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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Pope John Paul II Remembered

Aired April 3, 2005 - 12:00   ET

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


WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 A.M. in Los Angeles, 5:00 P.M. in London, 6:00 P.M. in Rome. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks very much for joining us for this special "LATE EDITION." Over the next three hours, we'll check in with CNN reporters and analysts, with the reaction to the death of Pope John Paul II.
And as millions of people mourn the pontiff's passing, we'll get expert insight and analysis on his extraordinary life and legacy.

Shortly we'll have an exclusive interview with the former secretary of state, Colin Powell.

First, though, let's get a quick check of some other news happening right now. CNN's Betty Nguyen standing by at the CNN Center.

Betty?

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Wolf. I'm Betty Nguyen at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

In addition to the death of Pope John Paul II, there is other news today.

Nine weeks after Iraq's historic elections, the country's new national assembly has picked a speaker and two deputies. Still, more crucial tasks lie ahead for the 275-member assembly, including choosing a president and prime minister, and drafting a national constitution.

In the Middle East, Syrian leaders are promising to withdraw all troops from Lebanon by the end of the month. A U.N. envoy in Damascus says Syria's president assured him the withdrawal would be complete by April 30th. A U.N. verification team is expected to be in the region soon to oversee that withdrawal.

And in Kyrgyzstan, CNN has learned that President Askar Akayev will formally resign tomorrow. That word comes to us from a Kyrgyz official in Moscow. The president was forcibly ejected from his office March 24th, when protesters stormed the presidential building. He agreed to vacate the post after receiving security guarantees for himself and for his family.

I'm Betty Nguyen. Now back to Wolf Blitzer in Washington for a special edition of "LATE EDITION": "Remembering Pope John Paul II." Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Betty.

We begin in Vatican City, where the first viewing of -- a private viewing, that is, of the body of Pope John Paul II took place at the Apostolic Palace. And, on this first full day of mourning, the pope's death, thousands of people are gathered in St. Peter's Square outside the Vatican.

Our Alessio Vinci is on the scene for us. He's joining us now with the latest.

Alessio?

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Wolf.

I'm going to step away one second here to let you look at some of the tens of thousands of pilgrims that have gathered here in St. Peter's Square. This is in the Via di Deconcilizia (ph), the main boulevard that leads all of the way up to the St. Peter's Basilica, as you can see here just behind me. Tens of thousands of them. Many more expected in the coming days.

And even this morning a massive attendance here in St. Peter's Square as a first requiem Mass for the pope was celebrated by the former secretary of state of the Church, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who actually was at the pope's bedside when the pope died.

And for the first time in history, as you mentioned, Wolf, the pope's body was laid in view inside the apostolic palace, at the Clementina, Sala Clementina, inside the Vatican.

Dignitaries there paid their last respects, including the Italian president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, as well as the prime minister and of course many Church officials. The body of the pope dressed in red and white papal robes with his bishop's staff under his arm, an image that was beamed all around the world.

This is a first for the Vatican, and we understand this is something that must have been approved by the pope himself during possibly in a will. Vatican television also just released pictures of the pope -- the body of the pope in his private chapel moments before being moved into this Sala Clementina. That is a place of course where the pope spent many, many hours as soon as he woke up every morning to pray and of course before going to bed.

You remember he did a picture of the pope watching on television on the Friday before Easter, before the way of the cross, washing it from this very same room. And you can see some of the Polish nuns throughout that he is pontificate.

The coming days will represent a giant challenge here for Italian and Vatican officials. As far as Vatican officials are concerned, tomorrow morning, Monday, we expect the general congregations of the cardinals. They are the ones in charge of organizing all the events of the coming days, beginning of course with the funeral, which will be between Wednesday and Friday. We expect an attendance of at least 200 dignitaries including, we do know, we do expect the U.S. president, George W. Bush to lead the U.S. delegation.

And then of course there'll be a burial. And unclear right now whether the pope will be buried as all. Most of the popes have been in the chapel beneath the St. Peter's Basilica. Or whether the pope has left instructions to be buried in Poland. We do not know that now.

And finally, Italian officials of course expect here in the coming days up to two million people. This is a huge number of people. All Italian security officials are on a highest alert of course. Because they want to make sure that no incidents occur during this very important time for Rome indeed.

BLITZER: Alessio, I assume we can believe that every detail of this funeral and every detail was personally approved by Pope John Paul II?

VINCI: That is correct. Back in 1996, the pope had left specific instructions about how funerals should be conducted and we do know that the pope -- we do expect that the pope left a will and in that will there will be all of the details about how this funeral has to be carried out of course. And whether indeed it will be taking place here in Rome or whether he has left instructions for him to be buried in his native Poland. A country that is very dear to him indeed and a country that he has made, throughout his pontificate, nine trips back there.

Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll be watching that. Alessio Vinci, we'll check back with you throughout "LATE EDITION." Thank you very much. Perhaps nowhere is the loss of Pope John Paul II felt more profoundly than in his native Poland. CNN Chris Burns is in Krakow where residents are deep into mourning, Chris. Set the scene for us. What's happening there?

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, thousands of people passing through here by the hour and looking up at a window. This window in the archbishop's residence from which the pope used to speak and sing with his people, his followers here. And during a ceremony here packed with thousands of people earlier today, the priest in the adjoining church here, the basilica, said in this open window, "The pope is present in the risen Christ."

After which, he asked everyone to join hands and begin singing "Father." It was a very, very poignant moment, perhaps the most emotional moment since last night when it was announced that the pope had died. And the crowd here again standing room only fell to their knees, began weeping and singing.

A very, very emotional moment for people who see this man as essentially their Moses of Poland -- the man who led them out of that Red Sea of communism to democracy and freedom. The mourning is supposed to continue for one week. This is a nation that has virtually shut down as they honor their favorite son. President Kwasniewski has canceled all his obligations in the next few days.

There was also an open air mass today just outside of Krakow at the basilica, the sanctuary of the divine mercy, which is a place that the pope established himself to raise one of the figures in the Polish religious history here to the level of a bishop -- I'm sorry, to the level of a saint. And this is where 60,000 people showed up here to honor the pope, again not only as their holy father but as their liberator.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Chris Burns reporting for us from Krakow in Poland. We'll get back to you, as well, Chris. Thank you very much. For some special insight into the significance of Pope John Paul II's papacy and the void that his death leaves inside the Catholic church, we're joined now by Father David O'Connell. He's the president of Catholic University here in Washington.

Father O'Connell, welcome to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.

FATHER DAVID O'CONNELL, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: We've been busy over these past few days, CNN, USA Today, Gallup, doing some survey questions of Americans. For example, this question, will the church make John Paul II a saint? Seventy-one percent of American Catholics think the answer should be yes. Eighteen percent say no. What do you think?

O'CONNELL: Well, I think the church declares a person a saint who has lived an extraordinary holy life. And I don't think even among that 18 percent anyone can deny that this was holy man of God. The canonization of a person is really an affirmation of what is already there, what already exists.

And I do believe that when the time is appropriate that the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II will be presented for canonization.

BLITZER: The other question we asked: Will Pope John Paul II, will he go down in history as one of the greatest popes? Sixty-seven percent said yes. Thirty-one percent said no. Although among that 31 percent, 21 percent said: Great, but not one of the greatest. Are you surprised by these numbers?

O'CONNELL: Not really. As we've been hearing for the last few days, this has been a pope who is much loved by many people but he's also been a pope of controversy. A pope who has said things, challenging things that have upset a lot of people. So it doesn't surprise me that some would react that way.

But, you know, it depends on how you define greatness. What does greatness mean? I think our Holy Father demonstrated greatness in so many ways, both in his religious life and also in the contributions he made to political society and to the world.

BLITZER: Give us a little flavor of what we should expect in the next day or two as the preparations unfold for the funeral, which could be as early as Wednesday.

O'CONNELL: Well, you know, I was speaking with a cardinal friend of mine who was assigned in Rome this morning.

He told me a story, if I might share it with you with you, Wolf, and with our viewers. He said that in the pope's last minutes he grasped the hand of Archbishop Dziwisz.

And looking out the window, the curtains were not drawn, he was looking out the window. And he said, "Amen." And then he passed on -- beautiful, touching communication, a sense that it was finished, it was over. And in the next few days what we're going to see is first a gathering of the general congregation of cardinals, those cardinals who are currently in Rome, the curial cardinals. And the others who join them there.

They will make the determination about the details of the funeral, when it will be held, and how they will proceed from there.

BLITZER: Archbishop Dziwisz, his best friend, a fellow Pole.

O'CONNELL: Yes. You saw in your tape a little bit earlier in the pope's private chapel, Dziwisz standing before the body. You can just imagine what was going on in his mind and heart as he looked at his beloved Holy Father.

BLITZER: And his last word being, "Amen." Appropriately enough.

Father O'Connell, thank you very much. We're going to ask you to stay with us because we're going to be coming back to you frequently over the next three hours.

But just ahead, on our special "LATE EDITION," we'll talk with a former U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, about what the pope meant to America and the world.

Then, as nine days of mourning begins for Pope John Paul II, we'll talk with prominent Catholic clergymen about the Holy Father's impact on their church and beyond.

And later, a look back at the late pontiff's special relationship with the world's Jewish community. We'll talk with a Nobel Peace Prize winner, a Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel. Our special "LATE EDITION" continues after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: A live picture we're getting from Brooklyn, New York, Catholic Mass in Brooklyn. Services in fact around the United States, around the world today remembering Pope John Paul II.

This is the first Sunday in some 26 years that the Roman Catholic Church does not have a pope.

Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION."

Joining us now, the former secretary of state, Colin Powell. Mr. Secretary, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Talk a little bit about your last meeting with Pope John Paul II.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: I met with him along with President Bush last summer, the summer of 2004. And I had a private audience with him the June before that, the summer of 2003.

In both of those meetings, I could see that over time there was a deterioration in his health. But at the same time, he was still engaged. He was still the same compassionate, wonderful man that I had met 20 years ago for the first time. This was a man of God, a man of the people, who never stopped serving God or serving the people.

BLITZER: Did he say something -- let's go to that meeting in June 2003. That was right after the war in Iraq, a war which he opposed. What did he say to you about that?

POWELL: He clearly, you know, had opposed the war. And I explained to him -- this was now June, a couple of months after the major battles were over -- and I said to him that we were now in the process of reconstruction, trying to restore our alliances in Europe, where they had been fractured to some extent, and that we were now interested in giving the people of Iraq a democratic government and rebuilding their country.

I was also on my way to the Middle East, to Sharm-el Sheikh and Aqaba, where we would implement the road map, with Prime Minister Sharon and then Prime Minister Abu Mazen. So it was an interesting and important time.

And the pope shared his concern over the war, but he was reassured that we were moving forward, and he was especially pleased that we would now be moving forward in the Middle East, hoping for some progress there as well.

BLITZER: I want to get to the Middle East in a moment, but then flash forward a little bit. The meeting with the president and the pope: How did that go?

POWELL: I think it went very, very well. The president had a private audience, and then the rest of us joined it. Clearly he was fading, and his health was failing. But he still remained engaged, and the president was able to discuss with him the situation in the Middle East and what was going on in Iraq and the progress we had made in Afghanistan, as well.

BLITZER: When you spoke to the pope, what language did he speak in?

POWELL: He spoke in -- he understood English. It was a private audience when I saw him in June of 2003. We were alone for about 30 minutes. It was supposed to be ... BLITZER: Just the two of you?

POWELL: Just the two of us. Nobody else in the room.

BLITZER: Interpreters?

POWELL: No. Just the two of us. And he spoke in English. Of course, so did I. And he was, as always, warm, engaging. A little bit halting. And he had this little question he would ask me, and I think it was almost a joke as much as a question -- he would say, are you related to Baden-Powell, Lord Baden-Powell, the man who started the Boy Scout movement at the beginning of the century?

So he had an affection for Baden-Powell, and he had some memory of what Baden-Powell had done for young people.

So he asked me a couple of times: Are you sure you're not related to Baden-Powell? But it was almost with slight tongue in cheek. Just to sort of make conversation.

But he was very interested in what was happening in the world. We talked about the situation not only in Iraq and the Middle East and Afghanistan, we talked about what we needed to do in Africa and other places, because he was such a marvelous figure who did not restrict himself just to the Catholic Church or just to Europe. His first trip as pope was to this hemisphere. And then he went back to his home in Poland. And then he began his many, many trips to Africa.

And so he became a man of the world, a man that went far beyond his own immediate faith, because he believed that his faith was not just a Catholic faith, in my humble judgment, but it was a faith that encompassed the entire world, a faith that rested on reconciliation and peace and love of one another.

BLITZER: Here you were, the secretary of state of the United States, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -- everybody who has met the pope, no matter how powerful, seems to come away with this notion that they were humbled and they were so small in his presence. Talk a little bit about...

POWELL: It's true.

BLITZER: ... how you felt in his presence.

POWELL: It's true.

BLITZER: Because you had met with world leaders for so many years.

POWELL: Nothing like the pope. And the first time that I met him was 20 years ago with my wife at an audience.

BLITZER: We have a picture of that we're going to show you -- show our viewers that picture.

But go ahead, talk a little bit about that. POWELL: But Alma and I were with a group that went in to see his holiness. We were accompanying Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger at that time. And it was a very emotional moment. It was an experience, religious experience. You just weren't in the presence of a marvelous individual or wonderful room. The setting is remarkable. But when we left that, we truly felt we had been with somebody who was a rather unique person of God.

We're not Catholics. We're Episcopalians. But it was clear that this was a unique man who was not put here for unique purpose.

BLITZER: Well, one of those purposes, some will argue, and you lived through that era. You were -- note the meeting you had then 20 years ago: the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War. His role in that from your perspective, and you were right in the middle of U.S. diplomacy during that period -- is that overblown or was he deeply involved in the eventual chain of events that resulted in the end of the Cold War?

POWELL: I think he was deeply involved, not in a political sense of negotiating things with the Soviets. But the witness that he gave to freedom when he visited his native land shortly after he became pope, when he spoke to the Polish people, it was a message that said, "You will be freed. Stay with it. Do not give up the fight."

And so he was conveying a message to the Polish people and a message to all of the other captive nations of the Soviet Union and a message to the world that these people ought to be free. There is no reason for them to be imprisoned in this Marxist system, which he spoke against from the very beginning.

And so I believe that that message of freedom and that message of reconciliation and that message had a powerful impact, not only among nations outside of Poland. But of course the Polish people themselves -- they believed that this was now ordained for them to be free. And I think it did play an important role. I don't think the Russians missed it.

But at the same time, this is the same pope who would meet with Russian leaders and talk to Russian leaders about this. And so there was nobody who was outside of his orb, nobody he would not talk to or communicate with.

He had differences with a number of countries, still with China. The Catholic church has some differences, serious differences with China. But the pope was an individual who always wanted to reach out. A leader who wanted to reach out and touch.

BLITZER: Did you understand at the time in the late 80's -- his impact, what was going on, how that was unfolding. Or with hindsight, did it sort of become clear?

POWELL: No, I think it was clear in the 80's that his influence was having a significant effect. Another thing you have to remember is this was a pope of the television era, of the e-mail era, of the part of history where images can go everywhere and words can go everywhere. And they can't be held out any longer or held back by any political system or any political boundary.

And he came along, I think, with an understanding of the power of the communications means that were available to him. And he used them fully. And as a result, I think he had a remarkable impact in Eastern Europe and Poland and in other parts of the world. Look in Africa where he spent so many...

BLITZER: He visited that continent more than any other.

POWELL: More than any other continent. And where is the Catholic church growing the most rapidly? In Africa. And so this is not overblown to say that he a remarkable impact on the world, on Poland especially, and in helping to bring about the end of the Soviet empire. A lot of other people contributed. And I worked for many of those.

BLITZER: Ronald Reagan for one.

POWELL: Ronald Reagan should get full credit.

BLITZER: Margaret Thatcher.

POWELL: Margaret Thatcher. And Mikhail Gorbachev by recognizing that it couldn't continue. Now, the outcome is not what he intended. But nevertheless, all these great leaders came together. And when you put together Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and Brian Mulroney and so many others that you could name, you have to add the pope to that mix.

BLITZER: The president is, we believe, is going to be going to the funeral whenever it is -- Wednesday or Thursday or Friday, whenever the official announcement is. This will be the first time an American president has attended a funeral of a pope. It has been a long time in the making, something I assume you think is a good idea.

POWELL: If that turns out to be the case, I don't know if the White House made an announcement yet...

BLITZER: I don't think they've made an official announcement.

POWELL: I think it would be a good thing. It would seem to me appropriate for the president to represent the American people at what would be a historic gathering to celebrate historic life.

BLITZER: He had a special relationship with the American -- with American Catholics that you witnessed over these 26 years. And I want to wind up on this pope, Pope John Paul II, and America. What did he mean to America? And you played such a pivotal role over these same 26 years, if I can say.

POWELL: I think American Catholics saw in him somebody they could align with, somebody that they could understand, somebody who was of them, even though he was Polish.

He came here on many occasions. He always drew massive crowds. And people saw a leader who was the perfect witness of their faith and who held fast to the principles of that faith. But at the same time he totally identified with American values of freedom and democracy and the rights of men and women, things that all of our faiths say we should believe in. And he was a perfect example of that, by his service, by his ministry -- not only to Americans but to all the people of the world.

And I think, because of that, Catholics made a connection to him. He wasn't some distant individual. He was not Italian. He was unique, and he believed in what we believed in. And he knew how to convey that message to us.

But he not only touched Catholics in America. I think he touched all Americans. We all watched when he came. We all didn't go to the masses, but we all watched on television those masses, those great celebrations that the pope had when he was here.

BLITZER: A unique individual indeed.

Colin Powell, thanks for spending a few moments with us reflecting on Pope John Paul II.

POWELL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: When we come back, we'll get a quick check of what's making news right now, including progress in Iraq's new national assembly.

Then, a panel of prominent Catholics weighs in on John Paul's lasting imprint on the Catholic faith.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: You're looking at live pictures from Paris, France. Notre Dame, Mass continuing at this hour. Mass at Notre Dame in Paris, just as it's occurring in churches around the world.

Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION."

Joining us once again with perspective on Pope John Paul II's legacy, especially his impact on the Roman Catholic Church, Father David O'Connell, the president of Catholic University here in Washington. We're also joined by Father Robert Drinan. He's a professor at Georgetown University law school, a former member of the United States Congress. Thanks once again to both of you for joining us.

You were a member of Congress until 1980, when the word came down from the Vatican -- he was pope already by then -- that you shouldn't be in Congress. Talk a bit about that. Remind our viewers what happened.

FATHER ROBERT DRINAN, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: It is more complicated than that. They changed canon law, and the essential question is: Should priests be in public life around the world? And for better or worse, canon law, that was finally promulgated in 1983 said that priests, and they included nuns, should not be in an elected position.

Or rather, they withdrew the permission in canon law that the bishop could give permission. I had permission from Cardinal Cushing. He was enthusiastic about that. For better or worse, history will judge. That was changed.

BLITZER: What do you think over these past 25 years since then? Life has been pretty good for you, though.

DRINAN: Well, I hope that the successor to this pope remembers the visionary things that he did. He condemned the Crusades. He apologized for the Inquisition. He lamented the persecution of the Jews. And said we were wrong on Galileo. That's a heresy. That's a legacy that should never be forgotten. It's amazing. He changed the position of the Catholic church on the death penalty, and he crusaded against the death penalty. And I think all of those things, I hope, are going to be remembered and perpetuated by the church.

BLITZER: Well, just as they changed canon law in your case, should they do it again it allow priests to get involved in politics and political life?

DRINAN: History will have to judge that. I don't know. There's been 97 Protestant ministers in the Congress of the United States, and I was the first priest. One priest followed and then he lost his seat. That's up to history to judge. There have been a few Catholic priests in politics in Latin America and you can wonder whether they contributed to the development of a good society.

BLITZER: Let's talk a bit, Father O'Connell, about the process now that has unfolded in the Vatican, and we'll put up some graphics up on the screen. Choosing the next pope. At least 15 days after death, the conclave of cardinals begins. The cardinals will burn ballots and use smoke to signal their decisions: Black smoke, no successor chosen; white smoke, successor chosen. This could be days, this could be weeks, right?

O'CONNELL: That's true. According to the legislation that had been promulgated, actually, by our Holy Father Pope John Paul in 1996, the process is laid out in great detail. Four to six days for the funeral. Nine days of official mourning at the Vatican, after which time then the conclave takes place.

The Holy Father -- and you'll hear this said periodically by some folks who are Vatican watchers -- the change in the way of balloting is something that's of great interest to people. For the first 30 ballots it's two-thirds majority, and then after that the cardinals have the opportunity to vote on whether they will just go to simple majority.

BLITZER: And technically, you don't have to be a cardinal to emerge as the next pope. You could be a bishop.

O'CONNELL: Actually, any baptized male who is eligible for ordination could be elected pope. But as soon as the election would take place and the acceptance would take place, that person would have to be ordained a deacon, a priest, a bishop.

BLITZER: We shouldn't necessarily assume that it's only a contest among, what, 117 voting cardinals?

O'CONNELL: I think tradition would point in that direction. I would be very surprised if it was anyone outside of that 117, although the Holy Father did say or was quoted as saying a year ago that the man that will succeed me is not yet a cardinal.

BLITZER: Is it possible -- this may be an odd question -- that an American could emerge as the next pope? This was the first non- Italian, Pope John Paul II, in centuries, a Pole. Why not an American?

O'CONNELL: I wouldn't put any limits on the Holy Spirit to be sure. But I would have my doubts that that would happen; certainly not at this particular conclave. I think the feeling toward the United States maybe is not as positive in curial circles and some other circles of church hierarchy. I would doubt that that would happen.

BLITZER: Father Drinan, what do you think?

DRINAN: Well, whoever the pope is, he has terrible problems. He has to do something about the position of women in the church. He likewise has to do something...

BLITZER: Well, what do you want him to do?

DRINAN: Well, that's up to him. He has the Holy Spirit. And then likewise, the whole problem of artificial birth control, as it used to be called, that has to be settled one way or the other. But I think that what is to be carried on that can't be reversed is the pope's love of social justice. He was radical when he spoke in Latin America on his first trip there.

And he has always been for social justice. He's criticized capitalism, unregulated capitalism. And I think the next pope has to carry that on. That's in the body of the church now, especially after Vatican II, where faith and justice were put together. And the Jesuits followed up on that so that we always preach faith combined with justice. The two are inseparable.

That's one of the major legacies of Vatican II and this pope.

BLITZER: On so many of these what we call "social issues," whether birth control or abortion, homosexuality, women priests, he was very traditional, very conservative, whereas on many other issues he was very -- I don't know if the word is "progressive" or "open- minded."

O'CONNELL: Well, you hear oftentimes, as Father has said, you know, this -- the successor has to do something about the role of women in the Church. Well, the issue, the sticky issue has been the ordination of women, and the Holy Father has been strong in his pronouncements that that's not an option.

But in every other way, this particular pontificate has been very much a pontificate that has given great respect and credence to women, and has built their participation into the structures. The Code of Canon Law, as it was revised in 1983, permitted for the first time women to hold certain ecclesiastical offices. That would never have happened. And that was under the vigilance and direction of this pope.

BLITZER: This pope also did incredible work, Father Drinan -- you're very familiar with this -- in reaching out to other religions, to Jews, to Muslims, the first pope to ever visit a synagogue, the Rome synagogue, the first pope to ever go to a mosque.

Talk a little bit about that.

DRINAN: Well, that's certainly historic, with regard to the Jewish population, and the entire Jewish population says that. Fourteen million around the world have almost reconciled, if you will, to the Catholic Church. And the Holy Father recognized diplomatically Israel, and all his predecessors had declined to do that.

So, he will be remembered for that.

I'm not certain that the same adulation will reach him about the Muslim population, but he tried to reach them in many, many ways. And I...

BLITZER: He went to a mosque in Damascus.

DRINAN: I know.

(CROSSTALK)

DRINAN: But it's a very, very important problem. Every fifth human being is Muslim, and we obviously have to reach out to them.

He had a historic meeting of all the religions at Assisi some time ago. And the documents from that will live forever.

However, in fairness to him, without fault to him, China is probably the most anti-Christian country in the world. And who can do something about that? I don't know.

All I know is that he changed things a lot around the world. He changed the whole appearance.

And the next pope, if he's non-European, it'll be a joke. And it'll be very difficult for many Catholics in America and in Europe to say, we have a non-European pope for the first time in the history...

BLITZER: You mean, if it's a Nigerian, or a South American? Which is...

DRINAN: That'll be very difficult.

But it'd be fantastic to have a person of color.

BLITZER: Do you agree that it would be difficult for American Catholics to accept a non-European?

O'CONNELL: I don't agree with that. I think American Catholics are eager for someone to serve who is capable of serving and who can inspire.

Again, I think speculation on who or what would ascend to the papacy is just a very difficult thing to put a whole lot of credence in at this point.

You know, Father mentioned about the Muslims. I think, if you read the Holy Father's writings, especially in later years of his papacy, there really was an orientation frequently present in his writings toward the members of the Muslim community throughout the world and toward the East. He was very concerned about that.

I'm thinking particularly in the encyclical "Fides et Ratio," where there was a clear, clear direction of coming to some understanding and some relationship with those in the East.

BLITZER: Both of you are involved with universities. That means you're both involved with young people, especially a lot of young Catholics, whether at Georgetown University or Catholic University. It seems to me -- and correct me if I'm wrong -- that young American Catholics who grew up with this pope had a special relationship with him.

DRINAN: Without doubt. I mean, for 26, 27 years.

Going back to the Islamic, he always spoke of the Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and the Muslim religion. And that is very, very important. They go right back to Abraham, and he stressed that. And I'm certain that his successor will extend that to the entire 48 Islamic nations.

O'CONNELL: You know, Wolf, when you mentioned about the youth, yesterday, actually, yesterday afternoon, I was looking at a videotape of the Holy Father's visit to Catholic University, and his conversation with all the students. And of course he was a much younger man at the time. And it really, really was electric.

And, as I was watching that, I heard the bell tolling in our chapel. And I knew at that moment that the pope had died.

And I went to the chapel immediately. And already, a large number of students had gathered there, tears in their eyes. For many people, they really defined their Catholicism with Pope John Paul II. And as we know for them, for the young people who are on campus, this is the only pope they've ever known.

BLITZER: Even though personally, on some of the social issues, they may disagree with him.

O'CONNELL: Yes, but you know, I don't find that to be the case in talking to a lot of students at Catholic University. I would say many more would certainly be supportive of the pope's approach and the pope's teaching than would not be, although they are present. And they're certainly present on our campuses. I'm sure they are at Georgetown and campuses throughout the country.

BLITZER: We'll leave it right there but continue our coverage.

Father O'Connell, you'll be staying with us throughout this special "LATE EDITION."

Father Drinan, thanks to you. Always good having you on our program.

DRINAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Still ahead, as preparations begin to unfold to say farewell to Pope John Paul II, we'll take a look back at his ground breaking legacy. Our special "LATE EDITION." We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: The pope heads a church of about one billion people worldwide. In appointing the overwhelming majority of the college of cardinals who elect the next pope, many have said John Paul has stacked the deck with firm traditionalists like himself, making it likely that his interpretation of church doctrine will extend long after his death.

BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Pope John Paul II was the 263rd pope but he was first in many ways. Our Rome bureau chief, Alessio Vinci, takes a look back at his extraordinary papacy.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

VINCI (voice-over): From the very beginning, Pope John Paul II papacy broke new ground. He was the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The time had come they could no longer find an Italian of sufficient stature to win a majority of the votes in the conclave. They had to look around.

VINCI: And they found a man who for more than a quarter of a century continued to set precedents not just on far-reaching religious issues, but also on more every day matters, giving the papacy a whole new image.

Meeting religious leaders from all over the world, John Paul II reached in ways once considered impossible or even heretical, pushing the boundaries. He became the first pope to visit a synagogue in Rome, to pray at the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. In Syria, the first to visit a mosque, urging Christians, Jews and Muslims to work together for peace in the Middle East, turning the church into one looking beyond just the Catholic religion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's made it into an evangelizing church, where the premium no longer is on sort of being obsessed with our internal debates.

VINCI: He was also the first pope ever to be received at the White House, which was October 1979. The president was Jimmy Carter.

He traveled to places no other pontiff had ever been before: 179 countries beginning with Mexico in 1979, only months after being elected, covering a papal record 700,000 miles, three times the distance from here to the moon.

And whether riding a gondola in Venice, wearing a sombrero in Mexico or joining local traditions, this pope always added a touch of style.

At the same time, the pope often denounced what he called the dangers of modern Western society: genetic engineering, cloning, gay marriages. Yet, he implemented the church's own form of globalization, inaugurating the first Vatican Web site and becoming the first pope ever to send an e-mail.

Alessio Vinci, CNN, Rome.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And still ahead, we'll look back at the pope as a key political figure and catalyst for democracy around the world.

Our special "LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: This is a special "LATE EDITION": Remembering Pope John Paul II.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world has lost a champion of human freedom.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: From a democracy movement in his native Poland to the war in Iraq and other trouble spots around the world, what political legacy did John Paul II leave behind? We'll get perspective from former U.S. Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger, former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, and analysts David Gergen and Mort Zuckerman.

And a conversation with the former first lady, Nancy Reagan, on her special memories of the pope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ELIE WIESEL, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: The Catholic Church cannot be whole and entire unless it reaches out always.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: Uniting the religious divide, Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel reflects on a pontiff who embraced all the world's faiths.

And who will be the next pope? We'll look ahead as the Catholic Church prepares for a new leader.

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, this is a special "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Welcome back. We're going to go back to Rome for the latest in just a moment, but first let's get a quick check of what's making news right now. CNN's Betty Nguyen standing by at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

Betty?

NGUYEN: Thank you, Wolf.

Here's a check of what's happening right now in the news.

The pope's body is lying in state for a private viewing at the apostolic palace in the Vatican. Cardinals, archbishops, and diplomatic dignitaries are paying their final respects. His body will be moved tomorrow to St. Peter's Basilica where it will remain until the pope's funeral, which will take place in four to six days.

After weeks of wrangling, Iraq's Transitional National Assembly has elected a parliamentary speaker and two deputies. They chose a Sunni as speaker, and a Kurd and Shiite as deputies. With the assembly's leaders now selected, the next step is naming Iraq's new president. It's expected that will be Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani.

And the ousted Kyrgyzstan president Askar Akayev will resign tomorrow. He was deposed after demonstrators stormed his office more than a week ago. They were protesting alleged fraudulent election results. Akayev said he would resign if he and his family were given certain security guarantees. Now, it is unclear if that request was granted. Akayev is currently in Russia.

Those are the headlines. Now back to Wolf Blitzer and a special "LATE EDITION" of the legacy of Pope John Paul II.

Wolf?

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Betty.

It's the first of nine official days of mourning the death of Pope John Paul II. As preparations begin for the pontiff's funeral later this week. CNN's Alessio Vinci is joining us now from the Vatican with more on what has been happening today. Alessio?

VINCI: Hello, Wolf.

Well, part of the preparations will be to deal and to cope with the tens of thousands of pilgrims, if not more, expected here in St. Peter's Square. And, as you can see here behind me, already on this first day of mourning, tens of thousands of people lining up in the street here (inaudible) the main boulevard leading up to the St. Peter's Basilica. That is where Vatican State actually begins.

And there earlier this morning, massive attendance during a Mass celebrated by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, who was the secretary of state under Pope John Paul II. He was at the pope's bedside when he died. And for the first time in history, we are actually seeing the body of the pope, the dead body of the pope, before he is officially laid in state inside the basilica for mourners around the world to come here and pay their respects.

Vatican television has released a videotape of the pope in this private chapel in the apostolic palace. This is a chapel right next to his bedroom, this is where John Paul II used to pray early in the morning when he would wake up and in the evening before going to bed. This is also where we saw him for the last time watching on television set set up next to the altar where he ailing, unable to participate in the Way of the Cross on Good Friday from this very chapel. He actually watched the on television the Way of the Cross.

Later in that day, the pope was moved to the Sala Clementina, which is another room in the apostolic palace. And that's where dignitaries, the diplomatic corps, Church officials and people invited directly by the Vatican were able to pay their last respects to the pope.

As you can see here, he was wearing his white and red papal robes, reporters were able to enter this room telling us that the face of the pope looks serene, but at the same time you could tell that this was a man in terrible pain.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Alessio Vinci, we'll be getting back to you. Thank you, Alessio, very, very much.

The death of Pope John Paul II is setting in motion a series of events steeped in the earliest traditions of the Roman Catholic Church. Among them, choosing a new pontiff.

Joining us now from Rome, our CNN Vatican analyst John Allen.

John, thanks very much for joining us.

Let's talk a little bit about this process that's unfolding. Give us the immediate steps that are to take place today, tomorrow and the rest of this week.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Wolf, as you mentioned at the top, we are on merely the first of what will be nine official days of mourning. Each day during that nine-day period, there will be a rite, a liturgy celebrated in memory of the deceased pope.

We are expecting that somewhere in the range of Wednesday to Friday the high funeral Mass, the formal funeral Mass will be celebrated. That will probably be decided tomorrow, when the cardinals -- all of the cardinals who are in Rome will gather for the first meeting of what is called a "general congregation." The cardinals will meet each day between now and the beginning of the conclave, we expect around 10:30 in the morning.

The purpose of those meetings is to do two things. One is to work out the logistics of what will happen between now and then. The other is to discuss any urgent or pressing business of the church that simply can not be put off until the new pope is elected.

In the mean time of course -- and that, Wolf, describes what will be happening formally and out in the open -- in the mean time, privately, cardinals, as they begin to arrive in Rome, will be meeting in ones and twos, tens and twenties over dinner, over coffees to begin talking about what comes next.

And ultimately, of course, the what comes next question is, "Who will be the next pope?"

BLITZER: How do they do that? Do they start politicking, if you will, start talking to each other, campaigning for votes or helping others that they want? How does this process unfold? I know a lot of it is very secretive. But you've been looking into this.

ALLEN: Yes, Wolf, I mean the first thing for people to realize is this is utterly unlike a secular political campaign in the sense that there are no buttons, no bumper stickers, no one puts themselves forward as a candidate. There's no nominating convention. Quite honestly, almost none of the politics will be played out in front of the public eye.

We in the press corps, of course, will be carefully scrutinizing public statements the cardinals do make between now and the beginning of the conclave and in reading those tea leaves. Most of the action, I would say virtually all of the action, however, will be occurring behind closed doors in private gatherings of the cardinals.

Usually, they will begin meeting in language groups. So the French-speaking cardinals and the English-speaking cardinals and the Italians and Germans and the Spanish speakers and so forth will get together and talk about: What are the issues facing the church, what is the profile, the kind of man needed to face those challenges?

Ultimately, and actually relatively quickly, they'll begin to winnow down the field of possible candidates, identify potential papabile -- that is men who can become pope -- and then begin exchanging those kinds of reflections across those linguistic and geographic lines. With the idea that, over the course of this period that has begun today, before the beginning of the conclave -- some 14 to 19 days from now -- some consensus might begin to emerge.

And then of course the formal conclave will begin. That will begin with one ballot in the afternoon and then two ballots in the morning, two ballots in the afternoon after that, until a candidate achieves a two-thirds majority. And we see that white smoke rising out of the chimney in the Sistine Chapel. BLITZER: There's been lots of speculation, probably most of it not necessarily justified about who would be the -- some of the candidates to become the next pope. We'll put some names up on the screen. And I think you can see -- we'll show you some of the names if we can.

But they're from Nigeria, Honduras, Belgium, Italy, Brazil, Germany. There are a lot of candidates out there.

A lot of the so-called experts, John, just assume it will be an Italian this time because it was a Pole the last time. Is that logical? Is that something we can even predict?

ALLEN: Well, Wolf, the first thing we all need to understand is that the trash heaps of history are littered with the carcasses of those who have tried to predict the next pope. I mean, this is a hazardous business. The best we can offer at this stage is some kind of informed guesswork.

But on this business about an Italian, I think there are two things to understand. One is that given the internationalization of the college of cardinals that began under Paul VI and certainly continued under John Paul II, the voting-age Italians -- that is those cardinals who are under 80 -- today represent only 20 out of 117, nowhere near obviously a two-thirds majority.

Most of the cardinals I've been talking to over the last several years, not just the last few days, I really believe they are looking for best man, not necessarily the best Italian. The reason a lot of people think there's a built-in preference for an Italian is because, let's not forget the pope is also fundamentally the Bishop of Rome. And there is a certain benefit of the doubt argument for an Italian for that job. But I really think the cardinals are going to cast a wider net than that.

BLITZER: John Allen, our Vatican analyst.

We'll be getting back to you. Thanks, John, very, very much.

Let's continue this conversation. Once again joining us, Father David O'Connell, the president of Catholic University here in Washington. You want to weigh in on this notion of an Italian versus non-Italian emerging as the next pope?

O'CONNELL: Well, if I could comment on something else, Wolf, first, it was the notion of politicking. You know I have -- because of Catholic University and being the bishop's university, we oftentimes have the cardinals present on the campus and the bishops. I will tell you, in social gatherings, over dinners and in conversations, I've never once heard in recent weeks any cardinal politicking, any cardinal saying anything about the successor other than how awesome it is a responsibility for them. But no conversation about names...

BLITZER: If they do that publicly isn't that grounds for ex- communication? O'CONNELL: Well, there's a sanction attached to that if they should engage in any kind of politics. But, you know, it just isn't done. It just isn't done.

And as John said, and he said so well, you really don't know the feeling right now. And I've heard it said among people who are not cardinals or bishops, is that there is a subtle groundswell for an Italian. But I don't think anybody can really say what's going to happen. Again, so much in our belief is that this is the work of the Holy Spirit inspiring these men who are gathered in conclave.

BLITZER: And as we see the pope lying in state, if that's what we call it, at the Vatican today, this Sunday, the Sunday after Easter Sunday, is a special Sunday, and that's because of what John Paul II declared.

O'CONNELL: Yes. This Sunday is referred to as Divine Mercy Sunday, the notion of divine mercy coming from the notion of the sacred heart. Something very special as a devotion to Pope John Paul, a saint that he canonized, Saint Faustina Kowalska, who was a visionary in Poland.

She lived actually in the 20th century from 1905-1938, a sister in a Polish Congregation of Mercy. And she had visions of Jesus Christ coming to her and advocating a devotion to the mercy of the sacred heart. And that was very, very special to this pope.

BLITZER: One other point that I know you want to talk about, the cardinals. There are, what, 117 or so are going to be participating. You have to be under 80 to vote for a new pope. But they all basically lose their positions right now, is that right?

O'CONNELL: It's the cardinals who hold curial offices. For example, Secretary of State Cardinal Sodano. You've seen him, and you heard your analyst refer to him as former secretary of state. And that's true. Once the pope dies, those who head those offices lose their authority with the exception of three.

The camerlengo, and you saw on the videotape the cardinal blessing the body of the pope, that's the papal chamberlain. He remains a very important, probably the primary figure at this particular time. The major penitentiary, the one who is responsible for confession and more internal moral matters in the church, he maintains his position -- and obviously the vicar of the diocese of Rome.

BLITZER: We're going to ask you to stand by, Father O'Connell, because we have much more to talk about. But we have to take a quick break. Coming up next, on our special "LATE EDITION," Pope John Paul's influence on world politics. We'll get perspective from a panel of diplomatic and political veterans. More of our special "LATE EDITION" right after this.

President Bush, along with first lady Laura Bush, paying respects yesterday to the late Pope John Paul II.

Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION."

Regardless of politics and key differences over U.S. policy, the pope enjoyed a unique relationship with U.S. presidents during his 26- year papacy. Here's CNN's Dana Bash.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JIMMY CARTER, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Welcome to our country, our new friend.

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 1979: John Paul II, the first pope ever at the White House.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: America, America, God shed his grace on thee.

BASH: Through the years, he bluntly told five U.S. presidents how they should and should not use their unique power.

JOHN PAUL II: We are called to recognize the basic solidarity.

BASH: With Ronald Reagan, a special bond borne out of a powerful common purpose: bringing down the Iron Curtain the pope once lived behind.

RONALD REAGAN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Love for our fellow man is stronger than the evils that befall mankind.

BASH: When the first President Bush came calling, he was challenged to fight harder against society's corrosive ills.

JOHN PAUL II: To liberate the youth of America from the destructive forces of drug abuse.

BASH: President Clinton heard public lectures about his support for abortion rights. And at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, some words apparently left open for interpretation.

JOHN PAUL II: There are times of trial, tests of national character.

BASH: Relations warmed with the current president, in sync with the Vatican on abortion. Yet at their first public meeting, the pontiff warned Mr. Bush he had a moral duty to ban stem-cell research, not just limit it.

JOHN PAUL II: These are practices that devalue and violate human life.

BASH: Mr. Bush last saw the pope at the Vatican in June, the heat of the presidential campaign.

BUSH: I would be honored if you would accept our Medal of Freedom.

BASH: Hoping to remind Catholic voters he was intensely courting, he was more in line with the pope than his Catholic opponent, John Kerry. But the pope staunchly opposed the Iraq war. And in classic John Paul style, he used the visit to publicly complain about grave unrest in Iraq and privately admonished the president for Abu Ghraib prison abuses.

Bush aides say the president took all of that in stride but he also took it to heart. Because they say even for an American president, it's hard not to be humbled by the pope. Think of it this way: George W. Bush is the 43rd president. John Paul II was the 264th pope.

Dana Bash, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: And joining us now, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, the human rights activist, the Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel.

Mr. Wiesel, thanks very much for joining us. Give us your thoughts on this sad occasion: the death of this pope.

WIESEL: I think this pope will have a very important place in Jewish history. He, together with John the 21st, will remain as one of the greatest spiritual leaders in Christianity. Why? Well, I've heard of course so many statements. They all spoke about his greatness.

He's the one who, for the first time, went to a synagogue in Rome. He had a commemoration for the Holocaust in the Vatican. And he went to Jerusalem. He spoke against anti-Semitism, racism. He was a great man.

BLITZER: When he was a young man, what was his role in fighting the Nazis?

WIESEL: Well, according to his biographers, of course, he was a member of those who opposed Nazism. And he spoke against it, against dictatorship. His role in bringing freedom to Poland and later on to Eastern Europe is well-known. It will remain.

Wolf, in the beginning I had skepticism about him. Because he went to Auschwitz right away and he gave homilies but he never mentioned the word "Jew." So I was a little bit embarrassed and frustrated. But then I learned to respect him and even to admire him. And I was probably one among the very few Jews who never met him.

BLITZER: I know you were close to seeing him on one occasion. What happened?

WIESEL: Oh, it's very simple. We were supposed to have not only a conversation, but in my terms, a disputation in medieval terms -- as a Jew and a Christian, what we have to say to one another. And everything was arranged.

And all of a sudden, the press learned about it. And I was afraid it could become a circus, a spectacle. I am not good at that. So the last minute, literally, I at least said, "No, let's wait." And we didn't have another occasion.

BLITZER: What about his role in the Israeli-Arab conflict? He was very active. He went to Jerusalem, he went to the Arab world, met with Yasser Arafat while he was still alive. Talk a little bit about this pope and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

WIESEL: He, I think -- he was critical of Israel at times. And I felt hurt because spiritually there are things that should not enter politics. But he felt that the spiritual leader must enter politics. This is what he has done in Poland and in Eastern Europe. And therefore, he tried in the Middle East, as well.

In Israel, too, many, people respect him. And they're fond of what he has done. But do I agree with everything he has done? No, of course not. Whatever he has said, of course not. But then we, in our tradition, Wolf, we don't say critical things or negative things about a person who just died. We can only say good things.

And there are many things to say about him.

BLITZER: What about the Nobel Peace Prize? You won that Nobel Peace Prize. He didn't. He was on the cover of "Time" magazine in 1994 as the "Time" magazine man of the year, but he never won the Nobel Peace Prize.

By the way, this is the man of the year cover. And this is the new issue of Time magazine that has just come out with a very moving commemorative issue remembering Pope John Paul II.

Should there be -- and you speak with some authority on this -- an opportunity for people who have passed away to be given that Nobel Peace Prize?

WIESEL: No, that can never happen. According to the Nobel testament, which is the Nobel charter, no Nobel prize can be given posthumously, nor can it be taken away. It's a very strange prize. It cannot be given back or taken back. Otherwise, I would have led a campaign to take it back from Yasser Arafat. But it's impossible.

As for the pope, he was a candidate for many years, and it didn't work out.

BLITZER: Talk a little bit about what you would like to see down the road in the immediate weeks, months and years, the relationship between the Catholic Church and world Jewry.

WIESEL: Well, I think that -- what I say now -- I believe with all my heart. Never have the relations between Jews and Catholics been as good. Never in our history.

After all, how many times have Jewish leaders seen the pope? And how many cardinals are our friends? I know a few cardinals who are very good friends. The cardinal in France -- Cardinal O'Connor was very close to me, and I was close to him. And then the relationship today, the rabbis and priests meet often, and they study together. They sign petitions. Again, never have they been so good. And I hope that the next pope, whoever it will be, will follow this line.

BLITZER: Elie Wiesel, as usual, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us on this occasion.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: And we're continuing our remembrance of Pope John Paul II.

Joining us now on the phone from her home in Los Angeles, the former First Lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan.

Mrs. Reagan, thank you so much for joining us. And I wonder if you'd want to reflect a little bit on your meetings with Pope John Paul II. I believe you met with him, what, seven times?

NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: Seven times, yes. And two of those times I was alone meeting with him, which was quite an experience. Wonderful experience.

Hello?

BLITZER: I want to -- I'm having trouble hearing you, Mrs. Reagan. I'm going to take a quick commercial break. We're going to fix this problem.

When we come back, we'll have our conversation with Nancy Reagan. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION." Joining us now on the phone from her home in Los Angeles, the former first lady of the United States, Nancy Reagan. Mrs. Reagan, we were saying that you met seven times with Pope John Paul II. What about this man? How special was he in your life and the life of the late President Ronald Reagan?

REAGAN: Oh, he was very special. First of all, they were very much alike. I mean, these were two men who were former actors. They both loved the outdoors, sports, natural sports-minded and good at sports. And they shared the title of Great Communicator, both of them. And they both had wonderful senses of humor.

But also, when Ronnie was shot in '81, the pope was shot in '81. And Ronnie died in June of this year; the pope is dying in this year. It was -- they were very, very much alike. They crossed paths a lot. Now, what did you ask me? What...

BLITZER: I was going to add, though, as you point out, they had these assassination attempts, what, six weeks apart back in 1981. That must have, when they met in subsequent years, forged a unique bond between these two leaders.

REAGAN: The kind of men they were, and their desire to do something about communism, all of that.

BLITZER: Well, they both were -- played pivotal roles in the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War. When you were there, did they talk about that in your presence? Do you remember meetings where you heard both of these leaders speaking about the ill effects of communism?

REAGAN: No, I didn't hear it. I know they talked about it, obviously. And maybe that one picture that -- I don't know whether you're showing it or not, but I have a picture of the two of them in the library here. They're both sitting down. The pope is sitting with his head bent, listening. And Ronnie is halfway out of his chair and talking to the pope, and his hand is out and his finger's out. Obviously he's telling him something. And you wonder, what in the world is Ronnie saying? The pope is listening very carefully to him. It's a wonderful picture.

BLITZER: When your husband died, I know that you received a note from Pope John Paul II. Do you want to share with our viewers in the United States and around the world what he said to you?

REAGAN: Well, he was in Switzerland when Ronnie died. And he was very shocked. It's funny, you know, certainly with Ronnie and with the pope, you expect death to come, but when it does come, you're never prepared. And the men who co-authored the book with Carl Bernstein, which is a very good book...

BLITZER: The book about the pope?

REAGAN: Yes. He said that there was a psychological and emotional tie between the two that John Paul hasn't had with any other president. And I think that's true.

BLITZER: And I believe he called your husband, the former president, "a noble soul," and he certainly was. Mrs. Reagan, thank you for spending a few moments with us here on "LATE EDITION."

REAGAN: You're welcome. You're welcome, Wolf. Bye.

BLITZER: And we're going to continue our coverage. But let's check in with the CNN Center, with CNN's Betty Nguyen for some other headlines now in the news.

Betty?

NGUYEN: Thank you, Wolf. Here's a look at the other stories right now in the news. After weeks of wrangling -- we will get that story in a moment.

First, though, the pope's body is lying in state for private viewing in the apostolic palace in the Vatican. Cardinals, archbishops, and diplomatic dignitaries are paying their final respects.

The body will be moved tomorrow to St. Peter's Basilica, where it will remain until the pope's funeral, which will be held in four to six days.

Now to the other story. After weeks of wrangling, Iraq's transitional national assembly has elected a parliamentary speaker and two deputies. They chose a Sunni as a speaker, and a Kurd and Shiite as deputies.

With the assembly's leaders now selected, the next step is naming Iraq's new president. It is expected that will be Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani. And it's been a long time coming. Syria is promising to pull all its troops and intelligence agents out of Lebanon by the end of the month.

President Bashar Assad made that comment to a U.N. envoy at the meeting in Damascus today. Syria has been in Lebanon since 1976. I'm Betty Nguyen in Atlanta, CNN's "LATE EDITION." A special tribute to Pope John Paul II continues right after this break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Live picture, sunset in Rome. It's now almost 7:35, 7:38 specifically in Rome right now. A beautiful shot of the Vatican. Live picture, coming in, for our viewers around the world.

In addition to being the spiritual leader of the world's some 1 billion Catholics, Pope John Paul II established a tremendous political legacy. As an outspoken critic of Communism, he was a key figure in the move to democratize Eastern and Central Europe.

For some special insight into the political impact, we turn to three guests: in New York, the former New York governor, Mario Cuomo; also in New York, U.S. News and World Report magazine's editor in chief, Mort Zuckerman; and in Boston, the journalist and historian David Gergen, he's a former top adviser to four U.S. presidents.

Gentlemen, good to have you here on "LATE EDITION."

Father David O'Connell, the president of Catholic University, is still here with us as well.

Governor Cuomo, let me begin with you. A quick question on this pope's impact on your life.

MARIO CUOMO, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: I think there are two kinds of truths in Catholicism and I guess all the religions. One is regarded as an unalterable truth, and that's the truth of Christ, as far as we're concerned. And the other are alterable truths, the rules of the church.

What this pope did, was to concentrate on the absolutely unchangeable truth that we have in common with Judaism, Islam.

Two propositions: You're supposed to love one another, and you're supposed to work together to make this a better world.

And it was the simplicity of that message, and the absolute soundness of that message that he repeated over and over, all over the world, on the largest stage ever given to a pope, because of technology and the fact that he was around for 26 years. And everybody understood that message and respected it.

There were many Catholics in this country who, when they got to the alterable truths, truths that conceivably could be changed, and therefore could be contentious, the restrictive measures in sex and marriage, et cetera, et cetera, there were differences of opinion -- and there will be with the next pope -- and impatience, by Catholics.

But as to those solid, main principles which we hold in common with all other people of good intention and intelligence, he was magnificent. And that's, I think, his greatest legacy.

BLITZER: And, David Gergen, you were on the stage, or at least behind the scenes, for so many of those 26 years that this pope was the leader of the Catholic Church. What goes through your mind on this occasion?

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER: Well, I think, Wolf, that I've been enormously impressed over the years by how much he became a moral beacon in the world, at how many people rallied to him, whether they were Catholic or non- Catholic, that he was a light through the fog, at a time when people were uncertain about the world in which they lived -- there was enormous change.

And I think his courage, his dignity did have an impact on our international politics and upon American politics, to go back to your original point.

Clearly, as a champion of freedom, and an anti-Communist, and the help that he gave, the inspiration he gave not only to the Poles, but others behind the Iron Curtain, especially in his inaugural address, when he repeated, "Be not afraid, be not afraid," that had a sweeping impact behind the Iron Curtain and did hasten the end of Communism, and that in turn, I think, strengthened his moral suasion.

And I have to say, Wolf, that, on these changeable issues that Governor Cuomo talks about so eloquently, the pope did have an unwavering view on those issues and I think did contribute to the rise of conservatism in the United States.

And the fact that Catholics in the United States, who have traditionally been very heavy Democratic voters, in this last election voted for a Methodist, George W. Bush, over a Catholic candidate, John Kerry, I think is in some ways directly attributable to the more conservative doctrinal views the pope took on social issues.

BLITZER: I've gone back, Mort Zuckerman, and re-read some of the articles you've written about this pope. Reflect a little bit on what this death means for you.

MORT ZUCKERMAN, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT: Well, let me just speak here from the point of view of my own faith, which is Judaism. This is a pope, I think, who did more to improve the relations between the Jews and the Catholics than any of the 260-odd of his predecessors. He was the youngest bishop at the Vatican Conference, Second Vatican Conference in 1965, which published the Nostra Aetate, in which they basically transformed the views of the Church toward Jews and towards Judaism. And he was really a champion of the return of the Jews to Israel, which was directly contrary to what the Church had previously taken as its position.

So in this sense I think he had a remarkable effect on the attitude of the Catholic Church toward Jews, toward Judaism and toward Israel. He was remarkable in terms of what he was willing to say publicly, in terms of his condemnation of anti-Semitism, and his condemnation of the specificity of the Jews vis-a-vis the Holocaust, in which he echoed the Jewish cry of "Never again, never again," he said. And he condemned anti-Semitism and those who interpreted the New Testament in terms of anti-Semitism and said that this is something that he would condemn and the Church should condemn at any time and in any place.

So he was remarkable, in terms of not only his moral leadership and his theological understanding, but his historical understanding of the spiritual bond between the Jews and the Christians.

He referred to the Jews as his "elder brothers." I mean, this is such a remarkable transformation from those who in earlier years had interpreted the wandering of the Jews as divine rejection. He said, it is time, it is their right to return to their homeland and their ancestral home.

This is something truly extraordinary in the 2,000-year history of the Catholic Church, and I think it will be remembered for another 2,000 years.

BLITZER: Mort Zuckerman speaks as not only an editor and a publisher, but also as a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

We're going to ask Mort Zuckerman, David Gergen, Mario Cuomo to stand by. We'll take a quick break. More of our conversation on the political legacy of Pope John Paul II right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. President Bush, among others, paying tribute to Pope John Paul II. We're continuing our discussion with former New York Governor Mario Cuomo, former presidential adviser David Gergen and political analyst, Mort Zuckerman.

You're old enough, so am I, Governor Cuomo to remember 1960, when an American Catholic was running for the presidency: John F. Kennedy. A lot of Americans were skeptical about his Catholic faith, the impact of the Vatican on a Catholic politician. That's changed dramatically here in the United States over these past 45 year.

CUOMO: Yes, it has. Let me make a comment on Dick Gergen's observation about he believes that the pope got some Catholics to come over and become conservatives because of his positions, presumably, on abortion, stem cells, et cetera. I would kind of doubt that, although Gergen is the absolute best. And he's probably right. I would doubt it anyway.

And it occurs to me that if the Catholics were so concerned about the pope's positions, politically, they would have reacted to his position against the war in Iraq.

They would have reacted to his scolding of President Bush, which we're all aware of. They would have reacted to the pope's strong calls for sharing the wealth of the United States even to the point of lowering our own standard of living.

So I think, David, we have to think again about whether or not the pope won some votes for President Bush.

BLITZER: All right. Let's let David Gergen respond to that.

GERGEN: Well, I have great enormous regard for Mario Cuomo, as he well knows. But I do believe that if you look at the trend in Catholic voting among Catholics in the United States, what you will see is a greater and greater identification with the Republican Party on the social issues.

So that in the south, for example, white Catholics -- the churches there are becoming more conservative and they are voting heavily Republican.

Among Hispanics, if the break that the president enjoyed this year -- he went from 35 percent last year to 40 percent or among Hispanics in this vote in the year 2004 -- what one finds there, Wolf, is that among those Hispanic Catholics, they're more conservative, they're more socially conservative are voting Republican.

And I would just argue that, while the influence is indirect, the fact that the pope was so unwavering and I think shored up people in their beliefs at a time when the church was moving away from and seemed to be moving toward a more modern position after Vatican II and seemed to be questioning some of its own doctrines, along came this pope and swung back the other way very firmly, closed the door on many issues, squelched some of the people around him such as Cardinal Ratzinger, tried to suppress some of dissent within the church itself.

I think that move has contributed to a growing belief among Catholics in this country that is not only safe. But they're proud to be more doctrinal or be more conservative. And I think they have moved toward the Republican Party. That's my argument.

CUOMO: Dick, you didn't explain why they weren't impressed on the Iraq position, on the economic issues, on the job issues, all of which the pope held at least as emphatically and spoke about a good deal more.

GERGEN: Well that is true. But, you know, it's also true that...

CUOMO: Maybe it's rich Catholics you're talking about.

GERGEN: I don't think so. Not when you talk about Hispanics. And it is also true the pope's statements on the war just simply haven't had as much impact here. He's been against wars ever since Panama.

BLITZER: David Gergen, Mario Cuomo, hold on a second. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick is coming to the microphones at Reagan National Airport. He's getting ready to leave to fly to Rome. Let's listen in.

CARDINAL THEODORE MCCARRICK: Your feelings change as you start getting ready to go. You know we're grieving for the Holy Father. And we'll still be doing that obviously and praying for them and thanking God that he had such a great life and that he did so many great things. I'm sure that the lord will take him into his loving embrace.

But now you get a second feeling and it's a feeling of some anxiety because you're going to do something that is very special. My predecessor, Cardinal Hickey, who is a very holy man, once said to Bishop Farrell, my auxiliary who is in charge of the diocese now that I'm leaving, said to him, "You know, I may get to elect a pope. And if I do, it will be the most important thing I've ever done in my life." And the bishop just told me that as I was leaving the house.

And I guess you know, that's something that weighs heavily on you, that you know you're going to share with another 116 people that extraordinary opportunity and that extraordinary responsibility. I was going to say it's scary. That's maybe not the word. It's off- putting. It's awesome. And in a very special way, you have to get yourself up to it. And so I need your prayers.

I really have no idea. I guess in the next few days, as I get to Rome, if such are around, I'll find out. I see names in the media but I have no idea if they are media names or what. So the lord will, I'm sure, guide us all. And we'll find out, hopefully sooner rather than later, what are God's plans and what we ought to do to keep ourselves faithful to those.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

MCCARRICK: Well, there is a general congregation of the cardinals tomorrow morning at 9:00. And I have received the notification from Cardinal Ratzinger, who is the dean of the college of cardinals, to come to that. It went out to all 117 of us. So I'm hoping that I'll get in before 8:00. I'll be able to get to the North American college, the seminary in Rome -- the Catholic seminary in Rome. I'll get there, I'll change into a cassock and then go over to that meeting.

So that will be -- that'll be interesting and exciting and, yeah, a little scary.

BLITZER: Cardinal Theodore McCarrick at Washington's Reagan National Airport, preparing to fly off to Rome to participate in the election of a new pope. He's one of 117 cardinals who will be involved in this. I want to thank our guests for joining us.

Mario Cuomo, as usual David Gergen, Mort Zuckerman, all three of you will continue this down the road.

Coming up, his stance on the war in Iraq was often at odds with many religious conservatives here in the United States. But he was an ally in other key social issues. The conservative Christian leader, Pat Robertson, will weigh in on the pope's legacy, that's coming up in the third hour of "LATE EDITION."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. From Rome to here in Washington to churches and vigils around the world, the life of the pope remembered at this hour. We'll have the latest on the ceremonies underway, as well as the rituals the Catholic Church will follow over the coming days as the cardinals make their way to Rome.

We'll talk to leaders of that church and other religions about what's taking place today and what lies ahead.

First, though, let's get a quick check of what's making news right now beyond this story. Our Betty Nguyen, standing by at the CNN Center.

Betty?

NGUYEN: Thank you, Wolf. Here's the stories now in the news. It's been a day of reverence and remembrance in Rome. Dozens of cardinals, archbishops, and diplomatic dignitaries have paid their last respect to Pope John Paul II at the Vatican. A private viewing was held at the apostolic palace in the Vatican. The pope's body will be moved to St. Peter's Basilica tomorrow, where it will lie in state until his funeral later this week.

Travel plans are being made by dignitaries all around the world. President Bush is expected to attend the funeral, although the White House has not announced any firm plans just yet. The president and first lady attended St. John's Episcopal Church in Washington this morning. The death of the pope was mentioned during the service.

Nearly 30 years of occupation will come to an end later this month. Syria is promising to pull all its troops and intelligence agents out of Lebanon by April 30. President Bashar al-Assad made the comment to a U.N. envoy at a meeting in Damascus today. Those are the headlines. Now it's back to "LATE EDITION" with Wolf Blitzer.

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Betty. Over the next few days, over a million, perhaps as many as two million are expected to pour into Rome to honor the late Pope John Paul II. Our Alessio Vinci has been following developments on this day after the pontiff's death.

Alessio?

VINCI: Hello, Wolf.

It's nightfall here in Rome. And it's a bit chilly, but not for the tens of thousands people who are continuing to come here to St. Peter's Square to pay their last respects to Pope John Paul II. And if you can look here behind me, by the thousands, again, they keep coming. There's a huge traffic jam. Lots of people coming here.

St. Peter's Square filled to the very maximum with little pillars that are becoming like altars where people are lighting up candles. They're just coming here because they want to feel close to the pope. And, you know, this was a pope who broke tradition throughout his papacy. And again today, even with the pope now gone, Vatican television released a video of the embalmed body of the pope in his private chapel.

Again, the pope there breaking with tradition. This is the first time we actually see the body of a dead pope before he is officially laid in state in the St. Peter's basilica. In this chapel, you can see the pope's closest friends, the nuns who have served the pope for so many years, as well as his private secretary and friend, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, as well as many other cardinals.

These are the final, these are the moments before the pope was actually laid, then brought to the Sala Clementina in the apostolic palace. This chapel, of course, is where the pope spent so many hours praying early in the morning when he woke up and in the evening before going to bed, and it was from this very chapel that on Good Friday, the pope followed the way of the cross on a television screen because he was too frail and unable to go himself to the coliseum.

Now joining me here on the set is one of the pilgrims who actually we managed to meet here in St. Peter's Square. Her name is Daniela Serelli (ph). She is a flight attendant.

Daniela (ph), first of all, tell me, why are you here tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm actually here because I thought it was right for me to pay respect to the pope, a pope which I loved a lot, which I thought he was extraordinary. I think we're going to miss him an awful lot.

VINCI: And you're a flight attendant, and you traveled and served the pope on a flight to New Delhi.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, and I have...

VINCI: And we have a picture. This is a picture of you. This was a flight to New Delhi. What year was that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was '98, it was November '98, the 5th of November. And I had this honor to be on the flight with the pope.

VINCI: What was it like? What did he tell you? What did he tell you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't speak to him.

VINCI: You can't speak to him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You can't speak to him.

VINCI: You're too emotional. OK. I understand very much. Thank you very much for joining us.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much.

VINCI: You see, Wolf, so many little private stories here in the crowd in St. Peter's Square. And as Italian authorities expect at least two million people here in the coming days. It is really a huge amount of people. Of course, Italian security officials are telling us that they are doing all they can to avoid any kind of unpleasant incident. Back to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: On that point, Alessio, I assume Italian law enforcement, security authorities have been bracing for this week for years preparing, knowing that leaders from around the world, millions of pilgrims will be coming to pay their respects.

Are you already feeling where you are the impact of the enormous security that's going to be put in place on this post-9/11 world?

VINCI: Absolutely, Wolf.

I mean, we haven't seen much of extraordinary security yet here in St. Peter's Square, but as you know, there will be a funeral here, and state officials and many dignitaries from around the world are expected here, either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday this coming week.

We expect also of course the U.S. president, George W. Bush, and you can imagine this entire area will be completely sealed off. It will be an unimaginable amount of dignitaries. And we are told, of course, that it will be all kind of extraordinary security measures, including, for example, that the air space over Rome will be closed for those hours.

Wolf?

BLITZER: CNN's Alessio Vinci helping us know what's going on on the scene.

Alessio, thank you very much.

Also helping us, our guides over the past several days. And now looking forward to the next several days, our analysts at the Vatican, joining us once again, John Allen is a CNN Vatican analyst, he's the correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, and Robert Moynihan is editor of Inside the Vatican.

Thanks to both of you very much for joining us.

John Allen, first to you on this security issue, people will be paying attention to it. How does the Vatican directly get involved? Do they have liaison with Italian security?

ALLEN: Yes, of course, Wolf, the Vatican security forces, and there's not just one -- it's not just the Swiss Guard. There's also the Vatican Police and other forces.

They're obviously in regular contact with the Italian security, and not just, by the way, for protecting the pope. I mean, even from minor incidents, things like when they catch pickpockets or that kind of thing in St. Peter's Square, there's a regular and constant communication there.

What I would expect, actually, is that the peak of the security presence will come during the funeral Mass, which of course will be attended by VIPs including heads of state from all over the world. And actually I would suggest that most of the security you'll see on that date probably will be security brought by those VIPs and heads of state.

One of the things in covering the pope that has always struck me over the years is how thin the security membrane generally was between John Paul and the public. I think some of that is just the difference between being pope or being president. But some of it, I think, was also John Paul's personal desire to have as small a filter as possible between him and the people that he obviously loved and wanted to be with so much.

BLITZER: Robert Moynihan, what are you going to be looking at in these coming hours for signs, perhaps, as to who might emerge as the next pope?

ROBERT MOYNIHAN, EDITOR, INSIDE THE VATICAN: Well, we're looking for themes in what the cardinals are saying. I actually had the chance to speak with a cardinal in the airport today after flying into Rome, and then I spoke with another cardinal at the press office. And both of them said the same thing. So a theme is emerging.

They said they're looking for a man who will be open to synodal forms of government, which would mean trying to restructure the office of the pope -- not in its theological dimensions, so much as in its functions -- so that perhaps they could be eventually able to open more toward the Orthodox. This seems to be one great theme that's emerging.

And what kind of man could do that?

BLITZER: Do you expect, Robert Moynihan, that we will wait many days, maybe many weeks to know who will be emerging as the consensus figure, the new pope, or will this happen relatively quickly?

MOYNIHAN: It should happen relatively quickly. Probably in three or four days, eight or ten votes.

But there may be some surprises. And if they can't reach a consensus, it'll take at least a week. And then they'll go into the majority mode, and that should then resolve it rather quickly.

There are different opinions about what the papacy should be doing and what the Church should be doing, and the most likely result, probably, is just a three- or four-day conclave.

BLITZER: John Allen, how significant is it that the president of the United States will be attending this funeral? It's not officially announced yet, but we anticipate that George W. Bush will be the first American president attending a funeral of a pope.

Give us your perspective.

ALLEN: Well, Wolf, I've covered all three of President Bush's visits with John Paul II, two of them in the Vatican, one at the summer Vatican, at Castel Gandolfo. And I think it is obvious that there was -- and there continues to be on the part of President Bush -- a deep respect and admiration for this man.

That's not to say, Wolf, they didn't have their differences. Obviously, John Paul took a very different view of the Iraq war. John Paul has also publicly and privately been far more critical of what he once referred to as a savage kind of capitalism than some of the free- marketeers in the Bush camp. But beneath those specific differences, there clearly was a symphony, first of all in cultural issues, issues such as abortion, the need to defend life -- it's striking, I think, Wolf, in the public debate over the Schiavo case in the United States, you heard Bush administration spokespersons repeatedly invoking the idea of a culture of life. That, of course, is a phrase coined by John Paul II.

And beneath even that, I think, there was just a clear personal admiration. When President Bush was here the last time, he presented John Paul II with a Medal of Freedom. And it was striking to see this president of the United States, you know, the titan of all the titans on the earth, so visibly nervous and moved to be in the presence of the pope. It was a sight to behold.

BLITZER: John Allen, Robert Moynihan, thanks to both of you, our analysts in Rome, for helping us better understand what's happening now and what's likely to happen in the days to come.

And coming up, what the pope left behind. We'll ask our interfaith panel about how he reached out to other religions.

And later, the televangelist Pat Robertson, he'll talk about why he thinks Pope John Paul II was, in his words, the most beloved religious leader of our time.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: These poignant pictures coming in to us from around the world. The history books are still being written, the impact of this pope still being measured. Helping us evaluate what Pope John Paul II achieved is a special panel we've assembled.

The Reverend Jesse Jackson is the founder of the Rainbow Push Coalition. He's joining us from Chicago. Rabbi Marvin Hier is the dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. He's joining us from Los Angeles. Also in Los Angeles, the Imam Muzammil Siddiqi is head of the Islamic Law Council of North America. And in Boone, North Carolina, the Reverend Franklin Graham is president of "This Samaritan's Purse" and the son of the Reverend Billy Graham, as all of our viewers know. Still with us in Washington, Father David O'Connell. He's the president of Catholic University here in Washington.

Let me begin with you, Reverend Graham. Catholics and Protestants, the relationship that has emerged under this JOHN PAUL II: Talk a little bit about that.

REV. FRANKLIN GRAHAM, PRESIDENT, THE SAMARITAN'S PURSE: Well, one of the things I appreciate very much about Pope John Paul II is his very clear stand on moral issues. And there was a lot of pressure on him to compromise. And he was very firm, especially in the area of sanctity of life.

And with Protestant evangelicals, he emphasized not our differences, because there is a lot of difference, big differences, a great gulf of differences. But he emphasized those things that we could come together on: that's the cross of the lord Jesus Christ; the fact that he was born of a virgin; that he died for the sins of mankind; that he was buried for our sins, but yet he rose again on the third day; that he's alive; that he's coming back; that he's the son of the living God. All of these things are what we agree on.

And he emphasized those and he stressed those. And I think it brought us a lot closer. And we appreciated very much his life, what he stood for and especially his strong defensive life. That meant a lot not only to Protestants, but I believe to Jews, to Muslims, to people of faith all around the world.

BLITZER: Reverend Graham, as you know, historically a strain among evangelical Christians, an anti-Catholic element out there. Has that been reduced since Pope John Paul II became the pontiff over these past 26 years?

GRAHAM: Well, Wolf, there is no question of theological differences between the two. And those differences, I'm sure, will be there. But where there was open opposition, where there was some parts of the world where there was persecution, I think this pope did everything that he could to try to build bridges and at least to have bridges of understanding where we would talk with one another.

And if we disagree, we agree to disagree, but we looked -- he looked, especially -- for those things that brought us together and what we could agree on. And that's the person of Christ, that he was the son of God who gave his life for our sins.

You know, Jesus said "I'm the way, the truth and the light. No man comes to the father but by me. There is no other way to God except through Christ." And this is something that brought us together.

BLITZER: Imam Siddiqi, this was the first pope that ever visited a mosque in Damascus, Syria a few years ago. What was the relationship like between the Catholic church and Islam during these years?

IMAM MUZAMMIL SIDDIQI, ISLAMIC LAW COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA: This pope has a lot of admiration and love of the Muslim people all over the world. He's a unique pope. He was the master of gestures and he really used those gestures really well.

He was the first pope who visited the mosque, the Umayyid mosque in Damascus. He, when he went into mosque, he kissed the copy of the Qur'an. He spoke to Muslims as brothers. Whenever he addressed Muslims, he said there is a common spiritual bond between Christianity and Islam. He said that Muslims and Christians worship the same and one God. This is the kind of respect that he had for Islam.

He was devoted to his faith. He served his faith with great devotion. But he was also a man who was open to all people, to people of other faiths, especially to people of Islam.

He, in numerous writings and speeches, especially in the last few years of his life, when he addressed Muslims, he addressed them as brothers, brothers in faith, brothers in humanity, brothers in common morality and devotion to God. He quoted from the Qur'an.

I met him when he visited Los Angeles about 15 years ago and I gave him a copy of the Qur'an myself. And he said "The holy Qur'an. Thank you." I also had occasion to see him in Vatican. He's a man who touched the hearts of many, many people all over the Muslim world. And that's why we see that people from around the world. Muslim leaders, religious leaders are paying tributes, tremendous tributes to him, to his personality, to his character.

BLITZER: All right. I think Rabbi Hier, the same can be said in the relationship between the Catholic church and Jewish community, not only in the United States, but around the world. Remember, this is the first pope that visited a synagogue, specifically the synagogue in Rome. HIER: Absolutely. I think that he was, as far as the Jewish community is concerned, the greatest pope in the history of the Vatican. No one did more for the Jews than John Paul II.

From the very beginning, when he went back to his native Poland -- and that was of course a very emotional reunion, the first time to have a polish pope. He made a point to mention that on these grounds was where the Warsaw ghetto uprising took place.

And then he went on to Auschwitz. And he said he paused at many stations in Auschwitz, where there were different markers referring to the tragedies that happened there. When he came to the Jewish marker, he said, "Now I must pause here especially." And he reflected. He said, "Because what happened to the Jewish people happened to no other race during that time."

So he was a unique pope. I've always said I see him as sort of a great discoverer that took us to the new world of reconciliation between the great faiths. We knew that world was there but we needed a captain to take us there. And he was that captain.

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, you met with this pope at least on one occasion that I'm familiar with. Remind our viewers when that was and what you came away with. REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: I really met with him on three different occasions, twice in the private setting in his quarters in Rome, one there to address the issue of apartheid in South Africa and free Mandela, which was quite lucid on. And I spoke at the Regina Mundi Church in Soweto, South Africa.

Another time, when Haiti was under military tyranny and Father Aristide was a priest in exile. In his papal prayers, he mentioned the poverty and suffering in Haiti. It was very transforming, his work.

Let me be quick to say he was not loved by all, because he was a transforming agent. That's why he was shot. He challenged political cultures and their tyranny and challenged the greedy. I mean, he challenged Communism as a godless state, head up.

For that, in part, we're convinced he was shot. They tried to silence him on that. The idea of the kind of lingering notion that Jews killed Jesus, which Hitler used as a weapon, he took that issue head on theologically, had tremendous impact upon reconciliation.

The issue of South African apartheid, he made the greedy, the prosperous nations uncomfortable, focusing so much on poverty because the more wealthy nations, including America, in their prosperity, stay away from suffering. And the pope kept defending the poor and delivering the needy.

So he, in some sense, made the greedy uncomfortable, but he also challenged tyrannical governments whether it was in Communism or South Africa or Haiti. He was a transforming agent.

BLITZER: Reverend Jackson, I'm going to have you stand by. I'm going to have our other guests stand by. We have to take a quick break. More of our coverage right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Looking at this beautiful live picture of the Vatican, Vatican City mourning Pope John Paul II. He passed away yesterday.

Welcome back to our special "LATE EDITION," and welcome back to our panel: the Reverend Jesse Jackson, Rabbi Marvin Hier, the Imam Muzammil Siddiqi, and the Reverend Franklin Graham.

Reverend Graham, I know you spoke eloquently, movingly about the pope on issues where you agreed with him, but there were other issues where you disagreed; for example, when he went to Havana and met with Castro, when he spoke out against the war in Iraq, on other issues, when he spoke out about some of the extreme aspects, in his words, of capitalism.

How did that impact your attitude toward him?

GRAHAM: Well, first of all, Wolf, I didn't really disagree with all of those points. I'm glad that he went to Cuba and made contact with Christians in that country. Of course, I didn't support the war. I don't know of any preacher in the world that advocates war. I think we have to support our government when that decision is made, but we don't agree with war.

And of course there are excesses in capitalism that need to be called into question.

So all of those are issues I agree with, and I think the main anchor for this pope is his strong belief in life and the protection of life. And I was so proud of Jesse Jackson last week, when he was in Florida, when he was taking the case of this Terri Schiavo, it was a wonderful thing that Jesse did.

And if we want to honor this pope in this country, I think that one of the great things we could do would be to pass a law in his name and in his honor to protect life, because he was such a champion of life during his lifetime.

BLITZER: All right.

GRAHAM: And I think it would be a wonderful legacy for us as a nation to be able to pass a law that would protect life, and do it in his name and his honor.

BLITZER: And I assume you're referring to abortion and abortion rights for women. Is that right, Reverend Graham?

GRAHAM: Well, I'm thinking the law of Terri Schiavo. I think where something that would protect people like her. And of course abortion is -- I'm a minister. And of course I believe that abortion is wrong, but I'm thinking more of the case where you have a young lady like Terri Schiavo, where food and water were denied her, and she was literally starved to death. It's just wrong. This nation needs laws that protect life. Pope John Paul II was a great advocate of life, and what a way to honor him.

And I tell you, Jesse, you would be the man to take it through. You talk about a Rainbow Coalition. You would have Jews, you would have Muslims and evangelical Christians, blacks, whites. You would have everybody behind you, Jesse.

BLITZER: Let's let Reverend Jackson weigh in. What do you think of that proposal, Reverend Jackson?

JACKSON: Well, the point is that the pope at once -- he saw life, we were (inaudible) doing not just through a keyhole. Well, he would embrace rejecting the idea of cutting off food and water for Terri Schiavo. He would also support long-term medical care.

Now, those who embraced Terri Schiavo and the feeding tube but would not support the medical malpractice lawsuit that her husband won, they have to finance her health -- or who would not support Medicare, who would not support Medicaid.

So the pope understood personal and private pain and salvation, but also public policy. That's why, when he took on moral authority, he took on apartheid and Communism and anti-Semitism. I went to meet with him to talk about Mandela. He asked me about the civil rights movement here in America, because kids in Gdansk, Poland were singing, "We shall overcome," as they watched us march in the streets of Alabama and the South of our own country. So...

BLITZER: All right.

JACKSON: ... he took on these issues with public policy as well as private salvation.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Let me bring in Imam Siddiqi. I know you're actively involved in trying to improve relations with Christians from the Muslim faith. Is there a deterioration, though, worldwide, an attitude among many Muslims, a negative attitude toward Christians because we hear of this all of the time?

SIDDIQI: Well, if you look at the example of Pope John Paul II, you see that he opened the dialogue with Muslims. He spoke about the rights of the Palestinian people. He spoke against the wall that is separating the Palestinians and the Israelis. He spoke against the war in Iraq.

These are the issues that really touch the hearts of the people, and they felt that there is someone who is speaking for (inaudible) there is somebody who is speaking for peace. And so many people -- I mean, this is the way to bring the people together; that is, talk to them, instead of having war.

So as he spoke for the culture of life, as he spoke against abortion, he also spoke for peace and justice and for dialogue and reconciliation. This is the kind of a spirit that is needed.

So if we really want to follow the legacy of this pope, we have to follow that way, and we have to work on that way.

BLITZER: Let me let Rabbi Hier weigh in on that specific point as well.

Go ahead, Rabbi Hier.

RABBI MARVIN HIER, SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER: Very interesting, you know, I had two private audiences with the pope, the last one in December of 2003. We presented him with the center's humanitarian award, and we also took the opportunity to urge him to lead a moral campaign against world terrorism.

He listened very carefully, and the very next day, he addressed a group of Christian and Muslim clergy and spoke out harshly against international terrorism.

We asked him to consider the fact that suicide bombing should be considered a crime against humanity -- against any people, anywhere in the world, because this is the crime of the 21st century. And he spoke very harshly against terrorism.

So he was for peace, he was a man of peace, but he believed in confronting evil.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, gentlemen, we have to leave it right there, but I want to thank all of you for spending a few moments with us here on "LATE EDITION."

Rabbi Hier, as usual, Jesse Jackson, the Reverend Franklin Graham, and the Imam Siddiqi, excellent discussion, thank you very much.

And up next, one of the most prominent conservative Christian leaders, the Reverend Pat Robertson. He'll join us and tell us why he admired this pope so much.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Earlier today, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, mass: Everyone praying, remembering Pope John Paul II. Welcome back. Over the past day, words of praise from across the religious spectrum. Joining us now from Virginia Beach, Virginia, the televangelist, the founder of the Christian Coalition, Reverend Pat Robertson.

Reverend Robertson, thank you for joining us.

THE REVEREND PAT ROBERTSON, CHRISTIAN COALITION FOUNDER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: You met with this pope I believe at least on one occasion. Is that right?

ROBERTSON: Well, I was with him at the residence of Cardinal O'Connor when he came to New York. I was in the consistory when he gave the Mass in Central Park, and then later had a private meeting with several of us there in the cardinal's residence. I also was at an audience over in Rome, but the one in New York was especially a highlight to me.

BLITZER: What was so special about that moment for you?

ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, the man was so electric. He had such personal magnetism and such love. The thing that struck me was, he was absolutely exhausted. He had a schedule that would have put down a man half his age, and yet he was still gracious, still kind. And I just said: Your Holiness, I just want you to know the American people love you, and I wanted to express that to him.

And you know, the thing that -- he had such a strong appeal to young people, and they were chanting, you know, "John Paul II, we love you." That was the thing in South Carolina and other parts of the United States.

BLITZER: You issued a statement. Let me read to you a line from the statement that sparked some interest in my mind: "John Paul II has been the most beloved religious leader of our age, far surpassing in popular admiration the leader of any faith." That's a pretty strong statement.

ROBERTSON: Well, I have observed them all. I operate in about 200 countries. And I really believe there's nobody who can touch the pope in terms of popular admiration. You know, he traveled, what, 126, 128 countries, and everywhere he went, there were throngs of people who just loved him. I was at that public audience in Rome, you could see the people just adored him. And I don't know anybody that's had that level of adoration.

BLITZER: What about among your flock, your members of your congregation? Your people, if you will, do they share that attitude toward this pope?

ROBERTSON: You know, I really believe it. I'm Southern Baptist. I suppose we're the largest Protestant denomination in America. And I just believe universally there's a feeling that this pope was a man who shared our values. It was somebody who people related to as a bulwark. He was a bulwark against Communism, in the fall of Communism in the East Bloc. He was a bulwark for life, he was a bulwark for the sanctitity of marriage.

There were so many things that we hold dear that this man was a symbol of. And I think Billy Graham said it well. He said he was like the moral conscience of the world.

BLITZER: Look ahead. What are you looking for in a new pope? What do you hope will emerge?

ROBERTSON: Wolf, who am I to predict what the college of cardinals will do? They'll take a number of votes.

But when you look at the demographics, the spread of Catholicism and Christianity has been powerful in Africa and Asia, and I think we could expect to see a pope from what they call the global south. I wouldn't be at all surprised if they didn't pick a prelate from Africa. They might find one from Latin America. But I think it would be some place like that, as opposed to Europe or Italy, like was traditional.

BLITZER: Is there any friction right now, significant friction from your vantage point, between Catholics and Protestants? And if there is, on what issue?

ROBERTSON: You know, in my ministry over the years, I've done everything I can to downplay any controversy between us. Of course, there are doctrinal points that we don't agree on, but basically we agree on the lordship of Jesus Christ, we agree on evangelism, we agree on the efficacy and the work of the Holy Spirit.

And these things we stand for, plus the family, the importance of the family. The Protestants don't give the same deference to Mary that the Catholics do. But that's something that we sort of put aside. We don't, you know, dwell on that point of difference.

BLITZER: Rev. Pat Robertson, as usual, thanks for spending a few moments with us. Appreciate your coming on "LATE EDITION." ROBERTSON: OK. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And coming up, billions mourn. The world pays its last respects to the 263rd pope.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. CNN's Bruce Morton who takes a look back at the pope's early life for hints of what was to come.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born in a Poland which no longer exists, was an altar boy as a child, lost his mother and his elder brother early. An altar boy and an athlete: a skier, a soccer player. He was a young man when the Nazis occupied his country.

UNIDENTFIED MALE: As a college student, he lived in a city under Nazi occupation, participated in underground cultural resistance activities to that occupation, hid his relatives from the Gestapo.

MORTON: He studied for the priesthood during World War II in secret, was ordained in 1946 and then the communists ruled Poland. The church resisted. Karol Wojtyla resisted as a priest, not as a rebel. He makes decisions, one who knew him said, on his knees.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's not primarily a political figure. He is a religious leader. He's a man for whom everything he thinks and does emerges not out of political calculation, but out of a basic Christian conviction.

MORTON: A Christian and sometimes a pessimist, who in 1976 at the height of the Cold War, saw the world as a burial ground, a vast planet of bombs. His fellow cardinals elected him pope in 1978. The first non-Italian chosen since the 16th century.

As pope, he went three times to the Poland the communists still ruled. Experts argue over how much difference he made. But he gave the Poles a chance to be proud, to remember that communism was not their first, most basic thing. And in the television age, this pope became something else, a celebrity as much as Elvis or The Beatles.

Rock star famous. He spent time with the famous, as famous as they. With for instance Bob Dylan at a show that included "Knocking on Heaven's Door." He invented or somebody invented for him a special vehicle, the pope mobile. He traveled everywhere.

A joke among reporters who traveled with him was, "God is everywhere the pope's already been."

He saw the world's heroes: Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

Saw the world's heroes and its villains: the late Nigerian dictator, Sani Abacha. He saw both sides in all the conflicts, saw Yasser Arafat, saw Itzhak Rabin. Through it all, he was the man of the church, the man who made decisions on his knees. He could mobilize rock stars like Bono and Bob Geldof to help the poor or lift the debt from poor countries.

BOB GELDOF: This is a very bold move on his part. Just his everyday courage amazes me. As aged as he is and as infirm as he's been, that he will, you know, hang out with a bunch of pop stars.

MORTON: As a man of the church, he cared about the poor but rejected liberation theology, which says the church must work for social change. The church must stay free of competing political systems. He said each of the two blocks, communism and capitalism, harbors in its own way a tendency toward imperialism.

And like every pope since the reforming John XXIII, Pope John Paul was an orthodox conservative on church doctrine. He incorporated the church's teachings on opposition to the ordination of women, euthanasia, sex outside marriage. He took cannon law, saying those who disobeyed those teachings would be open to just punishment.

And many lay Catholics disagreeing with, for instance, the church's opposition to birth control, went their own way on some of those issues. In the end, he was a man of the church faithful to the church. He preached that faith from Galilee where Jesus also is said to have preached.

JOHN PAUL II: Blessed are you, you who make peace, you who are persecuted. Blessed are you.

MORTON: Karol Wojtyla, Pope John Paul II, a man of the faith, a man of the church. Bruce Morton, CNN reporting.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.

And once again joining us, Father David O'Connell, the president of the Catholic University here in Washington. You've been helping us better understand what this man was all about and his impact on fellow Catholics. Sum up some of your thoughts.

What's going through your mind right now, Father O'Connell?

O'CONNELL: Well, I thought this was a very good discussion today. Many of the panelists really spoke so eloquently and so well.

You know, earlier in the discussion with Governor Cuomo and David Gergen, you know, some of the issues that people are talking about, they really make these issues almost part of this papacy, abortion, stem cell, family life, the sharing of goods, more.

We have to understand that these are not simply political issues. We think of them that way in the United States. But they're not even just Catholic issues. In the pope's mind, these were fundamental moral issues. And I think that's really a great part of his genius. He spoke about them from an intellectual perspective. You know, I can't really speak with any expertise about politics, but what I can say is this pope created a moral clarity, rather than a moral conservatism, as some people say. And in these days, we're talking about two things. We're looking to the past and we're looking to the future. We're talking about a legacy.

And his legacy has to be his commitment to the sacredness of life at all stages, and the dignity of the human person, and also his fidelity and his attempt to implement the reforms of the Vatican Council, and his view towards the future, which is what we're going to be talking about in the days ahead, the new millennium, the new challenges, the new way to present the church's approach to life. And those things will happen because we will have a new pope.

BLITZER: And what's clear is that so many people, especially here in America, would disagree on many of these issues, but yet they admire him. Dare I say they love him?

O'CONNELL: Yeah, I think so. I think it's very clear in every conversation we've been witness to or heard in recent days. There's real great affection, and admiration, and respect for this great man of god.

BLITZER: That was one of his genius moves that he could do that, even though on some of these issues, there was clear division.

O'CONNELL: Yeah, and I think because, especially as he addressed the issues, he didn't simply address them as elements of catholic doctrine or teaching. He put them on the fundamental human plane that all people of good will could ascend to. And that was his genius, and his teaching.

BLITZER: And we'll be watching every step of the way this week. And you'll be helping us.

Father O'Connell, I really appreciate your joining us.

O'CONNELL: Thank you, Wolf. Great to be with you.

BLITZER: Father David O'Connell is the president of Catholic University here in Washington. And that's our special "LATE EDITION," remembering Pope John Paul II. Please be sure to join me next Sunday, every Sunday at noon Eastern for "LATE EDITION." I'm also here Monday through Friday twice a day, at both noon and 5 p.m. Eastern.

Please stay with CNN for continuing coverage of the life and times of Pope John Paul II. Till tomorrow, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. We leave you now with this.

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


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