we got today.

Now, people from all over the world now streaming in to St. Peter's Square. Many of these people tourists who are already in Rome or already Italy coming to get a feeling, a sense, they say, of the pope and could possibly be his final moments here. Some people tell us they are waiting for one more possible wave from that balcony from the papal residence.

In a moment, we'll try to decipher what the Vatican had to say earlier today. Also we stand by now for more word on the latest word of the condition of the Pope John Paul II.

At this hour I want to go back to New York again and say good morning to my partner back there, Soledad O'Brien.

Good morning, Soledad.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: All right, Bill. Good morning to you as well.

As we await that next health update from the Vatican, the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, announcing that the pope is in, quote, "a compromised state of consciousness". But he says there is no talk at the moment of the pope being in a coma.

The Vatican says the pope's heart and breathing are unchanged since yesterday when low blood flow and shallow breathing were first reported. Also, the pope said to have uttered with a great deal of difficulty the following words: "I have looked for you, now you have come to me and I thank you."

Novarro-Valls says, the pope seemed to be speaking to the thousands of young people gathered in St. Peter's Square in those remarks. We have much more from here in New York as we go along this morning. Carol Costello with us, as well. Let's get right back to Bill in Rome -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad. Thanks.

Jim Bittermann has been watching and waiting along with me here in Rome, Italy. And Jim, you were listening to the spokesperson that happened about three and a half hours ago. I'm curious to get your judgment now. Based on the words that were said, what is your gauge at this point?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a pretty serious situation that the church is heading toward right now. The fact is that the pope has been slipping in and out of consciousness. And he is only able to utter a few words at a time. The papal spokesman said he spoke in interrupted sentences.

Those around him are reconstructing the sentences trying to determine what it is exactly he has been saying. The spokesman tried to put the best light on it saying when the pope's eyes were shut it appeared he was resting peacefully. That he did respond when people walked into the room would come into consciousness but he made a very emphatic point that the pope was not slipping into a coma.

That would take the church into really uncharted territory because if the pope were in a coma for any length of time there are a number of decisions only he can make as the head of the church. This is an absolute monarchy after all. He could -- he's the only person that could make the decisions. If he were to stay in a coma for some length of time it would put the church in a period of real indecisiveness.

The other thing is, he's made it very clear, the church has made it very clear about their feelings about maintaining life at any cost. The pope redefined what our normal means to maintaining life last year saying that respirator and hydration you tubes and feeding tubes are within the bounds of normality. They must, as a moral obligation be maintained. So, in other words, if the pope were to slip into a coma and were to be maintained by respiration and feeding tubes that could go on for some time. This lingering that we're seeing could go on for some time -- Bill.

HEMMER: You know, Jim, yesterday when we heard the Vatican spokesperson come to the microphone he was asked a question personally how he felt right now with the pope possibly with his final moments on earth. He broke into a bit of a tear saying he has never seen the pope like this before in 26 years. Did you get that same tone from him today or was it different.

BITTERMANN: I think was a bit different. I think it was more composed. I do think they are starting to ponder this question about what they will do next. We, of course, have heard there is this letter the pope may have himself written giving instructions of what should be done should he linger in a coma for any length of time. We have never -- the existence of that letter has never been confirmed.

Also, there would be immediate doubt, perhaps, cast on that, that it was actually the pope who wrote the letter. That's happened in the past in papal history. Questions always raised if secret documents suddenly surface supposedly expressing the pope's will. There could be a great deal of controversy about whatever was contained in the letter.

The church is -- has a real situation on its hands. And you know, we keep saying that the pope is in his last hours. It could very well be the case. But anybody who has been around sick and dying person knows that sometimes they can linger on for a great length of time - Bill.

HEMMER: Jim Bittermann, thanks, here in Rome.

Also the indication we got earlier today his eyes are open at times and looks to be resting. This goes along with the same description we were given yesterday. Just as 24 hours ago when the pope was described as being serene. But again, no talk of a coma from Vatican officials, here in Rome, Italy. In a moment, Jeff Israely is the "Time" magazine bureau chief in here Rome, we'll talk to him live in Italy when we continue our coverage here. Back to New York now and more with Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks. Time now to check in with Carol Costello for a look at how Catholics around the world are reacting to the latest news about the pope.

Good morning again.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN NEWS ANCHOR, CNN SATURDAY MORNING: Reacting with sadness and also joy in celebration of the pope's life. From coast to coast, here in the United States Roman Catholics are praying for Pope John Paul II. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles is the nation's largest, more than 4 million Catholics. Cardinal Roger Mahoney cut short a vacation to lead masses at the Cathedral of our Lady of the Angels.

And on the East Coast, Providence, Rhode Island, a retiring Bishop Robert Mulvee, reassured the faithful that whatever happens it is God's will. Across the Atlantic now to Europe and the pope's hometown in Poland, many worshippers devastated by the latest news from the Vatican about the pope's condition. Here we see you vigil and prayers in Cologne, Germany. Even U.N. chief Kofi Annan, taking time out to reminisce about the pope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KOFI ANNAN, U.N. SECRETARY-GENERAL: I pray for him as he has prayed for me and for peace. He's a man of peace and he's been a great supporter of the United Nations. I recall very fondly my meetings with him, particularly sitting with him in hit private quarters discussing the question of war and peace.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: As I mentioned, many Polish Catholics devastated about the pope's failing health. Many say they thank god they were able to see one of their own serve so long and so well. CNN's Chris Burns live now in Krakow, Poland.

Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

Thousands of people here outside the archbishop's residence where the pope used to live. He used to speak from the window in very intimate conversations with Poles here. Outside that building now the flowers are piling up. There is now a black crucifix in the window over my shoulder, draped with a red ribbon, and with a wreath on it. They are very many preparing themselves here for the death of the pope. There are also some Franciscan monks outside the church here singing some of the favorite prayers of Pope John Paul II.

Now elsewhere in Poland, this morning, there was an open air mass in Warsaw by Polish youth. Keep in mind really the range of ages of people who are still very much close to the pope is just broad, wide- ranging here.

Also, last night quite an incredible moment at a soccer match. A game here in Poland, where people in the audience, in the bleachers, got SMSs (ph), saying the pope was very close to death. They called for the game to stop. The referees stopped it and they began to sing the national anthem, it being very important here in Poland saying Poland is not yet perished as long as Poles live. They see - Karol Wojtyla, as the one who liberated this country, brought it to democracy, out of Communism and out of the Soviet boot. So they are very much grateful for that, Carol.

COSTELLO: Chris Burns, live in Poland this morning. Thank you.

How difficult it must have been for the pope. In a communist country practicing his faith at great danger to himself.

O'BRIEN: No question. Poles around the world devastated, clearly, by this latest news. Very moving to see the soccer match called temporarily for that. Also I think the faithful devastated as we all watch and wait.

Carol, thanks.

Let's go back to Bill in Rome - Bill? HEMMER: Soledad, thanks for that. When you talk to the pilgrims here and those who have come gather in St. Peter's Square, when you ask them initially how they feel about this moment, how they feel about the man, almost to a person they pause. Then they give you an answer and start to reflect on the life of this man, what he has meant to them.

We have heard consistently throughout the day that Pope John Paul II has been a friend. Even though people who never met the man before consider him to be a friend and inspiration in their lives. Jeff Israely knows the story all too well. For seven years he's been in Rome, Italy. Now the "Time" magazine bureau chief and he's also my guest here.

Jeff, it's good to have you here today. First of all, let's talk about the news that broke. We can talk about a successor, as well, throughout this conversation. But back in February, the pope named 37 new cardinals to the College of Cardinals.

In a way, was he trying to pave the way for his own successor and perhaps shape the eventual vote of the College of Cardinals?

JEFFREY ISRAELY, ROME BUREAU CHIEF, "TIME": At this point, of 117 cardinals that would vote in a conclave, he has named all but three of them. So it's inevitable that his staff will be on this conclave, on the whole process of electing his successor. He named all of those cardinals last year, because he had to get the numbers up. There has to be around 120 when they go in the conclave.

HEMMER: Just to be clear, out of 117 cardinals you are saying he named 114?

ISRAELY: That's right.

HEMMER: I guess that's what happens when you are the pontiff for 26 years.

ISRAELY: Sure.

HEMMER: Not to get too far ahead of the story. When it comes to the possibility of a successor, what names come to mind?

ISRAELY: The first question is to consider whether the cardinals will be looking towards an Italian, as you know, Pope John Paul II is the first non-Italian in nearly five centuries. And the Italians will be looking to get one of their own back in there.

Or whether they will look to another foreigner, perhaps someone from Latin America or elsewhere in the Third World. Of the Italians, the names have been circulating about -- for years -- they change as his papacy has gone on. The names you hear now are the Archbishop of Milan, Cardinal Tettamanzi. The Patriarch of Venice Cardinal Scola. These are probably the two leading Italian candidates.

HEMMER: I think these names are going to be much more familiar to us. Eventually one will become very familiar to us. The consideration phase, what is on the table here? Is it age? Is that the factor? Is it the ability to communicate the message much like this great communicator has done for almost three decades?

ISRAELY: Well it is some combination of all of those. The one thing that will be on everyone's mind is that it will be impossible to find someone who has all the characteristics of this pope. This pope will be on everyone's mind when we look towards the successor to find someone who has a combination of the personal charisma, the intellectual capacity, the spirituality. This pope, if there's one criticism it was that he let the bureaucracy of the church fall to others. Perhaps the cardinals will be looking for someone who can be more of an administrator than this pope.

HEMMER: In a sense then, Jeff, how much of this has already been set in motion within the Vatican? How much of that is happening right now?

ISRAELY: I think without a doubt there are forces and individual cardinals who have been -- who will have been trying to shape the election already. And the speculation has been going on for years. But it's really now -- from the moment he dies is when the real campaign is on.

HEMMER: Jeff, thanks for your time. "Time" magazine bureau chief here in Rome.

You can hear the sirens here behind me. Just so you know, there's a hospital down the road a short way here. You're going to hear a lot of sirens as our coverage continues throughout the week. They come quite often here along the street outside the Vatican City.

One thing to hang on, Soledad, here, is that the statement earlier today said mass was celebrated in his presence, which leaves an awful lot to the imagination of the current condition of Pope John Paul II. More from Rome in a moment, back to New York.

O'BRIEN: Which we are watching and waiting to hear more about it. Bill, thanks.

Well, reflecting on the pope's life and the change in role of women in the Catholic Church under his leadership. That's just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have our deepest gratitude.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Sister Mary Ann Walsh is the deputy director of the media relations of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. She is also an author of a book called, "A Light for the World: Essays and Reflections on the Papacy of John Paul II.

She joins us from Washington. Nice to see you. Thank you for talking with us. How would you assess the role of women and how that changed under Pope John Paul II?

SISTER MARY ANN WALSH, AUTHOR, "JOHN PAUL II: A LIGHT FOR THE WORLD: Well, Soledad, just the other day I got a phone call from Syracuse, New York, from a reporter who said a woman had just been named vice chancellor and wanted to know how unusual this was. And I thought, this is the legacy of Pope John Paul II.

During his pontificate, the role of Canon Law, which changed, the Canon Law was changed so that women were allowed in many more decision making positions in the church. So as you look at this pontificate you'll see a dramatic increase in the number of women who are, as they say, sitting around the table.

O'BRIEN: And yet, at the same time, the role of women in the church in some ways did not change at all. It's a paradox, some people would say, that a very modern forward-looking pope who used e- mail and traveled extensively and was able to leverage the power of the media in many ways also was very traditional in many respects, especially when it came to women, right?

WALSH: I would not necessarily agree with that. He has been a strong supporter of women's rights. I often think we forget where he's coming from. For the pope, to support women's rights, would be to support her right to be at home and raise children. You're coming from a man who sees people forced to work, needing two incomes in this country -- sometimes people need two incomes -- but it's not the same as in the European country from which he came and from other countries.

He felt that a woman had a right, if she wanted to, be able to stay home and raise her children. So, he would support, for that reason, a fair wage so that the head of the household could support the family. I think very much in advancing women.

O'BRIEN: You worked as part of the Vatican press corps for several years. What was that experience like?

WALSH: Well, it was an exciting experience. I must say, there as a woman I benefited from the fact the pope is a Polish gentlemen. And I would be one of the first people he would come to on the plane because I was one of the few women there. So I did -- the traditional Polish gentleman was very helpful to me in that regard. But the experience was wonderful. On the plane -- the pope likes journalists, and you would have a lot of interaction and banter.

I remember one trip, when we were coming back from, I think it was the Netherlands, and the men on the plane were kind of joking with the pope saying, oh, the women were very outspoken weren't they, Holy Father? And he said, good, they should be. They have to be. So, yes, he believed in women speaking out. He promoted them going back to -- women the United States, Dr. Mary Ann Glendon from Harvard was named to head a Vatican delegation to the United Nations Beijing conference. This would never have happened -- this never happened in a previous pontificate.

O'BRIEN: You've talked about the first leg of that trip to the Netherlands where the pope was not particularly popular. You had sort of a back and forth about that. What did you say?

WALSH: Well, it was interesting. I was a journalist and, you know as a journalist, you go, and you're preparing, you're asking questions that are going to get you good quotes. I said to the Holy Father, why are you going, Holy Father? They've said they don't want you. He said, I'm going -- they invited me, and he said, plus it's my duty. And I though, oh, I have a good quote.

A week later I'm on the plane and he gets on and he sees me, and he says, see, he said, you were worried a little about me. Now you see why it was indispensable that I go? I was utterly amazed that a week later he could have remembered that conversation. In the way he turned it up -- the protest to him wasn't a reason he shouldn't go, it was all the more reason. He had to explain and be with his people.

O'BRIEN: It was interesting, too, the way he touched people, not only obviously the Catholics who came out in droves to see him but people who were not Catholic at all. The Buddhists who came to see him in Thailand and the Muslims who came to see him in Egypt, as well.

WALSH: The Holy Father reached out to all religious. I think he was a moral leader that supported what they were trying to do, as well. He has the stage as the pope and I think his message resonated with many of them.

I always recall the meetings that he had in Assisi where he called religious leaders together to almost to mobilize them in the effort for peace. It's very clear that the battles that we are fighting now in our world, there are religious overtones and undertones to them. The Church plays a very important part in addressing that.

O'BRIEN: Sister Marion Walsh, joining us this morning from Washington. It's nice to see you. Thank you for your time.

WALSH: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Well, the pope's condition remains grave. He's slipping in and out of consciousness. What does that mean medically? Dr. Sanjay Gupta up next to explain on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everyone, to this expanded, special edition of CNN's AMERICAN MORNING live in Rome, Italy. The headline from the Vatican today is this -- nothing has changed for the pope's condition since last night. We were given that word several hours ago here in Rome. As we try to figure out the current condition for the pope, we're going to bring in Dr. Sanjay Gupta back at the CNN center to try and piece together, Sanjay, if you could, the symptoms we've been told about over the past 48 hours, and based on your own medical knowledge, what could be his condition based on what you know now?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL EXPERT: Let me bring you up to speed quickly here. About 40 hours ago was when we first heard about this urinary tract infection. You remember that, quickly, it became significant with high fever. Antibiotics were administered, as well. Then, just a couple of hours after that, we heard the condition has stabilized, perhaps suggesting it had been unstable before that. But, it wasn't too long after that it became very serious, septic shock was a term that was used, and a full cardio circulatory collapse, meaning his heart and his blood vessels, not enough bluid -- fluid, rather -- blood to flow around. His condition is very serious. Blood pressure unstable.

Interestingly, Bill, he was being described as lucid. That was yesterday morning. And then we got a report a few hours after that saying that -- no comment really about his consciousness. And, just most recently, about four hours ago, saying that he really -- just in and out of consciousness -- not using the word coma. They are being very careful with that.

Bill, what it suggests -- I mean, this is somewhat surprising in some ways. He has remained sort of this good in terms of being able to even utter a few words earlier today. In someone who is in septic shock, even for a healthy person who is in septic shock, they are often very sick, they're often not communicating, very lethargic at a minimum. So, surprising at some extent, Bill.

HEMMER: So, two things to ask about, then. First with septic shock: If it's been 40 hours, since we learned of that condition, what happens to the human body over a two-day period with that condition. And, are you surprised that he's conscious?

GUPTA: You know, very predictable things happen to the body for someone who is in septic shock. There is a significant lowering of blood pressure and that's significant because it reduces the blood flow to all the organs including the brain. So, your second question about, am I surprised he's still not in a coma or still conscious to some extent? Yes, surprised by that because there would have been a significant lowering of his blood pressure and the blood flow to the brain by this point. Again, 40 hours is a long time, Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, and Sanjay, quickly here, I don't have much time here. But, the fact he tried to speak earlier today and the Vatican pieced these words together. They say he tried to talk and it was a strained voice. Does that surprise you?

GUPTA: Yes, you know, just even before this happened because of the trach tube he had in, he was having difficulty speaking. He had his frustration when he was trying to speak a week ago before the septic shock. The fact he's still speaking at all -- I can't imagine this is more than a whisper and people trying to make sense out of the sounds he's putting together, Bill.

HEMMER: It was quite clear from the Vatican, too, the official talking earlier today, Sanjay, that he was straining to get those words out and together in the papal residence.

Let's get a break here. Live in Rome, Italy. Sanjay, thanks for that. In a moment, looking back again at the enormous legacy Pope John Paul II leaves behind. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're looking at a live picture from Vatican City, where we have seen the number of pilgrims increase as they stand out beneath the pope's apartment.

It is just about half past the hour on this "American Morning." I'm Soledad O'Brien, reporting to you from New York this morning. Bill Hemmer is in Rome for us. We'll check in with him in just a few moments.

John Paul II is the third longest serving pope. He was named back in 1978. He has an incredible legacy. Cardinal Theodore Mccarrick is the archbishop of Washington. He joins us this morning.

Nice to see you, sir. Thank you very much for being with us.

THEODORE MCCARRICK, CARDINAL, ARCHBISHOP OF WASHINGTON: Thank you. It's good to be with you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. You are one of 117 men who will decide who the next pope will be. That is a tremendous, I would imagine, honor and also burden to carry to a large degree. How do you go into this?

MCCARRICK: Well, scared, I guess. Well hopeful, of course, because you appreciate that this is the work of the spirit. And in a very special way, you're going to be a part of this extraordinary presence of the spirit because we believe that it's the Holy Spirit that guides the conclave, and that helps us to choose the one who the Lord would want to be the head of the church.

And how well they did it 27 years ago when they elected Pope John Paul II. As I go in, I go in very prayerful and very humble because, you know, I know that it's an extraordinary opportunity, extraordinary privilege for me to be able to participate in that. And I hope I do it right.

So I look for prayers. And Soledad, you can be one of those who pray for me that I do what the Lord wants me to do in there.

O'BRIEN: You absolutely have my word on that. As you well know, the word from the Vatican this morning is very dire about the condition of John Paul II. So you could be called up very soon, frankly, to be heading to Rome and into Vatican City to join the conclave. What do you look for? Outside of allowing the Holy Spirit to guide your choice, do you look for someone who is like Pope John Paul II? Or do you look for someone who is nothing like John Paul II?

MCCARRICK: Well, I think I would personally look for someone who was -- who had the gifts of this Holy Father. I think you would want someone who would carry out the great and courageous things he's done.

I think that I remember the Holy Father as a young pope so filled with enthusiasm, so great an evangelizer for the world. I think this is what we still need today. So I think that the gifts that the Lord had given us through John Paul II are gifts that the church still needs. And so I would hope that we can choose someone who will carry on that great mission of evangelization, that great mission of loving people, the great charisma that he had to reach out to the powerful and to the poor, and to bring to everybody the understanding of how much God loved them and how much God calls them into holiness.

That's a -- he did that so well. And I think that's a real important job of the Holy Father, as it is of all of us.

O'BRIEN: There are many people, as you well know, who say you will never find another person who has that perfect combination of the personal touch, the intellectual ability, the prolific ability when it comes to writing. Do you think with the sounding like eminent death of Pope John Paul II that you lose a large number of the faithful here in the United States because you lose that connection to such an important person who represents the church?

MCCARRICK: Well, I think we certainly lose a -- one type of relationship, but I don't think we lose a lot of people because I think the Holy Father has not drawn us to himself as much as he's drawn us to the church, as much as he's drawn us to the family, this family of the Lord which is what we're all about.

It seems to me that oh, there will be some who will say, oh, we're disappointed you didn't have -- you don't have a John Paul again. But I think that will pass.

The Holy Father always wanted us to become more like the Lord, not more like him. And I think that this is - this has been his great call, his great challenge to us.

And now we, the bishops in the United States, now have to make sure that that call, that every Holy Father will make, will be heard by our people and understood by our people, and that challenge will be accepted. So we move forward together.

O'BRIEN: Of the 117 cardinals who will make the decision about the next pope, only three have experience. Does that fill you with any trepidation? Or is it so set in stone how it works that it will just go on as a smoothly oiled machine?

MCCARRICK: Well, you know, machines can be well oiled. People often can't be. And so as we move in, I think really 114 of us are going to look around and say what do we do next?

Now there is, of course, a pattern. There is a program. This Holy Father himself has presented a document, which is now the law, the regulations of how the cardinals will go about the task of electing a new pope. So we have that in place. And we know we will follow that.

But I think that even so, we will look to those three to Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Baum, who is my predecessor here in the United States as archbishop of Washington and Cardinal Sin. And we will say now, what did do you the last time? They're not supposed to say, but maybe they will be able to give us some good advice so that we can do our job, our - and exercise our responsibility faithfully and joyfully and well.

O'BRIEN: Theodore Cardinal McCarrick joining us this morning in Washington. Nice to see you, sir. Thank you for your time this morning.

MCCARRICK: Thank you. God bless you.

O'BRIEN: Thank you very much. And likewise, let's go back to Bill Hemmer in Rome this morning - Bill?

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Soledad, thanks for that. An hour and 20 minutes away, we may get another update on the statement, on the condition for the pope.

The last word we got is nothing has changed since last night. My guest now from Philadelphia, he normally is here in Rome at the Vatican, Archbishop John Patrick Foley. He's president of the Vatican Media Office.

And Archbishop Foley, we certainly appreciate your time at this hour.

I want to get to the personal side about your relationship with the pontiff in a moment here. But give us a sense about how much of the true story and the full story are we getting from the Vatican at this point?

JOHN P. FOLEY, ARCHBISHOP, VATICAN COMMUNICATIONS OFFICE: Oh, I have no doubt that you're getting the entire full story. The pope asked the church to be a house of glass. And he insisted on candor about his own condition.

So I think what you are receiving is the full truth about his present situation. So there's no intent to conceal anything. As you heard, they admit that he's coming in and out of consciousness, that he wasn't able to come celebrate mass this morning, but did participate. So I don't think you could get any better report.

HEMMER: If you compare today to 1978, in October of that year, how much more transparency do you believe this man brought to the Vatican?

FOLEY: Well, quite a bit of transparency. I had said to somebody just recently that the last time I had lunch with him was about a year ago because his condition, of course, deteriorated since then. But at that time, he said, you know, your office is about 40 years old now. Would you like me to do a special letter indicating the importance of communications? And I said, thank you.

And in the week between his two hospitalizations, that letter was issued. It's called Eroqudos (ph) Delupo which in Italian means the rapid development of the technologies and techniques of communications. So the Holy Father realized the importance of communications in the world and wanted to underline it. He said we live in an environment of communications. And that's even more true now than it was when the Holy Father was elected in 1978 and when Pope Paul VI died in 1978.

HEMMER: If that is the case, Archbishop Foley, and you're now looking toward a successor very soon for one billion Catholics worldwide, how important is it to have a man who is media savvy?

FOLEY: I think it's very important. It's ironic that this Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, came from a society in which there was not openness for the church in the media because he came from Poland at the time that it was a communist society.

So this Holy Father didn't have that exposure to the media, but he learned very quickly. And I remember his saying one time to Cardinal Kieler of Baltimore, when the cardinal wanted to have a television camera at a presentation that was being made of the pope, Pope John Paul smiled and said, "If it doesn't happen on television, it doesn't happen."

So he really realized how important the media are. He never did anything specifically for the media, but he opened his entire public life to coverage by the media. And he was a media natural. He was very at ease. He would go, for example, back through the plane in his early years as pope to speak to all of the reporters.

I remember being with him on an Aer Lingus flight from Ireland to the United States in 1979. I was English language press secretary for that trip. And when the pope came back, it was sort of a surprise. And everybody rushed to that side of the plane. And the plane tipped because the weight had shifted so much. So, somebody had to sort of steady the Holy Father because he was almost thrown off balance by the shift of weight in the plane. And he was almost hit by a couple television cameras, which were a little too eager.

But he was a very much at ease. And the amazing thing was that people would phrase their questions in different languages and he would respond in that language. He was a marvel.

HEMMER: Yes, that is remarkable. Yes. You mentioned that story in 1979. Go back 12 years prior to that in 1967. He was a cardinal. That's the first time you met him 38 years ago.

FOLEY: Yes...

HEMMER: Did you see anything in him during that first meeting that would lead you to believe that he would be the charismatic leader he became?

FOLEY: I really can't say that I did in 1967. I had to set up a press conference for him. There -- he was made a cardinal at the same time as Cardinal Kroll of Philadelphia, who was my bishop. And there were a number of Polish American journalists on the airplane with Cardinal Kroll, who asked for an opportunity to meet the other cardinal, as they called him, who was Cardinal Wojtyla.

And I made contact with the then Father Dziwisz. And to have an opportunity for these journalists to meet Cardinal Wojtyla, who surprised me by being able to converse with them somewhat in English at that time. His English improved greatly over the years.

But when I was most impressed by him, I must say, was when he visited St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia where I live. He visited in 1969. And he was speaking to seminarians. And he sought out the African-American seminarians to find out what their experience was as African-Americans in the United States, did they experience discrimination? He also wanted to find out what their experience was as Catholics and as candidates for the priesthood. And I thought, isn't this marvelous that this man seeks to know individuals. He's remarkable, the interest he takes in persons. A beautiful, beautiful thing.

HEMMER: Thanks for sharing. Archbishop John Patrick Foley in Philadelphia.

FOLEY: Thank you.

HEMMER: Back in a moment here from Rome, Italy. Waiting for any word on the condition of Pope John Paul II. Quite likely in an hour and 15 minutes, we may get another update from the Vatican. We're all waiting word here in Rome for that.

But for now to the CNN Center. Tony Harris has the other headlines today on this Saturday morning.

Tony, good morning there.

TONY HARRIS: And good morning, Bill. And good morning, everyone.

Now in the news, the autopsy has been completed on the body of Terri Schiavo, but the results may not be released for several weeks. The brain damaged woman died Thursday, 13 days after her feeding tune was removed. Schiavo's body has been returned to her husband.

FBI agents got a tip that they had missed some evidence a decade ago, so they returned this week to the house in Kansas, where Terry Nichols lived. The tip panned out. Agents found explosives buried in a crawl space. Nichols is serving a life term for conspiracy in the Oklahoma City, bombing.

Rock star Neil Young is hospitalized in New York for treatment of what his agent says was a dangerous brain aneurysm. But the agent says Young has undergone minimally invasive neuroradiology and is expected to make a full recovery.

For most Americans and much of the world, it is time to spring forward. If you start now, you might get every time-piece around your house set one hour ahead by 2 a.m. Sunday. Daylight Savings Time ends the last Sunday in October.

Those are the headlines. Now back to Soledad in New York.

O'BRIEN: All right, Tony, thanks.

Well, tears and prayers and hopeful vigils as well. We're going to take a look at how people around the world and here in the United States are reacting, as the pope's health deteriorates. That's ahead on "American Morning", the special edition. Stay with us. We're back in a moment.

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HEMMER: In Vatican City there in the square in front of St. Peter's Basilica, we have watched these crowds grow steadily throughout the day. Many, we're told, came here for the Easter holiday a week ago and stayed on, given the pope's condition. And many more too are simply tourists who have come to Italy and have now come to pay their respects to John Paul II.

We do not anticipate the enormous wave of pilgrims to come to the Vatican until after word is given down, if indeed, the pope passes.

And let's talk about the latest that we may and may not know from the Vatican.

Delia Gallagher, our Vatican analyst, is back with me here. And good afternoon again to you. Let's try and parse a little bit of the language that we heard from the statement four and a half hours ago.

They said that mass was celebrated in his presence. It leaves a lot to the imagination, as to his condition.

DELIA GALLAGHER, VATICAN ANALYST: Yes.

HEMMER: Is he awake, is he aware, or he is not?

GALLAGHER: Yes. Well, first of all, mass being celebrated in his presence obviously means the pope wasn't saying the mass. So he wasn't able to speak the words of the mass. And in order for a mass to be valid, somebody has to speak those words.

So we can assume that in his presence does mean some sort of state of consciousness of the pope, otherwise it would be no need to say that mass was celebrated.

HEMMER: What is the suggestion that I know you were talking with the people down at the press office here, about the suggestion about a compromising moment at 7:30 a.m. local time? What does that mean?

GALLAGHER: Well, the compromising moment, the pope's spokesman made a point to say was not a coma or even a sort of pre-coma.

Apparently, the pope would close his eyes. They wouldn't know exactly whether he was trying to sleep, whether he was conscious. But when they spoke to him, he opened his eyes. So therefore, there is a kind of state of going maybe in and out of consciousness for the pope.

HEMMER: Did you ask them about how they put these words together, the words, you have come to me, and for this I thank you?

GALLAGHER: Yes. Well, the pope can speak to his aides. Obviously, he does not speak in a complete sentence, but they are words that come out a little bit at a time let us say.

So the pope spokesman said that this phrase was reconstructed, put together, by the pope's private secretary, who of course knows the pope the best. And so, would be able to really understand what the pope is trying to convey.

HEMMER: And Dr. Sanjay Gupta is telling us that if indeed he was talking like that, it may have been not more than a whisper and a very hushed voice, based on what we heard and did not hear on Wednesday, three days ago.

GALLAGHER: Yes.

HEMMER: Quickly, last night overnight, the bedroom light was out in his papal residence, but there were two other lights to the left of the bedroom that were on. Is that significant in any way?

GALLAGHER: Those are the two lights that are always on when the pope is in the Vatican. That's standard practice for the Vatican. Bedroom light is not on, but the next two lights over his studio and secretary's studio are always on when the pope is in the Vatican.

HEMMER: Delia Gallagher, thanks. We'll talk again next hour. And again, we've been talking throughout the morning here and the afternoon here in Rome, Italy about this statement from the Vatican.

Getting word that will come about 5:30 local time, which is about an hour and 30 minutes from now. And again, this is a likely statement given earlier today. So the intention, our understanding is that we'll get an update then.

A break here. Back in a moment. More of our live coverage on the special edition of CNN's AMERICAN MORNING, live in Rome, Italy, after this.

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O'BRIEN: Masses are underway around the world this morning. In Moscow, you're looking at pictures of the faithful gathered there to pray and sing hymns.

Time to check back in with Carol Costello for a look at reaction from around the globe this morning.

Good morning again.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And also here in the United States. This is not just a time for sadness, many people say, but it's a time for joy, too, a celebration of the way the pope lived his life.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston. J.J. Ramberg is at the Basilica of the National Shrine in Washington.

But Gary, let's start with you. You know, I have been reading newspapers from across the country, and many people are saying the same thing. They say we didn't always agree with him, but we respected the pope. That was from a man in Seattle. Are you hearing that in Boston?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And we're hearing that especially in Boston, because there's been so much controversy here in this archdiocese with the priest sex abuse scandal. Even people greatly outraged about that are right now saying this is time to pay our respects to Pope John Paul II.

Carol, here in Boston today, the weather is very inclement. Even by New England standards, it is pouring rain. It is very cold and blustery. And it appears to be keeping the numbers of people down outside this beautiful neogothic Cathedral of the Holy Cross. This, the center of life of the archdiocese of Boston.

In about 10 minutes, a mass does begin. This is a regularly scheduled 9:00 a.m. mass that occurs on Monday through Saturday.

Last night, however, there was a special mass that was held to pray for Pope John Paul II. It was held in a small chapel, which is inside the cathedral behind me. Discussions took place among the parishioners afterwards about the life of Pope John Paul II after they did their praying.

Now this very building where we're standing is where Pope John Paul II came in 1979. October 1, 1979. It was the very first American church he ever visited after becoming the pope. He was 59 years old. He had been the pope for 11 and a half months. This is his first visit to the United States as the pontiff.

When he arrived at Logan Airport, he kissed the ground. He then came here, delivered homily inside the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. And then, afterwards, left on a day very similar to this one weather wise. It was cold, blustery, pouring, more than one million people in the streets. And he celebrated a mass in the Boston common here in this city. Memories of a quarter century ago - Carol?

COSTELLO: Thanks so much. Gary Tuchman live in Boston this morning.

Let's head now to D.C. J.J. Ramberg is there. Good morning.

J. J. RAMBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We're right in front of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. And just at noon today, Cardinal McCarrick, who Soledad spoke to earlier in this program, is going to be holding a mass beside me or right behind me here.

Now yesterday, the cardinal held a special mass at St. Matthews. St. Matthews is a very significant place for the pope because in 1979, as Gary Tuchman was just saying, the pope visited Boston. He also visited here in Washington, D.C. He was the first pope to visit the White House. And during that same visit, he celebrated a mass at St. Matthews.

Now earlier today, we were able to speak to a couple of the people who were going to mass at St. Matthews. And it is raining here, as it is in Boston.

One woman said to us, you know, it's raining outside. It's a very sad day. It's as if the whole world is crying. Another man taking a more optimistic look at this. He said, you know what, the time has come. The pope served the Lord and his time has come. And we should be celebrating right now - Carol?

COSTELLO: Celebrating the way he lived his life. J.J. Ramberg live in Washington this morning.

And I know the mayor of Washington also speaking out, Mayor Anthony Williams is Catholic, saying he's grateful for all that the pope did for the poor in this country and around the world.

O'BRIEN: As you mentioned, many people trying to embrace the moment as it seems as the pope nears his death. Maybe not trying to be quite so sorrowful and remember all the amazing things that the pope has done certainly for the world. Carol, thanks.

COSTELLO: We're going to bring you back live to Rome with the very latest on the pope's health just ahead. Also, we will hear from a cardinal who visited the pope on Friday. What he has to say about the pope's condition is just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING. Stay with us with us for our special edition. We're back in a moment.

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BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Bill Hemmer. Hello from Rome, Italy.

His struggle has been so public for so long, and now Pope John Paul II clings to life in private, a life that, by any measure, has been extraordinary.

Welcome to a special edition of CNN's AMERICAN MORNING live in Rome.

ANNOUNCER: This is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien at the CNN Broadcast Center in New York and Bill Hemmer in Rome.

HEMMER: Hello, again, everybody from Rome, Italy.

Four o'clock in the afternoon here. As we gather here, so too so many members of the media throughout the world. You name a country, likely they are here, covering and waiting for the latest word on the pope. Mexico, Japan, Hungary, Poland, and that is just the media outlets that are associated with us in this particular area of Rome, Italy. We are just yards away from the entrance to Vatican City behind me. And there in St. Peter's Square, thousands are now gathering, paying their respects. It's a somber, very quiet moment for so many as they await the latest word on Pope John Paul II.

And so many stories too, feelings of love and appreciation that we'll share with you as our coverage continues this hour from Rome.

Also from New York, Soledad O'Brien is back there this morning. And Soledad, good morning to you there.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, as well, Bill.

We're expecting another update on the pope's health to come in about an hour. Earlier, Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls announced the pope is in a, quote, "compromised state of consciousness." But he says there is no talk at the moment of the pope being in a coma.

The Vatican says the pope's heart and breathing are unchanged since Friday, when low blood flow and shallow breathing were reported.

And for a second day, the Vatican announced a series of papal appointments, including a Spanish bishop and two ambassadors.

We're going to have much more here from New York as we go along this morning. Carol Costello as well with me this morning.

Let's head back to Rome, though, and Bill Hemmer. Bill?

HEMMER: Soledad, thank you.

And again, as we await the condition and latest word from Rome here, I want to check in again with Jim Bittermann. Jim, it's been several hours since we heard from the official spokesperson for the pope. And I don't know if you are gleaning anything more in the past several hours, but maybe if we can update our viewers a moment here, in case they're just joining us, about what they are saying publicly about the pope's condition. Hello again to you, Jim.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Bill.

And in fact, they're painting a very grim picture, I think, of what the pope's (UNINTELLIGIBLE) actual state is right at the moment. The way they put it is that he is basically faced with some kind of compromised state of consciousness. And we're taking this to mean that he's kind of drifting in and out of consciousness.

The papal spokesman says that he was recognizing people, that he was recognizing the presence of people in the room, but that there were other times when his eyes were closed. He appeared relaxed.

He kept emphasizing that, the papal spokesman, that, in fact, the pope had not slipped into a coma. That would present enormous problems for the church if he were to slip into a coma, because essentially, the church business would come to a halt for as long as he was in a coma.

And one of the things he's made clear is that he and the church believe that life-sustaining measures, such as feeding tubes and hydration tubes and respirators, are perfectly normal. And there is a moral obligation to maintain life as long as possible.

So the church is looking at the hours that are left in the pope's life, but, in fact, there could be some things that would happen over the next hours or few days or maybe weeks that could change that vision a bit if the pope were to linger on some, Bill.

HEMMER: Yes, Jim, also, they hinted that we would get an update sometime after 5:00 local time, maybe 5:30, which is about 90 minutes from now. When they say it's likely they'll make a statement, is that a for-sure thing, that it will come at that point?

BITTERMANN: No, no, absolutely not. There's no guarantee of that. And also, it may not be the kind of thing we saw before, which was Navarro-Valls himself making a statement. It might be just a communique issued.

Something just to add to what Soledad was saying there about the appointment of the bishops that were announced today, again, this is the appearance of the church trying to tie together loose ends in the event that the pope dies. Basically, only he can make bishops, and these lists of bishops that have come out now over the last two days here seem to indicate the church is trying to get these lists of bishops established. He's the only person that can name them.

And so it would look impossible if, after his death, there suddenly was a list of bishops published that were elevated by the pope.

So there's a lot of sort of housecleaning business here that's taking place as the pope nears what may be his final hours, Bill.

HEMMER: Jim Bittermann, thanks, in Rome with me here.

Also the headline earlier today, nothing, nothing has changed regarding his condition since last night. However, they emphasize there is no talk of a coma.

More from Rome in a moment. Back to you in New York now, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thank you very much.

As we have seen from those live pictures coming to us from Vatican City, pilgrims by the thousands and tourists as well have been flocking to the Vatican. Roman Catholic leaders also, they're coming to the pope's bedside as well. The governor of Vatican City visited the pontiff, yes, on Friday. Cardinal Edmund Szoka says the pope showed signs of life during his visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CARDINAL EDMUND SZOKA, GOVERNOR OF VATICAN CITY: The pope was completely conscious and completely alert. He couldn't speak, but when he saw me with his eyes and bowing his head, I knew he immediately recognized me and was trying to greet me.

So I knelt down alongside of him by the bed, and I kissed his hands and held his hand. And I told him in Polish that I had offered mass for him and that I was praying for him.

And in the meantime, these other -- the three doctors were on the other side of the bed. So I wasn't there too long. And then Archbishop Gibi (ph) spoke to me and said, you know, maybe better to go now.

So when I left, I just -- you know, I'm a priest, so I just automatically gave him a blessing. And when I did, he blessed himself. It was a very moving moment.

He was -- I say, he was perfectly conscious and perfectly alert. I have no doubt about that. But he was having extreme difficulty breathing. His breathing was very, very labored. And it was very sad for me to see him that way. You know, it was -- must have been terrible suffering to have to keep sort of gasping for breath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's the governor of Vatican City, Cardinal Edmund Szoka, talking about his visit on Friday with the pope.

Our next guest has traveled with the pope on dozens of trips around the world. Cardinal Justin Regali is the archbishop of Philadelphia. He's there live for us this morning.

It's nice to see you. Thank you very much for being with us.

As we mentioned, you traveled dozens of trips with Pope John Paul II. What was that experience like?

CARDINAL JUSTIN REGALI, ARCHBISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA: Oh, it was a great experience, Soledad. It was an extraordinary part of my life as I began. My very first trip with the pope was the trip that he combined to Ireland and to the United States in 1979. And it was during that trip that I came to Philadelphia with him, actually, it was the first time that I had ever been in this city. And now I end up as the archbishop of Philadelphia.

But during all these trips, there was this marvelous sharing with him of his pastoral love, his pastoral zeal, his pastoral energy as he went around the world. We went through Africa, through Asia, through the British Isles, so many times to the United States. And it was a tremendous experience.

O'BRIEN: You talk about pastoral energy. Here is a man who speaks eight languages, traveled to over 115 countries, reached out to other faiths very aggressively, comments on world affairs as if they are his own affairs. Do you think that that -- all of that raises the bar, then, on what a pope should be and sort of changes who would be picked to be the next pope?

REGALI: Well, certainly, this pope has these extraordinary qualities. And he has this global vision, and this is part of his ministry. The only thing is, with his extraordinary talents, he has fulfilled this global ministry in a way that is extraordinary. We pray that the next person will have a great participation in this, but we also believe that John Paul II will remain as a shining example in history of someone who was extraordinarily gifted by God.

O'BRIEN: You are one of 117 men who will pick the next pope. How difficult do you think then your task is going to be?

REGALI: Well, humanly speaking, you know, it is an extraordinary challenge. But one thing that we do keep in mind, and one thing that is very comforting, is the fact that as the cardinals, when the time comes, they go into the conclave, we have this assurance that the people throughout the whole world, people of different religions, are praying and offering an extraordinary amount of support in prayer and in solidarity.

And this is a great force. This is a great gift. And this gives us great confidence, because it is more than just a human choice. We rely on the power of God to help the verdict of the College of Cardinals.

O'BRIEN: The pope appointed all but three, I believe, of the cardinals. Does that mean that he has this incredibly strong influence, then, on who will be the next pope?

REGALI: Well, certainly. He appointed men whom he felt could possibly be electors of his successor. I do not believe it was ever his intention to try and control an election. But the point is that it is the orderly succession of the Roman pontiff that is part of the role of the actual pope, and so he fulfilled his duty.

He -- at so many times he had consistories, and he chose men to represent all different nations. And this is certainly an enrichment of the College of Cardinals, when these men will now come together representing all races, all peoples, all ethnic groups throughout the world.

O'BRIEN: And following the very dire words coming out of the Vatican today. Cardinal Justin Regali, the archbishop of Philadelphia, joining us this morning. It's nice to see you. Thank you very much for joining us.

REGALI: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, Pope John Paul II may be the spiritual leader for more than a billion Catholics, but he has had enormous success at reaching out to people of other faiths. The pope's legacy, just ahead on this special extended edition of AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody.

You're taking a live look at the pictures of the pope's apartment in Vatican City. We are watching and waiting for word from the Vatican updating the Holy See's condition. We are expecting, in fact, that update in the next 90 minutes or so.

Robert Moynihan is the editor in chief of "Inside the Vatican." He has been following, of course, developments out of Rome this morning. He's in Washington.

Robert, welcome back. Nice to talk to you again.

Tomorrow, I know, marks a special holiday in the Vatican calendar. What can you tell us about that?

ROBERT MOYNIHAN, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "INSIDE THE VATICAN": Yes. And in fact, I'm in Washington today, but I'll be taking a plane this afternoon for Rome. I'll be there tomorrow morning.

It's very clear now, the Vatican has made it clear, that these are the last hours of the pope's life. It could extend a little bit longer, but we're looking now for when he will actually pass away. And the day could be tomorrow. And I've received e-mails today from Catholics who have said, Will the pope die on Divine Mercy Sunday?

And among -- in the Catholic Church, the pope declared the Sunday after Easter a special Sunday referring to God's great mercy towards people for their sins, and the fact that he embraces them despite that. And that's tomorrow.

And the pope declared this a special feast five years ago. It's very special to this pope. And the people who are e-mailing me are saying, I -- they think the pope is trying to hang on until tomorrow, because it will be so significant.

Divine Mercy Sunday has to do with a Polish nun, because the pope is from Poland. And this nun was very special to him. Her name was Sister Faustina Kowalski. She had visions in the 1930s.

And there's something else important here. In 1938, Faustina had a vision of Jesus in which he said to her, in her diary, she writes, "As I was praying for Poland, I heard the words, 'I bear a special love for Poland, and if she will be obedient to my will, I will exalt her in might and holiness. From her will come forth the spark that will prepare the world for my final coming.'"

So I'm getting e-mails saying that the pope was this spark that Sister Faustina saw, and that they are even expectations of great events after his death, even the Second Coming.

I'm just reporting this. This is what readers are writing to me.

O'BRIEN: Certainly a special significance many people are reading into that if the pope can indeed hold out, because, of course, we're hearing from the Vatican very, very dire words. In fact, the Vatican has been stressing that the pope is not in a coma. Is that in large part because there is nothing in place to deal with that, essentially?

MOYNIHAN: It's partly that. It's also the case that there were wild rumors, untrue rumors, in Rome that the pope had already passed away, even yesterday. And the Vatican simply wasn't releasing that information. That's absolutely untrue. And saying that he's not in a coma and referring to words that he is speaking proves that he's still alive. He's just getting very weak.

And there are two other points I want to make. I think we have, in Navarro-Valls' statement this morning, something similar to the last words of this pope. We're not sure what else he may say. But he was speaking, and Navarro-Valls made it very clear, "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me, and I thank you."

Now, Navarro-Valls said this is reference to the young people who had come to the square. But I've had people in Rome saying to me they think he was referring to God, and that he was speaking, as it were, to God. "I have looked for you. Now you have come to me, and I thank you."

And the final thing I was going to say, that there will be a conclave coming up, and I have a sense that they might make a dramatic change from tradition and possibly choose a man who is not a cardinal. Might be a bishop.

And the pope gave an interesting insight into this about two or three years ago. He said, The man who will be my successor is not yet a cardinal. Doesn't mean that this will happen, but it's just a possibility.

O'BRIEN: If that prediction were in fact to come true, how shocking would that be for the Catholic Church?

MOYNIHAN: Well, it would be in the tradition of choosing John Paul II, who was first non-Italian pope in 455 years. We haven't had a noncardinal for many, many, centuries. But it is possible. The church is in a phase of modernizing and of -- centuries ago, cardinals would come to Rome by horse and carriage and by boat. And so they took 20 days to reach Rome. Some of them didn't reach it in time. And now they travel by airplane.

The rule to have a cardinal as the pope is a tradition. It's not anything doctrinal, written in stone. They could...

O'BRIEN: What bishop do you see filling that role?

MOYNIHAN: Well, there was a very intriguing little report that I read about a month ago about a bishop that I've met. And I hate to mention his name, because -- I perhaps shouldn't. But he's a bishop in Russia. And he's a very striking man, very spiritual and holy man, very young man.

O'BRIEN: There are some who say, and you talk about the church modernizing, there's some who would like to see the church also decentralize, maybe give more power to the bishops and the local church. Do you see that as a move toward that?

MOYNIHAN: No, no. And I think -- my own view of that, it would be a mistake. And I think it would be against the sense of the church, and as something that Catholics are part of, all around the world, transcending their race, transcending their ethnicity. I think it's a wrong sort of logic, that by spreading out power, the church will somehow become more democratic and more fair.

Actually, by being more unified, and by being closer to its fundamental values and principles, the church would be in that sense more charitable, more unified, and give a greater witness to the world.

O'BRIEN: Robert Moynihan, we will see if your prediction comes true. Robert Moynihan, is the editor in chief of "Inside the Vatican." Thank you.

A short break, and we are back in just a moment. Stay with us.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE JOHN PAUL II: The words are important, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), are not me but others. Not get, but give.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: Well, that picture of Vatican City coming to you right now. We're expecting an update on the pope's condition coming to us within an hour or so. Obviously, we will bring it to you live when it happens.

Bridging the gap between different faiths is one of the many accomplishments that Pope John Paul II will be remembered for. Franklin Graham, the son of Reverend Billy Graham, is the president of the Billy Graham Evangelical Association and relief organization Samaritan's Purse. He is in Boone, North Carolina.

Nice to see you, Reverend. Thank you very much for being with us.

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELICAL ASSOCIATION: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: As many people look toward the pope's legacy, they point to the pope's ability to reach out to people of other faiths and make a relevant connection to them. Do you think that that's one of his most important legacies?

GRAHAM: No question. And first of all, Soledad, our prayers are certainly with him at this time.

And, yes, this man reached out to people of other faith. He didn't compromise what he believed or what he stood for. But he realized the importance of reaching across the aisle, so to speak, to people of other faiths, and especially to Protestants.

And I think a lot of this, Soledad, had to do with his upbringing in Poland under the Nazis, and then later under Stalin. And, of course, the communists were atheists, and they lumped all Christians together and kind of put them in the same pot. And as a result of that, under communism, the Catholics and Protestants and the Jews, many times, had to work and to cooperate together to survive under communism.

And of course, when he was elected pope and came to Rome, I think he brought this spirit of cooperation with him. And there has been in church history, no question, persecution, under Catholics in some parts of the world. But when this pope came to power, he reached out in a new way that we haven't seen. And we appreciate that very, very much.

And we are just grateful for this man, and we pray that the next pope will follow in the same vein as John Paul II.

O'BRIEN: I know you've never met John Paul II, but your father did. Did he share with you his experiences of those meetings?

GRAHAM: Oh, yes. My father was actually preaching in Poland, in Krakow, when John Paul was elected as pope. And as a result of that, he was -- my father was invited to the Vatican on several occasions to meet with John Paul II. They both had a interest in Eastern Europe. My father had been preaching in Eastern Europe for some time.

John Paul was very interested in my father's meetings. When my father went to the Soviet Union, he conferred with John Paul before he went. And John Paul conferred with him on several occasions when he went into Eastern Europe.

So there was a friendship. And also, when my father went to North Korea, John Paul was very interested in North Korea, because they had not had communication with their church in North Korea, and asked my father to carry a letter to the church in North Korea on behalf of the Vatican.

So there's been that kind of cooperation and friendship.

And one thing we really appreciate was the moral stand that John Paul had. He really stood for life, which we, of course, agree. There are a lot of things that we disagree on, but the fundamentals of the faith, the fact that Jesus Christ was the son of the living God who came to this earth and took our sins and died on the cross and went to the grave for our sins and that God raised him from the grave, John Paul was very clear on the resurrection.

And, of course, as evangelicals, these are points of the faith that we agree on, and we appreciate very much his clear stand on.

O'BRIEN: I know you have said that one of the things that struck you the most about Pope John Paul II was that two years after he was shot, he then wanted to meet the man who shot him. What did that say to you? GRAHAM: The forgiveness of this man, this is just huge. For him to go into the prison and meet with the man that tried to kill him and to forgive him, this is an example, of course, that Christ gave from the cross when he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do."

And for him to go into the prison and to forgive this man and to speak with him and to pray with him was a great example to all of us. We need to forgive, and we need to move on in life. And Pope John Paul II certainly did that. And it was a great example to everyone.

O'BRIEN: The Reverend Franklin Graham, the president of Billy Graham Evangelical Association and also Samaritan's Purse, of course. Nice to see you again. Thanks for talking with us.

GRAHAM: Thank you.

HEMMER: Let's go back to Rome and Bill Hemmer. Bill?

HEMMER: Soledad, thanks.

In a moment here, we have talked about the thousands of people coming by to St. Peter's, milling about on St. Peter's Square, trying to get a view inside the basilica, and waiting for word on the condition of the pope.

In a moment, meet some of those people now and their impressions today, and also, overnight last night, during a very special visit here in Vatican City.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Welcome back, live in Rome in St. Peter's Square there.

We're told by the Vatican a few moments ago they are -- there are 30,000 people now gathered throughout St. Peter's Square. And we have seen the numbers continue to build throughout the day. It's 4:30 local time here in Rome. In one hour, about 5:30 local time, we do anticipate a statement from the Vatican updating us once again on the condition for the pope.

But we have met so many people already in the short time we have been here. One couple we met earlier today from East Germany. They grew up under communism in East Germany and they defected to West Germany about three years before the Berlin Wall came down.

They came here today, described themselves as very emotional, saying they followed the pope in the East Bloc when he was helping to bring more openness in the country of Poland (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They say, people who like freedom like him. And we thank him for our freedom.

And there are countless stories for every person now gathered in St. Peter's Square.

I want to introduce you to another person here, to a couple of people, actually. Enza Boscarino is an Italian. She has brought a group of Dutch students from Holland studying Italian here to Rome.

And you were in St. Peter's Square last night and again today. Give us a sense of, I guess, as an Italian, first of all, what it felt like for you.

ENZA BOSCARINO, VISITING ST. PETER'S SQUARE: We arrived last night. And the atmosphere in the St. Peter's Square was sad. Everybody was really involved. For me, it was really special. I was here 20 years ago. And I came here with my students. We knew in the Netherlands that the conditions of the pope, they were really bad, but we didn't expect that they should be so bad.

And many people, they were crying last night. I was also really emotional. And everybody was really involved. Everybody was burning candles. The atmosphere was also pride, everybody was still -- it was, yes, really touching. I was really touched.

And I also saw the difference between being Italian and being a foreigner.

HEMMER: How was that?

BOSCARINO: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes. If I just compare the way I was touched, and the way my students were touched, I think that there is really a big difference. Italian people, they grow up with the pope. We are born with the pope, and we are dying with the pope. And Dutch people, for example, they -- yes, it's really different (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

We are really, really emotional when it goes about the pope and the Catholic Church.

HEMMER: Now, we should point out that this trip was set up a long time ago. It just happens your timing has been pretty good for you to come back to your country. After being here, do you think you could be back in Holland and not have a chance to experience this?

BOSCARINO: I said last night to my students, You are going back alone. I remain here. I said last night. Yes, it was really special. Really, really touched.

HEMMER: Thanks for your time.

BOSCARINO: Yes.

HEMMER: Teach your students well, OK?

BOSCARINO: Yes, OK.

HEMMER: Enza Boscarino here...

BOSCARINO: OK, thank you...

HEMMER: ... back in her home country...

BOSCARINO: ... bye-bye. HEMMER: ... (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

Again, one hour away, Soledad, we should get more word then from the Vatican about the latest condition for the pope. We're watching it from here in Rome. More in a moment. Back to you now.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks. We're watching it as well.

"TIME" magazine recently named T.D. Jakes as one of the most influential evangelicals in the United States. Bishop Jakes is the leader of Potter's House Church. He's in Memphis, Tennessee, this morning.

Nice to see you, Bishop. Thank you very much for talking with us.

You released a statement earlier, and you said, "The entire community of faith is suffering a great loss." What do you think Pope John Paul II's greatest legacy has been, not just to Catholics, but to humanity?

BISHOP T.D. JAKES, THE POTTER'S HOUSE CHURCH: To me, he has been a tremendous bridge builder, reaching across (UNINTELLIGIBLE), joining hands with all people of faith, representing to us leadership and integrity and the understanding that we must face the challenge of the times that we live in in a concerted effort.

He certainly meant a lot to us. I am aware of a great quorum of African-American pastors, an interdenominational coalition, that were invited to the Vatican. So he seemed to have a pulse beat for different cultures, different issues that face our time today. It's certainly a great loss on the eve of his death.

O'BRIEN: Reaching across the aisle, as you point out, unusual, certainly, for a pope, historically speaking. When you look to see, as you mentioned, the Vatican pointing out that the pope's condition dire, do you think those shoes can be filled?

JAKES: You know, I think they can be filled, as long as we understand that God does not duplicate people. Whoever the new pope that is selected to fill this position will bring new strength, new talents, different from John Paul II. His Holiness had his own flair and ability to be (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in a very charismatic, prolific, and profound way of various people.

I think that the Catholic Church will continue to go on. They have a great quorum and resource of very talented, educated, intellectual men. And I'm certain that one will be selected that will reflect the values and the challenge of the time that we live.

O'BRIEN: One of the interesting teachings that I think has come -- has been emphasized, as we take a look at the pope's apartment where he is now surrounded, one would imagine, by his doctors and his close staff, he talks and wrote a lot about suffering, human suffering. And I guess the upside, the positive things that can come out of that, because it's where you learn sort of the truth about who you are and who we are as a people.

What do you say to people who are, as we have seen in some of the pictures, crying and sobbing and wailing as they wait for this news from the Vatican about the pope's expected-to-be imminent death, I think it's fair to say?

JAKES: You know, suffering is a part of the Christian faith. Christianity is not timid about suffering, we're very open about the cross. But the good news is that we believe in the resurrection from the dead. The pope lived his life in such a way that he might live again, and the pinnacle of the Christian faith, it's not a funeral as much as it is graduation.

And so though we're human and we're sad, we do it with the sense of praise and worship also, that this is a life well lived.

I think it's important for those of us who are watching and part of Rome via the television that we understand, particularly in this country, we've been inundated lately with a lot of news of a lot of tragedies of high-profile people that are very significant to us, whether we knew them personally, or whether we only knew them through the vehicle of television.

That, coupled with the vicissitudes of life that we all face, many people are devastated at times into their own personal losses, issues that they're going through today.

But I would say to all of them, have faith in God, that God is a sustaining force behind every wind and every velocity of life, and to hold onto him. He stabilizes the soul in crushing times.

O'BRIEN: Bishop T.D. Jakes joining us, of the Potter's House Church. Nice to see you, sir. Thanks for being with us.

JAKES: Thank you. It's a pleasure.

O'BRIEN: Let's go back to Rome and Bill Hemmer. Bill?

HEMMER: All right, Soledad.

Throughout the day, trying to relay to our viewers at home really what we're getting here in terms of the feeling that so many people are bringing to St. Peter's Square in the area behind me here.

Father Jonathan Morris is my guest now. And he's been in Rome for several years now. He's the vice director of the Legionaries of Christ Seminary of Rome.

Shorthand, what is that, father?

FATHER JONATHAN MORRIS, LEGIONARIES OF CHRIST SEMINARY: It means what I'm doing is trying to train or to form good new priests for the future. And I'm doing that within my religious order, which is the Legionaries of Christ.

HEMMER: Based here in Rome (UNINTELLIGIBLE). MORRIS: Based here in Rome.

HEMMER: I want to run a few descriptions by you, just gauge your reaction on this, based on what people have told me here. Countless people have told me, when I ask them how they feel about Pope John Paul II, they say he was a friend.

MORRIS: Right.

HEMMER: How is it that people who have never met this man, only seen him through a television screen, or possibly during church here in an open square mass on a Wednesday or a Sunday afternoon, why do they say friend?

MORRIS: It's interesting. I was thinking about it earlier. People have told me the same thing. People have written to me e- mails, and -- for example, there's many people who say Michael Jackson, I feel a special closeness to him as my idol, or something. But you wouldn't say my friend. Right?

John Paul II has touched us, has met us where we are in a special way. And that's what it requires to be a friend, not only someone who has given us a cheap message, but rather someone who has entered our lives in a special way.

How has he done that? In lots of ways. And I think that's why it's very special that in these days, while we're waiting, I think there's special gift from God that we have this time to reflect. Why? What's the message behind?

HEMMER: You mention the word idol. I think that's curious, because there was a woman from Newport, Rhode island, earlier today. She said, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you have posters hanging up in your bedroom as a kid when you were growing up? Weren't they your idols?

MORRIS: Right.

HEMMER: Well, that's the way I view him as a man.

MORRIS: Right.

HEMMER: And that's why she is here today.

MORRIS: Right. I think you could (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a little bit deeper with her, however. You would get closer to this aspect of friendship, friendship or a model. This is the type of person I want to be. This is -- even though I'm in a very different circumstance, I'm not the pope, but what am I doing in my life that can emulate what this great example that this man is giving to us?

So I think it's, yes, my idol, perhaps, might be the word, but I think there's something deeper than that as well.

HEMMER: There was a nun from Poland who says the biggest lesson for me, and she was very strict on this, she really wanted me to write her words down carefully. I think she was reflecting possibly on Wednesday the last public appearance, when he tried to speak and could not and was clearly in pain in the window...

MORRIS: Right.

HEMMER: ... from his balcony. Said, Now he's giving us an example how to accept death and suffering, and that is what he taught throughout his life.

MORRIS: You know what? Something that's really hit me in these last few days is that this pope has been able to communicate the message in all different stages of his life. The message that he's communicating right now, and he's stronger than what he was communicating when he was climbing up the mountains and doing sport.

HEMMER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), yes, when in southern Poland, because he loved the mountains in southern Poland. Was it clearly his intention to show the people of the world that he was struggling on Wednesday, four days ago, when he came to that balcony?

MORRIS: I wouldn't say that. I think what his -- he was -- it was very intentional, was, I want to communicate what I've been communicating to you all along. And that is that love is stronger than hate, that life is stronger than death, and that my situation right now is not a failure. I'm being who God has created me to be. And I'm willing to be that for you right now, even in my pain, even in my suffering.

O'BRIEN: Father Jonathan Morris, thank you for reflecting with us.

MORRIS: You're welcome.

HEMMER: Your hometown is where, Ann Arbor, Michigan?

MORRIS: That's right.

HEMMER: A long way from home. Thank you, father, again.

MORRIS: Thank you very much.

HEMMER: Again, we expect a statement from the Vatican within the hour, possibly at 5:30 local time, which is about 47 minutes from now. So we're watching that quite closely here in Rome.

Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks.

Let's take a moment now to check on some of the rain that's been falling this weekend. Rob Marciano's at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Hey, Rob, good morning to you. Can you give us a sense of when it's all going to end?

ROB MARCIANO, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Well, for you guys, probably not till late tomorrow. It's very wet out there right now, soggy Saturday as the weather cliche goes, across much of the Northeast.

(WEATHER FORECAST)

MARCIANO: Soledad, that's the latest from the Weather Center. Back up to you.

O'BRIEN: Fifty degrees, but no one is going outside. All right, Rob, thanks a lot.

MARCIANO: Right, see you.

O'BRIEN: Well, pride and praise and prayer in the pope's homeland. A live report from Krakow, Poland, is just ahead. Stay with us on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. A live picture of Vatican City, where we are expecting thousands of pilgrims to join the many thousands who've already come out over the last several hours, pilgrims and tourists. They are waiting, as we are, for an update on the pope's condition. We're expecting that update, in fact, from the Vatican within the hour.

Well, Catholics around the world are praying for their dying leader as Pope John Paul II remains in grave condition. Worshipers are keeping vigil.

Carol Costello joins us with more on that now. Good morning again.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. And good morning to all of you.

Communion wine was mixed with tears as Catholics celebrated special masses for the pope in Europe, Asia, Africa, and in the Americas.

Many are still praying for the pope's recovery. But as time goes by, others are also praying for a gentle death for the pontiff.

In cities as diverse as London and Atlanta, Catholics are united in prayer. Across the globe, worshipers took time off from work to attend special services. The archbishop of Westminster conducted one such service in London. He says the pope has been a moral voice, and that he gave the papacy a more influential role in the world.

The pope's failing health has hit especially hard across Latin America, the region with the greatest concentration of Roman Catholics in the world. Catholic leaders there say the pope will always be a voice in their church.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

OSCAR RODRIGUEZ MARADIAGA, HONDURAN CARDINAL (through translator): My message to the world is one of prayer, to pray for him, for his health, so he can continue to guide our church. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Reaction from people in Poland to the pope's condition. People around that country gathering and praying for the pope. The pope is the first person from Poland ever to assume the papacy.

Chris Burns live in Krakow today. Good morning, Chris.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

It is in this town where the Pope John Paul became, first became priest, then bishop, then archbishop. And it is this building here that is the archbishop's residence, where he used to speak and sing and exchange comments and, you know, sort of very, very close intimate comments with those here in this crowds that came here.

And now these people are back, thousands and thousands have come back here, waiting for word, some with tears, but some simply very sad, waiting. The main newspaper here in town in this country is saying Pope John Paul II is leaving.

So there are all kinds of ceremonies across this country. In Warsaw, there was a ceremony, a mass, in open air in a large park, where there were many youth there. Also, last night, there was a very, very remarkable moment during a soccer game, where people were receiving SMSs saying that the pope is becoming very frail, was close to death.

They called for the match to end, and then they began to sing, along with the team members, the Polish national anthem, the anthem saying that Poland is not yet perished as long as the Poles are still alive, as long as we are still living.

They do identify very closely with the pope, not only on a spiritual level, but on a national level, seeing him as their liberator, the man who did help them to shed communism and Soviet domination back in 1989 and bring democracy to this country today.

Back to you, Carol.

COSTELLO: Chris Burns, live from Krakow, Poland, this morning.

And it's interesting, even yesterday people were gathering on the pope's house where he was archbishop. He served as archbishop in Poland, gathering around there, praying for his recovery, hoping for a miracle. But it doesn't look like they're going to get one today.

O'BRIEN: It certainly doesn't. I don't think the Vatican has ever been known for being very forthcoming about details, and the details that are coming out (UNINTELLIGIBLE), are really quite dire. So I think many people agree that the hour is near for the pope. Carol, thanks.

Well, still to come this morning, parishioners are gathering today to say their prayers. We are going to take you to one city where the pope held many, many services. A look at that's ahead on our extended edition of AMERICAN MORNING. We're back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. We are expecting an announcement from the Vatican within an hour, updating us on the condition of Pope John Paul II. We'll bring that to you live when it happens.

An extraordinary hero for our times, that is how New York City Cardinal Edward Egan describes the pope. Egan celebrated a special mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral, saying that Pope John Paul II shows great courage in his suffering.

Kelly Wallace is at St. Patrick's Cathedral this morning. Kelly, good morning to you. Go on and tell us a little bit more about what Cardinal Egan had to say.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Actually, good morning to you, Soledad.

You know, Cardinal Egan was speaking out quite a bit yesterday. This morning, in fact, earlier today, before the mass, it was Monsignor Eugene Clark, and he talked about how he believes the pope could be in his last hours. But he said, instead of grieving, people should be thankful for all that he accomplished.

He talked about how he had an extraordinary impact on the world. He also said he had an extraordinary impact on New Yorkers.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MONSIGNOR EUGENE CLARK, ST. PATRICK'S CATHEDRAL: Some of you probably remember his visit to New York. But this is, what shall we call it, a semipagan city, something along that line. And yet he transfixed the people here who listened to everything he had to say. Most amazing hold he had on people, because he spoke the simple truth and touched them very directly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: And, of course, there were two memorable visits by Pope John Paul II to New York. The first in 1979, the second and last in 1995. The highlight of that visit, more than 100,000 people crowding the Great Lawn of Central Park to hear from the pope.

And it's interesting, Soledad, during his sermon there, during that day, he talked to New Yorkers, and he said they need to try to make sure that their faith and compassion is not diluted by material, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Kelly, how are the folks that you are talking to this morning reacting to the word of the pope's nearing the end?

WALLACE: So much sadness, of course, Soledad, and people are inside St. Patrick's Cathedral. Some are praying, some are lighting candles. I talked to a couple from Maryland. And they said what was so remarkable about the pope is his ability to connect with people of all ages and all ethnic groups.

And, of course, the Polish people feeling this very, very directly. We talked to a woman who is from Poland. She lives in New Jersey. She told us she met the pope just about six years ago. She had a private meeting with the pope. We asked her what that was like.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

EVA BOBER, SADDLE BROOK, NEW JERSEY: That was one of my biggest dreams, and finally it happened. And today is a very, very sad day for me, because we are praying for a miracle. That's why we came to New York to the cathedral, hoping for it. And we are going to go and pray.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: Soledad, she said they're going to keep praying. She said she's not ready to say good-bye yet, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: I would imagine many people feeling exactly the same way. Kelly Wallace for us this morning in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Kelly, thanks.

We're going to have much more on the pope live from Rome at the top of the hour, plus some perspective from Los Angeles and Washington and from around the globe as well. Stay with us. You're watching an extended special edition of AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Bill Hemmer, live in Rome, Italy. Pope John Paul II for 84 years a symbol of life to so many around the world. Now struggling to hang on. Could these be now his final moments?

This is a special edition of CNN's AMERICAN MORNING, live, once again, in Rome, Italy.

ANNOUNCER: This is AMERICAN MORNING with Soledad O'Brien at the CNN Broadcast Center in New York and Bill Hemmer in Rome.

HEMMER: Once again, welcome, everybody. Just a minute past 5:00 in the afternoon here in Rome, Italy, as we continue to stand by and wait now for an update on the pope's condition.

The last word we were given came from the Vatican saying this... "There has been no change in the pope's condition." That may or may not change, though, however. In about 30 minutes, or at least some point during this hour, we do expect a statement from the Vatican that will update us on his condition.

And as we wait here, the crowds continue to grow. Police here in Rome now say well over 30,000 people have assembled in the Square of St. Peter's, the areas behind me, and also on the sidewalks and the streets around Rome, Italy, where we have assembled our location here. The crowds continue to build and grow. And again, as we wait for the latest on the news, I want to bring in Soledad again. Soledad O'Brien back in New York City.

And good morning there.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, Bill, as well. In fact, as we do wait for that update on the pope's health, and, as you say, coming in within a half an hour or so, let's look back.

Earlier, we heard from the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro- Valls announcing that the pope is "in a compromised state of consciousness." The Vatican saying that the pope's heart and breathing unchanged since Friday, when low blood flow and shallow breathing were reported.

Also, the pope is said to be able to open and close his eyes. And when he is spoken to, he is said to respond by opening his eyes. For a second day, the Vatican announcing a series of papal appointments, including a Spanish bishop, two ambassadors as well. We're going to have much more from New York as we go along this morning.

Carol Costello is joining me as well. But let's get right back to Rome and Bill Hemmer -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, thank you.

Again, waiting on the president. We will get his radio address in a matter of moments. So when that happens out of Washington, we'll get you there.

In the meantime, let's bring in our Rome bureau chief, Alessio Vinci, who has been with me throughout the afternoon here.

And do you see any significance here? The crowds are truly growing in front of us.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF: Definitely, absolutely. Large crowds here. I mean, this is, you know, by far the largest crowd we've seen in Rome here in recent weekends.

Of course this is an important tourist site. But I've met many, many people here who have been coming here specifically because they know the pope is sick and they want to be here to pay their last respects.

HEMMER: And you know the news. In about 30 minutes or so, or at some point during the hour, we will get an update from the Vatican. And we're all waiting now to see, A, how specific they will be, and B, has his condition changed.

VINCI: Well, they have been quite forthcoming in recent days about the pope's condition. They're not saying much, but they're saying all they can really say. And right now, really we want to find out the level of his state of consciousness that he has been -- that the Vatican spokesman told us about this morning. We want to know if this is further (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or not.

HEMMER: The other thing that was quite critical I thought from the earlier statement, there's no talk of a coma. However, they did say that mass was celebrated in his presence. I think the wording there is critical.

VINCI: Very important, because when the pope -- the pope's aide, which his old friend, Archbishop Stanislav Dziwisz, celebrates a mass for the pope, the pope concelebrates the mass, meaning he's participating actively. This is a mass that was actually celebrated in the presence of the pope, which meant that the pope did not actually participate in it, which means that his condition is so precarious right now that he can't even participate in the mass himself.

HEMMER: Alessio, thanks for that here in Rome.

Waiting on the statement. We'll get it to you when it happens. Back to New York now and Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill. Thanks.

In his radio address this morning, President Bush is expected to speak about the pope's failing health. Let's get right to Dana Bash. She is at the White House for us this morning.

Hey, Dana. Good morning.

DANA BASH, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad.

And we are told this morning that the president was up early in the Oval Office, getting some updates from his senior staff, watching the news report, essentially watching and waiting, along with the rest of us, as to what the condition of the pope is. And certainly, U.S. officials have some -- some officials at the Holy See, they are in touch with the Vatican, all coming back to Mr. Bush.

And now the vice president was here this morning as well. Very active here, as you said.

Mr. Bush actually taped part of his radio address late this morning about the pope. He is expected very shortly to extend his prayers, thoughts and wishes to the pope. And as I said, we expect to hear that from the president very shortly.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The president of the United States, George W. Bush.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good morning.

Before I begin today, I would like to say a word about Pope John Paul II. His holiness is a faithful servant of god and a champion of human dignity and freedom. He is an inspiration to us all. Laura and I join millions of Americans and so many around the world who are praying for the Holy Father.

This week the members of the independent commission looking into America's intelligence capabilities presented their report...

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BASH: Now Soledad, as I mentioned, you could tell there the president taped the beginning of that radio address just recently to extend his thoughts and prayers on behalf of the American people to the pope. And this is a president, certainly, who has met with the pope, like four presidents before him, five all together.

He's met with him three times. And they have a lot of similarities, and a lot of -- they're in sync on a lot of issues, particularly on social issues like abortion.

But just like his predecessors, this is a pope who is not shy about lecturing this president about things that he was not happy about. For example, the Iraq war.

Most recently, in June, at the Vatican, the pope made it very clear he was not happy about that war. And also, in private, told the president that he was not happy about the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison.

And one thing I should mention to you, Soledad, is that we do expect, although they're not saying it publicly at this point because they say it's inappropriate, we do expect the president to go to the pope's funeral. And that would be significant, because we can't find any evidence of any U.S. president attending a papal funeral -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right. Dana Bash at the White House this morning. And, of course, Dana, as we've been mentioning all morning, we're expecting in the next 30 minutes or so an update on the pope's condition from the Vatican.

Time to check the headlines now. Tony Harris is at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Hey, Tony. Good morning.

TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Good morning, everyone.

"Now in the News," an Australian Navy helicopter has crashed in Indonesia, killing nine of the 11 people aboard. The chopper was working earthquake relief when it went down off the Indonesian island of Nias five days after the devastating quake. The death toll is expected to rise when rescuers reach isolated parts of the island cut off by landslides.

Meanwhile, rescuers searching the earthquake rubble pulled a man from beneath his demolished home alive. He had been there for five days.

The FBI says it found bomb-making materials at the Kansas home of Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols yesterday. The bureau says blasting caps and other bomb-making equipment was buried in a crawl space. Agents went back to the home on a tip. They may have missed evidence during previous searches.

Neil Young is recuperating at a New York hospital from surgery for a brain aneurysm. It was discovered when Young sought treatment for blurry vision. The 59-year-old rocker is expected to be released in just a few days, and doctors expect a full recovery.

For most Americans and much of the world, it is time to spring forward. That means you need to set all of your clocks and watches ahead one hour by 2:00 a.m. Sunday. Daylight savings time ends the last Sunday in October.

Soledad, back to you.

O'BRIEN: All right. Thanks.

Well, Ken Woodward is a contributing editor to "Newsweek." He's been the religion editor there for nearly 40 years. He's our guest this morning.

Good morning. Nice to see you.

KEN WOODWARD, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "NEWSWEEK": Good morning.

O'BRIEN: When you hear about these developments coming out of the Vatican, I'm curious, as having spent 40 years as a religion editor, a good portion of that time specifically covering Pope John Paul II, what's your reaction?

WOODWARD: Well, you know, I keep going back to that picture in the window where he's trying to speak and his mouth is open. And it's as if he's trapped behind glass and he can't communicate.

This is a man who could communicate in it seems like dozens of languages. This is a man that's traveled as no man did. Even Billy Graham hasn't evangelized so many countries as this man has. And suddenly he's trapped in this body.

So I keep thinking about him and what's it like to be trapped there. But also, you know, as a -- he's a deeply spiritual person -- what kind of prayers he's saying now.

O'BRIEN: It's interesting to hear people talk about the pope, who wrote and talked so much about human suffering, and have kind of brought it back around to his time now. The reports have been that he turned down pain medication so that he could sort of feel the very end. And if you believe the Vatican, which is usually not so forthcoming, the end is very, very near.

WOODWARD: Yes.

O'BRIEN: What stands out to you the most about this pope's legacy?

WOODWARD: He was an evangelist. That's the amazing thing. That accounts for his trips.

O'BRIEN: 115 plus.

WOODWARD: It accounts -- I mean, he's tireless. But it also accounts for what he was saying.

He talked about evangelizing cultures through his encyclicals, especially the early ones, which were saying to the Marxists, from his home country, no, you must identify the dignity of the worker and not just his work. So I think -- and he tried to change minds. And he made that a form of evangelization. First words out of his mouth practically was Christ, Christ is the answer, when he stepped up on the balcony after he had just been elected.

O'BRIEN: Do you think there is a front-runner? I know it doesn't really work like that, but it kind of does, too. Is there a front-runner to be the next pope?

WOODWARD: I don't think so. You know, I've seen several of these. Everybody knew that Cardinal Montini was the front-runner, and he became Paul VI, which is basically the predecessor of this pope. Nobody was looking in this pope's direction. I think the field is entirely open at this point.

O'BRIEN: Do you think the goal is to choose a pope who is similar to the pope that is now with us, John Paul II, or do you think the goal is to go a completely different direction?

WOODWARD: Well, I think -- I think the rule historically has tended to be, find somebody different and say he's in the mold, and then let him be his own man. I think it's -- you know, you sort of go in one direction with one man. And it doesn't mean you repudiate that direction, but not even this pope can do everything. Somebody different.

O'BRIEN: He appointed all but three cardinals who will be the ones who eventually elect the next pope. Does that mean, to a large degree, that this pope will have a great hand in choosing his successor?

WOODWARD: No.

O'BRIEN: Really? Why not?

WOODWARD: The simple answer is, no. No, I think when they get in there, they've got to assess the needs of the Church.

Let's assume that the previous pope, this one, had brought the Church in a particular direction in a robust way, but he neglected these other things. They're going to look at somebody who can address the things that this pope did not address.

O'BRIEN: Ken Woodward of "Newsweek," contributing editor to "Newsweek." It's nice to see you. Religion editor as well for 40 years. It's nice to have you. Thanks for being our guest.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: We appreciate it.

We are awaiting an update on the pope's health, as we've been mentioning all morning. We're expecting it within the next half-hour or so. We've got much more from New York and Rome right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Welcome back to Rome, Italy. The day is growing longer here. And it could be at any moment when we get the latest word and the latest statement from the Vatican regarding the pope's condition. We expect that latest word, anyway, to come about 5:30 p.m. local time, which is about 15 minutes away here in Italy, about 10:30 local time back in New York and up and down the East Coast.

At that point, we should be able to get a better understanding to see whether or not the condition has changed from the update we received earlier today.

In a moment here in Rome, we're going to talk with Father Brian Johnstone. He's a theologian. We're going to talk about the whole issue of consciousness and what if this pope were to fall in a state similar to a coma, how would the Church respond and react.

As far as we can tell, based on the entire history of this Church, that has never been the case for a pope and his successor. So we'll get to the father in a moment here in Rome.

Back to New York now first. Here's Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill. Thanks.

Well, Pope John Paul II made more than 100 foreign trips during his papacy, including several to the United States. In 1999, he led the biggest indoor mass in U.S. history, when more than 100,000 people gathered in St. Louis, Missouri.

Joining us this morning, Monsignor William Kerr. He's the executive director of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington.

It's nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning.

MONSIGNOR WILLIAM KERR, POPE JOHN PAUL II CULTURAL CENTER: Happy to be here, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: How do you expect the Church will change with the death -- the impending death, it's fair to say, I think, when you listen to reports coming out of the Vatican, of the pope?

KERR: Well, Soledad, someone asked me recently whether the next pope would be able to fill the shoes of this pope. And the implication, of course, was this was an extraordinary pontificate, which, of course, it was.

My response is, well, it won't be filling the shoes. They'll be different shoes because it will be a different person.

And I think the grace of god has led different people to lead the Church in different directions. And I think the next pope will have his own vision and bring that vision to the Church. And we will go forward with that vision.

O'BRIEN: A different direction you say. What direction do you think the Church needs to head?

KERR: Well, I'm not sure when I say a different direction that I mean we need to change directions as such. It may be a nuanced change. It may be a dramatic change.

I think that in the last 25 years, the Church has changed direction, if you will, in some ways as far as the evangelization outreach is concerned. The basic doctrines, of course, have remained constant and consistent. But I think the new pope will have to address some issues that this pope was unable to fully address.

And I think that has a lot to do with the emerging populations and problems of Africa, the challenges of Asia, Latin America's maturity and becoming a very pivotal player in the world. These are places where there are large Catholic populations. And there are places where the challenges of the future must be certainly dealt with.

And I think the new pope is going to have to bring the wisdom of the faith to the critical decisions in those regions of the world and make the wisdom of the faith credible. And that will be a challenge.

O'BRIEN: You talk about geographic, or geographical challenges. What about sort of scientific challenges, sort of the area where science and faith kind of meet and not always happily? For example, stem cell research, things that we can do today in science that really other previous popes hadn't even had to think about, because we were not able to do them as people.

What kind of an impact do you think that has?

KERR: Well, Soledad, that's exactly what I'm saying. I think that as we face those -- and they are among the challenges that humanity faces, the advance of technology, the advance of science. And I think that we must be very, very conscious of the fact that we cannot let technology completely run away from ethics and from morality.

I think that when we talk about evangelizing the culture, which, of course, this pope has talked about a great deal, we must insert into the deliberations that are going on, you know, what are the ethical implications, what are the moral implications. Not everybody will agree on those. But I think the next pope will have to insert those into the consciousness of people and stimulate debate. There will be -- perhaps what we think are revolutionary advances now will seem rather tame in five or 10 years, as science and technology, you know, gallops forward. But I think at no time can humanity overlook the ethical and the moral implications of its progress.

O'BRIEN: We're taking a look at Vatican City, which is now filling up with tourists, Monsignor, and pilgrims who have come out, obviously, to pay their last respects to Pope John Paul II, who is in dire, dire shape, as reports from the Vatican come to us. Give me a sense of the American church and the state of the American Catholic Church.

KERR: Well, the American Catholic Church is in some ways on the very frontier of the advances in science and technology. It's the very frontier of pop culture, if I may use that expression, a culture that permeates the entire world. And I think the American church has many, many different cultures coming together into what may be a single culture. But there are many voices.

And I think that we are a church that is in some ways divided. We, in America, in the United States, we are struggling and we are searching. And I think that we will be looking for new leadership. And there are a number of questions that people within the United States are wrestling with right now that new leadership in the church, I'm sure, will address.

O'BRIEN: Monsignor William Kerr is the executive director of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center joining us this morning. Thank you very much for your time.

KERR: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, the world watches and waits for word on Pope John Paul II. We're going to return with more of our special extended coverage of AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're taking a live look just a moment ago there at St. Peter's Square, where you can see tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists have now come into the area over the last several hours. We are expecting an update on the pope's condition to come to us shortly. That's the word from the Vatican this morning.

In those three hours, though, thousands standing by to find out there in St. Peter's Square the condition of the pope. And also millions of others around the world.

Let's take a look now, in fact, at how other people in other countries are responding to the pope's health care crisis. Carol Costello has been checking out some reaction around the world.

Good morning again.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Soledad. Good morning to all of you.

Throughout the Catholic faith and beyond, churches and communities are offering prayers for the ailing pontiff. In Australia, Roman Catholics gathered in Sydney and other cities for masses as news of the pope's relapse swept the country. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said the pope will be remembered as a freedom fighter against communism and as a great Christian leader.

In the Indian city of Calcutta, nuns of the Sisters of the Missionaries of Charity offered prayers for the pope. The group was founded by Mother Teresa, who was beatified by the pope in 2003.

Across the United States, Catholics are holding vigils and masses. CNN's Peter Viles is at Our Lady of the Bright Mount Catholic Church in Los Angeles, the nation's largest Catholic archdiocese.

Good morning.

PETER VILES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

Morning is breaking here on the West Coast. And it is a beautiful day. Three-and-a-half million Catholics in the Los Angeles area waking to a beautiful spring day and to the news that you're bringing them, that the pope is clinging to life in Rome.

Now, the spiritual leader of the church here in Los Angeles, Cardinal Mahony, has left the city. He has gone to Rome to arrive in Rome Saturday night. Before he left, however, he celebrated two masses for the pope. He also spoke personally that these, he said, are difficult moments for him personally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL ROGER MAHONY, LOS ANGELES: It is a very difficult moment for me personally, as it is for all of us, because we have two different emotions at work. On the one hand, we rejoice in a magnificent papacy that accomplished so much, more than anyone could have imagined.

At the same time, we're losing him. And so we feel that that loss, that separation.

But at the same time, he is going to obtain the reward towards which we are all moving. And that is eternal life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VILES: Just a word about where we are. This is the Our Lady of Bright Mount Church. It is a Polish church. And this pope, before he was a world -- before he was pope, rather, had visited this church in 1976, said mass here when he was the cardinal of Krakow.

He was greeted here as a hero. Still remembered as a hero almost 30 years later. It's a memory that this parish on this day really cherishes.

COSTELLO: Peter Viles live in Los Angeles this morning. Thank you.

And, of course, Cardinal Egan here in New York saddened, too, by the pope's condition, saying it feels as if he's going to lose a father.

O'BRIEN: Yes. I think a pretty familiar refrain we're hearing from lots of our reports around the country and around the globe.

Carol, thanks.

A reminder now. We're awaiting that update from the Vatican on the pope's health. We're expecting it shortly. We're standing by for that.

You're watching a special edition of AMERICAN MORNING. We're live from New York and from Rome. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: 10:30 in New York City, 5:30 in the evening here in Rome in Vatican City. We are waiting now at any moment for the latest word on the pope's condition. We anticipate a statement from the Vatican to come out at any point.

It was about six hours ago the last time we were given word of his condition. During that time, about 11:30 a.m. local time, nothing has changed from last night. That was the word from a Vatican spokesperson.

Also, he had mass celebrated in his presence, which has left a lot to the imagination as to his care and condition, whether or not he was alert or whether or not hew as active in any way during that mass in his papal residency. At one time they say his eyes are open, looks to be resting. But there was no talk of a coma.

Again, all those facts coming out about six hours ago from the Vatican. And any moment right now we should get the latest from the Vatican.

As we wait on that now, let's talk with Father Brian Johnstone. He's a moral theologian with the Alphonsian Academy. And he is my guest now here just steps away from Vatican City.

And good evening to you.

FATHER BRIAN JOHNSTONE, MORAL THEOLOGIAN, ALPHONSIAN ACADEMY: Good evening.

HEMMER: If this pope is incapacitated, is put into a coma, given his current condition, what does Church law dictate as to what happens for succession?

JOHNSTONE: If the pope should fall into a coma, and if that coma continues for some considerable time, there could be quite a serious problem for the Church, as there is no specific Canon Law which covers that situation.

HEMMER: Over 2,000 years, this never happened this way before?

JOHNSTONE: Well, the problem hasn't arisen before because, in the past, medicine was not capable of prolonging life as it is now. So there never was an instance where a pope continued for a long -- in a comatose situation.

There have been instances where a long time ago a pope was psychologically incapacitated. But there's been no example of someone in a coma. This is something which happens in a modern medical environment.

There are two possibilities. One is that the pope might fall into a coma, which would then continue for some considerable time. From what I'm hearing from the medical reports, that is not envisaged. The pope's health seems to be an inevitable progress of rather rapid decline.

HEMMER: So you're suggesting that this would not even be a possibility worth considering?

JOHNSTONE: Well, it doesn't seem, at least from the way I understand the reports, that there's a real possibility of the pope entering a coma and staying in a comatose state, but maintaining some kind of viable life for some time.

From what I hear the people saying, he's already entered into a process which is going to bring about death in a relatively short period of time. Now, if it should happen, however, that the pope does enter into a coma, and that state continues, and if his life had to be maintained, for example, by supply, nutrition and hydration, or by a respirator, then there would be quite difficult ethical problems and also legal problems.

HEMMER: Is there not, though, the possibility that exists that this pope has talked about that condition and perhaps laid out steps that could be taken for the Church to continue without him?

JOHNSTONE: Well, there have been reports that the pope has already written a letter specifying what should happen. Others have denied that such a letter exists. I personally just don't know.

Lawyers have discussed the issue quite independently of the pope. This has got nothing to do with what the pope has said or thought or represented. Because there is no specific Canon Law covering the pope in a comatose situation, it has been suggested that before this situation arose the pope would delegate somebody, a close friend or a trusted coworker, who would have the responsibility of declaring when the pope actually is in a coma and is no longer able to communicate. And then there would have to be an arrangement made with the assistance of the pope as to how the Church should carry on in that situation.

HEMMER: And father, you know all too well for 26 years the way he has preached about life.

JOHNSTONE: Yes.

HEMMER: Whether it's a human embryo, or whether it's someone suffering at the age of 100 and frail and in a nursing home at some point, somewhere in this world. Knowing that his position on suffering has been detailed so well and so publicly, and if a feeding tube were to be a possibility...

JOHNSTONE: Well, let's just suppose -- as I said, I don't think this is going to happen -- but let's suppose it did, that the pope fell into a coma and was maintained then on a feeding tube for some considerable time. What would be the position?

The position of the Church on these issues was laid out quite recently by the pope in March last year when he made a statement which was very widely defused. He took the position that, first of all, persons in such a state are to be considered as human persons, obviously. They are not vegetables. They have maintained their dignity.

With regard to the obligation and to continue feeding a person, what he said in that document was that such feeding should be considered a natural act. It's not just any sort of medical treatment. And therefore, should be in principle continued. But he did say in principle.

Now, it's possible that a person can reach a moment when they're being fed by a feeding tube, when physically they're simply no longer capable of taking any more nourishment. If that point arises, then it can be stopped.

HEMMER: I just have another minute to talk about this. And the opinions you're offering here about him being past that point of the feeding tube, is that based on what the Vatican is saying publicly, or is that based on private conversations you're having?

JOHNSTONE: This is jus t-- I'm just basing myself on what I have heard being said publicly. So I am not a medical doctor, I don't know.

But when we compare the pope's situation, which is a very different situation of Terri Schiavo, for example, what I'm in effect saying is that I can't foresee from what I've heard, at least from my understanding of what I've heard, that there's any real possibility of the pope getting in a situation like that...

HEMMER: Understood.

JOHNSTONE: ... where he would be maintained for a considerable time. From what has been said, that doesn't seem likely to me at all.

HEMMER: Thank you, father.

JOHNSTONE: But it's still a possibility.

HEMMER: I apologize for interrupting you.

JOHNSTONE: No problem at all.

HEMMER: Father Johnstone in Rome.

Let's get back to New York and Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Bill, thanks.

And we should mention once again that we are expecting an announcement from the Vatican on the pope's condition any moment, really. We're expecting that momentarily. We'll bring that to you when it happens.

Well, my very next guest has known the pope since 1976. That is before he assumed the papacy. Monsignor Lorenzo Albacete is a professor of theology at St. Joseph's Seminary here in New York. He's also a columnist with "New York Times" magazine.

Nice to see you. Thanks for chatting with us.

MONSIGNOR LORENZO ALBACETE, PROFESSOR, ST. JOSEPH'S SEMINARY: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: You have a story about how you told the pope not long ago that you would be commenting now...

ALBACETE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: ... in your position on his health.

ALBACETE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And ultimately, probably be reporting on his death.

ALBACETE: Yes.

O'BRIEN: What was his response to you?

ALBACETE: Well, I just kind of felt guilty, because I had signed an agreement at that time to do just this. And I told him that, "Well, look, I do that, at least there will be someone who will say nice things about you." And he looked with this nasty look that he had, you know, and said, "Well, what really bothers me is how do they know that I am dying first." And I said, "Well, let's put it this way, if I die first, you go on CNN and say nice things."

So obviously, he had no problem with this. And that's why I'm here. I'm thinking of that.

O'BRIEN: What do you think is his legacy, is the most important aspect of what he has left behind, now, as we look to, frankly, his death as the Vatican points out, only dire news on his condition?

ALBACETE: I think his legacy is, whatever it is that has not been said to be his legacy since we've been covering this story. That's to say, it's always so surprising.

Looking back in 10 years, we may see an entirely different picture. However, you've got to say something, I've got to say something. I would say his legacy has been to return the missionary spirit to the Church, to try to give it enough confidence that it has something that the world really needs, and to find out how to make the offer in today's world.

O'BRIEN: One reason, it seems to me, that that missionary spirit was so successful was that the pope has this incredible ability to leverage the media as well.

ALBACETE: Oh, yes, yes.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about his trip to Cuba.

ALBACETE: He knows the act.

O'BRIEN: Yes, he does. And...

ALBACETE: That, unfortunately, from the media perspective, was problematic, because right in the midst of it, the Monica Lewinsky scandal occurred. And...

O'BRIEN: Was it a failure? There were huge expectations for that trip. There was an expectation that...

ALBACETE: Everybody was there. All the big names, including you. So...

O'BRIEN: But there was an expectation that the pope would go and sort of maybe meet with Fidel Castro and talk him out of the road that Cuba was on.

ALBACETE: No, no. There was not that expectation. Not in the Vatican.

O'BRIEN: People felt that something very big -- there was a feeling in the air that something very big was going to happen.

ALBACETE: Well, I know. And it was dramatic enough.

I'll never forget the ride into Havana. There was not a sign of a government anywhere. It's as if they had left the city.

And the pope was triumphantly -- there were all these messages, you see. What I meant, it was very few people could see it because the attention of the media went elsewhere. Understandably, I imagine.

But see, the pope, I don't think, thought of these results. He believed that he wanted to be there because he had to be there.

I don't know -- this is going to sound strange. He had to physically be there.

O'BRIEN: All of his -- all of his... ALBACETE: It could not be messages, documents or agreements by the phone. He had to be there. This is the style of the dramatist, but also the style of Christianity itself.

O'BRIEN: Can a less dramatic, or less dynamic, let's say, pope, maybe someone who doesn't speak eight languages and who isn't going to have a schedule that encompasses 115 countries...

ALBACETE: Yes. I wonder who's taking over his frequent flier points.

O'BRIEN: ... can he be as successful?

ALBACETE: Sure. All he has to do is be authentic to the point of departure, which is amazing to say that the pope is a Christian, which is the presence of Christ. Give witness to it. But give physical witness to it, don't just talk about it.

Just be there the way you look, the way you touch people. Oh, yes, definitely. There's no problem.

O'BRIEN: Monsignor Albacete, the professor of theology at St. Joseph's Seminary. Nice to see you again. Thanks.

ALBACETE: Nice to see you. Bye-bye.

O'BRIEN: Let's head back to Rome and Bill Hemmer -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, thank you.

Watching Vatican television right now, awaiting the statement. About 15 minutes ago, we thought it would come in paper form. Now it appears to be an on-camera statement. Perhaps the Vatican spokesperson will appear at that point, Joaquin Navarro-Valls. As soon as that happens, we are waiting now for it to begin.

Break here. Back in a moment. Live in Rome right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: The crowds are growing by the hour. About 60 minutes ago, police here in Rome say well over 30,000 have now gathered in St. Peter's Square. They're all over the place here throughout the city of Rome, waiting now, like we are, for the latest word, the latest statement from the Vatican. It could happen at any moment.

As we monitor Vatican TV, we await the spokesperson to come out and address the media here in Rome, and the one billion Catholics waiting around the world for the latest condition on the pope.

We'll be back in a moment here in Rome. Now, New York again and Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Let's head now to Tony. He's going to update us on the news stories that are making headlines this morning.

Tony, good morning again.

HARRIS: Hello, Soledad. And hello, everyone.

"Now in the News," a car bomb exploded today in central Iraq, killing five people, including four police officers. Police believe the bomb was in a taxi parked near a police station south of Baquba. And they say it was likely detonated by a remote control device.

Civilian truckers hauling U.S. cargo are killed in Afghanistan. Afghan officials say suspected Taliban gunmen opened fire on the truckers when they crossed the Pakistani border south of Kandahar. The drivers were two Pakistanis and one Afghan. Officials say they were carrying vehicles to the U.S. military in southern Afghanistan.

Terri Schiavo's autopsy is finished, but it will be several weeks before the results are known. Her husband, Michael, plans to cremate the body and bury the ashes at an unspecified family plot in Pennsylvania. But a court has ordered him to disclose that location to his wife's parents.

The Los Angeles hotel where Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1968 has been saved from the wrecking ball, at least for now. The Los Angeles school district wants to build new schools on the site of the long-closed Ambassador Hotel. Five of Kennedy's nine surviving children say the hotel should be torn down.

Let's send you back now to Rome and Bill Hemmer.

HEMMER: All right, Tony. Thank you.

About six hours ago now, the last statement we got from the Vatican talked about the pope straining his voice to speak earlier today. And the words came out something similar to this, the Vatican says... "You come to me, and for this I thank you."

Again, a strained voice. Perhaps nothing more than a whisper from the pope earlier today. And again, there's been no talk of a coma, but there was an indication early today at daybreak, right around 7:30 a.m. local time here, when the Vatican talked about this compromising moment they found the pope.

Does that mean perhaps he lost consciousness for a moment or was unaware? Perhaps we'll get a better clarification in a moment here as we wait for the spokesperson to come out on Vatican television and give us the statement.

We have been waiting for this now for just about six hours. We thought we would get it 45 minutes ago. Perhaps there's been some sort of delay. But again, just before 6:00 local time in the evening here in Rome. And when that statement comes out, we will know whether or not there has been any change in the current condition of the pope.

And we will not leave it for long. Back to Rome in a moment here.

But again, here's Soledad in New York. O'BRIEN: Thanks a lot, Bill.

Let's get right to national correspondent Gary Tuchman. He has been covering the reaction of Catholics in Boston to the pope's declining health.

Good morning, Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Soledad, good morning to you.

It is very cold and rainy here in Boston, just like the weather 25.5 years ago on October 1, 1979, when Pope John Paul II made his first and only visit to Boston as pope. It was his first American visit, though, as pontiff.

And he stopped inside this church, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. And that's where a mass was held this morning to pray for Pope John Paul II. It's a regularly scheduled mass that takes place every morning, Monday through Saturday, at 9:00.

But inside, they offered their prayers for the pontiff. And the priest who was presiding today told the parishioners, "Did you know that tomorrow is Divine Mercy Sunday?"

Now, many of you, including Catholics, might not know about Divine Mercy Sunday. But it was started in Poland about 50 years ago, and basically it's an extra special Sunday, the Sunday after Easter Sunday.

And the priest then told the parishioners, "I want everyone to raise your hands if you would not be surprised if the pope would pass away tomorrow, because it's such a special Sunday." And everyone raised their hands, indicating they would not be surprised if Pope John Paul II passed away tomorrow.

Now, we should tell you, inside that mass today was a Bostonian who used to live in Poland. He went to university, at the Catholic University of Lublin. Lublin is a city in eastern Poland. And back in 1976, two years before Pope John Paul II became the pontiff, he was a guest lecturer at that university.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ED ANISKYWSKI, PARISHIONER: He was a visiting pontiff at the Catholic University. So generally, you know, he was a sportsman during the wintertime. He used to come into the class with his skis, you know, on the side.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The pope with the skis?

ANISKYWSKI: That's right. And he said to us, "Well, listen, now we're just going to talk about how to ski." And, you know, then he started his lecture.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TUCHMAN: It's easy for us to forget, even those of us who are old enough to remember the pope when he started his pontificate, that he used to ski when he was a pope. And it's just a reminder that all of us regular people, or popes, age.

Back to you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And those are some pretty remarkable pictures, the rare photos or videotape of the pope skiing that we have seen. Gary Tuchman for us in Boston this morning. Gary, thanks for that.

Well, John Paul II reached out to thousands of people in the 100- plus countries that he visited as pope. And Now many of those people and others around the world are praying for him.

Carol Costello back with more on this.

Good morning again.

COSTELLO: Oh, they certainly are praying for him. Just a couple of examples for you.

At the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, 500 people turned out for a special prayer service for the gravely ill pope. Bishop Reinhard Marx led the prayers and asked followers to show solidarity with the pope in the final hours of his pontificate.

In Jerusalem, priests and seminarians said special prayers at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. At the entrance, a Palestinian Christian said, "We pray for the soul of him whom the Palestinian people love and appreciate."

Here in the United States, and in Italy, reflections on Pope John Paul.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very sad. My heart's very heavy. It's the end of an era.

I'm a product of Vatican II. He brought Catholicism to young people, made it accessible. And it's just very sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I'm very sorry for what is going on, a sign that we cannot forget. He will always be in us. We are very touched by what's happening. We hope that he could continue to live.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: Back in Germany, Bishop Karl Juston (ph) summed it up this way. He said, "We are experiencing the death of a person who obviously means something to many people."

O'BRIEN: Really an understatement, to a large degree. Many people, not only Catholics -- I mean, what we've heard from those spiritual leaders who are not Catholic is the degree to which Pope John Paul II touched them and their parishioners, their flock with a message of just humanity.

COSTELLO: And I think one of the reasons why is because he didn't put his finger in the wind to see which way it was blowing before he came out with his opinion. He had a very strong moral center. And he never varied from that. Whether you agreed with him or not, you respected him because he just never varied.

O'BRIEN: And I think also just sort of the sense of human dignity as a platform for many people. That was hard to disagree with.

Carol, thanks. We'll check in with you again.

Well, Roman Catholic leaders have been flocking to the Vatican and to the pope's bedside. The governor of Vatican City visited the pontiff on Friday. Cardinal Edmund Szoka says the pope showed some signs of life during his visit.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL EDMUND SZOKA, GOVERNOR OF VATICAN CITY: The pope was completely conscious and completely alert. He couldn't speak, but when he saw me with his eyes, and bowing his head, I knew he immediately recognized me and was trying to greet me.

So I knelt down alongside of him by the bed, and I kissed his hand and held his hand. And I told him in Polish that I had offered mass for him and that I was praying for him.

And in the meantime, these other -- the three doctors were on the other side of the bed. So I wasn't there too long. And then Archbishop Dziwisz spoke and to me and said, "Maybe it would be better to go now."

So when I left I just -- you know, I'm a priest, so I just automatically gave him a blessing. And when I did, he blessed himself. It was a very moving moment.

He was -- as I say, he was perfectly conscious and perfectly alert. I have no doubt about that. But he was having extreme difficulty breathing.

His breathing was very, very labored. And it was very sad for me to see him that way. It must have been terrible suffering to have to keep sort of gasping for breath.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'BRIEN: That's the governor of Vatican City, Cardinal Edmund Szoka, talking about his visit on Friday with Pope John Paul II.

Let's go back to Rome and Bill Hemmer -- Bill.

HEMMER: Soledad, in St. Peter's Square, where the thousands have gathered there now as this day grows older, coming up on 6:00 local time here in Rome, it is very difficult when you're in that square, Soledad, not to take your eyes off the papal residency. That's that brown four-story building that sits high above St. Peter's Square, and to look on the top floor toward the corner where you know his bedroom has been located. His other offices and his study is there.

It's hard to take your eyes off of those windows when you're in there. And it's so true for the pilgrims who have come here as well.

We talked with a couple men from Rome. They were businessmen and Italian, a bit of broken English we were speaking earlier today.

They were staring up at these windows and just saying, "We're just looking and waiting for news." And they went on to say something that we have heard so often, "We are dear friends of the pope." Again, that word "friend" coming back into the picture here in Rome, Italy.

Talked with an American nun, too, and she was quite taken. And again, I mentioned this earlier today. When you ask people here what this man meant to you and why they're here and what the feeling they have here, there is normally a pause, a small time for reflection, and then they continue to tell you their opinion.

And what she said was, "It's a time of sorrow." And she continues -- I was writing down -- she was making sure I got her words exactly right -- "A loss of his great life but a feeling of appreciation." She says, "A feeling of hope and of courage for a man who tried to bring people together as children of god."

And so many throughout the Church will tell you that he was a father figure for children around the world. And throughout his 26- year papacy, wherever he was on the planet, he always reached out to children. It was clear he had this connection to the young people of this world, and wanted to relay to him his own message, his own experience and his own reputation that he has carried throughout his 84-year life here, and 26 years as leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

We're awaiting for news now. Will the news be any different from earlier today? We'll get it to you when the statement comes out from the Vatican here live in Rome as we continue on this special edition of AMERICAN MORNING right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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