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Faith Hold Vigil for Ailing Pope

Aired April 2, 2005 - 13:00   ET


ZAIN VERJEE, CO-HOST: The faithful hold vigil in St. Peter's Square and around the world for Pope John Paul II.
JONATHAN MANN, CO-HOST: The pontiff lies gravely ill in his Vatican quarters. Updates on his condition and a look at his historic papacy ahead this hour.

Hello and welcome to WORLD NEWS. I'm Jonathan Mann at CNN Center.

VERJEE: And I'm Zain Verjee. Welcome to our special coverage of the pope's declining health.

MANN: His condition is set to be irreversible, his 26-year papacy coming to an end. John Paul is the focus of worldwide prayer by Roman Catholics and people of many religions.

For the latest, we go now to our Rome bureau chief, Alessio Vinci.


We have, first of all, received an update by the Vatican spokesman, Dr. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the physician himself, who is choosing carefully his words. A very short, written statement basically says that the condition of the pope continues to remain very serious, that the pope this morning has developed another high fever.

You may remember when the crisis began on Wednesday, even the first symptoms that the pope had, a very high fever. And that when he is addressed by members of his household the pope responds correctly, meaning obviously, that the pope remains conscious. There was no mention in this statement about how conscious he is.

You may remember earlier this day when the first statement came out. The bulletin said of the pope was showing the first signs of losing consciousness, that he was in and out, if you were, of unconsciousness. We have not heard anything to that effect in this latest bulletin. Nevertheless, Dr. Navarro-Valls giving us clearly the indication that the situation remains extremely serious.

Now, meanwhile, here in St. Peter's Square there are still tens of thousands of people who have come through the day. I've been here for more than 12 hours. And it's been a constant flow of people from all walk of life.

I understand from the Italian bishop's conference that a vigil will begin tonight here at 9 p.m. local time. That's in about an hour's time. The prayer will be led by Archbishop Leonardo Sandri. He might be a familiar name for those who follow the Vatican in his recent days. He is the man who has lent his voice to Pope John Paul II when he couldn't read the various messages and homilies throughout the Holy Week.

So Leonardo Sandri will lead a prayer and a vigil primarily organized for young people in St. Peter's Square, beginning at 9 p.m. local time.

We have been able to meet some of pilgrims down in the square early today. We met a group from Nigeria. They told us that it was fulfilling to them to be at this time in the square. And they felt really privileged to be here and live through this historical moment with the pope.

I asked them -- we asked them about, what about the next pope? There are some talks about the next pope perhaps coming from Africa. They basically said it doesn't matter who the next pope will be. The most important thing is for the church to remain united.

Another group of pilgrims told us that they wanted to be here in St. Peter's Square because they wanted to be close to the pope during this difficult time. They say they were praying for God to give them strength, courage, peace and serenity.

And also they said some people told us they were hoping eventually to be able to get a final wave from the window overlooking St. Peter's Square of his apostolic palace in the papal apartment. This is where the pope was seen last -- last Wednesday. Obviously, nobody here now expects the pope to make any kind of final appearance from that window.

And finally we met a group from East Germany, former East Germany, some of them who actually had defected, at great risk, through the Berlin Wall and what was once the division between east and west Europe, to go back to West Germany. They said they wanted to be here as a way to thank the pope for having contributed to the bringing down of the Berlin Wall, of course, and the divisions between east and western Europe.

Jonathan, back to you.

MANN: Alessio, we're getting information about his medical condition a few hours bulletin, a few sentences at a time. Let me ask you, from the little bit that we have heard over the past two or three days whether we know more simply about the physical setting that the pope finds himself in.

Obviously, he is bedridden; he's lying down. Do we know where is, what room he's in, who is around him? What from his bed he might see. Does he have a window?

VINCI: Jonathan, I'm sorry, your voice comes to me a bit interrupted. So I couldn't hear completely your question. I think you asked me about who is next to the pope at this time. If that is the question, let me answer.

If not, let me say anyway we understand from the Vatican spokesman earlier today that, of course, there are the doctors and the nurses attending him and, of course, the long standing friend, the long papal aide and close adviser, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, an old friend of the pope, who's been assisting him for long before he became pope, 26 years ago. Stanislaw Dziwisz being obviously the man also who controls access to the pope.

We do know that some cardinals yesterday, primarily the governor of Vatican City, Cardinal Szoka, an American, went to see the pope yesterday. He described a little bit his condition about how the pope did recognize him but clearly couldn't speak.

But as far as today, we are not aware that anybody has actually seen the pope, with the exception of obviously his closest advisers -- his closest -- the people who are taking care of him, the doctors, as well as people living -- living in the papal household for quite some time now -- Jonathan.

MANN: Rome bureau chief Alessio Vinci, thanks very much.

In Rome, but also in places around the world, and in places of worship around the world, people are praying for the pope's health. We're going to take you now to Washington, D.C., to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where Cardinal Theodore McCarrick has been leading the celebration of mass for the pope.

We've heard some -- some very moving words from the cardinal. We also heard him talk openly of the succession on the apostolic throne, something that cardinals really do not do, that people within the church really do not do openly until it is very clear that the pope's time is very short. Already now, we are hearing that cardinal and other princes (ph) of the church, speak openly now about what must happen next.

Let's watch and listen in.


MANN: A moment of reflection in the course of the mass that is continuing. Once again, if you're watching this from the United States, or from around the world, we welcome our viewers from CNN USA and CNN International, joining with millions and, one would presume, more than a billion people whose thoughts are very much centered on one man in the Vatican City, gravely ill at this hour.

VERJEE: The pope's health has been in serious decline for about two months. He was hospitalized after a bout of flu-triggered respiratory inflection.

Weeks later, the pope was readmitted to the hospital, where doctors performed a tracheotomy to try and relieve his breathing problems. He struggled to recover from the procedure (AUDIO GAP) developed an infection and high fever. Friday the Vatican confirmed that the pope's condition had worsened. His breathing became shallow and his circulatory and kidney functions had deteriorated. Then we learned that the pope's blood pressure had become unstable. The Vatican now openly acknowledges that the pope has slipped in and out of consciousness.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us now to break us -- break down for us what the latest medical bulletin on the pope means.

Sanjay, a fairly terse statement from the Vatican. We're hearing the pope still has a high fever, not responding to antibiotics, then.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Not responding to antibiotics, but apparently responding to members of his household.

You know, a terse statement for sure but significant in some sense, because you remember the last statement which we received about eight hours previously said that he was in and out consciousness. Certainly, one would think the progression of that would be to lapse into consciousness (sic) altogether. It doesn't appear that that's happened.

He seems to, at least in terms of his mental state, his consciousness, still seems to be recognizing correctly, was the way that the Vatican put it, he seems to be responding correctly to members of his household.

VERJEE: Are you surprised by that? I mean, people you know, in his condition, at his age. He chose not to go to the hospital, not go to ICU, and three days later, it still -- appears to be responding to some degree.

GUPTA: Yes, I'm very surprised by that and surprised for lots of different reason. This is something that people know a lot about, septic shock, which is (AUDIO GAP) an infection in the body.

What happens in this situation is that bacteria gets throughout the bloodstream and subsequently lowers the -- causes the lowering of the blood pressure and lowering of the blood flow to various organs, including the brain. So you can -- you can sort of understand the severity of that. When there's not enough blood flow to the brain someone becomes lethargic.

One of the things about this is that even in a healthy person who develops septic shock, the recovery rate is not that good even with the best care in an intensive care unit. For someone who is of advanced age, 84, has significant medical conditions like the pope does, the odds are very much against him.

And I would have thought, again, just the progression of this would have been more -- more obvious at this point. It does seem like he's really sort of going back and forth. In some ways, this last -- this last statement was a little bit better than the statement eight hours before that.

VERJEE: So would you then conclude, based on the statement, that there's been a slight improvement or no change really in the condition? How would you read that?

GUPTA: I think medically there's probably been no change. That may have worsened a little bit, given that the high fever has returned, it sounded like, this morning, late this morning.

But again in terms of his consciousness, before they were saying lapsing in and out, and now saying responding correctly to members of the household. I'm not sure what that means exactly. They were very specific in using that term responding correctly. I'm not sure if that means he's speaking with them or he's making gestures or something. But you know, clearly he's able to recognize somebody, respond to them in some way which shows a (AUDIO GAP).

VERJEE: At a stage like this, how much pain would the pope be in?

GUPTA: That's a good question. You know, the right answer is we don't know, because only the pope can tell us that. But, you know, as far as a lot of studies done on this, once you reach the stage where you start to not have as much awareness associated that, there's less pain, as well.

(AUDIO GAP) Sometimes you can be uncomfortable, certainly, having an overwhelming infection like this.

VERJEE: How much more organ damage could there be in the coming hours?

GUPTA: Significant. And I think ultimately that would probably be the cause of his demise in the sense that once his kidneys start to fail, once his liver is failing, but most importantly, his brain and his heart don't have enough blood flow to them, that's probably going to be what -- what ultimately causes such a low flood flow that he can't sustain anymore.

VERJEE: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks a lot.

GUPTA: Thank you.

VERJEE: Jonathan.

MANN: Around the world Catholics and many non-Catholics have the pope in their thoughts and their prayers.

In France, worshippers and tourists gathered to light candles for the pope at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral. A 1997 photograph of the pope in full health in those days sat near the cathedral's altar.

Thousand of Catholics took part in prayer vigils Saturday in Australia. A church spokesman said the archbishop of Sydney plans to travel to Rome. Australia's prime minister had these words about the pope's legacy.


JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: I know that I speak for all Australians in expressing a very strong sense of understanding and compassion with Australia's Catholic community as His Holiness, the pope, in failing health, prepares to meet his maker.

This great man has not only been an inspiring leader to the one billion Catholics around the world, he (AUDIO GAP) Christian dedication to people of all Christian denominations and indeed of all faiths.


MANN: Catholics across Africa are joining in prayers for the pope. At St. Paul's Cathedral in Megos (ph), Nigerians attended a special mass Friday. Nigerian Cardinal Francis Arinze has been mentioned in the past as a possible successor on the throne of St. Peter.

Small groups of worshippers attended special services in Beijing to pray for the pope. There are many, many Catholics in China, though it broke ties with the Vatican in the 1950s and does not allow its Catholics to recognize papal authority.

VERJEE: In the predominantly Catholic Philippines the pope's worsening condition is dominating newspaper headlines as the faithful flock to churches to pray. President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo says the pope has served as a great inspiration for millions of Filipinos.


GLORIA MACAPAGAL, ARROYO, PRESIDENT OF THE PHILIPPINES: I join the Filipino people and the rest of the world in praying for the Holy Father. Pope John Paul II has an endearing place in the heart millions of the Filipino faithful for the special care and attention he has shown us.

And it saddens us all to hear the news of his grave condition. His serene courage and indomitable will remain a lasting source of our strength and hope as he faces trials and challenges of a troubled world.


MANN: The White House says U.S. President George Bush is closely monitoring developments at the Vatican. Mr. Bush paid tribute, rather, to the pope in his weekly radio address.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His Holiness is a faithful servant of God and a champion of human dignity and freedom. He is an inspiration to us all. Laura and I join millions of Americans and so many around the world who are praying for the Holy Father.


VERJEE: Former U.S. first lady Nancy Reagan's remembering her encounters with the pontiff. And she commented on the parallels his life had with that of her late husband, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan. She spoke by telephone with CNN's Larry King.


NANCY REAGAN, FORMER FIRST LADY: I met with him seven times. And twice alone, which was really a wonderful, wonderful experience. But you know, (AUDIO GAP) Ronnie had so many things in common. They both were actors.


REAGAN: They both -- they both loved the outdoors, loved sports. They both adored young people. They both had great senses of humor. They shared the title of a Great Communicator.

When Ronnie was shot in '81, the pope was shot in '81. When Ronnie died in June of this year, the pope looks like he's going to die in this year. It's -- it's amazing how the lives crossed.


MANN: Roman Catholics are the largest religious group in Canada. Prime Minister Paul Martin offered his thoughts on John Paul II and the impact of his papacy.


PAUL MARTIN, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: Whether you're a Catholic or whether you're of any faith, what the pope really stood for was the bringing of all faiths and all people together. And I'm -- I must say this is a time, obviously, for great reflection for all of us.


MANN: Our extensive coverage of the pope's health, his declining health in this hour, continues.

A sister church or sibling rivals?

VERJEE: Coming up, a look at the often contentious (AUDIO GAP) between the Vatican and the Russian Orthodoxy.

MANN: And the pope's legacy in Africa, where Catholicism is growing as fast as anywhere on earth.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He was wonderful. He is a wonderful pope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He has done his job. He has been a wonderful pope. And a wonderful man. A wonderful human being.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think he's impacted people beyond the Roman Catholic communities. (AUDIO GAP) around the world.


VERJEE: The pope has sought better relations with the Russian Orthodox Church. Many say he viewed the Orthodox in part as a natural ally in the struggles to resist both western secularism and the challenge of Islam.

But, as our Jill Dougherty explains, political and religious rivalry kept him from ever visiting Moscow.


JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): To the end of his life it remained an unfulfilled dream, the first Slavic pope making a papal visit to the great Slavic nation of Russia. Two faiths, Roman Catholicism and Russian Orthodoxy, split asunder nearly a thousand years ago, brought together in peace.

Pope John Paul II visited more than a dozen countries in Eastern Europe in the former Soviet Union but never Russia. Catholics at Moscow's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception of Mary prayed for the pope on the 25th anniversary of his papacy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): (AUDIO GAP) Many times he prays for Russia every day and he loves Russia. He wants to come here, but politics prevent it. That's not right, in my view.

DOUGHERTY: Politics and religious rivalry. The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Alexei II, often called for brotherly contacts with Pope John Paul II. But in reality, the two churches feuded over charges by the Orthodox that Catholics were poaching on their believers.

REV. VSEVOLOD CHAPLIN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH SPOKESMAN: They say that they don't compete with us, that they are a sister church for us. But at the same time they use every opportunity to empower their influence by missionary means and by -- by the means of political games.

DOUGHERTY: The Catholic Church, always a minority religion in Russia, denied it was proselytizing, but the dispute destroyed any possibility that the pope could come to Moscow.

(on camera) If it had been up to the Russian president alone, the pope might well have been able to visit Russia. But even he admitted, without permission from the Russian Orthodox Church, it was impossible.

(voice-over) Vladimir Putin met the pope in the Vatican during a visit to Italy shortly after he was inaugurated as president. Mr. Putin later told reporters he explained to the Holy Father he was ready to invite (AUDIO GAP) as head of state but not as head of the church.

"I cannot do it," he said, "without agreement of the Russian Orthodox Church."

A papal visit to Russia, President Putin said, would be the right thing to do, as he put it, an additional step toward the integration with the civilized world.

The head of the Catholic Church in Russia agreed.

REV. TADEUSZ KONDRUSIEWICZ, CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP: It would be a new -- a new page of the relationship with the Catholic Church in Russia and the Russian Orthodox Church. It would be a new page of relationships between the Vatican and the Russian federation. It would be a new page for future world because of Russia plays enormous role in modern society.

DOUGHERTY: But if that page is to be turned, it will be another pope who must do it, the rift between the churches of Moscow and Rome too great for even John Paul II to mend.

Jill Dougherty, CNN, Moscow.


MANN: Pope John Paul II made more than 100 international trips during his papacy. In fact, I think the last number I saw was 130. And is credited with giving the office a human face.

During his papacy, the Catholic Church saw its biggest breath in sub-Saharan Africa. Jeff Koinange now looking at the pope's impact on African Catholicism.


JEFF KOINANGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At first glance, the building in the background looks like a mirage set in the middle of the African bush. A closer look reveals the world's largest basilica, one 1/2 times the size of St. Peter's in Rome, with a capacity of a quarter of a million worshipers. It sits on 100 acres of land in the Ivory Coast capital, Yamoussoukro.

Built in the 1990s by the country's then-president, the giant structure seems abnormal in a region where Islam and animist religions dominate. Still, despite the anomaly, worshipers gather here several times a week, where mass is conducted in French by priests assigned by the Vatican.

The basilica has only twice been filled to capacity since its inception. Despite Africa being the Catholic Church's fastest growing continent of believers, the numbers clearly aren't reflected in this congregation.

(on camera) If the next pope is chosen from Africa, he may (AUDIO GAP). When it comes to filling the pews at places like the Our Lady of Peace Basilica here in Yamoussoukro (AUDIO GAP).

That's because, for a place that can take up to 20,000 worshipers indoors alone, and a further 180,000 across these lawns, the world's largest church finds itself struggling with weekly attendance. (AUDIO GAP)

(voice-over) But a couple of thousand miles east of Yamoussoukro, a different story. This is Sunday mass in the Nigerian city of Oniesha. Here, it's standing room only, with the service often spilling out into the streets. Service is conducted in both English and Ebo (ph), the dominant language in this region.

In a country of over 120 million, the number of Christians almost equals the number of Muslims.

VALERIAN OKEKE, ONIESHA, NIGERIA: The fact is the church among Catholics, Africa is probably the place where the highest percentage of growth is going on right now. More people are entering the church in Africa and in sub-Saharan Africa than perhaps any other place on the face of the earth.

KOINANGE: Further south is the country's commercial capital, Legos. It's 6 a.m., and the Catholic faithful are out in force for morning mass. Leading the service is one of the pope's chosen few, newly appointed Cardinal Anthony Okogie.

While many agree the election of an African pope would be a welcome addition to the Catholic Church, a first in nearly 2000 years, the most pressing concern right now is ensuring continuity. Thereafter, the task of seeking new flock and consolidating the church's presence in places like Africa will be among the challenges facing these faithful in the years to come.

Jeff Koinange, CNN, Legos.


MANN: If you've been watching us you may have seen a short portion of a mass being celebrated in Washington, D.C. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was leading that mass. He had made plans to go to Rome but canceled them when the pope fell so ill, so he could be close to his parishioners.

Well, Theodore McCarrick, the cardinal, is going to be speaking to the press shortly. And we'll bring you his news conference when it gets underway.

VERJEE: And we'll also bring you much more on the pope's condition as well as show you a lot of the vigils being held around the world. Stay with CNN.


SANJAY VERJEE, CO-HOST: Hello and welcome back. I'm Zain Verjee.

JONATHAN MANN, CO-HOST: And I'm Jonathan Mann. Our extensive coverage of Pope John Paul II continues now.

The latest we heard about his condition came from the Vatican just a short time ago. It tells us that his condition remains very serious. It describes him as having a high fever.

It is now, though, late in the evening in Rome. The high fever developed in the morning. It's 7:30 p.m. So some hours now, at least, since the last word, a high fever. And he responds correctly to members of his household. The pope, we're told, is feverish but he is lucid. His condition is described as serious.

VERJEE: Meanwhile, let's take a look at some of the other stories we're following around the world.

Zimbabwe's president, Robert Mugabe, has secured a two-thirds majority in Thursday's parliamentary election. It won 78 seats in addition to the 30 Mr. Mugabe by law will appoint. That allows the Zanu-PF party to change the country's constitution without a referendum.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change won only 41 seats and says it's been cheated for the third time in five years. Former information minister and Mugabe stalwart, Jonathan Moyo, won the only seat by an independent candidate.

Sudanese government officials say they'll defy a U.N. Security Council resolution referring Darfur war crime suspects to the International Criminal Court. They say it's unfair for Sudanese suspects to face the tribunal when the U.S. and other nations are exempt.

The U.N. resolution passed on Thursday only after the U.S. dropped its veto threat. Hundreds of Sudanese students marched in Khartoum on Saturday to protest the U.N. decision.

Police say a bombing in a mountain resort northeast of Beirut has wounded at least seven people. The blast is the fourth in a predominantly Christian area in the past two weeks. Police say Friday's bomb sparked a fire and destroyed several cars.

MANN: We now go for the latest from Rome to CNN's Vatican analyst, Delia Gallagher.

Delia, there was just a short statement, a few sentences. How are people parsing it there?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Jonathan, I'm sorry. I didn't hear your last question.

MANN: There was a short statement form the Vatican a short time ago, an official statement about the pope's health, that he was feverish but that he was -- responded to the people around him. What are people around you making of that news?

GALLAGHER: Well, frankly Jonathan, it seems to be more or less the same situation that we heard this morning. And the bottom line for people here is that the pope's health is very grave.

I think that one can understand that it may take some time and that some of these updates that are going to continue with this kind of minimal sort of information. But really just about enough to reassure people that the pope is not in a coma. I think that's important for the Vatican.

They obviously want to make that point when they say that -- that the pope is responding to his advisers. So I think they want to -- want to reassure but still let people know that he is in a gradual process of dying -- Jonathan.

MANN: It is so moving to see the scene at St. Peter's. The crowd, if anything, certainly not getting any smaller. Is there any provision to pass information to them? Is the church trying to communicate with them directly?

GALLAGHER: Well, that's a very good question, because in the square there, there are two large screens which on other days usually contain some information. The Vatican television controls those screens, and they can put up information.

But I think at this moment they are letting the information sort of seep out through -- through the journalists here. There are certainly no lack of journalists around. And the people are able to hear, just by word of mouth, what is the latest. We have people come up to us all the time, asking us what is the latest with the pope.

So I think for those people, it is more important for them to be in the square than have the latest news and to have a prayer service planned for tomorrow at noon for all those people who are in the square -- Jonathan.

MANN: Let me ask you more about that. Are many churches in Rome celebrating special masses? Are there lots of things that are being done there around the city? Is the Vatican organizing many events for the pilgrims who are gathering?

GALLAGHER: Well, the Vatican itself, of course, had a mass last night in one of their major basilicas. And I think that probably we will see the continuation of some of the individual priests, bishops, cardinals here holding those masses.

The amazing thing is, if you walk into any of these churches, there are a number of churches around St. Peter's Basilica, you know, smaller churches. And I walked into a few of them today. They are all packed with people: people praying, people milling about, people wanting to just feel some place to go where they can perhaps say a prayer for the pope.

So, yes, there's definitely a climate here of people involved in activities with the churches, prayers, candlelight vigils and so on -- Jonathan.

MANN: Do we know anything about the pope's physical setting now? About where he is? Obviously he's in bed. But where he is, what kind of arrangements are being made around him? What he can see and who he is being helped by right now?

GALLAGHER: Well, we know for sure that he's being helped by his major friend, aide, secretary, Don Stanislaw Dziwisz, who has been with him for 40 years. That's the main man at the pope's side at the moment.

There are other -- two other aides and three Polish nuns in the papal household. We assume that they are also present. Of course, there are the doctors there.

One imagines that the pope is in his room, where he's lived for the past 26 years. And probably is not able to see anything that's happening out in the square, although who knows? He may be connected with one of those video screens that the Vatican television is able to project those scenes, I don't know.

But certainly he has been told about what is going on outside his window, because that was his message this morning to the people, albeit it was a message which given very gradually, very slowly by the pope. His private secretary put it together, saying thank you all for coming -- Jonathan.

MANN: Has it been clear how much he knows about the gravity of his illness?

GALLAGHER: Well, the pope's spokesman did mention yesterday that the pope does know about his situation. In fact, that was one of the first things that he told us. And the pope's decision not to go back to the hospital.

He asked doctors if he could receive adequate care in his apartment. And when he said, yes, he could, he decided to stay there. So that assumes that -- that presumes that the pope knows exactly the state of his health -- Jonathan.

MANN: Delia Gallagher, thanks very much -- Zain.

VERJEE: Jonathan, the process of electing a new pope follows a centuries-old tradition marked by ritual and secrecy.

More than 100 cardinals from around the world assemble in the Sistine Chapel for a gathering known as a conclave. Theoretically, any priest from anywhere in the world can be elevated to the papacy. In practice, however the College of Cardinals has always elected one of its own. And who might that be?

Paula Zahn reports there are three men considered the front- runners.


PAULA ZAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (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 of 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.

CARDINAL FRANCIS ARINZE, NIGERIA: From the beginning of time...

ZAHN: That could help the chances of Cardinal Arinze, the Vatican's fourth-ranking prelate, who is from Nigeria. If elected, he would be only 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.


ZAHN: 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 of 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 an Italian, which would make Cardinal Tettamanzi a favorite. Known for 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 of 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.


VERJEE: That was Paula Zahn reporting.

MANN: Once again, the Vatican describes the pope's condition as serious. He was said to have developed a fever late in the morning, Rome time, which was some hours ago. But he is said to be responding to those around him. We'll have a closer look at the pope's health, of course, as our coverage continues.

VERJEE: And when we come back, the pope's influence stretched just beyond the Roman Catholic Church. Only he reached out, really, across the religious divide. We'll take a closer look at that when we come back.



POPE JOHN PAUL II, CATHOLIC CHURCH: ... continues to reconcile people to God (UNINTELLIGIBLE)


MANN: Welcome back to our viewers in the United States and around the world as we continue our coverage of Pope John Paul II clinging to life in his bed at the Vatican in Rome.

"As long as he still has a breath he is still our pope, and we still rejoice in him." The words of Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, archbishop of Washington to his parishioners just a short time ago.

Let's go now to CNN's J.J. Ramberg, who is in Washington.


I'm standing right in front of the national shrine where Cardinal McCarrick just celebrated a mass. You probably can still see some people filing out of that mass right now.

He also said, during the mass, that the pope has always taught us the value of life and the value of suffering. Now he's teaching us not only with his lips, but he's also teaching us with his very own life.

I got a chance to speak to some people before they went into that mass, and the emotions were very mixed out here. A lot of people saying, of course, that they're very, very sad and it's hard to see the pope in this condition. And then many people say, this is also a time for a celebration, because the pope has led a glorious life and he is going, as they said it, finally he's going home -- Jon.

MANN: It has been the case, through years of the pope's health trouble, that the princes of the church have not spoken about the possibility of his death and about the eventual succession. I was struck, because the cardinal did do that on this day, not only speaking of his death which is very, very close, obviously, but also talking openly about choosing the next pope.

RAMBERG: Yes. The cardinal has been very open about that. He's been open with people who have come to church, as well as reporters. And he said that he has a ticket right now to go to Italy tomorrow at 3 p.m. So he's going to be celebrating another mass tomorrow morning at 10, and then he'll be getting on a plane tomorrow at 3 p.m. MANN: Did he give any indication about his thoughts for another pope for the future of the church, now that this enormous figure, John Paul II, is in such grave health?

RAMBERG: Did you say has he given any idea of who that might be?

MANN: Who that might be or where the church may be going now?

RAMBERG: He hasn't given us a clear indication yet. But we'll see if he -- we're going to be talking to him right after this, and we'll see if he give is any clear indication, and we'll get back to you.

MANN: J.J. Ramberg in Washington, thanks very much -- Zain.

VERJEE: Jonathan, they may not share his religion, but many non- Christians say the pope's devotion to his faith serves as an inspiration to all.

We want to talk about the pope now from the perspective of Judaism and Islam, as well as Roman Catholicism. Rabbi Steven Lebow is with us here in Atlanta, Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, as well as the Reverend Tom Reese join us from New York. Thank you so much for joining us.

Reverend Tom Reese, for the non-Catholics watching both in the United States and around the world, tell us, how do most Catholics perceive Pope John Paul II?

REV. TOM REESE, NEW YORK: Well, John Paul II is perceived by Catholics all over the world as this holy great leader, a man who changed the course of history by helping to bring about the fall of communism. But also as a man who changed the church.

I think back as when I was a child. I would -- I would have been forbidden to go to a Protestant church or to go to a Jewish synagogue or a mosque. And yet we saw this pope visit Jewish synagogues, be the first pope to go to a mosque, you know, to be praying with other religious leaders at Assisi.

This -- this man modeled what we, as Catholics and Christians, should do in our relations with other religious.

VERJEE: Imam Faisal, how do -- how would you see it? How does the Muslim world view the pope and the impact that he has had on them?

IMAM FAISAL ABDUL RAUF, NEW YORK: Well, first let me say, Zain, that we join many of our fellow Christians in praying for the pope's comfortable departure from this world and being welcomed into an eternal life in the beyond.

But the pope, as head of the Catholic Church, has had a very enormous and positive influence on representing what the church means for Muslims. He has furthered the work of Nostra Aetate in encouraging dialogue among the Muslims, between Muslims and Catholics and Christians. He has visited the mosque of John the Baptist in Damascus and Syria. And has done a lot of very positive work in doing the -- on furthering the issues of social justice and moral welfare, which are the issues that many Muslims in the world are fighting for in their old -- in their own countries.

VERJEE: Rabbi Steven Lebow, this pope was the first to ever enter a synagogue, the first to travel to Auschwitz. He really declared himself a friend of Israel. Tell us from your perspective, how the pope nurtured ties with the Jewish community.

RABBI STEVE LEBOW: As you mentioned, this is the most sensitive pope, from the Jewish perspective, in history. He was a person who had a statement issued, asking forgiveness for the church's complicity in slavery. He had the church issue a statement affirming the worth of women.

But in the area of Jewish relations, this pope was the preeminent pope. He went to Israel. You can see him praying at the Wailing Wall. He had Jewish friends. He met with the rabbis in Rome. No doubt about it. This was the greatest pope.

VERJEE: Why was it so important, gentlemen, that -- let me ask Reverend Tom Reese this -- why was it so important for this pope to reach out across the religious divide?

REESE: Oh, I think it was extremely important. You know, all of these religious groups are -- are living together in a smaller and smaller world. We have large populations of Muslims in Europe. We have Christians and Jews and Muslims in the Middle East.

It is so important for world peace, for good relations among religious groups, that we be able to talk to one another, that we respect one another. And especially that we learn to work with one another for peace and for justice. This is what our common father, our common God, is calling us to do.

And the pope is the one, you know, who can give this leadership. The Muslims don't have a pope. The Jews don't have a pope. You know, we, as Catholics, do have this pope as an international leader who can bring all of us together to do the work of our -- that our father wants to do.

VERJEE: He was also very much an evangelist. How does -- did that seem to affect his relations with other faiths, Imam Faisal?

RAUF: Well, he spoke very well of Muslims in his best-selling book "Crossing the Threshold of Hope. He spoke about the powerful imagery of Muslims falling down on their knees and praying and how this is a model for all of those who worship God.

He -- but he also utilized the power of his office as a global leader and deployed his soft power in bringing about positive change. The fact that he was a pope from Poland enabled him to understand and appreciate, from an internal point of view, the difficulties that Poles who are living under in terms of the communist regimes. And he played a very important roll. Even Lech Walesa is quoted as having said that the pope himself was perhaps 50 -- 50 percent responsible for the -- the freedom that developed in Poland, and only 30 percent was from Solidarity and the Poles, and 20 percent from the work of the global leaders. So he was -- he played a very important role.

And this is the role of the pope as we enter the 21st Century, in terms of looking at his -- his mission as being to develop a sense of a global vision of what the city on the hill is. And that is what all of us would like to aspire to.

VERJEE: Rabbi Lebow, from your perspective, how do you assess the impact of the pope's evangelism on other faiths, on the Jewish faith?

LEBOW: I think the Roman Catholic Church under John Paul II is completely different than it was even as recently as 50, 60 years ago. There is evangelism, but the Roman Catholic Church has pulled away from any mission to try to convert the Jews.

And I think the Jews respect that enormously, that he has concentrated on other groups of people and not put the Jews in a sort of negative category.

VERJEE: Imam Faisal and Rabbi Lebow, I'm wondering, with the pope's efforts over the past 26 years to reach out across the religious divide, do you think that you see each other differently as a result of his efforts? Does -- has his efforts to reach out changed the attitude and the behaviors of Jews and of Muslims? Imam Faisal?

RAUF: Well, the relationship between Jews and Muslims predates this pope and predates, you know, centuries of history. Our history with Jews goes back a long time. And the intellectual and other theological and legal connections between Islamic thought and Jewish thought go back, easily, hundreds of years.

But having said that, the role of the -- this pope in urging for Middle East peace, and in trying to use his office to work towards that, has certainly played a very important role from the point of view of bringing not only the Christian faith traditions, but also those politicians like George Bush and Tony Blair, who come out of a Christian tradition, to play a more proactive and engaged role in bringing about a harmonious relationship between Jews and Muslims and, for that matter, with Christians, as well.

VERJEE: Rabbi Lebow, I want you to weigh in on that. But just let me ask a quick question to Imam Faisal. How did you feel, how did Muslims feel about the pope kissing the Quran?

RAUF: Very positive. I mean, the -- the Muslim leaders have been praying for his welfare. You've been reporting this widely. His presence in the mosque and visiting mosques and visiting with Islamic leaders is a very important and very powerful image to enhance relationships between Christians and Jews, because as our holy book says, and our holy book respects both Mary and Jesus and speaks of the Immaculate Conception.

And the Quran makes it very clear that among the closest people to you, as Muslims, are the Christians, because you both believe in sacrifice, in mercy, in love and in the same fundamental and overriding principles.

VERJEE: All right. Rabbi Lebow?

LEBOW: I think that Jews and Muslims and Christians, we may look different, have different theologies, have different prayers, but the fact of the matter is those three religions all believe that they spring from a common root.

And it's our belief, our basic belief in the one God. And I think that Pope John Paul II really exemplified that notion, that the world comes together and that our differences are not as important as our similarities.

VERJEE: And the similarities, and maybe one overriding one arguably, Reverend Tom Reese, the pope really transcending the barriers of all religion by being a strong moral voice. That's something that each faith can wholeheartedly embrace and espouse, right?

REESE: Absolutely. The one thing that -- well, one of the many things that we share, our three religious traditions is the prophetic role, that religious leaders must challenge their people, call them to be better, to do the works of justice, to be concerned for the poor. This is common to all of our traditions going back to the Hebrew prophets.

And I think that this is one of the things that is pulling us together. We realize that we have to work together. We have to work in unison for peace and justice. Other words -- otherwise, the world is going to be in a real mess.

VERJEE: And the respect, the admiration and the fondness for the pope from both the Muslim world and the Jewish world is clearly there. Thank you so much, gentlemen for joining us. Imam Faisal Abdul Rauf, the Rev. Tom Reese, both joining us from New York. Also Rabbi Steven Lebow here with us in Atlanta. Thank you so much.

LEBOW: Thank you, Zain.

MANN: And quickly updating the latest we've heard from the Vatican some 90 minutes ago, the statement said that the clinical condition of the Holy Father remains very serious.

In late morning, the high fever developed. When addressed by members of his household he responds correctly. Three sentences that go out to so many people around the world, waiting and watching. Our coverage continues.



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