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CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Pope John Paul II Remembered
Aired April 4, 2005 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight, in life, Pope John Paul went to the world. In death, the world comes to him. And the body of the 84-year-old pontiff lies in state in St. Peter's Basilica. We examine the challenges facing the church he led, and whether his lessons of reconciliation will survive. That's next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: We'll be checking in with guests from Rome on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Our guests in the United States, in New Haven, are Sister Helen Prejean, the Roman Catholic nun, author of the acclaimed best-seller "Dead Man Walking." Her newest book is "The Death of Innocence: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Execution." She has an op-ed piece today on the pope and death in the "New York Times" titled "Above All Else, Life."
In Los Angeles, Father Michael Manning, the Roman Catholic priest, Society of the Divine Word, host of "The Word in the World," and pastor at St. Anthony's Church in San Bernardino.
In Boone, North Carolina is Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse, president and CEO of Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. His father was with us on Saturday. And he's the son of Billy Graham.
And also in L.A. is Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who has had two private audiences with the late Pope John Paul.
Franklin Graham, what did he mean to you, a Protestant?
FRANKLIN GRAHAM, SON OF REV. BILLY GRAHAM, PRES. SAMARITAN'S PURSE: Oh, Larry, he reached out, I think, in a wonderful way. There were so many things that he did. But first of all, there are things that he emphasized that we all agree on as Protestants. He emphasized the cross, and of course, the cross is a symbol of God's love. The Bible says that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believe in Him shouldn't perish but have everlasting life.
And he emphasized not only the cross, but the fact that Jesus Christ was the son of a living God who came to this earth to take our sins on the cross, and gave his life and shed his blood on the cross for the sins of all of mankind, and that he was buried and that on the third day God raised him from the grave.
And he talked very clearly, that if we put our faith and trust in Him, that God would forgive us of our sins and cleanse us of our sins. So, as a Protestant, I appreciate these things that he made so clear, and he emphasized so very well, in his ministry all those years. He opened up the doors and I think brought Protestants much closer. We've had opportunity to work together in many cities where we've held crusades, where we've been there to preach. We've had the Roman Catholic Church support us in our evangelistic efforts which has been most appreciative. It has been a great cooperation for a number of years because of this man.
KING: Rabbi Hier, as a Jew and someone who met him, what did he mean to you?
RABBI HIER, DEAN AND FOUNDER, "SIMON WIESENTHAL CENTER": He was an extraordinary person. I would say that he was like that discoverer who took us to the new world, a world of reconciliation between the great faiths. We knew that world was out there, but we needed a captain that would take the voyage. And that was John Paul II. And in terms of reconciliation with the Jews, there were not -- I believe that he was the greatest pope in the history of the Vatican with respect to his relationship to the Jewish people.
KING: Sister Prejean, it's unique: conservatives praise him on the end of communism and his strong stands inside the church. Liberals praise him on his stands on rich nations helping poor nations, on his stands on capital punishment. Is it called pick your own stand?
SISTER HELEN PREJEAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN, AUTHOR "DEAD MAN WALKING": Well, you know, all of us try live our lives with integrity and we're meaning-makers, Larry. That's what I try to do as well. So, naturally people have put emphasis on different things according to what they're involved in or what they care about deeply.
Of course, for me, the seamless garment of life, the great thing that Pope John Paul did was he put the death penalty up there with the other pro-life issues of abortion, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide. I'll always remember him for that. And he was open to dialogue. I think when I wrote him that letter on January 22nd, 1997, and put into his hands 14 years of experience of what it's really like to walk with people to the execution chamber and said to him, your holiness, there is no dignity in this death -- I think his heart of compassion could see that, and I think that's what led him, in part, to change the Church's teaching to one of principled opposition to the death penalty with no exceptions.
KING: Father Manning, how did his preachings affect the Catholics of your area?
FATHER MICHAEL MANNING, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, HOST, "THE WORD IN THE WORLD": Well I found him very much in reaction to yesterday's sermon, for example, I opened it up and I brought my microphone out into my community, in my Spanish-speaking community, and oh, my, what a deep, rich, experience he had -- Pope John Paul had a deep love for Mexico, and I had many people of Mexican descent in my parish, and they're faith in him and the faith in the Church rose in a great awy. He touched many people, especially in the Latin American community, in a strong way. I've -- very, very powerful.
KING: Delia Gallagher in Rome, managing editor of "Inside the Vatican," our CNN Vatican analyst, I understand the doors have been closed, now, to public viewing. When do they open again?
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Larry, yes. They're just letting the last people through right now, but there is a whole crowd waiting down the Vie de Conciliazone, that long street that leads up to the Vatican. And they've just now broken into this sort of spontaneous applause, singing and chanting the name of the pope. It's really quite something, and they are going to wait there for two hours -- it's early in the morning now, it's cold -- but they are going to wait until they can be allowed -- the doors will be reopened and they will be allowed to enter.
KING: Jeff Israely is with us in Rome as well; he is the Rome bureau chief of "Time" magazine. Jeff, a front page story in the "Wall Street Journal" today, extraordinary story, commending the pope in many areas, as a great communicator and the like, but criticizing him as a manager, that he didn't run the office well. He told the story well. Do you agree with that?
JEFF ISRAELY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: I think there is some truth to that. This pope spent much of his time away from headquarters here, out, out seeing the worshipers, out, all around the world. And as a result, left the running of the church to others, to his deputies and senior Vatican cardinals, here, who, each one sought to consolidate his power in his particular dichastry (ph), and perhaps didn't have that sort of CEO running the whole operations, and many, in fact, are wondering if his successor will be, will be more of a manager.
KING: Jeff, do you have any inkling as to who that successor might be? Does word leak out as to who they might be thinking of?
ISRAELY: Well, word has been circulating for months, and years, speculation and, no doubt, that cardinals -- certain cardinals -- do talk about it amongst themselves. In these days, I would imagine any of that talk has ceased. Everyone is focused on mourning for the pope and preparing for his funeral. Once the funeral takes place, the cardinals will continue with their meetings, and those meetings will begin to zero in on the conclave, and zero in on exactly what sorts of issues, and then, subsequently, what sort of man they're looking for, to take over.
KING: Our panel will be with us through most of the show. Near the end of the show, we'll meet an extraordinary man, Gilbert Levine, America's maestro -- he's been called "the pope's conductor," and unusual is, that he's a Jewish-American maestro, much younger than the pope, and yet he had a long, 17-year affiliation with him. And at the end of the show, the famed Andrea Bocelli, will sing "Ave Maria." We'll also include your phone calls, and we'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE JOHN PAUL II: We are here to listen to one another. I, to you, and you, to the pope, but above all, listen to what Christ the Redeemer is saying to you. To all who received him, who believe in his name, he gave power to become children of God. Children of God.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Franklin Graham, many American Southern Baptists have a lot of antipathy toward the Catholic Church and toward the pope.
How do you balance that?
GRAHAM: Well, Larry, there are theological differences, and it's not just Southern Baptists, it's with all Protestant denominations there. There are differences between what we believe and what the Catholic Church would believe on doctrinal issues. But this pope, John Paul II, tried to bring some bridges, which was tremendous. He reached out to us, and included us.
KING: Did he succeed?
GRAHAM: I think so, very much so. Now there -- again there's -- those theological differences, Larry, that will be there, I think, for the rest of time. But we certainly want to try to find areas where we can cooperate together and emphasize those things that we all agree on, and that is the person of Jesus Christ. That if we put our faith and trust in him, we will become children of God, and we'll be born again. The -- in John, Chapter 3, there was a man Nicodemus, a religious leader who came to Jesus and Jesus said, Nicodemus, you must be born again.
And the only way we can experience the new birth is through faith in Jesus Christ. And if we're willing to put our faith and trust in him, God will forgive us of our sins, cleanse us of our sins. And we'll have that hope of one day being in heaven with him. But Jesus said, I'm the way, the truth and the light. No man comes to the father but by me. And this pope emphasized the cross, he emphasized Jesus Christ and faith in Christ. And that's what we all agree on.
KING: Rabbi, what about bridging the obvious gap, long gap between Catholics and Jews over the death of Christ? Did he bridge that?
HIER: Well, he made great strides in that direction. When we -- just remember that 62 years ago, the church, at the height of the Holocaust, the Vatican wrote letters to the secretary of state of the United States and to the British government saying, under no circumstances should you grant a Jewish homeland in Palestine, because Catholics would be remorseful and would object to it. And he went into that kind of a mind-set in the Vatican. And 62 years later, to see where John Paul II has taken the Catholic Church shows that he has made tremendous inroads.
And if I may also say, Larry, you know, look at the world today. People say there's no place -- religion is on a downturn, we live in a secular society. Well very few people in the world, and that includes mega media stars or pop stars, could compete with John Paul II to see what he has done by his passing. Look at the tens of millions of people around the world, no secular authority could compete with that. And that is remarkable.
KING: Well said. Sister Prejean, we know you shared his views, of course, on capital punishment.
Did you also share his views on all birth control, on abortion, on stem cell research?
PREJEAN: Well, you know, one thing I love about the Catholic Church is, that it asks you always to think and to act with an informed conscience. And so, of course, I look at each of those teachings of the church and take them very seriously. The spirit of the church in each of those is to uphold life. And to put moats around life and not let government or any force move in too quickly to decide when people should live or should die. And I appreciate the spirit of those teachings, which is to protect and to promote life.
KING: But do you agree with them?
PREJEAN: ON some of the particulars -- on some of the particulars, no, I don't agree. But let's remember, dialogue is what makes a living body. If people just simply say, well, I'm not allowed to have an opinion or I'm not allowed to discuss something, well then you have a dead church. You don't have a living body. And the promotion of dialogue is what changed the teaching of the church on capital punishment. That took 1,600 years. And you have to distinguish in there, Larry, sometimes cultural things set in like the death penalty. Societies needed to protect themselves by killing dangerous people. In cultural things are in these other issues, too. And it takes time to sort them out, to see finally where we are going to put the emphasis on life.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with lots more. We'll be including your phone calls. And later the pope's personal conductor Gilbert Levine and also Andrea Bocelli will sing "Ave Maria." Don't miss that. It's all ahead, don't go away.
KING: The basilica is now closed, will not open for another two hours. It is early in the morning and it's cold in the Vatican and in Rome, but all those people are waiting those two hours to, once again, for the last up close view of Pope John Paul. Father Manning, we've seen on programs all day and yesterday people asking friends, people who knew him, if the pope was -- feared death. And they all said in a way, yes, because he's human. Do you think he feared death? MANNING: I think we all fear death. I think we all fear the unknown. And that's probably one of the -- well, it is the greatest unknown that we have. Faith is -- faith is a battle, I find in my own life. It's a battle of putting trust in the words of Christ to believe that he's there. But then there's in my heart this desire to put my seat belt on, to take my pills, to go to the doctor and do everything that I can to avoid death. And it's that tension.
But continually saying, Lord, give me the strength to be at peace with the eventuality of my death, and the promise that I will live with you forever -- at peace with that. It's hard. It's hard. And I know that he struggled, everyone struggles. But I think he had a peace in his love for Christ and Christ's love for him.
KING: Delia Gallagher, is definitely the burial in the Vatican? There's been some stories about a possible burial in Poland?
GALLAGHER: No, it was confirmed today by the pope's spokesman that the burial will be in the Vatican on Friday following Mass.
KING: Do you know how long the Mass is?
GALLAGHER: Well, we don't actually. In fact, there's a specific sort of funeral liturgy, for this -- for this occasion, which even the cardinals had to ask for today. It's written up with the master papal ceremonies, and he had to pull up the old copies, because of course, this hasn't happened for 26 years. But you can imagine that it will be a long (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that's presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger who is the dean of the College of Cardinals. And begins at 10:00 a.m. so I would imagine it's going to be a good two to two and half hours.
KING: And that's 4:00 a.m. Eastern time right, in America.
GALLAGHER: I believe so, yes,
KING: Yes, 4:00 a.m.
GALLAGHER: Jeff, has this outpouring of President Bush, first American president to ever to go to a funeral of a pope -- has this out surprised you?
ISRAELY: I don't think so. This pope is clearly a great figure in history. And a person who, as we've heard over these past few days, has touched a lot of people personally. The fact also that past presidents are coming. You can get the sense that he had a real -- a real impact upon meeting these world leaders. And so I think they want to be there both to mark this historic moment and also to pay their personal respects. So, you know, there was in the months and even years leading up to this, there was all sorts of anticipation for what a big event it would be. And it's lived up to that. We could not have -- we could not have overestimated the amount of interest that it would produce.
KING: It had to come between Wednesday and Friday, Jeff. They chose Friday. Do you think that was to allow all these people to get there, and for increased security? ISRAELY: It may be that. Both those points make a certain amount of sense. With these world leaders coming in to this ancient city, the security -- the security measures are not simple and we're getting constant updates from the Italian Interior Ministry about how they're handling the security. And it's -- it's a double whammy. Because you've got millions of pilgrims, ordinary pilgrims, and then all of these world leaders.
KING: Franklin, your father on this program called him, Pope John Paul II, the most important moral figure of the 20th century. Do you share that view.
GRAHAM: No question, he is a great moral leader. He -- he stood for life, Larry. And that has already been discussed. His opposition to the death penalty, but his support for the unborn. He made it very clear. There's all kinds of political pressure on this man to give in on this issue, but he stood firm. And his entire life, he defended life. And he got his moral authority from the scripture. And when we talk about, you know, maybe the next pope will change this or that, this pope held up the scripture, the word of God, and he got his moral authority on these issues from God's word. And I think it's so important that we continue to read God's word for all of us, to see what God has to say in these things. And life is so important. And it wasn't just the unborn, but Terri Schiavo last week. That's a case that I hope doesn't fade away. This is something where we do need to come back and visit this. And we do need to protect the people like Terri. And he also supported those that were dying of HIV/AIDS.
And he took a stand on that, and the whole church did. And he -- because of his stand, I think a lot of other Christians took a look at it. And I know I certainly did. And, of course, then Southern Baptists and evangelical circles around the world, HIV/AIDS I believe now is very much on the front burner, because this man had a strong interest in it and felt that we should be doing something.
KING: The rabbi, Hier, he also opposed the war in Iraq. He opposed the desert war of the early '90s, yet raised no arguments or antipathy from the Americans who supported it.
HIER: Well, let me say that when one says that Pope John Paul II was a great historic figure, and a great moral leader, it does not mean that we agree with him on all of his -- on all of the stances that he has taken. Whether it is on the war, there were issues, of course, that I would have -- that I disagreed. For example when he wanted to nominate Pius XII for sainthood or his meeting with Kurt Waldheim. But that does not take away from the fact that there was no figure like him in the history of the Vatican.
KING: That's what I meant. We'll take a break and be back with more. We'll include your phone calls as well on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POPE JOHN PAUL II: Because your nation plays a role in the world far beyond its borders, you must be conscious of the impact of your Christian lives on others. Your lives must spread the progress of Christ's gospel throughout the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Welcome back. Our guests in Rome, Delia Gallagher, the managing editor of "Inside the Vatican" and CNN's Vatican analyst. Jeff Israely, of "Time" magazine, their Rome bureau chief. In New Haven, Connecticut, Sister Helen Prejean. Her new book is "The Death of Innocence." In Los Angeles is Father Michael Manning, host of "The Word in the World." In Boone, North Carolina is Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan's Purse. In Los Angeles is Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean and founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Let's take a call. Tempe, Arizona, hello.
CALLER: Hi. I was wondering if any on the panel knows the pope's or the church's opinion of donating organs upon death?
KING: Delia Gallagher, do you know?
GALLAGHER: Well, certainly it is historically something that has been done. But whether this will happen with this pope, we don't know. That's the answer. And there was a question of perhaps his heart going to Poland or something going to Poland, but relics in the church, you know, some sort of -- even a piece of hair is considered something which could be sent and put in other churches and then worshiped. And probably something of this pope will be given to the people of Poland.
KING: Sister Prejean, is there any Catholic doctrine against organ donation?
PREJEAN: Not that I know of. You know, in the promotion of life, sometimes it means after a person has died, if you can give over a part of your body to somebody else to help them live, you know, your eyes, those that have cataracts and so forth, or a liver. It's all about life. And I think that's a context in which it must be considered in.
KING: Father Manning, do you know of any precept against it?
MANNING: Not at all. And I'm very encouraged by getting a card and making sure that if I'm in a car accident, that I would allow someone to take any part of my body that they would like. I don't know what's there to take, but they could take whatever they wanted.
KING: Franklin Graham, what about in your faith?
GRAHAM: Larry, I don't know of any problem of donating organs. In the last segment, you were talking about, you know, death, and was this pope afraid of death. I think anybody who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ is not afraid of death.
Now, the dying is another part of it. I don't know. You know, I don't think anybody wants to experience pain of being run over by a truck or dying a slow death of cancer. Those are things, of course, we don't look forward to. And we have a little fear and apprehension. But death itself, for a person who puts their faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we know that we're going to be in heaven, we know that we're going to be in God's presence. And so we're not afraid of that at all. But it's the dying part, Larry, that has us a little worried.
KING: As Woody Allen said, "I'm not afraid of death. I just don't want to be there when it happens."
Rabbi Hier, is there any Jewish position on organ donation?
HIER: Well, Judaism, of course, holds the sanctity of life as the essence of the principle of saving a life. It was -- if it was for the purpose of saving a life, then it would be considered in some instances favorable. If it was, for example, to store in a museum, it would not be permitted.
KING: I got you. Let's go to Nova Scotia, Canada. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Good evening.
CALLER: Yes. The pope was very devoted to the blessed mother, and I'm wondering why some priests are Marian priests and some are not?
KING: Some priests are what?
CALLER: Marian. They believe in devotion to the blessed mother, but some don't.
KING: Michael Manning, will you respond?
MANNING: There's a difference in emphasis. I think everybody is going to hold as a Catholic priest the sacredness of Mary. Today is the Feast of the Annunciation. But there are some that are a little bit concerned, especially when they speak in ecumenical terms, that an undue stress on Mary can somehow take away from Jesus. And so they're trying to look for the balance. I don't think you're going to find many Catholic priests that are going to say no to Mary, but perhaps no to an excess, but wouldn't keep Jesus as the center of our spirituality.
KING: Jeff, your magazine has about 16 pages of pictures in the issue that came out today. Was he that photogenic in your opinion?
ISRAELY: Absolutely. I spoke recently, in the past couple of days, with our Vatican photographer, Gianni Giansanti, who covered the entire pontificate. And a couple of months ago flipped through some of his best shots, and it's amazing to see how much he liked the lens and how much the lens liked him. He -- all sorts of expressions of deep intense prayer, light moments, smiling, playing with children. It ran the gamut. And I still haven't seen a copy of our magazine. It arrives here in Italy tomorrow, but I'm looking forward to it, particularly the pictures.
KING: It's excellent. Delia, what happens tomorrow? Is it just all day viewing?
GALLAGHER: Absolutely. It is going to be all day viewing for the public. And, of course the cardinals will be in their general congregation. We'll also have some idea tomorrow of the schedule in the next few days, if there will be masses. Of course, the funeral schedule, exactly what will be happening there. We'll have a briefing by the master of papal ceremonies, who will let us know in further detail what to expect.
KING: Are all the cardinals there now?
GALLAGHER: No. We hear about 60 have arrived so far, Larry. But all of them should be coming in the next few days. Barring any that are ill, of course. That's always a possibility. We're saying 117 cardinals will be voting, but that's not necessarily the case. Sometimes a cardinal is too ill to travel. So we don't know yet.
KING: Franklin Graham, are you going?
GRAHAM: No, Larry, but my sister Ann will be going. I -- when the new pope is enthroned, there's a chance I may be there at that one, but I won't be at the funeral.
KING: We'll take a break and be back with a few more phone calls. And then we'll meet Gilbert Levine, the pope's conductor. Don't go away.
KING: Take another call. Ellsworth, Pennsylvania, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Larry, do you think that he was picked from the beginning to be the pope by God?
KING: What do you believe, Father Manning?
MANNING: Well, I'm a little bit more of the opinion that God is present to us in the now, and that as the spirit moves, he's able to clarify. I think John Paul was a person who was continually saying yes to God and moving in a very positive direction. But it is always our free will. And he responded to God in a very positive, ongoing way. And that's what opened the door to him.
KING: Sister Prejean, we never know how the voting goes, right? They don't announce what the vote was or who voted for whom?
PREJEAN: No. It's all done in secret. And you know, we have to always account for the holy spirit factor in the Catholic Church. And because there are human beings at that conclave, and they're doing their politicking, and they're pushing their candidates, just like other human beings do, albeit they do it in the spirit of prayer, we cannot discount the fact that the holy spirit, which is the guiding principle of the Catholic Church, can do miracles. John XXIII certainly was a miracle pope, who brought us Vatican II. And in many ways, this pope, Pope John Paul, introduced things we never thought that he would. So I say, be open to surprises.
KING: Rabbi Hier, John XXIII would have been a tremendous surprise, the way he turned out, wouldn't you agree?
HIER: He was a great pope. And he started Vatican II and started us on this course, of course, but it was John Paul II that really achieved remarkable results in his 26 years.
KING: Let me get one more quick call. Post Falls, Idaho. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. I'd like to know why the coffin of the pope is lined in red.
GALLAGHER: Well, red is the color traditionally associated with cardinals. The pope, of course, was a cardinal before he was pope. It's the symbol of the oath that cardinals take, that they swear their loyalty to the church, and in past times that loyalty meant even shedding blood. So that is the reason for the red lining of the coffin.
KING: Franklin Graham, do you think he's going to be termed Pope John Paul the Great?
GRAHAM: Oh, Larry, I don't know. I'm sure at some point in the Catholic Church, that will be discussed. But no, he was a great moral leader. He defended, as we have said, life. He stuck up for those that were helpless to defend themselves. And this is a man that will go down in history as one of the great leaders of the Catholic Church. His emphasis, again, on the cross of Jesus Christ is something that resonated with people around the world. And it brought Catholics together. It brought Protestants, I think, closer. The more he lifted up Christ and talked about Christ, that is something we all appreciated.
KING: Jeff, how many "Time" magazine staffers are there?
ISRAELY: We've got two right now, myself and actually down from Berlin is Jordan Bonfanti (ph), who was the bureau chief in 1978. So his experienced in covering a funeral and a conclave will come in very handy. And Marguerite Michaels, our Midwest bureau chief, is heading here. She knows the American Catholic Church particularly well. And we have got Gianni, the photographer, and some local people helping out as well.
KING: Thank you all very much. Delia Gallagher, Jeff Israely, Sister Helen Prejean, Father Michael Manning, Franklin Graham and Rabbi Marvin Hier.
Next we're going to meet an extraordinary story. Gilbert Levine, American maestro, called the pope's conductor. A unique 17-year-long collaboration with John Paul II, collaborating on concerts, recordings, global telecasts, supporting the pope's efforts to promoting better understanding among people of all faiths. Polish- born pope, Jewish-American maestro. Next, we'll meet him. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN PAUL II: Dear friends, Jesus shares with you his teaching ministries. Only in close communion with him can you respond adequately. This is my hope, this is my prayer, that you will be totally open to Christ.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Here in New York, we welcome an extraordinary story. We're going to have him back, we have limited time tonight. Gilbert Levine, the American maestro called the pope's conductor. In fact, he's wearing a little red button on his lapel, which is what?
GILBERT LEVINE, POPE JOHN PAUL II'S PERSONAL CONDUCTOR FOR 17 YEARS: Pontifical knighthood of St. Gregory.
KING: You were knighted by the pope?
LEVINE: By the pope.
KING: I don't imagine many conductors have this?
LEVINE: No, it is the highest pontifical knighthood accorded a musician in 200 years.
KING: The pope's tailor made your jacket?
LEVINE: The pope's tailor made my jacket.
KING: Not the pope, but the pope...
LEVINE: No, he didn't do it himself.
KING: How did you meet, a Jewish boy from Brooklyn, with a pope from Poland?
LEVINE: I went to Krakow in 1987 as the music director of the Krakow Philharmonic. And "Newsweek" was banned. And in fact, it was circulated to 200 people, one of whom was the cardinal archbishop, successor to the pope. He read the article about me in "Newsweek," cut it out, sent it to the pope. The pope asked to see me. To make a long story short, in February 1988 I went from meeting zero Catholic priests, to meeting the pope, in the space of about two months.
KING: And then with this collaboration, how did that happen?
LEVINE: We met in his private library. I was told that I would probably, by meeting the pope, have a picture taken, and I would have been absolutely thrilled and it would have been a thrill of a lifetime. Instead of that, he sat me down in his private library, talked to me about Krakow, talked to me about the Krakow Philharmonic. We became two citizens of the city. He, of course, of longstanding, and myself new.
And then he started talking about the war and the Holocaust. And what it meant for him. And as he was leaving that audience, he goes to the door, and without saying anything, turns to me and says, "see you at your concert." I had no idea what he was talking about. Absolutely no idea.
Six months later, I was invited to conduct a concert for his 10th anniversary as pope. And that began a relationship in December 1988 which continued until...
KING: What did you do in the ensuing years? You conducted for him many times?
LEVINE: The first concert I conducted for him was a concert of Christian music, Catholic music. Of course, it was the 10th anniversary of his pontificate.
When I went back to Krakow, Krakow being so close to Auschwitz, my mother-in-law being an Auschwitz survivor in the Holocaust, who lost her entire family in the war. And I felt like there was something more to my being there in relation to my having met the pope and conducted for the pope. And I went to him in the fall of 1991 and said, you know, I was doing a concert in the synagogue in Krakow, and he became fascinated by that. And I said, wow, there's something going on here. And I suggested a year later that we do a concert to commemorate the Holocaust.
I was going to invite him. There (UNINTELLIGIBLE) commemorating concerts. I was going to organize one in Rome.
LEVINE: He invited me to do it in the Vatican. And by turning it into the Vatican event, it became a papal event. And what he did at that occasion was unbelievable. There were three chairs, the chief rabbi, the president of Italy and the pope, all on three equal thrones. The six candle candelabra of the sharaf (ph) lit in the Vatican. It was unbelievable.
KING: Were you nervous?
LEVINE: No, I was terrified. I wasn't nervous. I was terrified. But, in fact, on the day of the first concert I conducted with him in 1998, after the rehearsal, he invites me up to meet him. And I couldn't figure out why. And he comes up to me and in a conspiratorial tone, he said, "are you nervous? Have you heard enough rehearsal?" I said, "why?" He said, "because the pope is coming tonight. I heard the pope is coming tonight."
KING: How good was the Krakow Philharmonic? LEVINE: The Krakow Philharmonic was an excellent orchestra. I had heard them in Boston Symphony Hall, and I was very, very impressed with them. But it was not -- unfortunately it wasn't with the Krakow Philharmonic that I conducted those concerts.
KING: How much of music did he understand?
LEVINE: Wonderfully. So much so that I, as a Jewish conductor, suggested for that 1994 concert that I do a work of Mahler. And he said, "didn't Mahler convert to Catholicism to become the music director of the Vienna Philharmonic?" I as a musician didn't -- didn't think of that. It's not that I didn't know it, I didn't think of it. That's the kind of sensitivity he had to Jewish issues.
And he wanted to broaden it out. And what happened was he felt like it was a -- music could be a vehicle for inter-faith dialogue.
KING: The pope congratulated your children's bar mitzvahs?
LEVINE: Not only congratulate us, he sent us a menorah.
KING: He sent you a menorah?
LEVINE: He gave it to us, actually, didn't send it. Actually gave us a menorah. I think it's from the 16th century in Prague. It's the most beautiful menorah. He sent a letter on the occasion of each of my son's bar mitzvahs. He also had the cardinal in charge of Catholic/Jewish relations send a letter that was read out in my Orthodox shul on the occasion of my son's recent bar mitzvah, and the rabbi read it as if it were from a rabbi. At the end, it said, "it's by Rabbi Joel Schwartz (ph)." He said, but it wasn't by Rabbi Joel Schwartz (ph). It was by Rabbi -- by Cardinal Casper.
It was astounding. It was a letter that said, you should be proud of your Jewish heritage and live it out to its full.
KING: Where have you been? Why have we just found you? You conduct all over?
LEVINE: Yes. I conduct all over, and I conducted for him in the Vatican many times. I conducted also for him at World Youth Day in Denver. Me, conducting for Catholic youth? And on that occasion, he came over to me and disrupted the entire performance, put his arm around me and said, did I disturb you, Maestro? And he had in fact stopped the whole show.
KING: Are you going to the funeral?
LEVINE: Of course. I am leaving tomorrow morning. And I will be at the funeral. I couldn't not be there.
KING: Do you think you might be asked to do something musical?
LEVINE: No, I'm going there to mourn my friend. And I say that with great reverence. And it would never be something I would say when he was alive, but I felt he was my mentor. He was an incredible sustenance to me.
KING: What a story. What a story. How fortunate you are. Will you come back?
LEVINE: I feel blessed. I would love to come back.
KING: I would like to do a whole show with you. What a great story this is. I haven't even heard.
Thank you so much.
LEVINE: You're very welcome.
KING: Gilbert Levine, the American maestro, the pope's conductor.
Andrea Bocelli is next. Don't go away.
KING: Andrea Bocelli, the world acclaimed Italian tenor, is in the United States. He's going to give a concert on Sunday in New Jersey. He'll be dedicating that performance to the memory of Pope John Paul II.
Bocelli performed for the pope a number of times, including Christmas Eve 1994, and during the jubilee 2000 observances. Andrea Bocelli closes out tonight's LARRY KING LIVE with his rendition of "Ave Maria."
(ANDREA BOCELLI SINGS "AVE MARIA")
KING: Andrea Bocelli.
Our thoughts are with a special member of the LARRY KING LIVE team tonight. Los Angeles associate producer Sara Shnar (ph) lost her mother, Katherine (ph), suddenly on Saturday. Sara, I know your mom is very proud of you, and our thoughts and prayers are with you and your brother Steve and the entire family. She's a great girl. We wish you all the best. Can't wait to see you again soon. And your mother is in all our thoughts.
Right now, we're going to go out to Rome, back to Rome, where Aaron Brown is standing by. He's about to host "NEWSNIGHT" from Rome. He's been doing an outstanding job with our whole team there -- Christiane Amanpour and Anderson and the guys in the morning, an incredible job. Aaron Brown, "NEWSNIGHT" is next in Rome. And Aaron, I salute you for great work.
BROWN: Thank you, sir. Thank you very much.
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