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Special Event

Millennium 2000: Saints

Aired January 2, 2000 - 5:00 a.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, all those Y2K worries now seemed to be much ado about nothing. But if you're one of those people who stocked up on Y2K supplies, retailers may have a surprise for you if you try to make a return.

COLLEEN MCEDWARDS, CNN ANCHOR: A tale of two opinions. While one man is hailed a hero of the India Airlines hijacking, the Indian government is being criticized for its handling of the crisis.

HARRIS: And our special focus this hour is the story of a man who may have been touched by God.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FATHER JOSEPH MARTIN: He's a saint's saint. I mean there's no one like Padre Pio. If he's not a saint, they might as well close heaven up.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARRIS: But not everyone agrees with that assessment. We take a look at one man's path to sainthood and why the Catholic Church needs saints as CNN's 100 hours of millennium coverage continues.

MCEDWARDS: Hello, I'm Colleen McEdwards.

HARRIS: And I'm Leon Harris. Our discussion of sainthood is coming up in just a few minutes. But we begin with the crisis that never happened. That's right. No news, as they say, is good news on the Y2K computer glitch front. In fact, things are going so well the Federal Emergency Management Agency has sent home about half its staff monitoring potential problems around the country this weekend. Officials warn, though, that there could be some inconveniences beginning tomorrow when most people head back to work and large computer systems are powered up for the first time.

Globally, some 170 countries report the Y2K rollover is going smoothly.

MCEDWARDS: But there may not be many happy returns for Sears shoppers who purchased goods in case of Y2K catastrophes. Sears is charging a 20 percent restocking fee for customers who want to return items such as generators and water purifiers. A sign warning of the fee was posted in Sears stores. A company spokeswoman says that Sears can't be in the insurance business.

HARRIS: Police in New Orleans have arrested two people for firing guns during New Year's Eve celebrations. At least five people were wounded by bullets apparently fired into the sky by new year's revelers. You know, as they say, what goes up must come down. New Orleans officials had issued warnings last week against that practice.

MCEDWARDS: In Tokyo today, the Japanese royal family welcomed some 60,000 people to the grounds of the imperial palace for the traditional new year's greeting. Many in the crowd waved Japanese flags. There was some sadness within the festivities, however. Crown Princess Masako, who suffered a miscarriage last week, did not appear at the event.

Well, the baby being called the first of the new millennium has health problems. A hospital official in Auckland, New Zealand says the boy has been moved to another hospital for special treatment. The undisclosed problems were discovered right after the boy was born a minute into the new year.

HARRIS: In India, analysts say the ruling Hindu Nationalist Party could pay a heavy political price for freeing three Islamic militants to end that Indian Airline hijacking. For decades the government has prided itself as a tough fighter against terrorism and now many say India has compromised national security. Meanwhile, many of the 160 people who were held captive for eight days on that plane are calling the pilot of the plane a hero.

CNN's Satinder Bindra with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SATINDER BINDRA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A nation of one billion people has a new hero. Indian Airlines Captain Devi Sharan. Most of the released hostages say Captain Sharan's cool thinking and diplomatic skills saved their lives. Captain Sharan says it wasn't easy. One of his worst moments came on the first day when the hijackers forced him to take off from the Indian city of Amredsar (ph) to Lahore, Pakistan with only minutes of fuel.

DEVI SHARAN, INDIAN AIRLINES PILOT: I died many times. I died many times at least when I took off from Amredsar. They said we will not die in Indian territory. We will die in Pakistan territory. You take it to Lahore.

BINDRA: Captain Sharan says the hijackers told him they didn't care if he crashed. He says he was petrified about the safety of his passengers as he approached Lahore Airport in inky darkness. By the fifth day, living conditions on the plane had deteriorated. People were sick, the toilets had clogged up and the air was foul. Captain Sharan, though, had won the trust of the hijackers. He joked with them frequently and was allowed to walk the aisles, even talk to the passengers.

SHARAN: I had many passengers came to me let's fight. I told them the casualties will be very high. I cannot take the risk of fighting.

BINDRA: Captain Sharan says what sustained him during the ordeal was his vast reserves of patience. By the time India negotiated a deal to release the passengers in exchange for three Muslim rebels, Captain Sharan had been almost eight days with only a few hours of sleep. Now, his new year's resolution is to rest up so he can go back to flying again.

Satinder Bindra, CNN, New Delhi.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: And turning now to the fighting in Chechnya. The Russian military today claimed rebel fighters detonated several bombs containing toxic chlorine and ammonia. There's no independent confirmation of that, though.

CNN's correspondent Steve Harrigan is just outside Grozny and told us a short time ago that Russia has stepped up its assault on the capital with the combatants fighting at closer range than before. Acting Russian President Vladimir Putin visited with the troops on the front lines and reaffirmed his commitment to the campaign. That seemed to be welcome news as some of the Russian troops applauded when they were told Boris Yeltsin had resigned the presidency.

MCEDWARDS: Customs officials questioned a New Orleans man after he flew a small plane from Florida into Cuban air space, dropping anti-communism pamphlets on Havana. The man is identified as Ly Vong, a U.S. citizen who emigrated from Vietnam in 1984. U.S. authorities detained Tong as soon as he landed in Dade County, Florida yesterday. But they say no charges will be filed, at least for now. They also say Cuban MIG fighter jets monitored his flight but took no action.

Updating the story of the Cuban boy at the center of an international custody battle, two leaders of the National Council of Churches plan to meet tomorrow in Havana with the father of six-year- old Elian Gonzalez. The Council supports the father's rights to claim his son. U.S. immigration officials met Friday with the boy's father as they tried to reach a decision on Elian's future. The child's relatives in Miami have filed a petition for political asylum on his behalf.

HARRIS: All right, seven minutes after the hour now and coming up, taking the plunge in a very special way.

MCEDWARDS: Well, they said their vows on New Year's Day before family, friends and complete strangers. How this couple and other New Yorkers welcomed the millennium, right after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MCEDWARDS: Well, if you're like many people around the world you joined in a New Year's Eve celebration of some kind or other and after that revelry perhaps you had a laid back New Year's Day.

HARRIS: But it seems that nothing is laid back in New York City. And CNN's Gary Tuchman shows us that there are no new year's hangovers in the city that never sleeps.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): What does one do for an encore after the biggest New Year's Eve celebration ever? In New York, there is no shortage of ideas.

GREG NEHAS: I do declare

TUCHMAN: Tracy Craignon (ph) and Greg Nehas (ph) spent the first day of 2000 getting married in the window of the world's largest store. They had won an essay contest sponsored by Macy's. Pothers in New York are married to the idea that jumping in a freezing cold ocean in the wintertime is good for you. These are members of the Polar Bear Club, who take a dip in the waters off Brooklyn every January 1st.

UNIDENTIFIED POLAR BEAR CLUB MEMBER: Why go swimming today? It's the greatest way to start off the new year.

TUCHMAN: Those who watch football bowl games beg to differ. At the 66 screen All Star Cafe in the heart of Times Square, football fans were in nirvana. Especially these vacationers from Arkansas watching their Razor Backs beat Texas in the Cotton Bowl.

UNIDENTIFIED ARKANSAN: We were just here watching the ball drop last night and thought we'd come out and watch -- that's all right -- watch the game and have a great time.

TUCHMAN: Suffice it to say football was not on the mind of Ramseshah Sobovitch (ph) when, at two seconds after midnight, she gave birth to a baby girl who got the seal of approval from New York's mayor. New Year's Day 2000 will be quite memorable for many.

UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORKER: I loved it. It was a lot of fun. It's something great to tell the grandkids one day.

UNIDENTIFIED NEW YORKER: I was terrified.

TUCHMAN (on camera): And there's one more thing people are doing on this day after. They're back here in Times Square to take another look at where all the festivities took place and to say a final good- bye to the 1900s.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, New York.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: After we take a break, we'll get an intimate look into the Roman Catholic Church and the path to sainthood.

MCEDWARDS: It's a special report from CNN's Christian Amanpour. A popular priest in an Italian community, his wounds were the wounds of Christ and now some say this man should be a saint. A look behind the cross, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANNOUNCER: Braced on a pedestal and looked to for inspiration, they are the saints of the Catholic Church. Now, a man, once a simple monk, may be on the fast track to sainthood. Saints, the mystic and the miracles.

HARRIS: This is an incredible story that's associated with this man, too. At the turn of the millennium 1,000 years ago the Roman Catholic Church was a powerful force.

MCEDWARDS: And it remains so today as we celebrate this new millennium. Faith is such an important part of religion it can drive people. It can pick people up. It can give people strength to carry on in difficult times.

HARRIS: That's right. And to many Catholics, saints play a strong role in that faith. But just how does the church choose its saints?

CNN's Christiane Amanpour asks that question as she looks into the story of one priest in an Italian community. So listen to the story of Padre Pio.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Thousands of people journey every day to a remote mountain village 200 miles southeast of Rome. In all, seven million people a year fill the streets and visit the 15th century Franciscan church in San Giovani Rotundo (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED ITALIAN: There are days you can't get into the church.

AMANPOUR: Inside the church the mood is somber as crowds march through ancient hallways to see a dark tomb, a bloody crucifix, a bare room. So many come that a cottage industry has grown up, the religious souvenir trade. Nearly all the activity in this religious boom town can be traced to one man, whose likeness is virtually everywhere. Padre Pio, a man millions believe to be a modern day

Saint.

FATHER JOSEPH MARTIN: I saw the hands and the side. I never saw the feet.

AMANPOUR: Father Joseph Martin came to San Giovani 35 years ago. The Brooklyn native wanted to meet the mysterious priest rumored to have the wounds of Christ. He ended up as Padre Pio's personal caretaker.

MARTIN: The wound was right here but you couldn't really see it very well because of the blood and the serum having formed the scabs. It's described by the doctors sort of a like about a thumbnail size right there, right through the hole in the hand.

AMANPOUR: Incredible as it may sound, to the monks who lived with Padre Pio and to his devoted followers, the explanation is simple.

MARTIN: The explanation is religious. It's too strong because it's the crucified savior still hanging on the cross and still saying I thirst.

AMANPOUR (on camera): What explains it? What is it about Padre Pio?

SARNO: Faith explains it.

AMANPOUR: No, about this man particularly?

SARNO: Well, it's what Padre Pio, his message. It's God who is giving a message to the world through Padre Pio.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Monsignor Robert Sarno (ph) is the only American member of a little known office in the Vatican called the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He and his colleagues study the lives and the miracles of people who've been nominated for sainthood.

(on camera): This is way before Padre Pio's time, right?

SARNO: From 1588 when this congregation was established ...

AMANPOUR: That's what, that's maybe 400 years ago.

SARNO: Um-hmm. 1592 this document was written.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): In all of these ancient texts there aren't many investigations as unusual as the case that's just been debated by the congregation, the case of the church's first and only bleeding priest.

(on camera): So have you decided that these were caused other than being self-inflicted?

SARNO: During the process of canonization that is never even considered.

AMANPOUR: And yet it was a big part of why he had so many followers.

SARNO: It might have been what you might call in English a drawing card.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): Padre Pio was born Francesco Forgione (ph) in 1887. At the age of 15 he joined the Capucine Order (ph) of the Catholic Church and soon developed a reputation as a devout monk who prayed so fervently that often he went into religious trances. He was sent to San Giovani in 1916 and two years later, according to legend, he received the wounds of Christ while praying in front of this crucifix.

Padre Gerardo de Flumeri (ph), a fellow friar, has been charged by the Vatican with gathering all relevant information about Padre Pio's life.

DE FLUMERI: While praying, he saw the crucifix in front of him transform itself into a mysterious character and from the hands, feet and ribs of the crucifix came five rays that pierced his hands, feet and side.

AMANPOUR: As the story goes, Padre Pio was embarrassed by the wounds and tried to hide them from his superior. But his superior soon noticed. Church officials brought in a series of doctors to evaluate the wounds, known as the stigmata.

DE FLUMERI: Padre Pio was checked in 1919 by three doctors in the months of May, July and October. All of them described the stigmata because they were objectively a fact.

MARTIN: The first one who he was a professor of medicine, lord rest him, and he's the one who medicated the hands, you know? He was going to heal Padre Pio with bandages and seals on the bandages and they just kept getting bigger and bleeding more.

The second man came in and stuck his fingers through the holes in the hand.

AMANPOUR: The third doctor was Jubias (ph). He thought Padre Pio may have caused the wounds himself through the power of suggestion. For the next 49 years, there were no more medical examinations of the stigmata. Padre Pio tried to keep the wounds covered. But people saw his bloody hands every day during mass when he removed his gloves to give communion. And as his legend grew, so did the litany of his supposed supernatural powers -- the gift of healing, the ability to be in two places at the same time, sweet aromas announcing his presence, even the power of levitation.

To Catholics, these are the hallmarks of sainthood.

(on camera): But the Vatican didn't always consider Padre Pio such a saint. Different popes launched a series of investigations after he was accused of fostering a cult of celebrity and sleeping with women in his parish. At one point, Padre Pio was even secretly tape recorded by members of his own order.

Why was the church so suspicious of him back then?

SARNO: We live in a human world. There are people who will question the best of people, their motives, their reasons for acting. Everything is investigated by the church.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The Capucine friars say the allegations about women came from parishioners who were jealous, jealous because Padre Pio, they say, spent more time ministering to some members of the church than to others. DE FLUMERI: Some very jealous women and some envious men slandered Padre Pio. But he was completely innocent. I did a whole study on this and the guilty were those women and men, not Padre Pio.

AMANPOUR (on camera): So basically the conclusion is that he was probably falsely accused back then?

SARNO: It's not even considered. What is considered is whether he lived a life of heroic virtue.

AMANPOUR: You're not answering my question, Monsignor.

SARNO: Yes, I am because you see it's not as if there is an inquisition that goes down and says now let's see, you are being accused of this. Now we'll see if you're guilty and we'll make a final pronouncement and judgment on you.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): But that's exactly what happened in 1931 when the Vatican put Padre Pio under virtual house arrest for two years. It didn't like the cult of celebrity that was growing up around him. Fist fights were breaking out before Padre Pio's masses. Followers were snip[ping off bits of his clothing for souvenirs. And bandages dipped in sheep's blood were being sold as authentic relics.

MARTIN: Because of all the confusion around him, the Vatican wanted to investigate and they were very severe. They enclosed him or segregated, I think might be the word, that he had to say mass in the interior chapel of the Farie (ph) for two years, could not go into the church, could not be with the faithful, couldn't even take a stroll in the church square.

AMANPOUR (on camera): But how did the church decide that he was, in fact, heroically virtuous after having previously deemed him to be quite the opposite?

SARNO: It never deemed him to be quite the opposite.

AMANPOUR: Well, it certainly considered him to be.

SARNO: No. It considered the accusations being made against him.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The church refuses to talk about the investigations of Padre Pio. Two reports that criticized him and those infamous tape recordings are now stored somewhere behind the Vatican walls.

MARTIN: He suffered not only physically but morally, spiritually. His whole life is nothing but suffering.

AMANPOUR: Eventually the church came to respect that suffering and accept Padre Pio. San Giovani became a legitimate pilgrimage center, rivaling Lourdes and Assisi. And in 1947, Padre Pio received a visitor who would one day become a great ally, Father Carroll Votila (ph). Today he is Pope John Paul II. DE FLUMERI: At the time he was in Rome at the Polish College. He heard about Padre Pio and came here. He confessed to Padre Pio and he listened to Padre Pio's mass.

AMANPOUR: Years later in 1964, Father Votila wrote a letter to Padre Pio asking him to pray for one of his parishioners who was dying of cancer.

DE FLUMERI: After only 11 days, Carroll Votila wrote another letter thanking Padre Pio for his prayers and informing him that the woman was completely healed.

AMANPOUR: Votila made two more visits to San Giovani, the most recent in 1987 as pope. He prayed at Padre Pio's tomb and met the friars.

(on camera): Would it be fair to say that one of the reasons why he's on this track towards the edification and whatever follows is because he has a powerful friend and ally in the pope?

SARNO: No. His cause was started in 1982 and has followed its normal process of study and development.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The normal process of study and development means that Padre Pio must be responsible for one miracle before he can be beatified and another miracle before he can become a saint. Today, he is halfway there.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCEDWARDS: And when we return, we'll pick up the story of Padre Pio.

HARRIS: In part two of her report, Christiane Amanpour takes us behind, beyond the prayers to the scientific as the Catholic Church investigates miracles on the road to sainthood.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MCEDWARDS: Well it is, perhaps, appropriate on this first Sunday of the new millennium we look at the power of faith.

HARRIS: That's right. And to many Catholics that faith is cemented in the role that saints play in the church. We continue now with Christian Amanpour's report on the path to sainthood for one priest known as Padre Pio. In part two of her report this morning, Christiane looks at how the Catholic Church tries to balance the words of the faithful with the findings of science.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

AMANPOUR (voice-over): At his final mass, Padre Pio took off the gloves that protected his hands and shocked everyone. The stigmata or the wounds of Christ that he was said to have borne for 50 years, were gone. He died later that night. MARTIN: They healed with his death some time around the death because when the body was undressed to prepare it for burial we discovered that the wounds were completely healed in his entire body and left no scar, which, of course, is a miracle in itself.

AMANPOUR: There is no doubt that Padre Pio's enormous popularity was all right result of the stigmata. He is famous for living in constant pain for half a century. But according to the Vatican, the wounds which brought him so much attention have nothing to do with whether he's made a saint.

SARNO: Padre Pio is not being beatified and will not be canonized because he had or did not have or maybe had the stigmata. Because we started in 1982.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Right.

(voice-over): Monsignor Robert Sarno is a member of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. One of his jobs is to verify and document miracles, which are a prerequisite for sainthood.

(on camera): Is there such a thing?

SARNO: That's a strange question to ask someone whose life is dedicated to studying the possibility and the reality of miracles. I believe in miracles.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Padre Pio's case, the church says a miracle happened 27 years after his death in this hospital room in the city of Salerno in southern Italy. It allegedly happened to this woman, 46-year-old Consilia Rinaldi (ph). She and her husband run a small grocery store in downtown Salerno but ever since her story became known she hasn't been able to go to work. Her daughter Mikhaila (ph) explains.

MIKHAILA: The invading journalists, they took pictures of her while they were hiding. They tried every way to make her talk, to interview her and she always refused because she wanted to live this in a very reserved way without talking to anybody about it. She wanted it to be a thing of her own.

AMANPOUR: Mrs. Rinaldi agreed to give CNN access to her doctors and an interview with her daughter. She herself would not grant us an interview. Her story starts on November 1st, 1995. After driving her daughter Mikhaila to the ballet school she runs, Mrs. Rinaldi suddenly had difficulty breathing. She noticed a large swelling on her neck and she immediately went to the Salerno Civic Hospital. Dr. Carlo Mazarrella (ph) is chief of emergency surgery.

DR. CARLO MAZARRELLA: It was a soft tumor the size, more or less, of an orange. At the time I didn't make any diagnosis. I was shocked. I gave the order to do a CAT scan.

AMANPOUR: The CAT scan showed that Consilia's lymph duct had burst and that a large amount of fluid was building in her neck and chest. It was an unusual condition, not life threatening, but requiring an operation to drain the lymphatic fluid and repair the broken duct. As Mrs. Rinaldi waited in this ward, doctors ordered a second CAT scan. But before they took it, her daughter says something miraculous happened.

MIKHAILA: It was just the two of us. She was sort of between sleep and being awake and she was talking. She said she had seen Padre Pio far away and he said don't worry, I will be your surgeon. When she woke up I realized that the swelling she had on her neck, which was really enormous, had gone down.

AMANPOUR: The second CAT scan showed a drastic reduction in the swelling. A third was ordered and it showed the lymphatic liquid had disappeared, all in the span of 24 hours with no medical intervention.

MAZARRELLA: A spontaneous case like the one that happened to Mrs. Consilia is not part of my experience.

AMANPOUR: The Rinaldis were devout Catholics and frequent visitors to the tomb of Padre Pio. They believe that he had interceded. They called one of the monks in San Giovani, Friar Modestino (ph).

MIKHAILA: Friar Modestino said don't leave the hospital. Stay at least three days and let them do all the tests to assure that you are OK, that you have received because this will be the miracle that will bring the beatification of Padre Pio.

AMANPOUR: The friars had been waiting for that for 27 years, ever since Padre Pio died. He could only be considered for sainthood, according to Vatican rules, five years after his death. Medically, the Rinaldi case seemed promising. It was both well documented and inexplicable.

MAZARRELLA: I personally and scientifically cannot explain it. I don't know how to explain it. And as to whether it is or isn't the miracle, I won't dare to say it isn't.

AMANPOUR: The next step was to certify the alleged miracle in an ecclesiastical courtroom in Salerno's cathedral. Witnesses were called, including the Rinaldis and the doctors. They had to field questions from, among others, the archbishop and the devil's advocate.

(on camera): Where does the so-called devil's advocate come into all of this? I understand there is a devil's advocate.

SARNO: Well, that's an old term that was abolished in 1983 and basically it is now called the promoter of the faith or the prelate theologian and his responsibility basically is to make sure that every possible element of discussion, every possible explanation, whether it be pro or con, has been discussed.

MIKHAILA: It's a person who asks a lot of questions to put you in a difficult position. He wants to get to that it's he doesn't believe, he doesn't believe in what happened.

DE FLUMERI: Because he makes a lot of objections and makes it difficult it is said he plays the role of the devil so someone is not declared a saint.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): The case evidently passed the test. At this ceremony, with Consilia Rinaldi and Friar Modestino looking on, the archbishop of Salerno gave the miracle his official stamp of approval. Next, the miracle was presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, specifically, its board of medical doctors.

SARNO: The doctors will come in and be the ones to tell us whether there is a possible case here in other words, whether the cure was lasting, instantaneous, perfect and inexplicable.

AMANPOUR: Dr. Rafaelo Cortesini (ph), a world renowned transplant specialist, is president of the 100 member medical consult to the Congregation. His specialists studied the CAT scans and reexamined Mrs. Rinaldi.

DR. RAFAELO CORTESINI: That this thoracic duct spontaneously healed, this is a miracle. Usually we must operate.

AMANPOUR: Cortesini, a devout Catholic, says he's a friend of the pope but he insists there was no pressure on him to declare a miracle in this case. He says his reputation as well as those of the other doctors is on the line.

CORTESINI: It is a relatively simple case. Because she was sick, she went to the hospital. Padre Pio came and he cured her. It was very simple, like all things involving Padre Pio.

AMANPOUR: The next step was a meeting like this one, where the Congregation debated whether Padre Pio was actually responsible for the miracle. The man in the dark glasses is the Vatican's promoter of the faith, the devil's advocate. As expected, it was deemed that God did perform a miracle through Padre Pio.

SARNO: This is the position paper written on the life and the activity of Padre Pio.

AMANPOUR (on camera): All of this is the studies on Padre Pio himself?

SARNO: Yes.

AMANPOUR: All these volumes?

SARNO: Yes.

AMANPOUR (voice-over): This six volume report was finally sent up the ladder to a committee of cardinals and then to the pope himself. John Paul's approval came on December 21st, 1998. Now that he's beatified, Padre Pio must intercede in one more miracle before he can be made a saint. But to his followers, he already is one.

MARTIN: He's a saints saint. I mean there's no one like Padre Pio. If he's not a saint, they might as well close heaven up.

AMANPOUR (on camera): Is Padre Pio on a short track to sainthood?

SARNO: Once he is beatified, one more miracle granted by God through his intercession will be required for canonization. When that will occur ask God.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARRIS: Why not? Well, coming up next, what are Padre Pio's chances at sainthood really?

MCEDWARDS: We'll be joined by Thomas Craughwell, he's a Catholic author and expert on saints, to help us explore this issue. CNN's millennium weekend coverage continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

HARRIS: Well, there are in the neighborhood of some 40,000 saints in the Catholic Church. Why are they so important? Well, let's get some answers now from Thomas Craughwell. He is an expert on saints and he is the author of "The Daily Calendar of 365 Saints" and he recently edited "Every Eye Beholds You," a world treasury of prayer. Mr. Craughwell joins us from New York. Happy new year and good morning to you, sir.

THOMAS CRAUGHWELL, CATHOLIC WRITER: Happy new year. Good morning.

HARRIS: Thank you for coming in and talking to us. This is a fascinating topic. But the one question that jumps out at us immediately after watching this piece we just saw on Padre Pio is why is it that the healing of these, the stigmata, these wounds that he carried on his body for so many decades, why was that not considered a first miracle and therefore giving him the necessary two?

CRAUGHWELL: They can't consider any miracles that might have occurred during the life of the candidate for sainthood. That's because any number of possibilities may exist for how these things could have happened. This could have been a natural phenomenon. This could have been deceptive. And so they wait until after the death of the candidate to see if God will work a miracle through that person's intercession.

HARRIS: Doesn't it seem to cast a bit of a suspicion on these particular, on this, at least on this, in this case, the stigmata that he carried?

CRAUGHWELL: Well, I'm not so sure that suspicion is the right word. The Catholic Church wants to be extremely cautious before they declare anyone blessed or then subsequently a saint. They really don't want to make any mistakes.

HARRIS: Is his case pretty much on the fast track, as Christiane Amanpour asked in this piece, because of his connection with Pope John Paul?

CRAUGHWELL: No, not at all. I don't know of any case where the pope has personally tried to railroad a canonization. It really is left in the hands of God. If God wants to work another miracle through the intercession of Padre Pio then Padre Pio will be a saint. If not, he could remain blessed forever.

HARRIS: What about the magnitude of any miracles that are deemed to be so by the church? Does that matter at all, because it seems, again, at first blush watching this report that this woman who had this problem with her lymph system, it was not a life threatening situation and yet and still this is being considered as a miracle, which would imply that it's a really big, important event. But it didn't seem to be a life threatening situation that was cured here.

CRAUGHWELL: Well, I can see what you're saying. We would like something that's fairly dramatic. But that isn't always the case. The fact that the doctors decided that this was an inexplicable healing is enough to qualify it as a miracle.

HARRIS: How long do you think before this decision gets made on Padre Pio?

CRAUGHWELL: Oh, again, entirely in the hands of heaven.

HARRIS: Well, all right, then we'll stand by down here below and watch and see what happens. Stay with us Mr. Craughwell. We're going to talk some more about all this coming. And we will return to our discussion with Thomas Craughwell in just a moment.

MCEDWARDS: Among the other topics we'll talk about, will Mother Teresa be canonized? Our 100 hours of millennium coverage continues right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MCEDWARDS: On this first Sunday of the new millennium we've been talking about the fascinating case of Padre Pio and exactly how people become saints.

HARRIS: That's right, and we were talking just moments ago with author and saint expert Thomas Craughwell about just how a person does become a saint. We go back to that conversation now.

I'd like to ask you whether or not the standards for selecting and elevating a person to sainthood has changed over the years from either generation to generation or from pope to pope? As we see now, Pope John Paul II has canonized more than any other pope, I understand?

CRAUGHWELL: That's true. Over 300. It's kind of hard to keep count. He moves pretty quickly. But yes, it has changed very quickly. In the earliest days of the church it was pretty much by popular acclimation and in the very early Middle Ages an individual bishop could declare someone a saint in his own dioceses. It was only about the year 990 that I think a pope first declared someone a saint. It was a German bishop named Olrich (ph).

And in the case of this pope he has actually, one of the reasons that he's canonized so many is that he has cut the requirements in half. In the past there were four miracles required. Now there are only two.

MCEDWARDS: Why are saints so important, such an important component of the Catholic faith?

CRAUGHWELL: Well, for one thing they're tremendous role models. They show us how to be Christian, how to follow Christ, how to incorporate the faith into our day to day life. It teaches us how to endure the difficulties that come along.

HARRIS: You know, many of the saints who have been canonized, who've been have gotten that status because of healings. Is it the case now that medical science has advanced so far in this day and age that it could actually make it more difficult to determine whether or not something is a miracle in the future and someone should be canonized for whatever happens?

CRAUGHWELL: Possibly but actually I think medical science is the friend of canonization because it does give the church more of a sense of certainty that there's no chance of fraud or mistake involved, that by so many diagnostic tests available nowadays they truly can determine whether a cure is inexplicable.

HARRIS: Well, along that same vein of thought it occurs to me that is it possible that maybe some past canonizations could possibly be changed or be rethought with the advances that we now know about medical science and things that we now know that we didn't know before?

CRAUGHWELL: Well, I think that would actually be impossible because we have no medical records from previous claims of cures. There would be no way of checking.

HARRIS: OK.

MCEDWARDS: So in the 21st century, then, if modern medicine is the friend of the process, as you say, how do you see it evolving or changing?

CRAUGHWELL: Actually, I think it'll probably continue this way in the 21st century. I really can't imagine that there would be a time when medical science can cure everything. I think there are always going to be a few things that God is going to have to intervene on.

HARRIS: You know, we were talking moments ago about how Pope John Paul II has canonized some 300 people and I've noticed that there's a change here in, from past practice in that there are fewer, I shouldn't say fewer, but in the past the saints were done, the Congregation of Saints, if you will, were dominated by Europeans.

CRAUGHWELL: That's true.

HARRIS: And now we're seeing all different kinds of faces being brought into that fold. CRAUGHWELL: Well, remember that, of course, Europe was home base for the Catholic Church for centuries and centuries. And now the Catholic Church is truly a global religion and naturally wherever the church spreads there are going to be saints and that's why this current pope has canonized martyrs from Korea and Vietnam and founders of schools from Canada and Ecuador. I don't think that there's a place on the, a continent on the globe aside from Antarctica that doesn't have a saint.

MCEDWARDS: And Mother Teresa, will she be canonized?

CRAUGHWELL: Completely in the hands of God. The process has started. They're looking into it now. The research has begun.

MCEDWARDS: What would your best bet be?

CRAUGHWELL: She looks saintly to me but I'm only, I only judge from what I've seen on television.

HARRIS: How about, OK, we know that miracles are required. How about miracles attributed to Mother Teresa?

CRAUGHWELL: I don't know if there are any miracles of healing that have been attributed to her yet. If that's the case then I'm sure that Rome is already looking at them.

HARRIS: Here's something that, again, strikes us as miraculous although it may not be in one single event. When you see things like wars being ended or averted or we see people being inspired on the level, in a massive level, as has been the case with Mother Teresa, how does the church look at events like those? They don't see those, that sort of thing as a miraculous event?

CRAUGHWELL: Well, those are what you might call acts of grace, the signs of God's presence in the world. The problem with trying to categorize whether or not a war was ended through the intercession of Mother Teresa would be difficult.

MCEDWARDS: If there's such a thing as a favorite saint, do most Catholics have those in mind who they admire most?

CRAUGHWELL: Oh, sure. Every Catholic loves the blessed Virgin Mary first among all the saints. And then there are a host of saints that are extremely popular. Saint Anthony and Saint Jude come to mind. Padre Pio obviously has had a long devotion for the past 30 years and is extremely popular around the world. And then every Catholic has their own personal favorites.

HARRIS: I've even heard there was a patron saint of television. I kid you not.

CRAUGHWELL: Actually there is.

HARRIS: I kid you -- I have heard about that. Are you familiar with that?

CRAUGHWELL: Yes, it's Saint Claire of Assisi, Saint Francis of Assisi's colleague.

MCEDWARDS: A wealth of knowledge.

HARRIS: We sure hope they have cable now.

Thomas Craughwell, we thank you very much for your time. Fascinating topic this morning. Good luck to you. Take care.

CRAUGHWELL: Thank you.

MCEDWARDS: And when we come back, keeping a millennium promise made decades ago.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MCEDWARDS: Well, from Alaska to New York, dozens of people descended on the steps of the Denver Public Library on New Year's Day to keep a promise made to a former high school teacher. For more than 30 years, Dick Jordan told his students to meet him on the steps of the library on the first day of the new millennium. He also told them to bring a dollar because he planned to be retired and he needed the money to go the Tahiti.

One hundred former students actually showed up. He was especially touched by one person's dying wish that her husband attend the reunion in her place.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DICK JORDAN, RETIRED TEACHER: There is a gentleman here whose former wife went to G.W. Her name was Tymer (ph). I believe that's correct. They were married for 27 years and one of the last things that she asked him as she was dying with cancer was to come down here in the year 2000.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCEDWARDS: And Jordan plans to donate the money to a soup kitchen.

HARRIS: Oh, that's great. Well, too bad this next person was not one of his students. He might have gotten a lot more than a buck. We have this final story for you this hour. A German salesman may just be the first millionaire of the millennium, on paper, at least. You see, the man logged onto his bank account from home on his computer and found that he had been credited with more than $6 million. The count was wrong, though, and it wasn't the only thing wrong. The transaction was actually dated December 30th, 1899. It's not known whether the mistake was caused by the millennium bug or not or if there was another problem.

MCEDWARDS: A problem you wouldn't mind having.

HARRIS: I wouldn't mind having that problem, no.

MCEDWARDS: Our coverage of Millennium 2000 is not over. There is much, much more to come so do stay with us.

HARRIS: That's right. Coming up in the next hour we take a look at one of the terrifying inventions of the second millennium, nuclear weapons. Find out what kind of role they play in the new millennium. But that's it for now.

MCEDWARDS: The news continues here on CNN in less than five seconds. Stay with us.

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