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Pope John Paul II Laid to Rest Today Amidst Huge Crowds

Aired April 8, 2005 - 10:30   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN LIVE TODAY: It has been said that Pope John Paul II elevated the ordinary with his love. Today those people returned the love in huge numbers. More than 100,000 in St. Peter's Square alone.
Our Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci joins us now with their story. Alessio, hello.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Daryn. We're starting to see something we haven't seen very much lately here around St. Peter's square, and that is people actually leaving the area to return back to their homes and some of them back to their countries.

I'm going to step out of the way one second to show you here how the cleanup operation is already well under way here. This entire area around us has been cleaned up and garbage trucks are now making their way through the crowd. Because of course hey have to collect the tons of garbage and thousands of bottles of water which have been left behind by the pilgrims who attended this funeral by the hundreds of thousands.

Now, the reason why you still see people there in St. Peter's Square is because they believe perhaps that St. Peter's Basilica will eventually reopen at some point tonight and they will be able perhaps, to go down in the grotto to where the Pope has been buried. Because that usually is a place actually, that pilgrims, visitors and tourists can go to when the basilica is open.

But the giant television screens here that you can see behind me have already announced the basilica will not open today. And as a matter of fact, the grotto will not open until at least Monday, if not Tuesday. That is because of course the Italian authorities and the Vatican authorities would like some of the people to leave the country.

Because obviously, they do not want to repeat the long lines that we have seen in the past few days. Now, I just met up here with two ladies who were in line. Please step in, who were in line for the last few days. You participated today in the funeral. First of all, tell me why did you decide to come here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm from Buffalo, New York. I grew up in a very Catholic, Italian American family and I came here specifically to be part of this journey, and pilgrimage to see the Pope.

VINCI: So what did you feel today when you saw the Pope being taken to the square, three hours of mass, and then having seen him back in the basilica and you'll never be able to see him again. How do you feel?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's a feeling you can't describe unless you actually are a part of it. That's what we were saying, it's very spiritual and very heart-warming to see all these people from all of the world representing humanity everywhere to come and see this.

VINCI: Now, you came all the way from New York to watch a ceremony on television basically. You were unable to get to the square. Why not stay home?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I actually came from California.

VINCI: Sorry. Excuse me. I saw your hat of New York. So I thought you were from New York. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's okay. I like New York as well. I came from California on the - VINCI:

VINCI: Whatever. Recently.


VINCI: Why come all the way from the West Coast to here? It's more than a 12 hours' flight and you're still watching it on television.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To experience it in person is something like you can't explain. You can't -- words is just not enough to explain to someone what you've experienced walking through a line with millions of other people for 13 hours, in the darkness, turning a corner at exactly 12:00 midnight, and looking straight on to the basilica, illuminated into a black sky.

It's one of the most spiritual things I've ever experienced, and words is not enough to describe it. It's just something in your heart.

VINCI: Is it more religions, spirituality, or is it also the need or perhaps, yes, the need to go through a historical experience? After all, this is an historical day. And a lot of people are here today because they want to say, "I was in Rome when the Pope was buried -- that Pope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a combination of spirituality and the history. I was raised in a family that my mother was Italian Catholic and my father was Jewish. So for me, the outreach that the Pope had between the Jewish people and the Catholics is something very close to my upbringing and close to my heart. So it's a combination for me, history and spirituality at the same time.

VINCI: Tell me what this Pope meant to you, personally. We usually speak about the legacy of the Pope, and the important and historical things he has done. What has he meant to you in terms of as a person, what has he done that made a difference in your life? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What he has done, he has made the Catholics religion, the Catholic face, more applicable to the common person. Some people look at clergy and priests as someone that is unattainable. I think he is someone that's with the people, as you've heard all along through this whole week.

VINCI: All right. Thank you very much for your video.


VINCI: Have a good day. Bye-bye. Daryn, these are just a few of the stories that we've seen and heard here in st. Peter's square and around us throughout these past few days. Just a number here. We understand that close to 1 million people have converged to St. Peter's square; more than 1 million people have converged in the area of the Vatican and St. Peter's square.

In addition to that of course, tens of thousands of Italians, who have, you know, trying to pay their last respects here in St. Peter's Square, but also came throughout the country. This was really a truly international funeral, not just because the world leaders came here to Rome, but because pilgrims from all around the world came to St. Peter's square and to this area because they wanted to be here on this very historical day. Daryn?

KAGAN: Alessio Vinci reporting from St. Peter's square, thank you. You're talking about the more than 100,000 pilgrims that packed into St. Peter's square. We have more stories. Even more crowded streets surrounding the Vatican. Among the people who came, Emilia Klepacka and Matthias Villarreal. They are joining me now live from Rome.

Hello and thank you for joining us from Rome.



KAGAN: Matthias, I'm told that you came all the way from Belgium. Why did you want to come?

VILLARREAL: Well, I came from Belgium, yes, that's right. Friday we decided with a couple of friends to go to the funeral of the Pope, just because it was important to be here with the millions of young people to honor this, the life of this man and all he did for the catholic religion and in his life, for humanity basically.

KAGAN: Emilia, why as a young person was it important for to you experience this?

KLEPACKA: I think the Pope is fascinated by the young people. He loves young people. And the young people love him. We've seen evidence of that. The Pope is the one that started the World Youth Days, which is a biannual of gathering of young people from every continent, every background. Millions of young people gather in Rome. In the Philippines, 6 million. Rome, 2.6 million we had in Toronto. Now this summer it will be in Colon (PH) with the new pope.

These meetings are a huge grace for the church and for the lives of many young people. I've seen myself have my life transformed by the inspiration that the Holy Father is in his teaching and in his writing. I've seen it applied to many personal decisions in my life and it also applies to my academic studies.

And when I work on the political sphere in my job in the World Youth Alliance, which is the coalition of young people working to promote human dignity. A lot of what we're doing is drawing upon the teaching, the legacy of John Paul II in his work on the dignity of the human person. And his constant affirmation of that dignity showing that policy and culture must affirm the truth and dignity of the human person.

Otherwise such as in the case of communism, it is destined to fail. I think it's very important for the world to understand this. And it's important for young people, who are asking the question, who am I? How do I achieve freedom and happiness? How do I experience real intimacy and love?

They find the answers when they really look at the nature of the human person. And the Pope is an expert on that. And his love for humanity has come across in all the work he has done on the political and cultural level and the way that he's taken the church to new frontiers.

And he's drawn so many millions of young people right back into the heart of the church and transformed their lives through that by challenging them to follow Christ.

KAGAN: Let me ask you this. You came all this way, you came to Rome. In the minute or so that we have left, can you describe what you saw during the funeral? And did you get close enough to make it worth the experience and the travel?

KLEPACKA: Absolutely. We got into the center of the square, so we were very, very privileged amongst the millions there. And I was looking around at the faces I saw. I was really moved by the many young men and young women that I saw who, you know, intensely experiencing this funeral. And there was a lot of deep sorrow, and yet there was huge joy and huge gratitude.

I think the applause went on for five or ten minutes. And then the chanting started. In Polish, they were chanting (UNINTELLIGIBLE), which means, we thank you. We thank you. And there was a sense that the Holy Father is still with everyone. They also started chanting, "We are still with you. You are still with us, as the coffin was being drawn away.

I think there is this hope and aspiration of young people that they want to carry on what he has started and they want to build free and just societies. They want to build this culture of life, this civilization of love and truth, which the Holy Father has always talked about. And I think that was really beautiful. That unity that we experienced together, the common time of prayer this morning was really profound.

And I think that just the deep sense of love that I experienced, that was amongst everyone around me. It wasn't just one or two individuals, but everyone there has this deep connection and deep love for the Pope. And I think that's a testament to the profound impact he's had on many people's lives. And the fact that they realize also how much they owe to him in the sense of freedom.

Many of the polish people know what a big role he played in the liberation of their country from communism. I know people who are pro-democracy, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in prison in Burma for example, who owe their freedom to the personal intervention of John Paul II.

And I know myself, as a young person, many people in my generation owe their own personal journey of faith. A lot of that has been impacted by his life and his work. And his invitation and challenge to youth. And we are so grateful for that. Because we have discovered a new joy and freedom through that challenge.

KAGAN: Emilia Klepacka and Matthias Villarreal, you do a beautiful job of describing your experience there today, and sharing your faith and what this Pope has meant to your young lives. Thank you. We appreciate your time today.

KLEPACKA: Thank you.

KAGAN: Well, there were some young people; there were small groups, large crowds. The faithful watched the live broadcast of John Paul II's funeral. Tens of millions of people all around the world did that. At least 100 people stood in the rain in London, watching on a large screen. The bells of Westminster Cathedral ringing out.

The Pope's Polish homeland paused to remember him as well. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in a Krakow field to watch the funeral on giant screens. A smaller screen relayed images of the funeral to hundreds of worshipers at Hong Kong's Catholic Cathedral.

A week of masses and memorial services have been held there for John Paul II. There's a good chance, since it started at 4:00 a.m. eastern you were asleep during our live coverage of today's funeral. So we have an encore presentation for you. You can watch the service in its entirety in prime time tonight beginning at 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

There is much more news taking place in the U.S. We'll lighten things up, hopeful a few rays of sunshine ahead. We'll go live to Augusta, Georgia. We're going to see how the Masters are shaping up after yesterday's rain delay.

Plus a check of the forecast across the country when CNN LIVE TODAY returns.




KAGAN: As so many people and dignitaries gathered in Rome for Pope John Paul II's funeral, security was a huge concern. We're just getting this in from Rome. Both "Reuters" and the "Associated Press" reporting this, that an Italian air force fighter plane forced an executive jet to land near Rome on Friday.

That, of course, is where world leaders were gathered for the funeral of Pope John Paul II. The air space over Rome was closed during the funeral. But according to these reports an Italian air force fighter plane forced this executive jet to land. We will have more details on that as it comes in.

Right now let's take a look at other news making stories coast- to-coast here in the U.S. Updating first a story that broke yesterday during this hour in Canton, Texas. A high school football coach is in critical condition after being shot in the chest. The father of a player has been arrested and is scheduled to be arraigned today. Police say the father had been upset with the school's coaching system.

And the lone suspect in a shooting rampage through Delaware and Maryland makes his first court appearance today. The judge will review bail for 22-year-old Alice Norman. He is charged in the murder of a Maryland man and is also a suspect in the Delaware killing. Authorities say the victims apparently were chosen at random.

In central Florida, heavy winds flipped planes, trucks and downed trees. An unconfirmed tornado touched down in Marion County, 20 homes were damaged there and more than 6,000 customers lost power. At least four people were injured.

It is day two at the Masters. Can the tournament get back on track after yesterday's weather delay? The PGA players are getting really sick of these rain delays. We'll go live to Augusta when CNN LIVE TODAY returns


KAGAN: so the opening round of the Masters here in Georgia. It started yesterday. They're still playing today. They resumed the first round about an hour ago. Golf's best has been forced to take a back seat to Mother Nature. Patrick Snell is at Augusta National. Good morning.

PATRICK SNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Daryn. Thanks very much for joining us. Welcome to day two here at the masters. We're not doing round two just yet. Many players still out on the course, trying to get through their opening round.

The good news is the rain has stopped, after five hours of deluge yesterday. Many players trying to put things right, including the world number two, Tiger Woods, who has much to do here. He's a three- time champion here at Augusta. And he's looking for his first major success in some 11 attempts. A day of frustration for him I think it's fair to say. Thursday he was two over par after his 12 holes. That left him with six holes to play in total. And a real disaster for him in particular at 13 yesterday. He had a putt and this one was for an eagle, and it actually rolled off the green, into the trap and into the water. And basically, he ended up by taking a bogey on that hole.

So he was two over after his 12 holes. And really, I think his body language it's fair to say, wasn't quite right. He is, whether he admits it or not, feeling the pressure I think. It's been three years since his last major success. That was the U.S. Open in 2002. And he's been talking about reconstructing his swing to try and get back to become a more complete golfer. A better golfer, if that were possible, than he was before.

I can give you a latest on Tiger. He is two over par through 16. So status quo really forwards. He still has much to do. He's among a cluster of players playing catch-up with Chris DeMarco, who is leading. But Phil Michelson is the defending champion here at Augusta. And he's enjoying a very good first round as well, it has to be said.

The player known as lefty is currently three under through 15. He was two under after his first round, and he's looking pretty good indeed. He's making it quite clear that he wants to hold onto this title his first major, of course, secured last year. Daryn?

KAGAN: So it's good to see some of the top names and what they're doing. And they can be human. When we bring you back in the next hour, Patrick, I want to you talk about Billy Casper. For all of us who really struggle on the golf course, we can appreciate the kind of day he had at Augusta. We'll talk about that in the next hour when you come back. Thank you for that.

It was a historic day in Rome. What may have been the largest funeral in the world's history. If you missed it overnight, the most memorable moments are just ahead. We'll check in on weather. How about that? Let's do that. Orelon, we're not letting you get away that easily.




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