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Vinci: A sense of deep respect

CNN correspondent Alessio Vinci
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John Paul II
Rome (Italy)

ROME, Italy (CNN) -- Pope John Paul II's funeral is scheduled for Friday morning.

CNN correspondent Alessio Vinci talked with CNN anchor Kelly Wallace on Monday about his special invitation to view the pope's body while it was in the Clementine Room inside the Apostolic Palace.

WALLACE: What was it like?

VINCI: As we climbed the two stairs, the two floors of the Apostolic Palace, there were some nuns there who would spontaneously break in prayer. And at the same time the whole crowd in there would then follow them and pray, as well. It was a really emotional moment. I even saw some colleagues of mine actually breaking up in tears. It really is an incredible atmosphere in that room.

The Clementine Room is a beautifully ornate room. There are frescoes. And as you enter, you hear some priests reciting the rosary. And then as you approach, of course, the body of the pope ... You just have a moment of reflection, perhaps, and some people cross themselves and then they move on.

It's really a powerful moment, I can tell you. I've been following this pope for the last four years. I've been able to see him at close range only a few times. And it does really affect you, seeing him like this. ...

You know, I am one of the junior reporters in the Vatican press corps. Most of the journalists who are part of that group have been covering this pope for the 26 something years of his papacy, and even them, even those who are so, you know, so used to seeing this man in so many different locations, even they were extremely emotional.

I saw some reporters crying. I mean, you know, that doesn't happen that often. You know, the last time I saw a colleague crying on a story was on 9/11. So that gives you a little bit of a sense about how powerful this moment is and how powerful the atmosphere in that room is. You know, it's a room that many journalists have visited on occasion, because that's where the pope used to meet dignitaries when they would visit Rome. And so, you know, obviously a lot of people remember themselves with the pope alive there as he met several dignitaries.

And I think that on the one side, you know, we have to sort of detach ourselves a little bit from the story, because obviously we have a job to do and we have to report it. But at the same time, I think even for those who did not necessarily agree with him -- although I must tell you, all the people who are visiting him so far are ... devout people -- but at the same time I can tell you that there is a sense there of a deep respect that you owe this man, especially now, of course, that he is dead.

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