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Pope Near Death

Aired April 1, 2005 - 20:00   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. Appreciate your joining us tonight. Welcome to our special coverage tonight. As you know, tonight much of the world is focused on the very grave condition of an extraordinary leader, Pope John Paul II. It is 3:00 in the morning in Rome. In spite of those early hours, tens of thousands of people are either gathered in the square or not too far from it, a vigil that has gone on for many hours now, ever since word spread earlier today that the pope's heart was failing and that he was not expected to recover, the crowds hanging on every word from the Vatican, waiting for what we believe now to be the inevitable.
And in the pope's native Poland, perhaps even stronger feelings for their former archbishop, who would become the first Polish pope in nearly 2,000 years of church history. At churches around the world, Catholics have gathered. Here at St. Hyacinth's in Chicago, a mass under way there tonight to pray for the pope.

John Paul II has been the head of the Catholic church for more than a quarter century now, and since then, more than half the people in the world have been born. John Paul II is the only pope they've ever known.

Right now, we go back to Rome. That's where we find senior international correspondent Christiane Amanpour. Christiane, good evening. If you would, describe to us what you're seeing from your vantage point right now.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Paula, exactly, the only pope they've ever known. Many people told us that they were part of his life, he was part of their lives, and they came here to Vatican Square tonight to say goodbye because the people we talked to really believe that this is the end. They've seen many miracles in the past. They've seen him survive an assassin's bullet. They've seen him come back from severe health and illness, and they've seen him walk again after he was pronounced probably unfit many, many times. But this time, they think, this is the end, and they have come to stand in solidarity, to pray for him, to give comfort and love, they say, as he as he faces his maker.

Tonight there was an official Rosary recited for him in Vatican Square. There were screens set up so the people could watch. And the official cardinal officiating at that Rosary said that, Tonight, Jesus Christ will open the doors to John Paul II. So even the officials here preparing the faithful for his passing. The crowd seems to be dwindling slightly now at this hour. It was about an hour or so ago that they really reached maximum point, with tens of thousands inside Vatican Square.

The Vatican itself has been officially silent for the last eight hours. The last time it gave an official medical bulletin was to say that the pope's breathing was shallow, his blood pressure unstable and his vital organs failing. But as I say, there's been no further word since then. At one point, the Italian press reported that he had died, but the Vatican was quick to deny that and say that, in fact, he is still alive. They say he's conscious. They say he's serene and surrendering to the will of God. That is how the Vatican has put it.

And whether they believed in or whether they were disaffected by the incredible conservatism of the papal doctrine under this particular pope, people still think that he was a great man. They remember his singular role in the toppling of communism in his native Poland first, which then spread to the Soviet Union and the rest of the Eastern Bloc. They see him as the most traveled pope, the pope that has been a huge and unique force on the international stage, who has championed the poor and the dispossessed at every possible turn. They think he was a great man, and they have come to show their solidarity and to say good-bye to him now at these final hours.


ZAHN: You mentioned the special mass that was held earlier this evening by the vicar of Rome, where he basically said that Christ would open up his arms to Pope John Paul II. Because of the rumors we've been confronting all day long, help us better understand how the Vatican would officially announce the pope's death, when it comes.

AMANPOUR: Well, there is a very precise and prescribed ritual that is in effect and has been for the centuries of the papacy, which basically, when the pope dies, it'll first be a very internal affair, if you like, with a cardinal calling his own birth name three times, in this case, Karol. He will call his name three times, and then the seal and the papal ring are broken. The papal apartments are sealed off, and then it is announced to the public that the pope has died.

Thereafter begins nine days of mourning, the funeral, which has to take place within four to six days after his death, and then the conclave to elect the new pope 15 to 20 days after his death. So there are very deeply seated, deeply held traditions and rituals that automatically go into effect the minute, the second he dies.

ZAHN: As you said, the tradition is very rich, and it's been very moving watching the pope's followers today as they gathered in the St. Peter's Square. Christiane, thank you so much. We'll come back to you a little bit later on tonight.

Joining me now with more on the pope's condition, our senior medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Doctor, help us put into perspective exactly what we've learned from the specifics that were shared with us today about the pope's condition. We haven't heard anything in eight hours.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, haven't heard anything in eight hours, but we did hear quite a bit before that, really starting yesterday about 3:00 in the afternoon, Eastern Standard Time. At that time, we heard that he had had a drop in his blood pressure and concerns about a urinary tract infection that was quite severe. He was started on antibiotics, at that point. Then we had heard that maybe his condition had stabilized. And then a few hours after that, we heard things became much more serious. His blood pressure became unstable. And as you just said, eight hours ago, we heard that just about every organ system that he had was failing. Every parameter that you could measure did not have a good result, and he continued to have an unsteady blood pressure. So that was the last that we had really heard.

It's been a little bit harder, Paula, to get a sense of how he is doing in terms of his consciousness through all this, varying reports. As Christiane had mentioned, at one point, a report even came back that he had died. The Vatican then denied that. As far as how he's doing right now, that's a much harder question to answer, but it's fair to say that he is very sick and probably irreversible, at this point, Paula.

ZAHN: That's so disheartening for people to hear tonight, though, I suppose, given his health over the last couple of months, we should have come to expect that. But how does his Parkinson's disease complicate everything that we know to be the case tonight?

GUPTA: Well, it does complicate. Most people think of Parkinson's as basically just a disease that causes tremors. It can cause much more than that. It may be, in part -- at least played a part in why he ended up getting that airway tube that we talked so much about a few weeks ago, causing some spasm of muscles of his upper airway.

But more than that, though, Paula, elderly people who have Parkinson's are at greater risk for infection. When I heard about his high fever, I thought he probably had a pneumonia. As it turns out, it's a urinary tract infection. And it's sort of a vicious cycle, Paula, because while Parkinson's can make you more likely to get infection, infection can make your Parkinson's symptoms much worse, and so the cycle continues. So it does play a role.

ZAHN: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, help us -- thank you so much for helping us better understand what we think are the pieces of the pope's medical condition at this hour.

Joining me right now, Father Richard Neuhaus, president of the Institute on Religion and Public Life, and Father Thomas Reese, author and editor of "America" magazine. Good to see both of you. Welcome.

We have heard this depiction of Pope John Paul II being such a fighter, hit by a streetcar when he was a child, survived two assassination attempts, has his gallbladder taken out, hip replacement surgery. What hasn't this man had to confront physically? What does it tell us tonight that the pope, we believe, has chosen to remain in his papal apartments?

FR. THOMAS REESE, EDITOR, "AMERICA" MAGAZINE: Well, as you say, this is a pope who's been very strong. I mean, he was very athletic. He was a personality that really just strode across the world stage. And -- but like -- he's a human being, like all of us. And as his body weakens, as he suffers the ill effects of his disease, you know, he -- he, like all of us, ultimately has to face the fact that he's dying and that he's going to the father.

And as Christians and as Catholics, this is not a terrible thing. This is something that we embrace. We go to God with joy in our hearts, with recognition that we're going home. You know, this is not the end of the story, this is the opening into new life. So we don't, you know, grasp at life and -- you know, every bit of it and not let it go. We're willing to, you know, open ourselves up to God, who's coming and calling us.

ZAHN: Father Neuhaus, what are your thoughts tonight, as we sit in this torturous transition?

FR. RICHARD NEUHAUS, INST. ON RELIGION AND PUBLIC LIFE: Well, you know, I believe that history will call him John Paul the Great, the way we speak about Pope Gregory the Great and Pope Leo the Great. And he's great to the very end. And I would agree with Father Tom Reese that he's not fighting for life. What he's doing -- and he's made this very clear. He's said this on many occasions, his understanding of suffering and death, that suffering is not meaningless, suffering is not senseless, that he is participating in the sufferings of Christ. And this is very biblical. This is what St. Paul says in writing to the Colossians, that Christ gives us an opportunity to share in his suffering, and thereby to share in his redemptive mission to the world.

And I think with this pope, this John Paul the Great that I'm sure he will recognized as being, that you have someone -- and this has been in my experience both in his public presentation and in the many personal conversations I've had an opportunity to have with him -- a man of such energetic devotion, of such intensity of devotion, which is also the thing, I think, that explains or helps to explain the astonishing response of young people to the pope, at the great World Youth Days in Rome, Paris, Manila, and most recently in Toronto and...

ZAHN: That's quite extraordinary that he's able to bridge the gap of what, 40, 50 decades with those young people.

NEUHAUS: Oh, it's astonishing. Astonishing. And I'll tell you, once I was talking with an old man who's a very dear friend of Karol Wojtyla -- because I run a seminar in Krakow, in Poland, every summer. And I was talking with this old man, who knew Karol Wojtyla from when he was a teenager, before he was a priest. And I said, you know, How do you explain this almost electrical magnetic field between this old Polish priest and hundreds of thousands and millions of young people? And he says, Oh, he says, you know, the pope has just been telling the same thing, telling them the same thing. He finds 1,000 different ways to say it. And I said, Well, so what is he telling them?

And he said, He is telling them in 1,000 different ways, Settle for nothing less than moral and spiritual greatness. And that message connects with young people, and it connects in their encounter with him because he exemplifies a life lived with radical surrender of self in a devotion to the life of Christ.

ZAHN: A legacy that will no doubt endure. This is a pope -- and you've anointed him now as Pope John Paul the Great...

NEUHAUS: Well, I can't -- I'm just hoping that'll be the case.


ZAHN: I shouldn't say that so lightly, but -- this is a man who's been widely credited for embracing the Solidarity movement, which a lot of people feel helped plant the seeds to at least start the fall of communism, a man who reached out to the Jewish community in an unprecedented way. But he's also a man that has been criticized, perhaps, for not taking the Catholic Church into the future the way they wanted him to. Is that a fair criticism?

REESE: Well, I think that John Paul II has -- one of the things that people love about him is he's not like an American politician. He doesn't take public opinion polls and then say, Well, this is what I'm going to say because this is what people want to hear. He takes the Gospel...

ZAHN: How refreshing.

REESE: Yes. I think that's why people loved him. I mean, why do they come out to see this man, you know? Because he was a man of conviction, a man of principle, a man that was recognized as a holy man, you know, a prophet. Now, not everybody agreed with him, but certainly, everybody respected him for his conviction and what he had to say, you know, because he was so different from most world leaders. And I think this was -- this is why, I think, he was so inspirational to people, you know, a man of conviction, a man of the Gospel, a man who truly believed what he was saying and didn't compromise.

ZAHN: And do you suspect, because we've heard all kinds of speculation about successors, that perhaps the next pope will be more of a short-term appointment and maybe look for more radical changes down the road, or not?

NEUHAUS: Oh, you know, the speculation about who's a "papabile," who's a likely candidate and what's going to happen is notorious for -- and has been for centuries. I don't know. I mean, right now, I think the conventional wisdom is that probably the most likely is Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. This is commonly said. Certainly, that would represent very clear continuity.

But then, almost any of the cardinals -- there'll be 117, likely, who will be participating in the conclave some while from now. And almost all of them, of course, were made bishops and cardinals by...

ZAHN: By the pope.

NEUHAUS: ... the Holy Father. So that continuity is the name of the game. I think -- you know, we think in political terms -- liberal, conservative, left, right, and so forth. But a pope is -- among the many, many titles of a pope is servus servorum dei, servant of the servants of God. And his chief service to the servants of God, to the people of God, is to protect and defend the continuity of the tradition, from Scripture and -- as has been understood under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

So a pope is -- not only is he not taking opinion polls and, you know, tailoring his program to fit the polls, but he is also very keenly aware that he is limited by the office. It is precisely in the nature of service that you surrender yourself to the -- finally, the truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ, and you're a steward of it.

ZAHN: Well, we appreciate both of your reflections and your looking forward with us tonight. Thank you...

NEUHAUS: Good to be with you.

ZAHN: ... both for joining us tonight.

When we come back, behind closed doors in a locked room, what goes into electing a new pope? We'll be right back.



ZAHN: Time now to go back to Vatican City, where the vigil continues for Pope John Paul II. No word from the Vatican over the last eight hours or so on the pope's condition. Let's check in with Vatican analyst Delia Gallagher, who joins us now. Welcome, Delia. We know that most of Pope John Paul II's family has passed on. Who do we know is with him at this hour?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN Vatican ANALYST: Well, Paula, we know that his private secretary, Don Stanislaw Dziwisz, who has been the man by the pope's side for 40 years. Even before he was pope, Don Stanislaw was his private secretary in Krakow in Poland. He is the man behind the pope, and he is the one that everybody needs to go to to gain access to the pope. So we are sure that Don Stanislaw is with the pope at this moment. He also has a few helpers, and there are several Polish nuns who work in the pope's apartments, who are surely there at this time. Beyond that -- and the doctors, of course, it's difficult to say right now, Paula.

ZAHN: We also understand that a number of cardinals have come to town, cardinals who have worked closely with the pope over the years. Do we know if they've been allowed to pay their respects to the pope?

GALLAGHER: Well, we know today, for example, the pope did meet some of his top curia cardinals here, the secretary of state, Cardinal Sodano, Cardinal Ratzinger, the head of Doctrine and Faith, and an American cardinal, Cardinal Szoka. He is the governor of the Vatican city-state, and he was also able to see the pope today. So we know that some of these curia cardinals have been able to meet with the pope.

As for the cardinals who are arriving, that might not be a possibility for them. And indeed, the cardinals themselves tend to stay away. We saw this when the pope was in the hospital. They don't like to encroach upon a very private moment for the pope right now, and I think they're quite happy to just stay around the Vatican and perhaps not be able to see him.


ZAHN: We've seen the scenes of pilgrims arriving all day long to pay their respects to the pope. Describe to us what they have told you about why it is so important to come to St. Peter's Square and honor this pope.

GALLAGHER: Well, Paula, you know, I have seen pilgrims coming for years to St. Peter's Square. They come -- they have come in previous times to stand before his window, to cheer him on, to hope that he can overcome his frailty, but in the hopes of seeing him at the window. There has always been this kind of mood of great excitement and expectation. Today, it has been very different. Today they have come with a sort of resignation, a somber mood and yet a peaceful one. They've come simply to pray. They don't expect to see him. They know the situation now. And tonight is absolutely a very different night, something we've never really seen before here at the Vatican.


ZAHN: A striking difference from what you and I witnessed over a year ago, when the pope celebrated his 25th anniversary, when the pilgrims, as you said, were in a much different state of mind. Delia Gallagher, thanks so much.

So the question becomes who might become the next leader of the Roman Catholic Church. A look at some of the possible candidates when we come back. We'll be right back.


ZAHN: You're look at live shot of St. Patrick's Cathedral right in the heart of New York City, where thousands of the pope's pilgrims, Catholic followers have been flowing in and out of the church all day to pay their respects to the pope.

And of course, given the grave condition of the pope, everybody is focused on what might happen next. The process of choosing a new pope starts about two weeks after the reigning pontiff dies. Cardinals will be locked inside the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, where they will vote for a new pope. Until then, there is an awful lot of time for speculation about who is the most likely candidate. Here's a look at some of the church leaders who may be in the running.


(voice-over): Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Cardinal Francis Arinze, Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi. These three names are unfamiliar, but Vatican watchers say they are among the front runners to be the next pope. The College of Cardinals shocked the world in 1978 when they chose a Polish cardinal, making Pope John Paul II the first non- Italian pope in more than 450 years. That shift away from the Italian domination in the Catholic Church has continued over the past 26 years. Today, the church's strongest growth is in Third World countries. More than half the world's Catholics live in Asia, Africa, Latin and South America. And many say it's only a matter of time before a pope comes from one of these regions.

That could help the chances of Cardinal Arinze, the Vatican's fourth-ranking prelate, who is from Nigeria. If elected, he would only be the second African to head the church. Like John Paul II, Arinze is a staunch conservative. He's also one of the pope's closest advisers.

But some Vatican watchers say age may prove to be a factor, that an older cardinal has the best chance to become the next pope. Many believe the current papacy has lasted too long and that the next pontiff will be a transition pope. That thinking increases the prospects for Cardinal Ratzinger of Germany. He'll turn 78 in mid- April. As head of the church's Congregation for the Doctrine for the Faith, he has been a strong enforcer of the pope's conservative positions on church doctrine.

Others say there's a powerful sentiment to return to tradition and elect and Italian, which would make Cardinal Tettamanzi a favorite. Known for his diplomatic skills, Cardinal Tettamanzi, the archbishop of Milan, is also close to Opus Dei, the ultra-conservative Catholic group.

Ultimately, the person who may have the most influence on who becomes the next pope is John Paul II. He was responsible for appointing almost all of the 117 cardinals eligible to vote, making it very likely that the next pope will share Pope John Paul II's conservative stances on issues like abortion and the role of women in the church.

But all the speculation about front runners is just speculation. There's a saying in Rome: To enter the conclave believing one will become pope is a sure way to exit it a cardinal.


ZAHN: An intimidating process, to be sure. Whoever is chosen, I guess the one thing we shouldn't forgot were the first words of Pope John Paul I, who reportedly said to the cardinals who had just elected him, God will forgive you for what you have done to me.

Coming up next: Two young boys growing up in pre-war Poland, one Jewish, one Catholic, and how their friendship changed the world.


ZAHN: You're looking at a live picture, at about 3:30 in the morning coming from St. Peter's Square. The tens of thousands of people that we saw gathered there just a couple of hours now -- ago have gone, but those that have remained are holding on to hope, that perhaps the next announcement we get from the Vatican will not be bad news.

We don't know a whole lot about the pope's condition at this hour. The last transmission of any information came about eight hours ago.

But we want to focus now on one of the legacies of Pope John Paul II's papacy. He has spent much of his time working to bring people together regardless of their politics or faith. And there's one man whose friendship with the pope goes way back to childhood, an unlikely childhood, and he says that quality would shape the pope's efforts to mend the rift between two of the world's religious.


ZAHN (voice-over): Wadowice, Poland, where young boys still line up to learn to be altar boys and become initiated in the ways of the Catholic Church, where two boys, named Jurek and Lolek grew up, went to school together and became friends.

JERZY KLUGER, CHILDHOOD FRIEND OF THE POPE: He was a nice boy which I played with and went to school together and lived very near.

(INAUDIBLE) is here and I'm here.

ZAHN (voice-over): Jurek -- Jerzy Kluger -- talking about Lolek -- Karol Wojtyla -- the boy who would one day become pope.

KLUGER: Soccer, that was our main sport. He was a goalkeeper. I was inside left.

ZAHN: They played and they studied at this public school, not an unusual friendship in Poland at a time between the two world wars, except while Lolek was Catholic, Jurek was Jewish. So was about a quarter of Wadowice's population in those days.

KLUGER: I didn't discussion very much politics with him in those days. But certainly he was not an anti-Semite, nothing like that. Neither was his father.

ZAHN: Kluger says Wadowice was different than the rest of Poland, which was rife with anti-Semitism. Here, Catholics and Jews could and did live together in peace.

He remembers how when a famous Jewish cantor came to sing at the synagogue there, many Catholics wanted to attend, including his friend Wojtyla and Wojtyla's father.

KLUGER: And I remember exactly as they walked in, because we were still outside the synagogue.

ZAHN: Just as memorable was Kluger's visit to the church where his friend was altar boy. He rushed in one day during mass, anxious to tell Lolek about his examination results. KLUGER: The mass finished, and a woman came to me, say, "you're the young Kluger, son of Dr. Kluger." I said, yes. So what are you doing here? I said, yeah, I'm waiting for a friend of mine. So she made such a face, and went on -- went off.

ZAHN: The young Wojtyla was troubled by the woman's behavior towards his friend. Kluger remembers what he said.

KLUGER: Aren't we the children of the same God? They never will understand that. And he was 10 years old.

ZAHN: But the world around them was changing. In neighboring Germany, the Nazis came to power, and their corner of Poland would never be the same.

The childhood friends would soon lose touch.

KLUGER: We felt far too safe in Wadowice. If we would have this kind of preoccupying fear, we could have left.

ZAHN: After the Nazis invaded, Kluger and his father joined the Polish Army, then eventually made their way to Britain. But his sister and mother were rounded up by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp in the town of Auschwitz, just a few miles from Wadowice. They died there.

Karol Wojtyla spent the war years in the nearby city of Krakow, where under Nazi occupation, he was studying to become a priest.

KLUGER: I got the information that he became a priest.

ZAHN: By the time Kluger and Wojtyla were reunited, it was the early 1960s. Wojtyla had not only become a priest, but at a very young age was already an archbishop. Kluger, who by now lived in Italy, heard that his old friend was in Rome, making a speech. So he arranged a meeting.

KLUGER: At that time, I never thought that he would become a pope.

ZAHN: But in 1978, after Pope John Paul I died suddenly, his friend returned to Rome. This time, Karol Wojtyla, Lolek to his friend, was elected pope, choosing the name John Paul II.

KLUGER: When I was at the dentist, we heard the news. The whole world knows that scene. I won't describe it now anymore.

ZAHN: Jerzy Kluger and his wife would have the first audience with the new pope.

But the story doesn't end there, because Jerzy Kluger became an unofficial bridge between the Vatican and the Jews.

KLUGER: I never pretended I have any political, sort of diplomatic inspirations or anything. ZAHN: Kluger helped convince his friend, the pope, to make an unprecedented visit to Rome's main synagogue seven years after making an emotional trip to Auschwitz.

KLUGER: Wojtyla grew with the Jews, went to school with the Jews. So he knew and he was there, a witness to the Holocaust. He's seen it all, what was happening.

ZAHN: Pope John Paul II's journeys would also take him to Israel, and his childhood friend would be there with him, forging a new relationship between Catholics and Jews.

KLUGER: Obviously he changed, to be grown up, you know, and became older, and with all this high office, but the character is still the same. He's a man of justice.


ZAHN: And their friendship had yet another twist. After the war, Jerzy Kluger married a Catholic, and the pope would become something of the family priest, baptizing and marrying members of the Kluger clan.

The pope also made an extraordinary effort to reach out to Jews all over the world, and in 1998, he issued a formal apology for the church's failure to do more to stop the Holocaust.

And joining me now from Los Angeles is Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who has met with the pope on a number of occasions. Thanks so much for joining us tonight, sir.


ZAHN: Given the fundamental differences Christians and Jews have about Jesus Christ, how is it, do you think, Pope John Paul II was able to move beyond his own set of personal beliefs to embrace Jews?

HIER: Well, first, it's very interesting. Originally, the church, for example in the height of the Holocaust in 1943, the Vatican wrote the Roosevelt administration not to grant the Jewish homeland in Palestine. That was in 1943.

Now, this pope recognized the state of Israel. He said to himself, you know, the old Catholic teaching that if we recognize a Jewish state in Palestine, that means that the Jews did not suffer for their rejection of Christ, and he said, no. We have to recognize the world as it is.

And theology is one thing, and we have a right to believe -- Catholics believe in Jesus. They believe in the resurrection. But this is a reality, that there is a Jewish state in the Middle East, and the Catholic Church has two choices, either ignore it or recognize it. And John Paul II said, "I'm going to recognize it and I'm going to visit it, as a guest of the state of Israel."

ZAHN: Where do you think Pope John Paul II's affection for Jews came from?

HIER: I think because he suffered with Jews during the Holocaust, when he was a slave laborer, when the Nazis forced him to work in a -- in the Salve (ph) metal works in Poland. He saw first hand what oppression, what persecution means. He never forgot that.

And when he rose through the ranks and became a pope, he said, "I'm going to make a difference, and I'm not going to take the world down that road again." And that's why he went to Poland to stand with the Polish people against the Soviet Union. And I think a lot of it came from his shared experience with Jews as a victim of Nazism.

ZAHN: And a final reflection on perhaps one of your fondest memories of the time you have spent with the pope?

HIER: I would just say that, you know, we presented him with the humanitarian award, which was a candelabra, which we call a menorah. When the pope saw it, he said, ah, a menorah, I mean, you know, which is the Hebrew word for candelabra. He was sensitive as to how to communicate and how to, you know, move across the divide as a humanitarian. And that's really who he -- who he is.

ZAHN: Rabbi Marvin Hier, thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us tonight.

HIER: Thank you.

ZAHN: And coming up next, how the 50 million Roman Catholics in the United States are taking the news about Pope John Paul II, as the faithful in Chicago pray for him tonight.


ZAHN: And while we continue to wait for any word about the pope's condition at this hour, let's check in with Larry King to find out what is coming up on top of the hour.

Hi, Larry.


We've got a heck of an hour coming, a lot of guests, including James Caviezel, who played Jesus in Mel Gibson's "Passion of the Christ," the famed Sister Helen Prejean, who wrote "Dead Man Walking." We'll be hearing from the former first lady, Nancy Reagan, checking in with people in the Vatican in Rome, cardinals around the United States, as we focus in on these last hours in the Vatican, Paula.

And we'll see you again at the -- you're going to do "NEWSNIGHT" tonight? Right.

ZAHN: Double duty tonight: 10 to 12. Thanks, Larry.

KING: You can go around me any time.

ZAHN: Larry, Larry. KING: Paula, Paula, Paula.

ZAHN: All right. Let's see you at 9 p.m.


ZAHN: Thank you.

As we talked about earlier this evening, about 50 million Roman Catholics live in the United States. They, too, are praying for Pope John Paul II. Chris Lawrence is at St. Hyacinth Church in Chicago. Adaora Udoji with us from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

Let's start with Adaora right now. Adaora, what's going on there?


Given the perilous condition of Pope John Paul II, we're seeing many, many people coming out of St. Patrick's Cathedral -- which is right behind us here, of course -- going in to pray for the pope, to light candles, to send him good wishes.

Paula, we met people from all over, from Canada, Texas, Ohio, and of course, some New Yorkers here, like Alan Prezadowski (ph), who's actually -- Adam Prezadowski (ph), excuse me -- who actually -- this is your first trip here to the church...

ADAM PREZADOWSKI (PH): That's right.

UDOJI: ... but you felt compelled to come.


UDOJI: What was so special about this pope? How did he touch your life?

PREZADOWSKI (PH): I thought he was a great man of peace that basically spent his life in the pursuit of peace and in the pursuit of life. And I wanted to show my respects, pray for him, pray for his comfort and, if need be, his quick passage.

UDOJI: When you were thinking about it today, because clearly you must have been watching some of the news coverage, what do you think his legacy will be?

PREZADOWSKI (PH): Well, I think -- once again, I think it's really about peace. I think he brought -- he ended communism in Eastern Europe. He calmed a lot of crises in South America, between Chile and Argentina. It's a man that dedicated his life to the pursuit of peace, and I think that's how he's going to be remembered.

UDOJI: Adam, thank you very much.

PREZADOWSKI (PH): My pleasure. UDOJI: Paula, we've heard lots of sentiments like that today, people who just admired the pope for his many contributions, calling him the traveling pope, many thanking him, wanting to thank him for his efforts at promoting peace. We've heard lots of reflections today about Pope John Paul II. As you know, there are four million Catholics in New York City, so we're sure to here a lot more in the coming days.


ZAHN: It's interesting how committed they are to going to St. Patrick's to say a prayer. I was talking to one woman earlier today who was saying while she's not a regular churchgoer anymore, she was willing to wait for an hour or so today just so she had some peace in lighting a candle and saying a prayer or two.

Adaora, thank you so much. We're going to turn now to Chris Lawrence at St. Hyacinth Basilica in Chicago.

I understand there was a moving service there earlier tonight?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Paula. Actually, it's still going on, even though the church is still decorated from Easter, which is the happiest time of the year in the Christian faith. It's -- it's sad here. I don't know how to explain it. But when you look in people's faces and you sit in those pews, it's a very sad feeling.

It's just packed in there. They're conducting a very special mass. Just for the pope tonight, they're conducting it in Polish. And people are literally standing in the back of the church because there's just no room in the seats left.

I talked to one woman who said she felt like the pope had always been there for her, and it's the least she could do is pray for him tonight.


LAWRENCE (voice-over): Gabriella Toule (ph) had been planning a spring break vacation with her kids for two or three months. She canceled it in minutes when she heard the pope was sick.

GABRIELLA TOULE (PH): I love him very much.

LAWRENCE: As the pope's kidneys failed and his breathing became shallow, Gabriella took her kids to church to pray for him.

TOULE (PH): God wants him. That's -- he always says I have to go when I have to go.

LAWRENCE: More Polish people live in Chicago than any city outside Poland. To them, John Paul II has been more than a pope. He's been a strong Polish nationalist. And that means something here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm proud to be Polish, because we are from the same country. And I love the pope. LAWRENCE: Across the Midwest, churches opened their doors as people poured in to pray.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What we choose to do is celebrate his life and what a wonderful gift and a blessing he's been.

Pope John Paul II, LEADER OF Catholic Church: You have come to accept each other.

LAWRENCE: A younger, healthier pope presided over mass in Chicago more than 25 years ago. Like a lot of Catholics today, Gabriella can't really remember a pope that wasn't Pope John Paul II.

TOULE (PH): I love him. I saw him two years ago in Rome when I was in Rome. And I love him very much. And I don't know what's -- what's going to be after him.


LAWRENCE: And I think a lot of younger Catholics are having a hard time getting their heads wrapped around even the idea of another pope. I'm Catholic. And at my age, he's the only pope that I can really even remember.


ZAHN: It's been so heart warming to see the response of so many different generations to him, and how he cuts across so many different generations and is able to touch people so many decades younger than he is.

Chris Lawrence, thank you.

And still ahead tonight, we're going to go back live to Vatican City for the very latest on the pope's condition. We hope you'll stay with us. You're looking at a live shot of St. Peter's Square in the middle of the night from Vatican City.


ZAHN: And we continue to watch the condition of Pope John Paul II tonight, gravely ill and near death. But there is other news to talk about, as well. So at about six minutes before the hour, let's turn our attention to Erica Hill.

Hi, again, Erica.


Former CIA Director George Tenet is disputing the presidential commission's report which claims he was warned that a key source on Iraq's biological weapons had a reputation for making things up. Tenet and former acting CIA Director John McLaughlin issued lengthy statements Friday, saying they were not alerted before the war to concerns about the source, code name "Curveball." The commission found that information from Curveball was a centerpiece of the U.S. case to the United Nations about the need to attack Iraq.

And attorney who first interviewed Michael Jackson's accuser says the family did not ask him to file a lawsuit against the pop star. Larry Feldman did admit, however, under cross-examination that the boy, who is now 15, and the younger brother can still file civil lawsuits against Jackson until they turn 20 years old.

You're likely have to dig even deeper to pay for that next fill- up. Analysts say gas prices will probably rise and average more than $2.25 a gallon within just the next few weeks. Oil prices hit another record high on Friday, topping $57 a barrel. Getting pricey out there.

Paula, have a great weekend. Back to you.

ZAHN: Thank you, Erica. Time for us to put our walking shoes on again.

HILL: I think so.

ZAHN: I appreciate it.

We're going to take a short break here. When we come back, the very latest on the pope's condition from Vatican City.


ZAHN: And our special coverage continues now. Right now, we go back to Rome at St. Peter's Square, where we find chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour.

Christiane, it's been more than eight hours since we've heard any official announcement from the Vatican. Do you expect to hear anything during tonight?

AMANPOUR: Well, only if the pope dies, I think, will there be the next bulletin, as far as we know.

The crowds that had turned out here around midnight, 1 a.m., 2 a.m., have significantly dwindled now and are going back. Perhaps more will come out when day breaks in a few hours from now.

But as of -- as of this minute, we have no more official precise medical detail on the pope's condition than was given around noon Eastern Time.

ZAHN: You waded into the crowd earlier this evening. Give us a sense of the level of devotion, among the pilgrims you met, to this pope.

AMANPOUR: Well, it was incredibly devoted, incredibly sad, very solemn, somber, people standing there, looking up at his windows, which are still alight, the papal apartments there, but knowing that this is perhaps the end.

We talked to Americans who are here, Catholics, people who had come just to pay their respects. They said he was a great man.

And it's really interesting, because amongst Americans, most especially, and around the rest of the developed world, the number of formal Catholics is dropping. The flocks, the congregations in churches are dwindling somewhat, and there is somewhat of a crisis in the developed world in the Catholic Church, a lot to do with the pressures of modern day life, trying to reconcile that with religious devotion but also because of the deep orthodoxy and conservative rule of this particular pope. And some people abandoning doctrinaire teaching to their own conscience.

But still, at this moment, knowing that this was a great man and wanting to come and say goodbye.

ZAHN: That certainly was in evidence in every shot I saw today from St. Peter's. Christiane Amanpour, thanks so much.

That is it for all of us tonight. Please stay with CNN throughout the weekend. I will be back tomorrow night. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next. Thanks for joining us tonight.


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