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Prince Rainier Dies; Mourners Keep Coming to the Vatican

Aired April 6, 2005 - 07:00   ET


The Vatican says a million people in the first 24 hours alone have paid their final respects to Pope John Paul II. And today, they just keep on coming here at the Vatican.

While news from overnight, one of the longest serving monarchs in the world, Prince Rainier, has died, on this AMERICAN MORNING.

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

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning. I'm Soledad O'Brien reporting from New York this morning. Good morning to you, Bill. Of course we're following those stories and much more on this AMERICAN MORNING.

HEMMER: We certainly are. Hey, Soledad. Good afternoon again from the Vatican, a bit past 1:00 in the afternoon here. We continue to learn more information about the funeral that will be held in two days, on Friday morning, here at the Vatican. This is what we know at this hour, Soledad. The cardinals have met for the third day. This would be the fourth meeting they've had here in Italy over the past three days. And the final writings could reveal the identity of this so-called secret cardinal.

We're also waiting more information as to the will that Pope John Paul II left behind. Yesterday at this hour, the Vatican told us they had not even opened that will yet. What's contained in there is anybody's guess.

Also the Vatican is now saying an extraordinary figure, too -- in the first 24 hours of the public viewing, going back to Monday night, more than a million have passed by the body of Pope John Paul II. They're saying that upwards of 15,000 to 18,000 people an hour are getting a chance to give their final respects. And also, the president this hour will leave for Rome. He leads a U.S. delegation that will include his father and the former President Bill Clinton as well.

Back in a moment here at the Vatican, Soledad. And good morning again to you in New York City.

O'BRIEN: Thanks, Bill. Good morning.

Our other top story this morning, the death of Prince Rainier of Monaco. He died early this morning, at the age of 81, from a lung infection and also heart problems. He had been Europe's longest ruling monarch. His 56-year reign sparked great change in his tiny Mediterranean country. But it was his fairy tale marriage to Hollywood's Grace Kelly that put Rainier and Monaco on the map.

Here's CNN's Jim Bittermann.


JIM BITTERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): He was one of the longest serving monarchs of one of the smallest countries in the world, and Prince Rainier III of Monaco deserves much credit for keeping and putting and keeping his tiny principality on the map. At first, the dashing, young prince used the reflected glamour of the French Riviera to attract growing numbers of tourists to his casino and hotels. But it was his whirlwind courtship and eventual marriage to American movie actress Grace Kelly that gave Monaco the glittering image that continues to draw the cruise liners full of visitors, even today.

Prince Rainier, not always comfortable in public, worked behind the scenes to burnish and benefit from Monaco's glittering image. He fought to keep Monaco independent from France, and to preserve its status as a tax haven -- something that led columnist Art Buchwald to label Monaco a sunny place for shady people.

Members of the Monaco jetset call Rainier the builder for the way he packed the once obscure fishing village Monte Carlo with high-rise apartments to shelter and protect the rich.

STEPHEN BERN, "LE FIGARO" NEWSPAPER: Monaco and southern France are in shock after the surprise announcement of the death of Princess Grace.

BITTERMANN: But that focus on the family turned tragic in 1982, when Monaco's magic came to an end for Prince Rainier. The car carrying his princess plummeted off one of the tiny country's winding roads, and the next day she was dead.

There was shock and sorrow around the world, but no more so than in the royal family itself. At the funeral, Prince Rainier repeatedly broke down in tears. The loss of Princess Grace, the pillar of the family, had a great impact on him, and many said the children, too. Caroline and Stephanie were soon making the covers of all the gossip magazines, their lives rich with scandalous behavior and tragic affairs.

Prince Albert now takes power in Monaco, but the real question is not the succession, but whether Monaco itself can prosper in the same way it did under Prince Rainier, the shy man who fought during more than a half century in power to turn an undistinguished family fiefdom to into a capital of fantasy, wealth and glamour.

Jim Bittermann, CNN, Paris.


O'BRIEN: Too sick to function, Prince Rainer's executive powers were handed over to his son, Prince Albert, six days ago.

Let's take you back to Rome and Bill Hemmer -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad. As we all wait for a date in the conclave to be set -- and again, officially, that date has not been made public, and perhaps it has not been set yet -- when the conclave begins, we will all watch the chimney on the roof of the Sistine Chapel at least four times a day, to find out whether or not it's black smoke for a continued deliberation or white smoke for the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church.

And all through this discussion, there's this ongoing question about whether or not an American could become the next pope of the church.

Bishop William Skylstad is president of the American Bishop's Conference, 300 bishops in all. He's my guest now here at the Vatican. Good to see you and good afternoon.


HEMMER: Answer that question, because there's some interesting reporting back in the U.S., and "USA Today," also the newspaper out of Washington, "The Washington Post," saying that there will be no American pope this time around either. Do you agree with that?

SKYLSTAD: That's the common comment you hear, both within the church, I think, and too from the public media in general. But who knows -- the Holy Spirit is always a spirit of surprise. As you look at the past elections of the popes, they have been, in a sense, surprises. Almost all have been surprises. We just don't know.

HEMMER: Would you be surprised?

SKYLSTAD: I would be very pleasantly surprised.

HEMMER: You say very pleasantly surprised. That's interesting wording. Why is it that way?

SKYLSTAD: I think we're seen in the United States, from the world, as a superpower and there's an association, I think, with the leaders in the church in that regard, too. So they want to make sure the whole world community is respected in that regard. So I think that it's hard to say what will happen in the conclave itself.

HEMMER: Perhaps in a general sense, how does the Vatican now view the American church, and why would they not take seriously the possibility that an American could head the church?

SKYLSTAD: Well, the Vatican, I think, looks to the American church as a church that's very active and very much alive, even though we've had our struggles the past couple of years. But by the same token, as you look to the world community, it's the cardinals from all over the world that make the elections. So who knows in terms of their wisdom, and their guidance from the Holy Spirit. HEMMER: Let me try and be a little more clear here. There are some who suggest that the Vatican is suspicious of the American church, and perhaps there might be some resentment. You mentioned the word "superpower." Do you sense that?

SKYLSTAD: I wouldn't say there's suspicion. I think we've had regular contact with the various offices here in the Holy See. The Bishops Conference, for example, in the United States comes over twice a year for week-long meetings for the various dicasteries (ph), and that's a very honest, respectful dialogue back and forth. So I have not picked up a lot of suspicion about the church in the U.S.

HEMMER: There's a cardinal from France that talks about the next pope. He says he must have a heart as big as the world, a real saint, someone in whom you can see the light of Christ. You shake your head in agreement.

SKYLSTAD: Those are wonderful qualities. If we'd have a Holy Father with those qualities, that would be wonderful.

HEMMER: Thank you, Bishop. Good to see you here at the Vatican.

SKYLSTAD: Thank you, Bill, very much.

HEMMER: Our coverage continues in a moment here from Italy. The mourners continue to come. When we got up earlier today, it was the same scene today as yesterday and the day before. The line continues to get longer and longer by the hour. They expect to close the church on Thursday evening to prepare for the funeral on Friday. If that's the case, Soledad, you're going to have thousands of people here at Vatican who will be quite disappointed, not being able to pay their final respects to Pope John Paul II.

One other note from here, waiting on that briefing that should happen any moment from the Vatican spokesperson.

Back to you now in New York.

O'BRIEN: All right, we're waiting for that as well. Thanks, Bill.

Other stories making news in the United States: those receding flood waters left behind a trail of mud and debris and repair bills all across New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. In the Garden State, acting Governor Richard Cody estimates property damage, in fact, will reach $30 million. Nearly 6,000 residents fled their homes. Many have yet to return. Damage assessment is also under way in nine flood-stricken Pennsylvania counties -- one county alone reporting at least $40 million worth of damage.

People in eastern Oklahoma this morning are cleaning up and probably filing their insurance claims as well after a severe thunderstorm dumped hail the size -- look at that -- tennis balls. You can see some of the damage it did not only to windows, but also vehicles as well.


O'BRIEN: ABC News anchor Peter Jennings is scheduled to begin chemotherapy on Monday. The 66-year-old Jennings announced on Tuesday to his coworkers that he has lung cancer. Just how advanced the disease is unclear at this point. At the end of last night's broadcast of "World News Tonight," Peter Jennings addressed his viewers.


PETER JENNINGS, "WORLD NEWS TONIGHT" ANCHOR: I will continue to do the broadcast on good days. My voice will not always be like this. Certainly, it's been a long time, and I hope it goes without saying that a journalist who doesn't value deeply the audience's loyalty should be in another line of work. To be perfectly honest, I'm a little surprised at the kindness today from so many people. That's not intended as false modesty, but even I was taken aback by how far and how fast news travels.


O'BRIEN: ABC's Charlie Gibson and Elizabeth Vargas will be Jennings' primary substitutes.

We're going to go back to Bill Hemmer in Rome in just a few minutes. We're also going to take a look at the safety of some of America's most popular pickup trucks. Ahead this morning on AMERICAN MORNING, we're going to tell you which fared the worst in the latest crash tests.

Also this morning, a huge swarm of sharks off the coast of Florida. When is it safe to go back in the waters? That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.

Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: In that videotape, they look like minnows, don't they? But actually they're sharks, thousands of sharks, and they're swimming just off the Florida shore line. Juno Beach is the latest beach to warn swimmers not to go into the water. Closely packed swarms of sharks, in fact, are making their way up the coast in the middle of spring break.

Ellen Prager is a marine biologist. She's also the author of "The Oceans." She's live for us in Washington, D.C. this morning.

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

What exactly is going on here?

ELLEN PRAGER, MARINE SCIENTIST: Well, good morning, Soledad.

The sharks are basically making one of their annual, sort of seasonal migrations. They are going north for the spring. It's a very normal thing. This is not an unusual congregation of sharks.

O'BRIEN: So if it's a seasonal migration and it's very normal, why are we so surprised? Is it just because we can really see them this time?

PRAGER: That's right. I mean, the video is just spectacular. These sharks are fairly close to shore, and it's been very clear and somewhat calm, and you know, if it was murky or rough, you might not see them. So the conditions are right to actually view the sharks, and they're a little closer to shore than maybe they do some years.

O'BRIEN: What kind of sharks are we looking at here?

PRAGER: Well, mostly, we're looking at black-tipped sharks and what are called spinners.

O'BRIEN: I haven't heard of either of those types of sharks as far as eating people. Are these the kind of sharks that, in fact do attack human beings?

PRAGER: Well, you know, most shark attacks are really sort of cases of mistaken identity, and these sharks are not very aggressive. These are skittish sharks. In fact, I tried to get in the water with them the other day, and they wanted nothing to do with me.

O'BRIEN: So why are they closing the beaches? I mean, If you look at the list, last week it was Del Ray Beach, then Boca Raton, then Deerfield Beach, Palm Beach, and now as we mentioned, you got Juno Beach closed. If they're more skittish of people than people are of the sharks, why bother to close the beaches?

PRAGER: Well, it's really for safety's sake. If you have a lot of people in the water and a lot of sharks in the water, you know, you're looking at accidental run-ins. A shark could by mistake bump into a person. The only way they know what they're bumping into is to bite it. So it's not because the sharks are actively hunting people. It's because there's a greater chance of having basically a run-in or mistaken-identity incident.

O'BRIEN: Where are they migrating to?

PRAGER: Well, if you look at the studies that scientists have done through tagging, the research shows they basically go, at this time of the year, they're heading to North Carolina, about offshore about North Carolina, about that area.

O'BRIEN: And how long do you expect the migration will last? And frankly -- the real question -- how long are the beaches going to be closed for folks?

PRAGER: Well, they'll only be closed probably for a couple weeks, and it'll be off and on. What they'll be doing is they'll have Fish and Wildlife, and the Coast Guard will be flying over and looking to see if the sharks are present, probably over the next couple weeks. You know, they'll head up and you'll start seeing -- we'll see the waves of sharks. But it's really only the, you know, past couple weeks and the weeks coming up, and then it should be safe.

O'BRIEN: So not too long. And in the meanwhile we can all, I guess, we can all enjoy might be the right word, the pretty unusual sight at least for some of us.

PRAGER: Oh, it's -- yes, how often do we get to see this? It's great.

O'BRIEN: Ellen Prager, nice to see you. Thanks for talking with us this morning, marine biologist, also the author "The Oceans."

PRAGER: Thank you.

O'BRIEN: My pleasure.

Let's go back out to Bill Hemmer in Rome -- Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Soledad. We're waiting on that press conference -- now getting word from the Vatican it may start in about 15 minutes from now, so we'll bring it you live when it gets under way here in Italy.

Also, President Bush making his way to Andrews Air Force Base at this hour. He will head to Rome, but not before doing so without a bit of controversy about the invite list. We'll fill you in on details on that as well, as we continue live in Italy, after this.


O'BRIEN: There's new information from the government about the safety of pickup trucks. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in rollover tests, the Ford Ranger and Mazda B series scored the worst among four-wheel-drive pickup trucks. The Chevy Silverado and the GMC Sierra have the lowest ratings in crash tests for the 2005 model year pickups, but the two-door versions of the Dodge Dakota and the Toyota Tacoma each received good ratings in those crash tests.

Here's some more bad news. Guess what, for all those vehicles, the price of gas still very high. But there's some good reason to be optimistic about the price of oil coming down. Andy Serwer is "Minding Your Business."



O'BRIEN: Long time no see.

SERWER: Yes, nice to see you again.

$2.22 a gallon is what the nationwide price of oil is. So it's no surprise that Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan yesterday said energy prices are at a frenzy level, but he did say he anticipated the price of oil to go down. In fact, it did yesterday. That helped the stock market, which was boosted by his words and some other corporate news as well.

The Dow was up 37 points. You can see here the Nasdaq and S&P 500.

Some stock stories. Interesting, Cablevision is making a surprise bid for Adelphia, $16 billion. That company is run by the Dolans. So maybe the bid is unscripted. That's a different bunch of Dolans.

MCI is rejecting Qwest's third bid for the company. What part of no don't you understand over there?

And finally, the Sharper Image stock fell about 9 percent yesterday after "Consumer Reports" came out and said that its Ionic Breeze air purifier really isn't effective at all, not at all. And gee, all those ads say, but it helps me sleep. You know, "Consumer Reports" says it really doesn't do anything, though. And the company has fired back and said that actually it sort of does, and "Consumer Reports" says we stand by our story.

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

Let's take a look at the Question of the Day. Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: African-Americans are falling further behind when it comes to their economic status. The National Urban League's annual report is titled "The State of Black America," and it says African-Americans have achieved only 57 percent of the economic status of whites. The unemployment gap widened last year. 10.8 percent for blacks, 4.7 percent for whites. The financial progress made by blacks in the 1990s appears to be stalling out now. The president of the Urban League says that economic progress is the number one civil rights issue of the 21st century.

The question this morning, is what should be done to close the wealth gap between blacks and whites in this country? is the e-mail address.

O'BRIEN: Later this morning, we're talking to Charles Barkley. He's has a new book out about race and racism. He calls it the biggest cancer in his lifetime. It's a really, really, really good book.

SERWER: It's a cool book. I was looking through it actually at the airport.

O'BRIEN: It's essays by lots of people across all races.

SERWER: He's always a lot of fun to talk to.

O'BRIEN: Yes, got to kind of warm up for your interviews with Sir Charles, but it has a lot to do about what he thinks about that disparity and others as well.

Thank you, Jack.

Much more AMERICAN MORNING right after this short break.

Ahead on "90-Second Pop," it's the Britney and Kevin show. Spears and her husband air their dirty laundry on national TV.

Plus, the king's daughter dusts off a hit from the '80s and sends a message to the media, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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