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AMERICAN MORNING

Small VIP Viewing of Pope as Vatican Prepares for Mourning Pilgrims

Aired April 3, 2005 - 08:00   ET

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


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: It is 2:00 here in Rome, Italy. It is 8:00 back in New York City. Hello, everyone, if you are just joining us, I'm Bill Hemmer live in Rome, Italy, high above the Vatican now as we watch Pope John Paul II, the first time we have viewed his body in the Apostolic Palace, an enormous building behind us here at St. Peter's Square. We can see the Swiss Guards. We see the VIPs who have come here to the Vatican to pay their final respects and kneel for the last time at the feet of Pope John Paul II.
Official time of death last night, 9:37 local time here in the evening, on April 2, 2005. And after 26 years, Pope John Paul II finally overcome by mortality and has given in to his earthen journey here at the Vatican, dying in his own bedroom.

And for the world's most traveled pope, quite interesting how he selects his bedroom here in the Vatican, a place that he called home for the past 26 years, to spend his final moments and to breathe his last life on this Earth. Part kidney failure, we are told, and dead at the age of 84. The Swiss Guards are there to protect him, and the VIPs there have been selected individually to come and pay their final respects.

As we move towards the day and throughout the day here into Monday, we should get a much better idea about the schedule that is about to unfold here. And then we will all look toward two things, the funeral which will take place some time toward the end of the week -- officially we do not know when -- and then about two weeks from today, the Conclave of Cardinals, which is the group of 117 cardinals who are eligible to vote for the next pope, they will convene here in Vatican City inside the Sistine Chapel and they will take the ballot one by one, two in the morning, two in the afternoon until a two- thirds majority finally agrees on who will be the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

Quite interesting to note, too, that when you are a pope for 26 years you can change a lot of rules over that period. And Pope John Paul II changed one of those rules as to how they will elect the next pope. If after 12 days there is no clear two-thirds majority, then they will go to a simple majority to decide who will be the next leader of the Catholic Church. And then the world will wait to see not just the black smoke coming out of the Sistine Chapel, but the gray smoke that will appear floating in the air above Vatican City announcing to the world that the next leader has been agreed upon and accepted. To our viewers around the world, we welcome you to our continuing coverage here live at the Vatican. With me as well today is Aaron Brown and our Vatican analyst, John Allen, who we have been relying on for just about everything lately here. Good to see you, gentlemen, again, today. We should point out, if you're just joining us here, there was a Mass earlier today in which well over 50,000 people had attended. And most of people who attended there, they were Italians living locally here or also pilgrims who had previously scheduled vacations here.

We do not anticipate the giant wave and flood of pilgrims to come into Rome, Italy, for several days now. But there is one staggering estimate put out earlier today, somewhere upwards of two million people are expected to come to Rome and pay their final respects to Pope John Paul II.

I want to bring back my colleagues, Aaron and John. And the schedule that we anticipate will be official tomorrow. But as we watch the event today, and so many Americans waking up on this Sunday morning, a day of church, a day of worship, inside the Apostolic Palace is a place of absolute beauty, you have been in there. Quickly give us a bit of a guide for what viewers are seeing.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, bear in mind the Apostolic Palace is not just the pope's residence, it also is the offices, so to speak, of the secretary of state, which is the main administrative organism of the Vatican. So that up on the fourth floor, top floor, which is the papal apartments, by now, of course, they would have been emptied and sealed.

HEMMER: Let me stop you just for a second, I apologize for that. We have been waiting for more information from the Vatican, too, about the final moments of the pope's life, perhaps some words that were spoken or who might have been in that room. And it appears that we can now confirm some of these details. And for that, I want to go down to Jim Bittermann who is just outside Vatican City.

Jim, you have the report, what are the details that you find in there?

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SR. EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Bill. In fact, it just came out of the Vatican press office, which is just down the street here. Basically it confirms what we have been saying all along, that the pope -- the major cause of death of the pope was two things: the septic shock and irreversible cardio-circulatory collapse. Those two things we had heard about for the last few days -- those were the primary causes of death.

But also in the medical bulletin they said the death was exacerbated by Parkinson's disease condition and the progressive episodes of respiratory failure. So a lot of problems going on there for the pope, not anything that we didn't know. This was certified by Dr. Buzzonetti, who was the pope's personal physician. And as I reported earlier, in fact, they were at the pope's side this morning, at the body's -- the pope's body this morning, examining and also certifying the fact of his death. So that's the official reason for his death. Basically, as we thought, septic shock and cardio-circulatory collapse -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jim, that is the medical side. Do we have any on the more personal side just yet? Any confirmed word as to the final moments for the pope inside of his bedroom?

BITTERMANN: Not yet. But in fact there are a couple of personal details that may not have come out on the cameras this morning. During that session with the VIPs in the Sala Clementina, with the pope lying in state, in fact, his entire papal household had gathered at his side and a number of them were in tears, including, particularly, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, his personal secretary for 40 years, who at several points seemed to be openly weeping and wiping his face with tissues -- Bill.

HEMMER: Jim Bittermann, thanks for that. Jim Bittermann, again, with us here at the Vatican. And as we continue our coverage here, we want to bring in another friend of ours, Robert Moynihan, who is fresh in from the United States, flying in just hours ago, also editor of Inside the Vatican.

And welcome back to the Vatican. This is the first time we've had a chance to talk to you on this side of the world. Quickly your thoughts or your reflections about what we are watching today?

ROBERT MOYNIHAN, INSIDE THE VATICAN: Yes. Actually I hopped on the plane yesterday and came in just about an hour ago and haven't even had time to do anything. But on the plane I was able to talk with a cardinal who was coming over, Cardinal Husar from the Ukraine. And we had a very interesting conversation about the life of this pope, what he meant and also about what they are going to do in the next couple of weeks and the kind of issues they are considering in the election of the next pope.

AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: Are you going to give that up? Are you going to give us detail on that?

MOYNIHAN: Yes, but let's do it in the next section.

BROWN: OK.

MOYNIHAN: The synodal aspect of the church was the thing he stressed, looking for a man who will take a chance.

BROWN: Give me another sentence.

MOYNIHAN: Well, the church is very hierarchical and it reaches the summit at the pope. This has been troublesome for the orthodox, who have a synodal form of government. The orthodox is the other great branch of the Christian Church. And of course, it is problematic for the Protestants as well. You kind of have like a king in charge of the church. All these other churches have presbyteries or episcopates or congregations that make the decisions. The Catholic Church has focused at the top level on the pope. They want the pope to -- the pope asked for advice in 1995, how can I change the way I function in order to create fewer problems for Christians, for us to get back together? And they are looking for a man who can perhaps find that way.

BROWN: Decentralize?

MOYNIHAN: Not decentralize, just change the way the papacy functions, not what it really claims but how it functions.

HEMMER: Do you think the College of Cardinals is ready for that?

MOYNIHAN: They may not be. They don't know the answer yet, he said.

HEMMER: Do you believe he is in the minority of the 117 eligible?

MOYNIHAN: I think it's one key question that they have, almost all of them, how to get Christianity to be more united, and what Rome can do about that, and what the role of the pope can be in order to make that happen.

HEMMER: There was another curious issue in that then, if you have 117 who are eligible to vote, this pope has appointed 114 of them. He has almost shaped his successor through his reign here for 26 years.

MOYNIHAN: Well, actually, Husar confirmed to me that they might possibly look for a bishop.

HEMMER: And what is the significance of that?

MOYNIHAN: We have 3,000 candidates.

HEMMER: How long will we be here?

MOYNIHAN: They probably will elect someone in several days.

BROWN: Do you think that there are -- that there have been conversations, the sort of quiet conversations people have about who would be appropriate? Are there people who, at the risk of indelicacy, who lobby for the papacy?

MOYNIHAN: There may be. I would say that everyone is rather humble right now. First they just are watching the death of this pope. Second, they realize that the job of the pope is a terrifically challenging job. You're watched continually. You have got cameras flashing in your face continually. You have got all of these meetings.

So I'm not sure that anyone wants the job. They take it as a service. They're going to try to find someone who can bring people together. They don't want to see the church divided. They are going to try to find a candidate that has that. He said repeatedly, we are looking for a person -- we're looking for a certain person, a certain type of person. They're looking for the man.

BROWN: Let me ask it this way, 26 years ago would that conversation have been different? Were they looking for something other than that? Or is that what they are always looking for, someone who can bring the church together, someone who can heal the divisions within broader Christianity? Is it an ongoing challenge that would have been the same a quarter century ago or a century ago, for that matter?

MOYNIHAN: Yes, well, they are always looking for that man, yes. I would say they don't want a program so much as a man who can carry out a program. Because the program in a sense is always going to be the same: lead as clearly and forcefully, and even with regard to the media, they certainly want someone who can be effective as a communicator. And the message will -- there will be debates about that message, but in this case what they want is a message to bring people together.

HEMMER: You know, you said nobody really wants the job. I find that hard to believe. And I would tell you that just based on the history of this man who just led this church for 26 years. If you look at the early videotape of him and the way he addressed a crowd, boy, this guy had it (UNINTELLIGIBLE) from the word go. And he truly enjoyed the position. And you could see that all over his face, whether it was children or gathering here in Vatican City or whether it was Azerbaijan or somewhere in the Latin world, you could see that he enjoyed this job.

MOYNIHAN: Yes. So I'll take that back. There are some people that would definitely sense that aspect, they would have a chance to fulfill what they have been training for, what they've praying for their whole life, to present the message as the lead message presenter of the Catholic faith. And they would like to have that opportunity.

BROWN: It's not a terrible thing to say. It's not -- we are not discussing sort of rank opportunism here. It's just people who believe in the message that the church represents and believe that it needs to be carried out a certain way.

I'm a bit reluctant, I think, for the last 12, 14 hours or so, to take us too far ahead, if you will. Let me bring us back to some observations, and let me just bounce them off you. I have no idea how things looked in other parts of the world yesterday. I know how they looked to me. There were shots in Krakow. There were pictures in the United States. There were scenes here. And what you saw, again and again, were relatively young people, 30 or less. Now maybe that's because, in fact, those are the people that age who go out on moments like this.

MOYNIHAN: Yes, well, what we had last night -- I just spoke with someone who was here last night. I was on the airplane, but it was a young girl here in Rome. And she said, I've never seen anything like it. She works for Vatican Radio. She's a German girl. She said, it was unbelievable. She said, I was astonished and moved. There were young people in the square, sleeping in the square. Some had sleeping bags, others didn't even have sleeping bags, thousands of them. They just wanted to be near John Paul II in his last moments and then to stay with him through the night. And it was an extraordinary thing, unprecedented.

BROWN: And whether that speaks to his particular relationship with young people or whether it is simply, in the most affectionate way, the kinds of people, young people, who are willing to camp out anywhere on what was a pretty chilly night, and the nights here get a little cool, I don't know. But it gives us an opportunity at least to talk about, of all of the many things he accomplished in his life and of the many millions of people he touched, he seemed to have this special affection towards the young and this -- the young seemed to have this special affection toward him.

MOYNIHAN: Absolutely. And something I wanted to bring up, the first thing I wanted to bring up today and I haven't brought it up, is this book. This is the great book the pope wrote before he even was a bishop. "Love and Responsibility." And it had to do with love and it had quite a bit to do with sex and how people can be happy.

And if you read this book, almost any passage is fascinating. And a lot of Catholic young people have found in this book a way to be very romantic and they think of this pope as a pope who helped them in their relationships.

BROWN: One of the things we were talking about last night is that in a world where the culture pushes everyone, it seems, in one direction -- whether it's media or the culture directly -- the pope was a counterbalance to that, was a reminder that personal behavior, like everything else in life, needs to find balance. It is not the excess of the culture sometimes -- and I suppose I would argue it's not necessarily the rigidity of the other side -- that life ought to live somewhere in the middle. And he was a necessary -- and again, I would say for Catholics and non-Catholics -- a necessary counterbalance to the incredible pressures that young people have these days in this culture.

MOYNIHAN: Well, I would make it even more emphatic. The pope was interested in people finding true love. That was one of the great interests of his life. He was a moral theologian particularly involved with young people, with counseling them, with families. And he continually said, the thing human beings want is love.

BROWN: True love in the personal sense, in a great marriage and raising great kids and having great families?

MOYNIHAN: Absolutely. That's what he thought would make people happiest. And he thought that if they could figure out how they could give themselves to another person and really commit themselves, instead of shifting all the time, being unable to find that true love of one's life, they would be happier. And he spent all of his time for years writing how that could be accomplished.

HEMMER: We are sitting here and observing, just like so many people around the world are watching, the first time we have been able to see the pope lying there, being viewed now, a select number of people invited by the Vatican. This is not the official lying in state, this is not the area where the public comes in to view the body of Pope John Paul II. This is a small ceremony that is taking place in what is known as the Apostolic Palace. This is an enormous building, as so many enormous buildings here are located at the Vatican.

This is also where you found the papal residence. It's also where you would see the pope, normally on Wednesdays, come to the window, come to the balcony and greet the pilgrims who have gathered here from all over the world to listen to his word and also to receive his blessing there in St. Peter's Square.

And talking to some of them yesterday, a number of people, there was a big group of Italians had come by yesterday, and there are so many Italians throughout the area here, which is to be understood, clearly, they had said, we came here to see him wave one more time from the window, and that did not happen. Instead that window is now shuttered. It is closed, as Vatican traditions dictate, that the windows are closed after the passing of the pope.

And we are just about eye-level with that particular window just across St. Peter's Square behind us here. And the shutter is closed. The viewing continues there. And now we all wait to see what the schedule will be throughout the coming week as the pilgrims get ready to descend upon this country, possibly by the millions.

As our coverage continues live here in Rome, Italy, we want to say hello again to Soledad O'Brien, also with us back in New York City. And Soledad, from Italy to you, good morning back in New York.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning to you, Bill, as well. You know, you have been talking about the overwhelming reaction in Rome among the pilgrims and the other visitors who have been coming to the area in order to grieve and mourn the pope's passing. There's been tremendous reaction, of course, here in the United States as well. And our Carol Costello has been monitoring that, no surprise there, obviously.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No surprise. Everyone seems to be touched by this pope's passing. I have been reading a lot this morning. I think I've read every newspaper on the Internet this morning. But the comment that touched me the most comes from an ordinary woman from Detroit. She's quoted in the Detroit News. She says: "There are no tears because, honey, he went straight to heaven. There are 1,000 saints all in line waiting for him along with the Blessed Mother. He doesn't want to be back with us now."

While he was here he left behind a complicated message. Conservative in his desire to maintain celibacy for priests, he wanted women to adhere to the church's stand on birth control and abortion. But he was liberal in his views concerning workers' rights, human freedom and capital punishment. He sent us a complex message. So the question we pose to you this morning: How will history remember Pope John Paul II? What do you think? Some people want to make him a saint. Am@cnn.com, please send us your comments this morning, am@cnn.com. O'BRIEN: All right. Carol, thanks. We will see what some of the responses are, this morning. It will be interesting to hear, no question. Worldwide, obviously, the reaction is overwhelming, but maybe it's fair to say that there is no more sadness than in John Paul's native Poland. The pope is remembered for his significant role in bringing about the fall of communism. CNN's Chris Burns in Krakow, Poland, for us.

Chris, good morning.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. This is the place outside the archbishop's residence where the pope used to speak out that window that is now open there over my shoulder. Now there's a black and gold crucifix looking down at the people from where the people used to sing and speak to his people.

And right here, at this square last night, as the pope's death was announced, people fell to their knees and wept and sang. And this was really their feeling, with this man, their favorite son, this man who helped to bring about that Velvet Revolution, that bloodless revolution back in 1989 that changed this country and in many ways changed this world, who cracked the Soviet bloc and brought down Soviet communism.

There are ceremonies all over the country today, in part because this is also Sunday. But the Masses are almost hourly at some of these basilicas. And right next to me is one Franciscan basilica that is absolutely packed. Leaders of the country have really come to a standstill. President Kwasniewski has canceled all his engagements. The cultural events are stopped. Really, it is a country that has very much stopped to mourn this man.

One week of mourning will be continuing over these next few days as they observe this man who, here in Krakow, became a priest, rose to bishop and archbishop. Before he became a priest, it was during the Nazi occupation, he studied in hiding from the Nazis and working at a chemical plant to try to prevent from being sent to a slave labor camp. And he managed to survive that Nazi occupation and then rose to archbishop here.

And from this residence was directing and leading his people through this communist era. Some people regard him as the pope -- the Polish Moses who led his people through this sea of red communism and led them to freedom in 1989. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: CNN's Chris Burns reporting for us this morning. Let's take a look once again. We have been showing you pictures all morning of the body of Pope John Paul II on display. It's a closed service this morning as diplomats and some authorities and high-ranking members of the church have come to pay their last respects. Of course, the body will go on public display to the crowds tomorrow.

During the past few days we have heard many religious leaders talk of John Paul's intense spirituality. Sister Margherita Marchione can attest to that. She's had many audiences with the pope in the past quarter century. Sister Margherita Marchione is a papal scholar, she's an author. And she's also member of the Religious Teachers Filippini.

It's nice to have you here. Thanks for coming in to talk to us.

MARGHERITA MARCHIONE, RELIGIOUS TEACHERS FILIPPINI: Thank you for inviting me.

O'BRIEN: It's my pleasure. I read that you had an audience with Pope John Paul II every year for 25 years. Is that right?

MARCHIONE: Practically. I'm quite sure it was every year. If not, there were many years that it was twice a year. And one year I remember three times I was able to see him. I always had a good excuse, though. I had a new book. And with that excuse I would go to the secretary, his private secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw, and tell him I had to show him my book.

And of course I kept in communication all the time with the secretary and the Holy Father. So he expected me. And as you can see from some of these photographs, he was just so lovable that when I think of him now, I -- I'm leaving for Rome tomorrow and it's going to be so sad not to be able to see him alive.

O'BRIEN: I would imagine. What were your interactions like during your audience? What is it like to have an audience with the pope? And what do you do?

MARCHIONE: I felt very much at home, darling.

O'BRIEN: Really?

MARCHIONE: I really did. And just whatever came to my mind and whatever I had in my heart I would say to him. I remember once saying, you know, I have three things to tell you. And I went, one, and I told him what I had to say. And then I had two. And the last thing is, I want you to know that I love you.

O'BRIEN: What was his reaction to that?

MARCHIONE: He just smiled. He never expected that from an old lady, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: You say an old lady but actually you're...

MARCHIONE: Well, I'm 83.

O'BRIEN: Eighty-three.

MARCHIONE: I'm almost his age.

O'BRIEN: Almost the same age as the pope. What was it like for you every year as you saw him grow older, as you grew older?

MARCHIONE: Well, you see, I always had a group of college students with me, and here I have a photograph of, you know, you can see with the students how happy he was with them. And he would chat with them. And of course I would have the private audience at another time, but the students would be able to be with me when ever there was a public audience. And we always managed to get a front seat so that they would be able to have photographs with him, too. And that was the joy of the -- the highlight, really, of the trip to Rome.

O'BRIEN: How has it been to watch his final year and his final days?

MARCHIONE: Sad. Very sad, really. I have been very sad over it. But then when I think of the wonderful work that he did all his life, and to end suffering but suffering with joy, he is such an example. And when I think of my own life and I feel that I will never be like him because he was really a wonderful example, and gave the world a lesson in suffering.

O'BRIEN: What do you mean by that? What's the lesson to be learned from his final...

MARCHIONE: To accept whatever God sends. And he accepted it with such grace and with such love. And I'm sure he's enjoying eternal life right now in heaven. I'm sure he's there because he was just so wonderful with everyone regardless of the age of the person. He was able to communicate. And he taught us many, many wonderful lessons: how to suffer; how to believe; how to love. And just looking at him you felt -- you sensed his love. I was so very much at home with him.

O'BRIEN: You got a quite high honor from the pope. Tell me about that.

MARCHIONE: Yes. I received the medal that is called Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.

O'BRIEN: Which means, loosely translated into English?

MARCHIONE: Latin, it means "for the church and for the pope. That is the highest honor that he gives to a religious -- and I really felt very honored to receive that from him. And I think it was because of the work I have tried to do to clarify the situation of the Holocaust and the papacy. It seems that there have been so many misconceptions during these past years about Pope Pius XII, who, by the way, ordained him a bishop. And I have many statements by this pope whereby he realized the good that was done. And I must have prepared at least seven or eight different books on the topic. And right now?

O'BRIEN: It's very controversial. There are many scholars who believe that Pope Pius was an antisemite.

MARCHIONE: And that is not true at all. The misconceptions are just horrible. And I have proven it with all my research. In fact, I am going to Rome precisely to have a symposium on Pius XII next week.

O'BRIEN: Will you go to Rome for the funeral as well?

MARCHIONE: Yes, I'm leaving this morning.

O'BRIEN: What do you expect that to be like? How many people do you think will be there?

MARCHIONE: Oh, there will be hundreds and hundreds of thousands, I'm sure. As you see even from the group that is there already, people are just flying in. And I've had telephone calls, people trying to see where they can find a bed in Rome because everything is just booked very tightly.

O'BRIEN: Who becomes the next pope? And I don't mean specifically which person, I mean, what kind of a person? It seems like these are incredibly big shoes to fill, if not impossible shoes to fill.

MARCHIONE: Yes, but I'm sure that God will provide. We have to have faith that the lord will provide. The person that will continue in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II.

O'BRIEN: Which some people say actually the next pope should be the opposite. I believe earlier one of our guests said, you go from...

MARCHIONE: (INAUDIBLE)

(LAUGHTER)

MARCHIONE: You consider that more or less a traditionalist, I suppose you would call me that. But we go back 300 years, you know, our order. And I remember talking to Pope John Paul II years ago. I had a book on our founder. And I said, you know, Your Holiness, he should really be canonized. And he said, yes, he lived about 100 years ago. I said, oh no, and I have a photograph that shows me just pointing to the Holy Father and saying, oh no, it's 300 years ago.

So, he knew that I was trying to get his approval. And I know from his secretary, especially, that the Holy Father read every letter that I sent him, every article, every book that he looked at, at least he knew that I was doing that, because when he would see me, I could sense from his look that he recognized me after so many years.

O'BRIEN: The saying goes, after a fat pope, get a skinny pope. And I'm mangling the Italian obviously, and the translation. But we've heard people say, many Vatican analysts say, that is the saying in Rome, meaning that the next person should be nothing like Pope John Paul II. You can't possibly go that direction again.

MARCHIONE: No. But I think that the way the world is going it's necessary to go that direction, because morality is just -- it's a bad situation. Abortion, and all these different things. And he was so strong on those points.

O'BRIEN: And there are critics who say that at a time when the world was changing, at a time when, in the United States, maybe, things were moving to be significantly more lenient, that the pope actually was very conservative on even having discussions about these contentious issues. Some say that that's a real criticism of his 26 years in the office.

MARCHIONE: Well, since I agree with him on all these points, I don't know how I can discuss it, darling. I really feel that for the good of humanity we have got to change, especially here in the United States.

O'BRIEN: Is there a region from which you would like to see the next pope?

MARCHIONE: Not really. I just leave it all in the hands of God. And He knows best.

O'BRIEN: Tell me a little bit about the pope, John Paul II, personally. Some people described him as having a tremendous sense of humor in kind of unexpected ways.

MARCHIONE: Whenever I saw him, I don't know, I have a few photographs here. Here, he's serious, or he would be just smiling, or here, I would show him...

O'BRIEN: This is a wonderful picture. May I show this? Do you mind? Guys, can you see, get a shot of this? Let me hold this up so the reflection -- there we go. That's a little more straight. He is giving you a blessing. When was this picture taken?

MARCHIONE: Yes. Yes. You can just see. And I can go far back to the early days and look at him, how young he is. Look how young he is here.

O'BRIEN: It is. Well, maybe we will show this one last, because it is amazing to see the youth and the vigor of before the...

MARCHIONE: Well, I was younger then, too, you know.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: We were all younger then, Sister.

(LAUGHTER)

O'BRIEN: Let me straighten this up so we can show this picture, because I think this is a good shot to end on. The youth of John Paul II, and his later years obviously really lots of physical maladies.

MARCHIONE: Here he is with this book called "Consensus and Controversy."

O'BRIEN: You had a really interesting experience with him. It's nice to have you come in and talk to us about your experiences and sharing with us. We certainly appreciate it.

MARCHIONE: It's an honor, dear. And while I'm saddened, I'm happy because I feel that he deserves all this honor that is being paid to him. And I will be there. It just so happens that my schedule was arranged that I would be there just for this week.

O'BRIEN: You will be there anyway. Sister Marchione, it's nice to have you, thank you. We appreciate it.

MARCHIONE: Thank you, dear.

O'BRIEN: As we mentioned, Bill Hemmer is in Rome this morning. We are taking a look at some live pictures of the pope's body now on display to a very small audience. Let's take you back to Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad, 8:30 on a Sunday morning back in New York. It is 2:30 in the afternoon here in Rome, Italy. As America wakes and mourns and celebrates the life of Pope John Paul II, and what a life it was. The official time of death came last night around 9:37 in the evening here in Rome at the age of 84. Pope John Paul II has ended his earthen journey.

He is being viewed by a select number of people in a particular building known as the Apostolic Palace which also houses his residence, the place he has called home. And in the end he called it home one more time, passing away last night in the evening inside of his residence. He is being viewed by a select number of people invited by the Vatican, invited by the church where they come and they kneel and they pay their final respects.

Now this is the image we have today. But to give viewers an idea of what we anticipate over the next several days, there were four significant events that we are waiting on. The first one will come sometime on Monday afternoon when the official lying in state begins. This is when the public gets an opportunity to come and pay their final respects for Pope John Paul II.

That will take place in the enormous basilica known as St. Peter's, the enormous church built back in the first part of the 16th Century here in Vatican City, a structure that is absolutely overwhelming to be on the outside of it and also on the inside, and the church, the largest in the world that took about 120 years to complete. That is the first event we expect on Monday afternoon.

Also we anticipate that funeral announcements to be announced tomorrow. We expect them to take place sometime between Wednesday and Friday of this week. And then after that will be the burial. So you have those three events to keep an eye on.

And ultimately, what is the question about this burial? Will he be buried ,here as the traditional papacy has ended here, being buried in Vatican City? Or will he return to his homeland in Poland? Those details should be made public tomorrow as well.

And then the fourth event to keep an eye on is about two weeks from today this meeting, what they call a conclave, which literally in Latin translates into "with a key," the conclave will begin in the Sistine Chapel, when 117 cardinals get together and decide ballot by ballot who will be the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

It was also about 40 minutes ago the official cause of death was announced by the Vatican. Septic shock was the wording given in the statement released, cardio and circulatory failure. And also interestingly enough, for the first time the Vatican acknowledged that Pope John Paul II was suffering from Parkinson's disease. This is something that's been reported on for years but never officially acknowledged by the Vatican. But again, the word came out today in that statement about 40 minutes ago.

With me here in Rome, officially Vatican City, we are officially in the Vatican above the seminary here, and above St. Peter's Square, my colleague Aaron Brown, again, Robert Moynihan with us, the editor of Inside the Vatican.

And let's pick up on that last point, Robert, here. What is wrong with the church admitting that the pope is suffering from Parkinson's disease? Why is it just coming now after he dies?

MOYNIHAN: Well, the first thing that comes to mind is that the papacy has changed a little bit in the past decades. Prior to this pontificate there was a sense that the pope really was above the level of other human beings, and should be treated as if he was an angelic in a certain way.

In fact, Pius XII was called "the Angelic Pope." And they have these special means of traveling. They were carried on the shoulders, on a sadia justitoria, there would be 12 men who would carry the pope around above the crowds. Some people felt that that was in accordance with the great dignity of the papacy. And they were even upset that those traditions were gotten rid of.

And among the traditions were, you don't talk about the physical illnesses of the pope.

HEMMER: But if the church is changing, if it changed truly under his leadership, what is wrong with making that public? You should not be ashamed of having Parkinson's disease. I guess, as a Catholic, speaking from one Catholic to another, I'm just trying to gain a better understanding about why the Vatican would keep details like that so private?

MOYNIHAN: Well, the first answer is that they, in the end, didn't keep it private. They have made it public. And all along, really, we have gotten quite a bit of information about the pope's health. We were told he would be going to the hospital. We were told that he would come back. We were following this day by day, hour by hour and often on TV.

Previous popes, I don't think this would have happened. They gave more information. They still perhaps don't give all the information that we might expect. But I'm actually surprised that so much -- the pope died very publicly. He didn't keep it secret.

BROWN: But that's not in a sense -- I was just -- someone told me something yesterday I didn't know -- people told me a lot of things yesterday honestly I didn't know -- but that in other times, the church wouldn't even formally celebrate the pope's birthday, that the pope's birthday in effect became the day he ascended to the papacy. And that is just another sign of how different in a sense the church for a long time viewed the pope from all the rest of us. And John Paul, by his travels, recognized that the world itself had changed. But the Catholic Church, while it changes, is not an institution that rushes to change. It takes long times and careful consideration to make any sort of change.

MOYNIHAN: Yes, absolutely. Well, I wanted to mention, the fact we are here looking out over Rome, it's such a beautiful city. And what is Rome and why are we here for this pope? It's not just because he was a Catholic, it's because Rome was once the center of the world. And in a way the Catholic Church inherited that.

For almost a thousand years the Roman legions would leave here, for all over Europe and all over the Middle East. So this is the center of Western culture and Western civilization. The Catholic Church carried that on after Constantine. And Constantine then later -- about 50 years after Constantine, the Catholic faith was made the religion of the Roman Empire officially. And that gave us the next thousand years of European history, and then that's been dividing up in a sense for the last 500 years as Protestants broke away from Rome and Christendom was disunited.

But here, this pope represented the Christian faith, the Catholic faith, and Western culture. And leading that, he was in a sense an emperor and a priest -- a king, as it were, and a priest. And regarding kings, you don't always go into all the details. And treating the pope like a king meant don't talk about each time he gets a cold or stubs his toe. And with regard to Parkinson's, it seems somehow that they should reserve a certain area of privacy for the pope.

BROWN: Well, it is also -- the reporter in me will tell you that Thursday, I guess it was -- one travels across the ocean, one loses track of days -- but when they gave as much detail of the pope's serious turn for the worse, that there was this urinary tract infection, that there was high fever, that there had been this blood pressure drop. Significant detail, the kind of detail that doctors could sit and analyze and say this means A, and when you combine it with the Parkinson's, it means this, and he is, after all, almost 85 years old. That was not just information, but it was also, I thought, a signal, a sign.

MOYNIHAN: Well, I felt very much -- I actually thought it was odd a little bit that we knew two or three days ago, or at least two days ago, that he was terminal. They told us that. I think they were saying, get ready. They wanted to give both Catholics in the world, the people who loved John Paul II, and the world in general, a warning. And they wanted to not shock them, that the pope suddenly would be announced to be dead.

So they said, the pope has decided not to go back to the hospital. Navarro-Valls gave the announcement and started to weep. We knew then that this was going to happen.

HEMMER: I think there was a certain irony in this. This is a man who was built of great European stock. He was a physically strong man. You could see so much character all over his face and body. Especially if you look at the videotape from the late '70s into the mid '80s, before the Parkinson's started to set in and before the hunched look came about as a result of that Parkinson's, but throughout his life he always preached a respect for human life. He talked about that culture of life many times, whether it was a human embryo, whether it was the sick and the dying.

And in the end he was sick and was dying. And now we can reflect on his final public appearance in that balcony on Wednesday of this past week, four or five days ago. Here is a man who tried to speak and greet and bless his pilgrims for one final time. And all he could do was utter a groan.

When you know "the great communicator" wanted to speak yet again to the flock, for those who had gathered to see him or hear him down below. And I think for many people that was a painful image. But I -- and there's no way to get an answer at this point to the following question, but I believe that this is a pope who wanted the world to see him in that condition.

MOYNIHAN: Yes.

HEMMER: Because no matter his physical condition, he always said, protect that. What was the one phrase he used, we can be prisoners of our physical condition, talking about the aged and the dying. And he came to the balcony. He was seen in his final public appearance now in a condition that no one wanted to see him there. He was clearly struggling and hurting and quite painful at that point. But yet if you follow his preachings for the past 26 years, that was acceptable to him.

MOYNIHAN: Yes. Well, for me, I was amazed at the lack of fear. He was continuing to be in public and he knew he was dying.

BROWN: But this -- in another sense, if you will, this is -- (INAUDIBLE) that in some respects this was entirely predictable to the man whose last great lesson was how to die.

MOYNIHAN: Well, I think that's what I'm saying, too. And he gave the lesson. He didn't miss the last lesson. In other words, he went right to the end. You could see it.

BROWN: We talked a bit last night about ironies in -- back at home, all last week was consumed by this often rancorous discussion of what means life what means death and how death should come and whether it should come at the time of God's choosing or it should come in other ways, and what precisely it means to be alive and the quality of life, and all of those things that consumed us as Americans so much for the last week. And the week ends with an entirely different lesson in death and what death means, and how God, for those who believe in God, how God chooses a moment, and for the reasons that God chooses that moment that that is a lesson also.

And again it just seemed to me that there is something about this pope, as a non-Catholic, whose life provides a counterbalance to a lot of other cultural pressures that go on, including the one that we spent the last week discussing. MOYNIHAN: Yes. Well, you were saying this pope had that impact on you personally. You were saying that earlier.

BROWN: Yes. I don't -- I'm the reporter on the story. But I will tell you that for...

HEMMER: But you are a human being, too.

BROWN: Well, thank you. Not all my colleagues believe that.

(LAUGHTER)

HEMMER: Tough to come here and not to feel that.

BROWN: That we have thought about -- all of us, I think, who do this work, we knew at some point, whether it was this month or this year or at some point if we were privileged, this is the story we would get to report. And we thought about how we would do it. And I don't -- I certainly did, and I can tell you I can't describe to you exactly how overwhelming it was yesterday when the bells tolled.

There was a stillness in me, a kind of shiver went up. It wasn't really a sense of profound sadness. I had been talking about the pope's passing. And I was not surprised that the pope had died. But there was something about the ritual and the man married in that moment that just adds -- a 56-year-old Midwestern boy found himself overwhelmed in -- this may sound odd, but in the nicest of ways.

It was a reminder of how he touched all manner of people, those who accepted his theology, those who did not, those who quarreled with him over the specifics of some matters, and accepted others. In that moment, in the moment of death, your views on contraception or celibacy or this or that are far less important than the broad strokes of someone's life.

And the broad strokes of his life -- in the last 26 years of his life, which we all watched in this media age, were extraordinary. And we can and we will pick apart, I suppose, and we'll hear from people who disagreed about this or embraced that, and all of that is appropriate in its rightful time. But in this time it strikes me that we celebrate an extraordinary moment of history that we were all privileged, many of us privileged to share and a few of us privileged to write about.

MOYNIHAN: Well, that is moving to me. It's interesting because you are not a Catholic.

BROWN: Yes.

MOYNIHAN: And so.

BROWN: But, you know, no other -- it's interesting for a non- Catholic in some respects. There is no central figure of the equivalency of the pope in Judaism. There isn't in the Methodist and Protestants generally, there is no sort of equivalent. This is, to the extent that the world embraces a moral leader, not a theological leader, but a moral leader, this is it. This is the one person.

And there are other important people. And we listen to them. And they have important things to say. And they don't always agree. But by reasons of great tradition and ritual and, I apologize if this isn't the right word, there is a kind of majesty to the papacy, all of those things to me play into the emotional power of the pope, and his impact on people whether they're Catholic or non-Catholic, whether they're atheist, agnostic or believers, I don't think it matters. I think he was here, and perhaps the next pope will be. The papacy is here to help us balance out our lives. And our lives are filled with temptations and contradictions and challenges, and a lesson or two in morality never hurt anybody.

MOYNIHAN: I think, what the pope did...

BROWN: I'll make no more speeches.

MOYNIHAN: No, I thought you were very eloquent. I think you should perhaps be considered for the ministry.

HEMMER: Conversion, maybe?

MOYNIHAN: In fact, it's strange...

BROWN: I'm doing exactly the right thing.

MOYNIHAN: It's strange for me also to be here and to be speaking to so many people on television. I never expected it. I'm just a writer. And for both of us, we have this chance, and maybe if we can say something in the right way, it will be helpful. But I'm not a professional in this. And what struck me is the pope was reaching out towards that level that all of us hope is there, that kind of level of dignity, we call it the transcendent, we call it the divine, we call it God, something that makes us different from animals, something that makes us different from what we can be at our worst. And the pope was living that, was preaching that, and he died preaching that.

HEMMER: Catholic or not, Aaron, welcome to the Vatican.

BROWN: Well...

HEMMER: And...

BROWN: All are welcomed here.

HEMMER: Well, I was thinking about when you were discussing that, there was this family down there that came from Switzerland, and they were clearly not Catholic. And I had a little chat with them today. And I asked the mother of these three children, as they were standing there, I said, why did you come here? She said, well, it's pretty simple, isn't it? I said, no, well, tell me. She said, it's respect, respect for the man and respect for the way the world viewed him. And clearly, you can agree and you can disagree. And I think a Catholic priest said earlier today, he was in from New York, he said, the whole world loved the pope, whether you agree with him or not. BROWN: Just one more small point, I want to bring Soledad in on this, but one of the things -- one of the wonderful things that television does in moments like this is it allows us all, those of us on both sides of the camera, to share the common experience. So often the experiences we share are of the most unpleasant sort.

But here, it's something else again. Here is the celebration of a life. And here is the common experience, we're gathered around TVs, and we are sharing this moment together. And it's the first moment like it in the mass television age. And I think it matters not where you go to church or who you believed in or what your God is or isn't or any of the rest, I think everybody on the planet has a sense that something important happened and want to share in it. And if it can't be here, then why not be there.

HEMMER: We all experienced the anguish of the Terri Schiavo story last week. And we have all gone through the struggle over Iraq for the past two years. But this is a story to stop and reflect, and in a large sense, as we move through this week to celebrate the life of a man who lived one heck of a life, too. Pope John Paul II, now being viewed by a select few at the Vatican, and the public will get its opportunity starting, we believe, Monday afternoon.

Let's get back to Soledad in New York now with more -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill, thanks. That celebration of that life, of course, is a focus for many on this Sunday morning because of course clearly Sunday Mass has already begun in many American churches. CNN's Chris Lawrence is at St. Hyacinth Cathedral in Chicago.

Hey, Chris, good morning.

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. You know, the thing about this community here is you've got hundreds of thousands of people who speak Polish in their homes, and one woman told me having a pope from Poland was like having a personal hero in the Vatican.

And when I talked to one of the priests here at the church here behind me, I asked him probably what was a pretty dumb question. I said, how do you feel? And he said, even though he had never really met the pope, he had met the pope once as a child many years ago. But he said, I feel like I've lost somebody really close to me.

We can take you inside and show you a little bit of the Mass going on. Not that big of a crowd, maybe 100 people inside. This is an English-speaking Mass. But the one before it, a couple hours ago, about twice that number inside. And the way this church is, it draws people from all over the state, even surrounding states around Illinois. So as we get later in the morning and some Polish-speaking Masses pick up again later in the morning, we will probably see 1,000 to 2,000 people attending some of those Masses.

And a lot of the people who were here yesterday told us they plan to come back today again to pray for Pope John Paul II. A little bit different feeling. Yesterday we saw a lot of people crying, a lot of emotion walking out of church crying. And I'm Catholic. I thought about it a lot last night. And then hearing Carol about an hour ago quote that woman from Detroit who said, it's no time to be sad, he is in heaven with angels waiting, and it does seem to be that little different feeling.

I was like, wow, that is true. And it is maybe a little bit of a happier day here today than it was yesterday -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: No question a huge, emotional impact across the nation. Chris Lawrence for us in Chicago this morning. Chris, thanks for that. Kelly Wallace is at St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York City.

Kelly, good morning to you.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. Well, if yesterday is any guide, we expect thousands of people to come to what will be the second of three special Masses in honor of the passing of Pope John Paul II. That Mass will be led by Cardinal Egan about 10:15 a.m. this morning.

Apparently, and we talked about this yesterday, it was raining, it was a horrible day here in New York City, but some people waited at least an hour to get inside St. Patrick's Cathedral last night for the first special Mass in honor of the pope.

I think you can see behind me, they have some special bunting outside St. Patrick's Cathedral. They are also setting up some speakers, again, thinking that there might be some people who won't be able to get inside the cathedral for the Mass on this day.

And I want to follow up, Soledad, with what Chris was saying, because I think it's something we are picking up as well. We talked to a few people who were going into the earlier Mass this morning, the scheduled Sunday Mass, and we were asking them about the pope and his death his legacy.

And it seems, while there is great sadness, you had one man saying, he was an international man, and we are paying tribute to that. Another woman who talked about his leadership, again his ability to reach out not just to Catholics, but for people of all religions, all walks of life. She said, you know, you just don't have many people of that caliber, and that is something we recognize and something we hope we can all learn from.

So it does seem the grieving continues and we will see that on this day. But that in some way people starting to move forward. We can tell you a little bit, also, Soledad, Cardinal Egan has a very special relationship with the pope. He studied in Rome in the '60s and '70s. And yesterday at a press conference he said he kind of feels like he lost a second father.

And he will be leading this Mass again today, another Mass tomorrow. And we understand he will be heading to Rome on Tuesday -- Soledad. O'BRIEN: He will be one of the 117 cardinals who will be picking the next pope. It's interesting, Kelly, that you mentioned to some degree Pope John Paul II raising the bar, essentially, for the office. He spoke a dozen languages, really had a way personally, intellectually was a prolific writer. Any people talking this morning at St. Patrick's Cathedral about who comes next?

WALACE: No. It's not really a question that you are getting from parishioners. In some ways, Soledad, they sort of indicate they're not ready to go there yet, that they sort of want to spend the moment and spend the time reflecting and reminiscing on Pope John Paul II.

You did pick up though a little bit of people who say they just don't know if anyone can actually fill his shoes. But there's still a confidence that whomever it is will be able to lead the church into the future. It will be interesting, though, Soledad, to see, because as you said, he set a very high standard, Cardinal Egan talking about this last night, talking about how he traveled -- we know more than 100 countries -- how he brought the church to all walks of life, reached out to so many people, reached out to so many young people. And that is something we have been picking up.

And so it will be a standard that will be tough to follow. But it does seem after this pope that the sentiment will want to find someone who will continue to travel, reach out and try and take the church to other parts of the world -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: You mentioned Cardinal Egan, and cardinals, of course, across the world now traveling to Rome to may -- be part of that conclave who will vote and elect the next pope. Kelly Wallace for us, at St. Patrick's Cathedral, of course, just around the way here in New York City.

Obviously reflections not only from churches around the nation, but we've asked folks to weigh in online as well. And Carol Costello is monitoring that for us.

Good morning, again.

COSTELLO: Good morning. You heard Chris Lawrence talking about that quote from this woman who was quoted in The Detroit News. I want to read her quote again, because she does say it all. She said, and I quote: "There are no tears because, honey, he went straight to heaven. There are a thousand saints all in line waiting for him along with the Blessed Mother. He doesn't want to be back with us now."

But, you know, Soledad, he -- I don't know, you know that moment when they announced the pope's death in Rome, 60,000 people in St. Peter's Square, you could have heard a pin drop. He struck folks silent. There was something mystical about him, something spiritual about him, something that you couldn't quite touch. And that's probably what made him a great leader, that and his strength of character because he never varied in his opinions about anything. He believed what he believed. So we are asking you this question this morning, how do you think the pope will be remembered history-wise? Let me read a few. This is from Fred in Indiana. He says: "Ever since I was a child, the pope was a sign of Christianity and not just Catholicism. He had many followers of many faiths. He will be missed by all. But we all know greater is his reward."

This is from Cassandra: "The pope made me forget that I was Christian. I say this because i left the Catholic Church in 1996. The one thing that I always found myself being drawn back to, though, back to the Catholic faith, was the pope. The pope united people of all faiths in a manner that we did not have to label ourselves, we did not have to call ourselves Christians, Muslims or Jews, we were just God's children."

And I think what Cassandra is getting at is there were a lot of things within the Catholic Church that women had a problem with, for example, birth control. But the pope was such a spiritual leader that you didn't want to completely leave the church, because he drew you back somehow, even if you didn't always agree with him.

Let me see, who's this from? This is from Vera: "John Paul II should be a saint because he taught us how to believe, how to love without question, how to come back to Christ. The priest abuse scandals truly were pushing me away from the Catholic Church. I held on tightly, to be honest, simply because he was there. He was still there. Godspeed my dear friend.

Thank you for the e-mails this morning. Am@cnn.com, am@cnn.com, we want more because we always value our viewers' opinions on this, always interesting.

O'BRIEN: It's fascinating. We've been looking, of course, as you've been reading these e-mails, at the body of Pope John Paul II. It's being displayed to a very small, although it looks rather large, but a limited audience of clergy members and officials and authorities in Rome. Tomorrow they are supposed to go ahead and open that up to the public, to have a public display, as the pope will lay in state.

You know you mentioned this last letter that you had just a moment ago. The scandal within the Catholic Church certainly here in the United States -- and we heard a little bit about that at the churches in Boston, about how some people felt that maybe the pope did not weigh in strongly enough.

He certainly condemned the behavior of some of the priests involved in the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church but there are many who felt that it did not go far enough. And it's interesting how many people in Boston said that they were very compelled to follow this pope, while not always agreeing with some of the decisions that he made. It's an interesting point.

COSTELLO: Yes, you were always drawn back. I think one of the problems there was it took him so long to say anything about the abuse scandals here in the United States and some people believe because he created the hierarchy of the church that really caused the problem and he wasn't really open to change either. But still, you're right, something about him always drew you back. You always respected him.

O'BRIEN: Even if you didn't necessarily agree with the message. This has really been fascinating to watch and I think this will end these live pictures that we're bringing to you this morning from Vatican City of the pope lying.

His body is on display now to a relatively small audience of clergy members and some authorities and dignitaries who have come to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II. This is supposed to, we are told by the Vatican, wrap up in about an hour at 10:00 Eastern Standard Time.

And then they are going to have the body lying in state in Rome, open that up so the public will have a display. There are many who have predicted that, in fact, well over a million people could come by to pay their respects. Something like 750,000 came by to pay their respects to the last fallen pope.

Let's go back to Bill Hemmer. He's in Vatican City this morning. He's in Rome. Good morning to you once again, Bill.

HEMMER: Hey, Soledad, thanks.

It's 3:00 local time here. In case our viewers are just waking up back in the U.S. we will tell you what we know at this point. For the past two-and-a-half hours a select group of people have been paying their final respects to Pope John Paul II. This is taking place in an area known as the Apostolic Palace.

It's a large building, four stories tall, and on the top floor is where the pope had his residence for the past 26 years and, again, that's where the pope died last evening, official time of death at 9:37 p.m. local time here in Vatican City.

Now we wanted to give you an idea of what we anticipate in the coming day and also the coming week here. We've been watching the pope's body now, as I mentioned, for two-and-a-half hours. This will continue for some time. And then late on Monday, he will be transferred over to St. Peter's Basilica and that's when the public viewing will begin.

Earlier today there was an enormous Mass that took place outdoors in St. Peter's Square. Well over 50,000 people attended with a number of cardinals in attendance as well and it was quite stunning to get the sense of spirituality and the emotion that had been packed into St. Peter's Square as so many had come, whether they were Catholic or not to pay their respects to the pontiff.

And, again, as I mention that there were hushed words spoken, very few whispers or very little talk at all and they had four giant video screens set up all over St. Peter's Square and every time the image of Pope John Paul II appeared a small wave and a ripple of applause went across the crowd. It was quite moving.

And Vatican law dictates that there will be a mass every day during this period of mourning. These laws set up many, many years ago. They've been changed or modified, even some modifications done by this very pope. But they have stuck for centuries now and as the period of mourning, officially nine days lasting in the Vatican that begins today.

As we continue our coverage here back with me is Aaron Brown, my colleague, and also Father Jonathan Morris joins us for this hour as our special coverage begins and continues now from the Vatican -- welcome.

FATHER JONATHAN MORRIS, LEGIONNAIRES OF CHRIST SEMINARY: Thank you very much.

HEMMER: We spoke yesterday afternoon, very eloquent about the life of the pope and what he meant to you personally and so many others I guess at the outset. What are your reflections today now that we are remembering and in so many ways celebrating the life of this man?

MORRIS: First of all, I'm just so grateful that we've had the time these days to actually reflect. It wasn't just a story that came and has gone away but rather it's something that we're able to reflect as a nation, as a global community.

And so we're reflecting on this. We're talking about this. I was speaking to my sister the other night on the phone and she said "I love turning on the TV" and she was turning on CNN to watch me, right. But she said, "I love turning on the TV" because of the type of things that we're talking about. We were talking about things that really matter to us, perhaps talking about...

HEMMER: Such as what?

MORRIS: Well, why has John Paul II been able to communicate to the degree that he has been able to? In my opinion, it's not because he's a great communicator just a great communicator.

BROWN: It's because?

MORRIS: It's because there's a message, and it's a message that's a universal message. It's a message that I think we've mentioned before. It touches us in different ways, whether we're Catholic or Protestant, Jewish, Bible Christians, but it's a universal message.

BROWN: But it is to be only gently quarrelsome there is a marriage between the message and the messenger and in that regard John Paul is -- John Paul was -- John Paul married the message, the messenger and the moment, the historical moment where media and jet transport and all the other things could make carrying the message more easy -- more easily done.

MORRIS: Sure.

BROWN: More easy -- Aaron, goodness.

MORRIS: Without a doubt. It reminded me a little bit of when you go to ask your mom or your dad for permission, you know. You know you have to kind of measure which one is going to be more readily available to give the yes that you want.

Perhaps they're going to be saying the same thing but you know which one to go to at what time and you're able to accept it based on the way in which they're able to communicate. John Paul II has communicated to us as a global community and a personal level I think in a way that many people have been able to accept it.

BROWN: Do we -- do you think that he will, that Catholic history will write him as someone who held the line of tradition or is that -- you know, I think non-Catholics in particular think of the church as being pulled and tugged by various forces. Is that how as a priest you see the church?

MORRIS: Right. It's been interesting dealing with the laity from the point of view of, as you mentioned to me earlier, that I'm as lay as you get in a certain way right?

BROWN: Yes.

MORRIS: But, because this is the type of thing that as clerics, as Catholics we don't see it so much as progression means change necessarily. The fact that someone changes doesn't mean that they're moving forward. It just means that they've moved, right.

And so, with regards to doctrine, Catholic doctrine, there are those things that we believe are universal truths. Another way of putting it is objective truth. It's a hard word to swallow. Nobody likes to talk about it because it means if it's objective that means it's for me and for you and for everyone. Then there are those things that can change.

HEMMER: Stay with us father. In a moment, we're going to come back and talk about what our viewers are watching inside the Apostolic Palace. You've been in that room also, a grand room, so stunning too.

MORRIS: That's right.

HEMMER: We'll get back to that in a moment here.

I also want to get back to the official cause of death. The Vatican released a statement about, oh by my watch it was about an hour and 20 minutes ago, septic shock, that cardio circulatory failure and also, for the first time, admitting that the pope was suffering from Parkinson's disease as well.

Back to Rome in a moment but first here's Soledad again in New York.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill thanks.

Well, Pope John Paul II had a remarkable connection with children. Thirteen-year-old Stephanie Czastkiewicz has a lifelong memory now and a pretty unique story of the time she met the pope in 2003. She joins us with her mother this morning, nice to see you Elizabeth and Stephanie as well.

Stephanie, you're 13 years old now but you were just 11 when you went to the Vatican in the hopes of getting a chance to see the pope and it was not to be. What happened? Why couldn't you get in to see the pope?

STEPHANIE CZASTKIEWICZ, MET POPE IN 2003: Well, there were a lot of people that were waiting because it was a private audience that he was supposed to have but there were a lot of people that were in the Pope John Paul II Foundation and it just -- we just didn't have a chance because there were so many and we really tried but there just wasn't a chance.

O'BRIEN: You were devastated.

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes.

O'BRIEN: You were crying.

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes, I was crying.

O'BRIEN: You were a mess.

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes.

O'BRIEN: And so what did you do?

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Well, I went outside and met a priest and he told me "Don't worry. Don't worry. Just pray the Rosary. Make sure that you dress in your costume." And I said, "OK."

O'BRIEN: And that's the traditional Polish folk dancing costume because you perform folk dances.

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes. So, he told me just wear the costume. Go see the pope on Wednesday at the general meeting and then he said just count on it. You'll meet the pope because I'm usually right.

O'BRIEN: And once again he was right because you got to go back the next day. You had your costume on and this time partly because you were wearing a costume you were able to blend in with a lot of the Polish young women and girls really who were wearing -- the costume was from, it's called Wadowice -- am I pronouncing that?

E. CZASTKIEWICZ: Wadowice.

O'BRIEN: Which is of course the home town of Pope John Paul II, so you sneak in under a barrier, what happened?

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Well, the one guard saw me and my dad just waved at him and I looked at him and I just said -- and my dad -- and he just agreed. He didn't even worry. And I just said I don't even care if I get into trouble. It's probably God's will that he's helping me. He's allowing me to do this.

O'BRIEN: You should have seen your mother's face when you said that I don't even care if I get into trouble. What was it like to see your daughter sneak under a barrier and she manages to blend in with lots of other little girls who are dressed in a similar folk costume? What's going through your mind at that point?

E. CZASTKIEWICZ, DAUGHTER MET POPE: At that point I didn't even -- I wasn't even thinking about her getting into trouble because I knew how she ached to see the pope and we just felt it was the right thing and everyone in the pilgrimage actually, it wasn't me, it wasn't my prompting. It was the prompting of everyone in the group. They all supported her.

O'BRIEN: And all the little girls in the folk outfits...

E. CZASTKIEWICZ: Correct.

O'BRIEN: ...they took you in as one of their own immediately, right?

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes. There were exactly three chairs, one for me, one for -- and two for my other two friends and we just -- they just welcomed us in and we were waiting and we were patient.

O'BRIEN: Kind of like it was meant to be a little bit, kind of like the priest had told you it would be. So, you then get to meet the pope and we have a really I think beautiful shot of you meeting Pope John Paul II. What was that moment like for you?

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: It was amazing. I felt like I actually met a saint in person because I really know that he was such a gentle and kind person and I know he's definitely going to become a saint because he was so lovable and he would always do whatever he could for the people.

O'BRIEN: Did you say anything to him? Did you have words back and forth with him? What happened?

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes. I told him that I loved him and because he wasn't feeling that well so I told him I hope he would get better. And I really wanted to give him a hug but I wasn't able to because they didn't allow it.

O'BRIEN: He was very, very sick at that point in 2003.

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes, but he actually put his arm around me so I just consider that as a hug.

O'BRIEN: I know that the word miracle is used a lot. People kind of throw it around a lot but when you look back at that day and how important this was to your then 11-year-old daughter, do you use that word do you think?

E. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes, I do.

O'BRIEN: Really.

E. CZASTKIEWICZ: I really believe that was a miracle because everything was against us and like Stephanie had said there were a lot of people from not only the Pope John Paul Society that day but from all over because it was a general audience the following day. We had a better chance if anything the day before.

O'BRIEN: The private audience which didn't work out because it was already too crowded.

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes.

E. CZASTKIEWICZ: Exactly and he was already feeble, so we understood that, you know. We don't want to, you know, make him, you know, cause any more discomfort. However, you know, this was her -- this was her dream. It was our dream as well because my husband and I were celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary so it was very symbolic for us as well because the pope celebrated his.

O'BRIEN: You know I'm curious to know, Stephanie, obviously the pope has now passed and he's lingered for a long time. He was very, very sick at the very end. What are your thoughts on this? I mean I know you're only 13 and it's kind of a young age to have big thoughts about a big international figure.

S. CZASTKIEWICZ: Yes. I just feel like he was a really good person and I feel like he was suffering a lot over like on Earth. So, I feel like it was a sad day but then it was a happy day because I feel like he's better in heaven because he's not suffering anymore.

He's just welcomed and I know that God welcomed him and he's having a good time and now he notices that all of his things are now recognized and he's getting a lot of recognition for everything that he did.

O'BRIEN: You have a pretty amazing story to tell people don't you? You'll never forget it. It's nice to have you come in and talk to us about your experience, Stephanie and Elizabeth Czastkiewicz. Thank you very much. Nice to see you both.

E. CZASTKIEWICZ: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: Our special edition of AMERICAN MORNING is going to continue in just a moment, remembering Pope John Paul II here in Rome and also around the world. Stay with us everybody. We're back after the short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWSBREAK)

(WEATHER FORECAST)

HEMMER: All right, Tony, thank you.

We are watching the pope today, Pope John Paul II, now being viewed by a select number of people, chosen by the church, chosen by the Vatican and we have seen this image now for about three hours and we'll see it for some time later. And then after this period passes in the Vatican, we'll see the pope's body being moved and then later lying in state for the public to view sometime on Monday afternoon, as we watch this image here.

The Italian media is now reporting that the funeral for the pope will take place on Wednesday, which would be the first date allowed under Vatican law for that funeral to take place.

It says four to six days and Wednesday would be the fourth day, if indeed that's the case but we will not have the official word on that. The official word on that announcement will not happen until Monday afternoon. The Italian media also is reporting that his final word was "Amen," last night before he passed at right around 9:30 in the evening here at the Vatican.

Also, getting some information from around the world, Vietnam which officially does not have relations with the Vatican has offered its condolences for the pope and the front man for the group U2, Bono, calls the pope from one Irish Catholic to another Catholic "the best front man ever," that statement out of Dublin, Ireland earlier today.

With me also here at the Vatican is my colleague Aaron Brown, and back with us too is John Allen, our Vatican Analyst and, gentlemen, hello again to both of you.

BROWN: You know I want to believe...

HEMMER: Yes.

BROWN: ...I just want to believe that, in fact, the pope -- there's so much sort of historical mythology that's in play in moments like this but I really do want to believe that the last words he spoke were "Amen."

HEMMER: Sure.

BROWN: You know it's possible that it was something else and that just sounds good and so they put it out. But it would be a nice (INAUDIBLE). It would be the nice and right way to end.

HEMMER: There are reports floating around the Vatican that one of his dearest friends, himself a Pole too, was with the pope in the final moments and there is a description going out there unconfirmed that he was looking out the window at the time in his bedroom down to the pilgrims below when he uttered the word "Amen" and then passed.

ALLEN: You know in addition to the fact that "Amen" just sort of does seem to sum it all up, as you say Aaron, it's worth remembering that that's actually a word that comes out of an ancient sort of dialect of Hebrew known as Aramaic, which is the language that Christ spoke and, in effect, it means yes.

When Catholics receive communion, the priest holds up the consecrated host and says "This is the body of Christ" and the response is "Amen" meaning yes. His last word, this is a man who said yes to life, you know, over all of his 84 years and at the very end he was saying yes to what comes next.

HEMMER: As we continue to watch and view here high above Vatican City, we'll let our viewers know that earlier today there was a mass that again -- it's Sunday here and all over the world for that matter but there will be a mass that is held every day during this period of mourning, a period that lasts about nine days throughout the Vatican.

BROWN: Just if we can and maybe it's my own bias here because we finally have up here, our guys have worked terrifically hard and fast, a working monitor but just take a moment and we can be silent for a few seconds and watch this. This is a rare moment in history and it serves us all well to just take it in. So for the next 15, 20 seconds we watch it.

(SILENCE WHILE WATCHING PAYING OF RESPECTS TO POPE JOHN PAUL II)

BROWN: These are such grand, wonderful spaces.

HEMMER: And in fairness to our viewers at home this is the first time we've seen his image. Through the grace of technology we can now view exactly what people at home are seeing and quite stunning to see, to witness this.

BROWN: Yes.

HEMMER: And the crowd appears to be much bigger than any description we were given earlier and the way the room was described to us in its fullness and its richness is absolutely stunning John.

ALLEN: Yes, again, many of these people of course being people who knew the pope through his life would have had the experience of being in that room (INAUDIBLE) many, many times to see the pope in life. And now, of course, they're seeing him in the same space in death, a final moment if you like with Pope John Paul II.

BROWN: We can see something but television doesn't allow yet us to do is to feel something. We can't quite feel what it must be like in that room but the feeling in that room must be quite extraordinary as you stand to wait your moment to come in, as you first walk in and look around, even a room you're familiar with is different somehow in a moment like this to see the body of Pope John Paul lying in state prepared in that formal way that he is today.

We can't know what that feels like and maybe it's a thousand different feelings for a thousand different people who had a thousand different sorts of relationships to the papacy and to John Paul.

HEMMER: As the period of mourning continues an estimated two million people set to flood into Vatican City in the coming days.

Let's get a break here on a Sunday morning live from Rome. Our coverage continues after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back. You're taking look at a live picture from Rome, this morning, a long line of folks who have come for this private viewing of the pope's body. It's open only, this viewing, to a very select group of people, clergy members, senior church officials, authorities and diplomats who have come to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II. You can see his body, there, at the bottom right-hand side of your screen.

Tomorrow, however, there is the public viewing, it happens at 5:00 Rome time, around 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, here. That word, according to the Vatican. That's going to happen at St. Peter's Basilica.

Taking a look now, in fact, at what's going to what will happen over the next few days and few weeks. Today, in St. Peter's Basilica, Catholics also pray for the pope's soul. On Monday, the first general Congregation of Cardinals will determine the time of his burial. Tomorrow afternoon, the pope will lie in state for public viewing in St. Peter's Basilica. As we mentioned, he's going to be buried sometime between Wednesday and Friday.

The pope, traditionally, is buried in St. Peter's Basilica. His coffin will be lowered into a marble sarcophagus and then covered by stone. A large funeral mass will be held 10 days after the pope's death.

The next pope will be chosen by 117 cardinals who will gather at the Vatican. And the votes take place inside the famous Sistine Chapel with its ceiling mural by Michelangelo. Black smoke will rise from the chimney each time the ballots are burned, when a new pope is elected, the smoke will turn white.

The conclave of College of the Cardinals must begin 15 days after the pope's death, not more than 20 days later though, they'll be locked in the Sistine Chapel for debating and voting and they will be sequestered if they need to sleep. Security very tight, obviously, no mobile phones, no electronic buggings going to be allowed during that conclave.

John Paul II, the globetrotting pope, by far the most widely traveled pontiff in history, carrying his message of peace to 129 countries. Andrew Nagorski accompanied the Vatican press corps went on many papal trips in the early '80s, later covering the fall of communism in Eastern Europe. Andrew Nagorski is senior editor for "Newsweek" magazine, joins us this morning.

Nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us.

ANDREW NAGORSKI, SENIOR EDITOR "NEWSWEEK": Nice to see you.

O'BRIEN: Let's talk about the '80s. What was it like when the authorities were first, sort of, coming to grips with this new pope? How did they react and respond?

NAGORSKI: The authorities, both in Poland and in the Soviet Union were very worried about this new pope. In fact, it started much earlier than the '80s. The election of this pope in 1978 was an electrifying experience for Poles in particular. And it was electrifying maybe in, sort of, a negative impulse for the Politburo in Moscow.

O'BRIEN: They knew immediately that this going to be a problem for them?

NAGORSKI: This guy -- this pope was a well-known figure in Poland long before he became pope. The world sort of woke up to him. But, in the '60s he had become bishop of Krakow in southern Poland, he had fought a battle for the -- for building a church in an area where they were trying to create an ideal socialist state around a socialist city around a steel mill.

O'BRIEN: Kind of a conflict there.

NAGORSKI: Yeah, a conflict there. And they said no church; this is going to be, you know, atheist communist. And the pope organized -- the bishop at the time -- organized this whole drive to build a church there. He built a huge church there in the late -- in the '60s that became this rallying cry. And then throughout the '60s and '70s he encouraged people to speak their minds, speak up for freedom of conscious, freedom of religion. He wasn't overtly political, but simply by saying "speak the truth" he was undermining a system of law.

O'BRIEN: Earlier on, though, the system of law, the Soviet Politburo was a huge supporter. I mean, to some degree, they helped further his career, to a large degree.

NAGORSKI: Well, it wasn't the -- in the early days, when he was just rising in the hierarchy, there was a -- were some people who thought, in the Department of Religious Affairs and in the Secret Police which monitored the Polish church, well, this is a -- a cleric who talks about culture, who talks about faith. He does not seem to talk overtly about politics. He's a very, sort of -- and there were some other -- other clerics who were much more confrontational.

O'BRIEN: So, he seemed like the safe bet.

NAGORSKI: So, he seemed like the safe bet. And they said OK, we'll let him be bishop of Krakow. It won't be a problem. Well...

O'BRIEN: Boy, were they wrong.

NAGORSKI: They were wrong. They were very wrong.

O'BRIEN: He is credited as being the force behind bringing -- you know, ending communist -- communism in Eastern Europe. Do you think that that's overstating it?

NAGORSKI: I don't think it's overstating it, of course, I mean, it would be overstating it if you say he was the only force. But, the power of his ideas was what helped inspire people like Lech Walesa, the leader of Solidarity in Poland, to organize. Even it spread into Czechoslovakia, someone like Vaclav Havel who started the dissident movement.

You have to remember in the '60s '70s, and right through the '80s, these dissidents who now in retrospect, you see them, oh, well they were underming the system, they felt like very lonely people, there. Most people were cowed by the system. It was terrifying.

O'BRIEN: So, was it more than just -- more than just tacit approval from the pulpit of the pope?

NAGORSKI: It was more than tacit approval.

O'BRIEN: What was it?

NAGORSKI: What it was, was saying, "speak your mind," and by that, that meant more than, for instance, in many churches in Poland there would be informal meetings of community meetings -- intellectuals would meet, students would meet -- they would have discussions on philosophy, religion, things that were not permitted in state institutions. The Polish Catholic Church was the only non-state institution that could function, and it gave an umbrella, a place for people to even see videos when videos began to circulate, because those were uncensored.

O'BRIEN: The pope, you describe how he's sort of hold these impromptu press conferences. I mean, he really knew how to work the media.

NAGORSKI: Oh, he was great at that. I mean, it wasn't the same -- the same way as...

(ALARM)

O'BRIEN: That sounds like our fire alarms going off. So, you know what we're going to do? Either shut it off or we'll determine if there's any kind of emergency that we need to be concerned about. And see what they're going to do.

You know what we're going to do? Let's go to Bill Hemmer in Rome, who's obviously covering that side of the story for us from there.

Bill, while we deal with our little mini emergency, here -- Bill.

HEMMER: We're here for you, Soledad. Thanks for that.

Back here live at the Vatican. A couple newspapers coming out today already here in Rome and this is "The Note," "La Stampa," and the headline reads, "The world cries for the pope." There's another headline here, in "Il Giornale," "The Journal," it says, "Father who is in heaven," as there is a photograph of Pope John Paul II about to head up a blue set of staircase -- a blue set of stairs at which, obviously, is the first line of the prayer "Our Father."

Italian media reports already indicating that a funeral may happen on Wednesday of this week. That would be earliest under Vatican law that it could take place, but nothing has been announced in the Vatican. It is quite likely the official word will not happen for about another 18 hours or so. The first meeting, the first Congregation of Cardinals will not happen until about 10:30 a.m. local time at the Vatican tomorrow. That's when we'll get the announcement on the funeral; we'll get the official word on the burial. And again, tradition dictates that pope's are buried in St. Peter's Basilica, but it's quite likely, and it's possible, this pope could be returned to his native Poland and be buried in the mountains of southern Poland.

And then the conclave comes, and the conclave gets together in the Sistine Chapel that you're watching here. There are 117 cardinals eligible to vote. Of that 117, 114 were appointed by this pope. That's what happens when you lead the Catholic Church for almost three decades. And John Allen is back with Aaron Brown and me in Rome.

And let's talk about the conclave, John, and when things start to get underway, and when we can anticipate them getting together. We can say this, it'll be about two weeks from today, roughly 15 days as law dictates. But, if -- once you enter as the College of Cardinals into the Sistine Chapel, you are entering one of the most majestic -- well, the architectural, yes, but art wonders of the world, painted by Michelangelo.

And earlier today, in fact last hour, Robert Moynihan, from inside the Vatican, he seemed to suggest that this College of Cardinals might be ready to go outside the current group and go to a bishop of which there are 3,000 around the world. Do you see that as a possibility in 2005?

ALLEN: Yeah, actually there are roughly 4,500 bishops in the Catholic Church around the world, some 3,000 of whom, roughly, are still active. It is possible, of course, under the code of Canon Law, which is the body of law that governs the Catholic Church, the -- any baptized male could be elected pope. So, actually, Bill, you could wake up one day and become pope. But the realities of it are that it has been centuries since the College of Cardinals went outside that body to elect someone who is already a cardinal. And so, if things hold to form, and of course, it pays not to be too dogmatic about this because you never know, we won't know until the moment comes, but I would suggest that the overwhelming likelihood is that that custom would hold, and they would be electing the pope out of that body of 117 men who are conclave (ph).

HEMMER: All right, and again, we expect that to start in about 15 days and we'll get the official word as to the schedule and when that begins sometime tomorrow, perhaps tomorrow afternoon once the schedule is put further into motion.

BROWN: There's so much -- so much to happen, John, between now and then. You know, there's a natural tendency, I guess we all have, for -- I actually have a theory for a variety of different reasons as we start to focus on the process of selecting the next and all of that. A Wednesday funeral makes a certain amount of sense, there is a lot of planning that's already been done. We live in an age when the many, many, many people who need to get here can get here fairly quickly. It's not like another time where people -- it would have taken days, if not weeks to get here. So, heads of state and the rest can get where they need to get to, and if Wednesday is to be the day, that seems to make some sense.

ALLEN: The reason, of course, there's a 15 to 20-day period because in earlier times of history men had to take steamships and so forth. In fact, it was a regular event, in conclaves of the 18th and 19th centuries, that American cardinals came in a day or two late precisely for that reason.

HEMMER: In a moment here, John, we'll also talk about the longest period of time a conclave lasted. If you go back to, what, 1271, I think was a year, about a year-and-a-half.

BROWN: Thanks. Back to Soledad again now.

HEMMER: All right, John, thanks. Back to Soledad, again now.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill thanks.

And we are back with Andrew Nagorski -- he's senior editor at "Newsweek." We were talking before, sort of, rudely interrupted by our fire alarm...

NAGORSKI: In the old days we would have said that was a KGB provocation.

O'BRIEN: Just a regular old fire alarm here, but fortunately, thank God, nothing urgent to worry about. But, we were talking about the pope's ability to really work the media.

NAGORSKI: Right. You know, this really came home to me when I started traveling with the pope in the early '80s. This was a young pope, vigorous, and you'd go on these extraordinary trips that might last a week, 10 days, several countries, sometimes a couple of continents. And at the end of most, usually it would happen at the end of these trips, you were on the papal plane. You had the papal plane, which, where in the front of the plane was the pope and the Vatican party, and the back of the plane was the press corps, and it was an international press corps, and usually at the back -- at the -- towards the tailend of the trip the pope would wander back on one of the longer hauls, and we would all stand up. We'd stand by our seats, we wouldn't go into the aisles, so that he could make his way down the aisle and he'd turn to people and give you chance to ask a question or two.

It wasn't a conventional press conference. It was like a short snippets of conversations. What was most impressive was that he would come around and people would throw out questions in different languages because these were -- these were folks from different -- different nationalities and usually he would respond in the language of the questioner.

O'BRIEN: Yeah.

NAGORSKI: And that -- extraordinary.

O'BRIEN: Pretty incredible. You've got some stories that I want to touch on briefly. You talk about a trip over Honduras.

NAGORSKI: Right.

O'BRIEN: Tell me about that. NAGORSKI: Well, you know, and papal trips tended to be pretty well scripted, organized, but somehow there was always something a little bit surrealistic that happened. In this particular trip I remember we were on a smaller Honduran airliner because the big papal plane from Italy could not go between these two cities, and we were coming -- going across a mountainous terrain. And suddenly we're standing around in the back of the press section and people are just chatting. Suddenly the plane starts dropping. You know...

O'BRIEN: A lot.

NAGORSKI: And at first it feels, you know, like, a little odd and people start making jokes. Hey, you know, this would be odd, you know, you can see the headlines the next day, "Pope dies," then a little item way below...

O'BRIEN: And others.

NAGORSKI: ...and others -- dozens of journalists. And then the plane keeps on dropping and pretty soon those treetops are look awfully close and there's a mountain ahead.

O'BRIEN: That's not a joke anymore.

NAGORSKI: And everyone becomes really silent. Suddenly the plane pulls up and barely crawls over that next mountain. So we -- after everybody sort of got -- came back to life, we tried to ask what happened? We found out that the president of Honduras had his family in a village that we were flying over, and he had asked a papal aide if the pope could bless the village so -- and they said all right, he'll bless it as we are flying over. So the pilot got the instructions to get as close to that village as possible and make that blessing stick.

O'BRIEN: He wasn't blessing at 10,000 feet.

NAGORSKI: No. No. Right.

O'BRIEN: Not kidding. There's a great story that you talk about, the pope publicly dressing down a priest in Nicaragua. What happened there?

NAGORSKI: Well, this is 1983. There was the Sandinista government in Nicaragua, a left-wing government, and the pope -- we think of this pope as very political, and that's true in the sense that he spoke certain -- certain -- he confronted big issues. But, he always maintained priests should not be directly involved in politics, in partisan politics. They should not be parts of governments, they should not belong to political parties. In this government there was a priest, Ernesto Cardenal, who became minister of culture who believed in the Sandinista revolution and he defied the pope. And when the pope arrived in Nicaragua and the government was lined up, this priest came, greeted the pope, went down to his knees, and we all watched as the pope sort of leaned over him and was going like this. It was clearly a public dressing down. You have not been listening, my son. Eventually this priest resigned his post in the government. O'BRIEN: Yeah, he did. Andrew Nagorski, senior editor from "Newsweek" joining us. Some fascinating stories, thanks for sharing with us this morning. Appreciate it.

NAGORSKI: Thank you, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: A short break ahead. We're back in just a moment with our extended coverage of AMERICAN MORNING and the death of Pope John Paul II. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HEMMER: Welcome back to the Vatican. It's coming up on 4:00 in the afternoon here in Italy, almost 10:00 in the morning back in the U.S. on this Sunday, as we continue to look back and remember and reflect on the life of Pope John Paul II. The images you're seeing have been prepared at the Apostolic Palace, which is the large building on the grounds of Vatican City. And a select group of people, now, have been chosen to view the pope and pay their final respects. The ceremony is rather typical in the sense that each person is given the opportunity to come and kneel at the feet of the pope, offer their final respects and then move on, out, and through the room.

Being guarded there by Swiss Guards. You see an awful lot of -- these are the colorful, flowing blue and gold uniforms -- the uniform of the Swiss Guard. And they're protecting Vatican City, now protecting the body of Pope John Paul II as they have done for several hundred years. This particular ceremony has been going on since about 12:30 local time, here in Rome, which is about three hours and 20 minutes ago, and we do anticipate it to continue, again, throughout the afternoon, here.

The official public viewing, when it comes to the area where it's considered lying in state, will not happen until at least Monday, possibly Monday afternoon or late in the afternoon when the pope's body is transferred then to St. Peter's Basilica. That is one thing to keep an eye on today as we continue our coverage, here. The other thing that we cannot say, though, is for sure when the funeral will happen. Italian media is reporting it will take place on Wednesday of this week, and that would follow law, according to the Vatican. That may be the case, but any official word on the funeral or the burial or when the official conclave will begin here in Vatican City will not happen until sometime on Monday when the cardinals come and gather here for the first congregation, the first official meeting here in Vatican City.

We're getting reaction from all over the world, again today, on the passing of Pope John Paul II and as we continue our coverage here in Vatican city, I want a to bring back in Aaron Brown and also say good afternoon to a man by the name of Paul Wilkes. He's in Rome, here, he's an American, has covered the Vatican, covered the papacy for the past 30 years, 26 of which have been reigned, here, by Pope John Paul II.

Paul, thanks and welcome to our broadcast, here. PAUL WILKES, BELIEFNET.COM: Good to be here.

HEMMER: And you're with the group called beliefnet.com, and just for the sake of our viewers, what is that?

WILKES: Beliefnet.com is multi-faith Web site. It does -- it's everything from Wiccans to Catholics to Jews to Presbyterians and it's really a broad spectrum of spirituality and spiritual relief Web site. And I'll be filing -- I'm a guy who started with Linotype machines, but now I'm now I'm going to be filing a blog. If I can find out what a blog is, I'll file one.

BROWN: With due respect, an old dog learned a new trick on this one.

WILKES: Exactly.

BROWN: I read somewhere where you said that the pope may have, I'm paraphrasing you here, united the world, but divided the church.

WILKES: Yeah. You know? And here is a man that's lying in state behind us, and I don't want to speak out of turn, of course, but you know, it's been -- it's a very divided church. It's a church that has -- he has presented a wonderful public image, but Joe and Mary Catholic are hurting out there. I think a lot of them, they're divorced, they have a gay son, they've had an abortion. And I think a lot of Catholics feel on the margins of this church.

But the more interesting part of this is, is that what's happening behind us, here at the Vatican, is irrelevant to a lot of things.

BROWN: Right. You know, there's a -- I -- I agree that if you look at, particularly the Americans -- American Catholics and the Western European Catholics, the message didn't always resonate in the same way that the messenger was loved and respected.

WILKES: Very much so, because this was a man that, on the road, was absolutely terrific, but when he came home, he did not offer that same balm to our Catholic people. Theologians are really -- have been pushed to the margins of the church, we have certain issues are absolutely without -- cannot be discussed now. And I think that it's a church that is -- look, we all love this man. He is -- look what he's done. Muslims, Jews, and Orthodox, and he's been every place and done everything, but yet, within the church itself, Catholics like myself, say wait a minute, you know, what about us in the parishes? What are we to do with our lives? How are we to live them when we have this kind of -- I would say the kind of an autocratic regime?

HEMMER: If that's the case, Paul, and if you were looking towards a successor, is there someone in this College of Cardinals who you think could change the way you want it to be?

WILKES: Well, I'm sure that you've any number of people telling who their dream candidates are, but let me tell you who mine would be. And I met one of them, Godfried Danneels of Belgium -- who, if you sat with him and if ever sat in this chair, you would think you were watching pudding hardening. I mean, he's that exciting in person, but when he opens his mouth, gold comes out. He is the ultimate churchman, and yet he is a -- just a beautifully, expansive man.

Casper of Germany, I think, would be another wonderful -- and Tettamanzi the Italian, would be...

HEMMER: All three have been appointed by this pope?

WILKES: Well, everybody's been appointed by this pope. But there's the thing in the Catholic Church called the "Holy Spirit," and the Holy Spirit will fly where she wants to, and I think that that's element that we really -- that's the wildcard in this, because we never, in the Catholic Church, elect a successor that's like the man that's in office now. That never has happened.

BROWN: You know, I think you are right. In a moment like this we need to be respectful and careful about all of the issues that we want to talk about. And it is, I think, too bad, in some respects, that we in mass media don't spend enough time accepting moments like this, looking at precisely the issues that you've talked about, because they are as profound as issues get. It's nice to meet you.

WILKES: Well, it's nice to meet you.

BROWN: Thanks for coming in.

WILKES: Thank you.

HEMMER: Paul Wilkes, Beliefnet.com.

Let's get back to New York, again, and Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, Bill thanks.

In the -- Pope John Paul II's native Poland, the pope is remembered for his significant role in bringing about the fall of communism. CNN's Chris Burns in Krakow, Poland for us this morning.

Chris, good morning, again.

CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you. Just in the last few minutes, quite emotional moments where, today they are celebrating the Day of Divine Mercy, a Catholic tradition. And reciting different litanies and what the priest just moments ago said that in this open window, over my shoulder, that is the archbishop's residence where the pope used to sing from, to his flock. They say "In this open window the pope is present in the risen Christ," and they began to sing a song called "Father" for the higher throng here, to this -- this square is packed with thousands of people, holding hands and singing this song "Father." A very, very emotional moment.

Another emotional moment was last night as the pope's death was announced. The throng, here, fell to their knees and began crying and praying. It was absolutely emotional, and of course, these people not only seeing the pope as their spiritual leader, but as their national liberator, the man who survived the Nazi occupation, who struggled against the communist regime in a peaceful way, persuaded his countrymen -- his countrymen of 39 -- 39 million people to follow him and to bring down the communist regime which also brought cracks in the Soviet bloc and toppled the Soviet empire, as well, so a very, very emotional moment.

A lot of gratitude here -- some people not crying but very grateful, expressing their respect for him. Outside of town today, on the edge of town, the Basilica of Divine Mercy, some 70,000 people turned out for an open-air mass, other masses across the country. The country is virtually shut down for the next week. A state of mourning declared by the former Communist president, here, Kwasniewski, who also expressed his gratefulness for him in bringing down the Iron Curtain. So, a lot of historical perspective, here in Krakow, as well as a lot of emotion. Back to you.

O'BRIEN: To a large degree, Chris, no surprise there. Chris Burns for us this morning, in Krakow, Poland. A short break, we're back in a moment from both New York and Rome, Italy. Stay with us.

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