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Profile of Pope John Paul II

Aired October 18, 2003 - 11:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: Next on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, he celebrated the 25th anniversary of his election as pope.


REV. THOMAS REESE, EDITOR IN CHIEF, "AMERICA": John Paul II certainly changed the way in which the papacy is done in the Catholic Church today.


ANNOUNCER: He's confronted communism, survived an assassination attempt and traveled tirelessly to reach out to followers.


MARCO POLITI, AUTHOR, "HIS HOLINESS": His engagement as pontiff was not only to spread out the gospel, but also to transform the roman papacy into the spokesman of human rights.


ANNOUNCER: Through it all he has maintained a traditional view of the Catholic Church.


WILTON WYNN, AUTHOR, "KEEPER OF THE KEYS": He realized that one thing that he had to do was to restore clarity to Catholic teaching.


ANNOUNCER: But his unwavering stand has come under criticism.


TAD SZULC, BIOGRAPHER, "POPE JOHN PAUL II": He is impatient with those who do not follow his line of theological reasoning.


ANNOUNCER: One of his greatest challenges, working to restore faith in Catholicism in the wake of a sex scandal.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think people are most horrified by the fact that high-ranking church authorities covered this up.


ANNOUNCER: Saddled with health problems, the pope labors on.


REESE: He showed for 25 years how to live. Now, he's showing us how to die.


ANNOUNCER: From crumbled Polish roots to the pedicle of the Catholic Church, John Paul II. His story now on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS.

PAULA ZAHN, HOST: Welcome to a special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. From the Vatican, I'm Paula Zahn. He was once known as "John Paul Superstar," young, tireless, and driven. On the 25th anniversary of his papal election, John Paul II remains driven, but age and declining health have take their toll. Still at 83, Pope John Paul seems determined to continue his legacy. Here's CNN's Jim Bitterman.


JIM BITTERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): "I believe," Karol Wojtyla said as a young man, "that a tidal wave hits the shore to leave a mark. A tidal wave is a creative power."

POPE JOHN PAUL II: God bless you.

BITTERMAN: The man who became Pope John Paul II is himself a tidal wave that has washed through the last decades of the 20th century and into the 21st, leaving a very large mark on history's shores. Rarely has such a wide combination of talents encountered such rich opportunity, seldom has someone been so suited for his office as John Paul.

Once again this week as most every week of his reign, Catholics by the thousands gathered to worship with the pope, for a mass marking the 25th year of John Paul's pontiffity.

Over the last quarter century, he's been tested by communist regimes in Europe, by women who wanted greater roles in the church, even by his own failing health, and one of his toughest challenges yet -- restoring faith in Catholicism after a child sex abuse scandal that cast a shadow of doubt and mistrust over priests and the church hierarchy. In an effort to reach out to the faithful who stood by the church and bring new believers into it, Pope John Paul II continues to travel tirelessly, to Guatemala, to Canada, to Mexico, and back to his native Poland. Each trip is a display of devotion. But his most recent visits have also brought focus to John Paul's frailties and there is deep concern for the pontiff's health. Through it all, he is received like royalty, but he is a pope who comes from very humble beginnings.

Born in a small town called Wadowice in Southwestern Poland, May 18, 1920, Karol was the second son of a frail schoolteacher named Emilia and a retired military officer for whom he was named. But young Karol would enjoy little of the family life he later so vigorously emphasized as a priest. His mother died of heart and kidney failure when he was 9-years-old and three years afterwards, scarlet fever claimed his older brother.

SZCZEPAN MOGIELNICKI, CHILDHOOD FRIEND (through translator): I would say he lost his childhood at 12, when he lost his brother. There was no youthful folly in him. Even when he played sports, he was very concentrated, but of course, he had a lot of passion. He was a very noble person, and he expressed things in a very noble way, but there was no folly.

BITTERMAN: Childhood friends say Karol's grief was obvious to everyone.

BOJES TEOFIL, CHILDHOOD FRIEND (through translator): He stood out among us. Starting in fifth grade, we were smoking cigarettes and looking at girls, but he was very quiet.

BITTERMAN: Quiet perhaps, but still someone who loved socializing and sports, excelling at skiing, hiking and soccer. Jerzy Kluger, an old friend of Karol Wojtyla, remembers youthful soccer games, Catholics versus Jews. But in the predominantly Catholic town of Wadowice, the Jewish population was small. Kluger says on the playing field, his Catholic friend would volunteer to help even the odds.

JERZY KLUGER, CHILDHOOD FRIEND: There usually was not enough Jews, so somebody had to play on the Jewish team and he was always sort of ready, you know.

BITTERMAN: For the time and place, the friendship between the two men was unusual. Poland was rife with anti-Semitism and Catholics did not often mix with Jews. When the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939, they targeted millions of Jews and intellectuals for extermination.

POLITI: He knew very well that, unfortunately, many relatives of his Jewish friends had died in Auschwitz.

BITTERMAN: Wojtyla, already by then a budding philosopher and playwright, was firmly opposed to the teachings of the Nazis, so he put his beliefs into action. He helped smuggle Jews out of Poland and founded an underground theater company, writing and acting in plays that frequently dealt with oppression.

DANUTA MICHALOWSKA, CHILDHOOD FRIENDS (through translator): He was really talented. He was wise not only in the usual meaning of the word, but also in the artistic sense. He knew what to do with a word. He knew how to say it.

BITTERMAN: In addition to his theater, Wojtyla began secretly studying for the priesthood, even though the Nazis were actively killing priests who opposed them.

MICHAELOWSKA (through translator): The rest of us, we were like most intellectuals at the time, practicing Catholics, but our Catholicism was rather superficial. There was a distinct difference between him and us.

BITTERMAN: Because of his clandestine studies during the war, Wojtyla was able to be ordained a priest barely a year after it had ended. Yet, after the Nazis were defeated, another repressive regime came to power in Poland, a communist one. And one of the pillars of communist philosophy was atheism. Wojtyla, with his strong belief in God, found himself again at odds with the political rulers. Strongly opposed to the government in Poland and its neighboring countries, he was vocal in his resistance. He took the risk of publicly supporting the construction of a church in Nova Huta, Poland, a model socialist town that was purposely built by the communists without a place of worship.

POLITI: For many years at Christmas, Karol Wojtyla went there, to Nova Huta, in the place where the church had to be built, and celebrated mass in the cold, in the winter, in the snow, just to remember that God existed.

BITTERMAN: By the time he was 38, Wojtyla was named bishop, then archbishop. And then, in 1967, Karol Wojtyla made Pope Paul VI's youngest cardinal. In church terms, it was a meteoric rise. In retrospect, perhaps, a sign bigger things were in store.

BITTERMAN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS continues, an attempt on the pope's life and speculation it was a political plot.





BITTERMAN (voice-over): When he returned to his hometown of Wadowice, Poland in 1999, some with him could only wonder if how it came to pass that a young man from this small grimy industrial town, first under the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) rule of Nazis, and later under the control of communists, could have risen above it all to become the leader of the world's largest and oldest religious institution. The circumstances leading up to his election were highly unusual.

REESE: Nineteen Seventy-eight, of course, is the year of three popes. We had Paul VI as pope and when he died, the cardinals elected John Paul I, and they didn't realize that he was really a very sick man. And he had died within a month of being pope. And then the College of Cardinals turned to this surprising election of a Polish cardinal.

BITTERMAN: With a white puff of smoke, that surprising choice of a new pope was announced on an October evening in 1978. And yet, when he stepped out on the balcony of St. Peter's basilica, Karol Wojtyla hardly seemed to be at the right spot at the right time. Few outside church circles even recognized his name or knew anything about him.

The newly elected pope was an unusual and inspired choice. He became the first non-Italian chosen in over 450 years.

POLITI: Karol Wojtyla was elected especially because the archbishop and cardinal of Vienna, Franz Konig, was pushing for a great change, to have a pope which didn't come from the Roman bureaucracy.

BITTERMAN: John Paul II with his background in philosophy and activism against fascism and communism brought a new way of thinking to the papacy.

REESE: John Paul II certainly changed the way in which the papacy is done in the Catholic Church today. His travels, first of all, were extraordinary. He spent about a third of his time outside of Rome.

BITTERMAN: One of his first trips as pope was back to his native Poland where he urged his countrymen to be strong and stand up for moral order.

POLITI: His first speech in Victory Square was clearly aimed to show that Christ was an open book for the future. It was a Mecca of the past.

BITTERMAN: Many saw an immediate change among Poles, a change, which would spell the beginning of the end of communism.

WYNN: All of a sudden, they realized they had power. They had been subdued and they had been submissive but all of a sudden, they realized they could challenge the regime and get away with it. As one bishop, a Polish bishop, said to me then, they crossed the threshold of fear.

BITTERMAN: Less than two years later Poland was on strike. And for the rest of the decade, under the guiding hand of the pope, the Vatican would play a subtle but certain role, keeping unrest smoldering in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, and not so subtly warning the Soviet Union.

WYNN: Once the Poles got away with it, all the rest of the satellites realized they could do it too and one-by-one, the dominoes fell. We think in all the 20th century, this was one of the most significant moments, his trip to Poland.

MOYNIHAN: That was the beginning of the end of what we call the Soviet Empire. I think he brought that empire down, but not with missiles and not even with economic sanctions, but just by being a man, by being a man of faith.

BITTERMAN: Many believed the pope's faith was such a threat to Communists Moscow tried to assassinate him. He very nearly died after Turkish gunman, Ali Agca, fired from the crowds in St. Peter's Square on a sunny day afternoon in 1981.

ALI AGCA, TRIED TO ASSASSINATE POPE: I am Jesus Christ. In this generation, all the world will be destroyed.

BITTERMAN: It took the pope months to recover. Agca came to trial and said he was hired by Bulgarian secret agents. It was a conspiracy the prosecutor could never prove. And later, the pope went to Agca's jail cell to forgive the man who tried to kill him. "What we said to each other is a secret between him and me," the pope told reporters, "I spoke to him as I would speak to a brother whom I have forgiven and who enjoys my confidence."

Confidential dialogue between individuals and between countries is a mainstay of John Paul II's papacy. Under the pope's leadership, the Vatican quietly mediated Lithuania's breakaway from the Soviet Union.

REESE: When Argentina and Chile were at each other's throats and almost going to war, he stepped in and mediated that crisis, because he was seen as someone that was respected by both sides.

BITTERMAN: He mediated a civil war in Mozambique and ended the United States' invasion of Panama by convincing Manuel Noriega to give himself up.

REESE: Whenever he could do that, he offered his services and tried to help bring people together to avoid war.

BITTERMAN: Ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, the peace-loving pope demonstrates his less diplomatic side.

SZULC: He is impatient with those who do not follow his line of theological reasoning, who do not obey the church. He's a very severe judge.





BITTERMAN (voice-over): In 1982, John Paul II was three years into his pontificate. He had confronted communism in Poland and survived an assassination attempt. But at age 62, the pope had just gotten started.

While recovering from his gunshot wounds, he orchestrated a campaign to ban nuclear weapons, one of many campaigns in which he crossed swords with super power leaders.

POPE JOHN PAULL II: Peace is not the absence of war, it also involves reciprocal trust between nations, a trust that is manifested and proved through constructive negotiations that aim at ending the arms race. BITTERMAN: But he believes strongly in preaching moral justice to the point that Vatican observers believe he has changed the fundamentals of the papacy.

POLITI: His engagement as pontiff was not only to spread out the gospel, to spread out the faith, but also to transform the Roman papacy into the spokesman of human rights.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: Social organization exists only for the service of man and for the protection of his dignity, and that it cannot claim to serve the common good when human rights are not safeguarded.

REESE: He's also been an extraordinary prophet and spokesperson for the third world, you know, speaking out in favor of forgiving third world debt, pointing out the downside of the globalization of the economy, the impact that has on people's lives.

BITTERMAN: The pope, as he traveled the Catholic world through the 1980's put the church squarely on the side of the downtrodden and underprivileged, but apparently because of his lifelong struggle against communism, he could never accept what some of his priests and bishops called liberation theology. It, too, championed the cause of the downtrodden against right-wing dictatorships in Latin America. He disciplined the left-wing churchmen who supported it.

JOHN ALLEN JR., "NATIONAL CATHOLIC" REPORTER: They were using, in some ways, the conceptual language of Marxism, the idea of class struggle. And of course, the pope coming out of the experience of communist oppression in Poland, I think, was scandalized by that idea.

BITTERMAN: Though only a few city blocks in area, Vatican City is a sovereign country with vast diplomatic influence. John Paul II, as head of state and spiritual leader to one-sixth of the world's population, is an immense political force on the world stage, but not an easy force to understand.

REESE: On so many political economic justice issues, the pope is way to the left of liberal Democrats in this country. On the other hand, he's -- you know, he's against abortion. He's very strict in his views on sexual morality. Suddenly he becomes branded a conservative.

MARY SEGERS, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, RUTGERS UNIVERSITY: To the extent that he keeps reminding people about social justice, you know, that seems to be a very progressive aspect of his papacy. But to the extent that he fails to apply those canons of justice to the internal matters that affect all Catholics within his own church, then he appears to be more reactionary than progressive.

BITTERMAN: The most consistent tenant of John Paul's' reign has been a demand for discipline. While he initiated numerous consultative bishop conferences called synods, some of those who attended said dissent was not be option. He did not want his churchmen to confuse believers with different versions of the faith.

POPE JOHN PAUL II: Polarization and destructive criticism have no place among those who are of the household of faith.

WYNN: When he came to power and he was elected, he realized that one thing he had to do was to restore clarity to Catholic teaching. And he says, "OK, maybe they won't obey, maybe they don't accept, but at least they'll know what the church stands for."

SZULC: In terms of church, theology, religion, he's very, very conservative, and in fact, more and more so as time goes by. He does not brook dissent. He is impatient with those who do not follow his line of theological reasoning, who do not obey the church. He's a very severe judge.

BITTERMAN: But out on the frontlines, the pope's priestly foot soldiers reported that his fixed teachings on issues such as sexuality, divorce, abortion and the role of women were driving Catholics from the church.

SEGERS: The pope's conservatism on issues such as archbishop contraception or abortion comes, I think, from his view of women and what he thinks their role and their status in society should be. I think the pope grew up with that. It's reinforced in Poland by a fierce devotion to the Virgin Mary as the patroness of Poland.

BITTERMAN: Still, some defend the pope's purest interpretations and his opposition to the ordination of women priests.

HELEN HULL HITCHCOCK, WOMEN FOR FAITH AND FAMILY: Catholics believe what the priest is doing is, in a sense, representing the sacrifice of Christ. He's standing in the person of Christ. He represents Christ in a way. And it makes sense then, that someone who is representing Christ would be male, as Christ was.

BITTERMAN: The pope has also stood firm in his opposition to abortion.

SEGERS: The pope wrote a very famous apostolic letter in 1988 that the choice is well, you're involuntarily pregnant, well, then you should, as Mary accepted her role as the mother of God, you should accept your role.

BITTERMAN: Not only has the pope not budged in his beliefs, he also uses the Vatican's diplomatic resources to press his ideas outside the church.

SEGERS: The Vatican delegation to the U.N. Conference on Population in Cairo in 1994 was fiercely fighting delegations from Western European countries that were trying to make sure that the European Union did permit legalized abortion and the like. And even in 1995, at the Beijing conference on the status of women, again, the big Roman conference, the Vatican was there doing its best to influence these ideas.

BITTERMAN: The Vatican's observer status in the U.N. and close relations with governments around the world, John Paul II has never shied away from asserting his morality. REESE: Now, some people say he's playing politics. But in his mind, these are issues of justice. These are moral issues. These are the kinds of things that the church should speak out on.

BITTERMAN: Ahead on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, the pope takes on a glaring sex scandal that shook the church and stunned Vatican insiders.

SEGERS: They were taken aback and really shocked by this, and didn't have a clue as to how to respond.




ZAHN: Welcome back to the special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. From his papal seat here at the Vatican, Pope John Paul II has guided the Catholic Church for a quarter century, through communism, an assassination attempt, and the ever-increasing pressures of the secular world. But with the end of the 20th century came a crisis of faith that would prove to be one of the toughest challenges of his papacy. Here again is Jim Bitterman.


BITTERMAN (voice-over): Throughout his 25-year pontificate, John Paul II has taught by example.

ALLEN: Karl Reiner, probably the most famous theologian of the 20th century, said in 1984, before he died, that this pope came to teach and to preach. He is not a pope of dialogue. And I think in many ways, that's true. I think that captures what John Paul wanted to do as pope.

BITTERMAN: Everywhere the pope goes to preach and teach though, enormous crowds come to see him. The pope, so traditional in his interpretation of doctrine, has never missed an opportunity to take advantage of decidedly modern-day methods like jet-travel, the Internet, and the media to spread the word to the masses.

ANNOUNCER: Available for the very first time...

BITTERMAN: In 1994, for instance, John Paul went pop sanctioning a CD recording of his recitation of the rosary set to music, then came a book deal. John Paul's answers to 20 questions about life and his philosophy, which were published in the same year as the CD. "Crossing The Threshold of Hope" became an international best seller, allowing the pope's views to reach an audience wider still.

He also instituted World Youth Day, which has become a tradition the world over. To the astonishment of those around him, young people by the millions flock to see him even when the generation gap grew as the pope's age and infirmity took their toll. ROBERT MOYNIHAN, "INSIDE THE VATICAN" MAGAZINE: With the end of the left, of communism, he was left as one of the few voices in the world that was speaking out against everyone who runs things, strangely enough. And so, in the year 2000, two million young people come to Rome and they said, "John Paul II, we love you."

CROWD: John Paul II, we love you! John Paul II, we love you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Paul II, we love you!


MOYNIHAN: It's strange. Who would think that a pope, an old man, who tells people not to do things would be loved by these young people.

REESE: He says a lot of tough thinkings to them and they don't always listen, and they certainly don't always do what he tells them. But they respect him, they honor him, and they like him.

POLITI: The pope succeeds in fascinating these people who at least for some days or for some hours during a mass, feel they can live and they can engage for a better world.

BITTERMAN: As Pope John Paul II labored to make a better world, there were predictions he would not reach his most cherished goal -- taking the church into the third millennium. When the jubilee year began to mark the 2,000th anniversary of the pope's birth, the pope was leading celebrations. During that year, he accomplished two further goals. The first, a day of atonement.

POPE JOHN PAUL II (through translator): Let us ask for forgiveness for the divisions that have come between Christians, for the use of violence that some of them have resorted to in serving truth, and for the attitudes of mistrust and hostility adopted sometimes towards followers and believers of other religions.

REESE: He felt it was important to acknowledge our sins against your Jewish brothers and sisters, to acknowledge our sins in the crusades against the Muslims.

BITTERMAN: His second goal during the jubilee year, a rigorous and politically challenging trip through the holy land. There will be no more enduring image of his papacy than his trembling hand placing a note in Jerusalem's wailing wall, asking the Jewish people to forgive the church for its mistreatment of them over the centuries.

RABBI JAMES RUDIN, AMERICAN JEWISH COMMITTEE: He has made Catholic-Jewish relations a main part -- the main part of Catholic teaching. The other lasting achievement is this pope has said again and again and again, that anti-Semitism, hatred of Jews and Judaism, is a sin against God. That's very, very important.

BITTERMAN: But the pope's efforts in the later years of his papacy to reach out to Judaism and other religions met with only mixed success. REESE: Well, I think one of the biggest disappointments of the pope in his papacy has been his failure to really reestablish good relations with the orthodox.

BITTERMAN: Orthodox churches were especially suspicious of the pope's motives. His greatest goal, to bridge Christianity's great schism, the thousand-year-old split between the Church of Rome and the eastern churches, proved elusive. The more he reached out, it seemed, the more they backed away.

REESE: Theologically, the orthodox and the Catholics are very, very close together. There are disagreements on the role of the papacy and the pope wanted to be able to talk to them about this.

BEUTEL: The pope's tenure is marked by grand lessons and subtle defeats. While he persevered with his ecumenical efforts, problems were brewing inside his church.

Coming up on PEOPLE IN THE NEWS, John Paul II fights to preserve faith in a Catholic Church shaken by scandal.




BITTERMAN (voice-over): By 2002, John Paul II had made great strides in interfaith relations and international affairs. But it was internal scandal that made 2002 a year of anguish for Catholic leaders.

BISHOP WILTON GREGORY, PRESIDENT, U.S. CONFERENCE OF BISHOPS: One can hardly talk of the priesthood today, without mentioning that some priests and bishops have seriously failed to live up to our vocation.

BITTERMAN: In January 2002, former Boston priest, John Geoghan, faced charges of molesting a 10-year-old. The trial was not unusual. Pedophile cases involving priests, while not common, are certainly not unheard of in the United States.

SEGERS: The pope himself earlier, in about 1993, after an earlier wave of these abuse scandals -- he condemned them. All he can do is make statements, you know, saying that this is clearly not behavior that is expected of clergymen.

BITTERMAN: If Geoghan's behavior was unexpected, the accusations leveled at his superiors were staggering. This wasn't Geoghan's first offense. Local papers hinted that this priest and others like him were simply reassigned to new posts whenever parishioners complained about sexual molestation.

SEGERS: I don't think they grasped the significance of these revelations that were coming out increasingly from "The Boston Globe" and other papers. BITTERMAN: The news coverage emboldened former victims. In February, more than 200 people came forward to say local priests had abused them. The church was shaken by the charges.

SEGERS: They were taken aback and really shocked by this and didn't have a clue as to how to respond.

BITTERMAN: Cardinal John Law, head of the Boston archdiocese, issued a hasty apology. But within weeks, church records turned over to the courts clearly showed the cardinal's history of ignoring complaints about sexual misconduct.

The lawsuits continued to pile on. In March, the archdiocese agreed to a $30 million settlement for 86 alleged victims only to renege two months later because of mounting financial problems.

Meanwhile, the crisis spread. Bishop Anthony O'Connell of the Palm Beach diocese resigned after admitting he fondled a teenager in the 1970s. Other scandals began to spring up elsewhere in the U.S. In April, John Paul II summoned America's top catholic clergy to Rome.

REESE: The pope wanted to meet with the American cardinals to discuss the sex scandal in the United States, to hear directly from them.

BITTERMAN: This was Cardinal Law's second papal meeting since the scandal broke. Two weeks earlier he had secretly flown to Rome to offer John Paul his resignation.

SEGERS: He urged Cardinal Law not to resign, and you know, may really have thought that you know, you've got to batten down the hatches against this unruly bunch of Catholics up there in the Boston archdiocese and against these media folks who are exploiting this issue to sell newspapers.

BITTERMAN: In June, the U.S. bishops met in Dallas to draft a nationwide policy for abusive priests. They proposed stripping accused priests of their ministerial functions but stopped short of automatically defrocking the accused. The pope expressed concern about the bishops' ideas.

GREGORY: "They are," and I quote, "difficult to reconcile with the universal law of the church, and therefore," quoting again, "can be the source of confusion and ambiguity."

REESE: The Vatican's main concern was, you know, well, how do you deal with the priest who says, I'm innocent? So they wanted to make sure that there was due process.

BITTERMAN: The bishops' final policy approved by the pope set up measures to protect both parishioners and the accused with an eye toward due process.

CARDINAL JOHN LAW, FORMER BOSTON ARCHBISHOP: I stand before you with a far deeper awareness of this terrible evil. BITTERMAN: By December 2002, due process was taking its toll. After sifting through more church records, "The Boston Globe" reported incredible cases that had been swept under the rug, priests trading drugs for sex, priests assaulting church employees. Though the reports did not imply Cardinal Law was aware of the allegations, they did indicate a widespread crisis of morality, And to the cardinal's detractors, a crisis of leadership.

In December, the cardinal made another trip to the Vatican to discuss church finances and the possibility of resignation. While away, 58 Boston priests published a letter demanding the cardinal step down. And on December 13, the pope accepted Law's resignation.

MOST REV. SEAN O'MALLEY, ARCHBISHOP OF BOSTON: The Holy Father has seen fit to name me your archbishop in this very difficult time.

BITTERMAN: The pope tapped Father Sean O'Malley to take over the Boston archdiocese. The brown world Franciscan, having already cleaned up two other scandal-ridden diocese, quickly went to work. O'Malley hired the same law firm that settled abuse cases in his previous posts.

O'MALLEY: And I have always said, if there is a moral obligation, we must step up to the plate. People's lives are more important than money.

BITTERMAN: In July of this year, the archdiocese reached an $85 million settlement with more than 550 alleged victims of priest sex abuse. The agreement effectively settles the major cases against the Boston church.

O'MALLEY: Settlements are not hush money or extortion or anything other than the rightful indemnification of persons who have suffered gravely at the hands of a priest.

BITTERMAN: When PEOPLE IN THE NEWS returns, the pope continues his ministry, defying the ravages of age.

REESE: He showed us for 25 years what it's -- you know how to live. Now he's showing us how to die.





BITTERMAN (voice-over): On the 25th anniversary of his election as pope, John Paul II celebrates an open air mass. The accomplished leader of a billion people, he has brokered peace, stirred up discovery, and torn down empires. But not even the pope can conquer the cumulative ravages of age.

REESE: He was shot. He had a tumor removed from his intestines that was the size of an orange or a grapefruit. He fell and broke his hip.

BITTERMAN: John Paul's most serious medical challenge began to appear in 1994. A tremor in his left hand soon became interpreted as Parkinson's disease, something the Vatican never fully denied. From then onward, observers have not stopped nattering about the pope's health. But year after year he's befuddled them all, keeping up a busy schedule with few accommodations for his physical problems.

REESE: He won't stop if he's in pain. Just like a football player or anybody else, any other athlete, he just ignores the pain and keeps going. And he does that because he sees his role as pope, his job as pope, as a calling.

BITTERMAN: In recent trips the pope has been unable to finish statements, standing for long periods is difficult. But even his most feeble performance packs a powerful message.

REESE: He showed us for 25 years how to live. Now he's showing us how to die, which is something we're all going on to face. This may be the most important lesson he gives us.

MOYNIHAN: There's a line in one of the epistles of St. Paul. "I have run the race." And a runner runs until the finish line and then he collapses, even though he's tired the whole last lap.

BITTERMAN: As John Paul II reaches the final stages of his life, some say he grapples with a legacy marred by scandal and criticism.

SEGERS: I think he's left a lot of angry Catholics who may have left the church, or who are just barely hanging on, over the positions on the status of women over the suppression of dissent, and other things like that.

BITTERMAN (on camera): Yet many are certain the pope's reign will be remembered not for its shortfalls but its achievements.

Decades before he became pope, John Paul wrote in his book entitled, "The Acting Person," that a person's actions define what he stands for. It is the epitome of the pope's life.

(voice-over): Whether it's standing at the Western Wall or kissing the ground after a flight, the pope has always tried to find the right actions to convey his message.

REESE: This pope really understands the value of a symbolic gesture. After all, he was a trained actor. He's used the world as a stage to project his message, to preach the gospel, both through his words and through his actions.

BITTERMAN: Late in his pontificate, John Paul once again surprised and befuddled his critics by naming 44 new appointments to the College of Cardinals, the exclusive club of high churchmen who will vote on his successor. And again, just this month, he named 31 more. Of the cardinals who will select the next pope, all but five were appointed by John Paul II. REESE: John Paul II did exactly what you or I would do if we were pope, he appointed people that basically agreed with him about the major issues facing the church.

BITTERMAN: As well, John Paul clearly shifted the geographic center of the college toward Latin America and the underdeveloped world. Many church historians believe this will be John Paul's single most important legacy, ensuring his church's future by directing it firmly down the path of tradition. At the side of those who, like the pope himself, come from humble beginnings and believe faith can help them persevere.


ZAHN: Despite growing concerns over his health, pope John Paul II has shown no intention of resigning. Indeed, the 83-year-old pontiff has suggested that -- quote -- "God willing," he will even continue to travel. That's it for this special edition of PEOPLE IN THE NEWS. From the Vatican, I'm Paula Zahn.


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