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Account: Pope's last word was 'amen'

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John Paul II
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Religion and Belief

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- An intimate group of people were by Pope John Paul II's bedside at the Vatican when he died Saturday night. Two accounts say the pontiff's final utterance was "amen," the traditional close of a prayer. The translation is: "May it be so."

One account, published in the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, quotes a Polish priest.

Another account was told by The Rev. David O'Connell, president of The Catholic University of America, while appearing on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer."

BLITZER: We've been busy over these past few days -- CNN, USA Today, Gallup -- doing some survey questions of Americans. For example, this question: Will the church make John Paul II a saint? Seventy-one percent of American Catholics think the answer should be yes. Eighteen percent say no. What do you think?

O'CONNELL: Well, I think the church declares a person a saint who has lived an extraordinary holy life. And I don't think, even among that 18 percent, anyone can deny that this was holy man of God. The canonization of a person is really an affirmation of what is already there, what already exists.

And I do believe that when the time is appropriate that the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, will be presented for canonization.

BLITZER: The other question we asked: Will Pope John Paul II, will he go down in history as one of the greatest popes? Sixty-seven percent said yes. Thirty-one percent said no. Although among that 31 percent, 21 percent said "great, but not one of the greatest." Are you surprised by these numbers?

O'CONNELL: Not really. As we've been hearing for the last few days, this has been a pope who is much loved by many people, but he's also been a pope of controversy. A pope who has said things, challenging things, that have upset a lot of people. So it doesn't surprise me that some would react that way.

But, you know, it depends on how you define greatness. What does greatness mean? I think our Holy Father demonstrated greatness in so many ways, both in his religious life and also in the contributions he made to political society and to the world.

BLITZER: Give us a little flavor of what we should expect in the next day or two as the preparations unfold for the funeral, which could be as early as Wednesday.

O'CONNELL: Well, you know, I was speaking with a cardinal friend of mine who was assigned in Rome this morning.

He told me a story -- if I might share it with you, Wolf, and with our viewers. He said that in the pope's last minutes he grasped the hand of Archbishop [Stanislaw] Dziwisz.

And looking out the window, the curtains were not drawn, he was looking out the window. And he said, "amen." And then he passed on -- beautiful, touching communication, a sense that it was finished, it was over.

And in the next few days what we're going to see is first a gathering of the general congregation of cardinals, those cardinals who are currently in Rome, the curial cardinals. And the others who join them there.

They will make the determination about the details of the funeral, when it will be held, and how they will proceed from there.

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