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Pope urges clemency for McVeigh

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The Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil  

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II has urged U.S. President George W. Bush to spare the life of the man convicted of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to die by lethal injection on May 16 for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building that killed 168 people.

White House spokeswoman Claire Buchan said: "The president has deep respect for the pope, and he also has great compassion and sympathy for the 168 victims of the Oklahoma City bombing and their families."

The White House said it received a letter seeking clemency for McVeigh from a Vatican representative on behalf of the pope this week.

Buchan said she did not know if the president had seen the letter, but added that the White House had yet to send back a response.

She said when the president was the governor of Texas and had to review clemency applications, he took two questions into account: Was there any doubt of the guilt or innocence of the person convicted, and did the convicted person have full access to the judicial system?

"In this instance, there is no doubt (about McVeigh's guilt)," Buchan said. She added that McVeigh "claims he had full access to the judicial system."

"(The president) does not have a clemency decision before him," she said.

It is not uncommon for the pope, who strongly opposes capital punishment, to ask for clemency for death row inmates.

McVeigh's father, William McVeigh, told CNN Friday his son refused to apologize for the bombing and that he was ready to die for his crimes.

"I asked him if he would apologize, and he said, 'No.' He said, if he did apologize, he'd make a lot of people happy, but he'd be lying," the elder McVeigh said.

"He seems happy. You can joke and talk about it. He says he's ready to die. Doesn't seem to bother him."

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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