'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 8
Guest: George Weigel, Anthony Figerado
KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: In life, he was the definition of modesty, yet simultaneously, the epitome of charisma. Teaching those of his faith and those not how to embrace the endlessly unanswerable with a wry smile. And in his twilight years and months, teaching something quite different. The dignity that can be had even when death finds man, mighty or small.
In life, there were few who could be both so famous and so humble. But now in death, the humility of the man who escaped the Nazis in Krakow and helped overthrow the communists in (UNINTELLIGIBLE). His attributes, his faith will no longer quietly need to respect. Their true estimation of him heard powerfully and unmistakably today.
Santo Subeto (ph) translated as "saint immediately." And other chants of magnus max (ph), the great, the great, Pope John Paul the Great.
For the burial of a man, we were prepare, even the burial of a man by a village the size of the entire planet. For his sanctification by acclaim, the instant immortality built of gratitude and love, this, this was transcendent.
This is Countdown, special coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul
Good evening. The body of Karol Wojtyla, the 264th recognized pope of the Catholic Church, had been entombed for less than an hour in the grotto of Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, but already millions of words about him and today's solemnities have been spoken, written, even chanted.
But perhaps none of them offered the perspective offered by a line from the Washington Post. Its reporter wrote of an unprecedented outdoor funeral mass with more than 75,000 persons present in St. Peter's Square. That description, of course, is not of the funeral this morning in Rome.
It dates from August 13, 1978, the day after Pope Paul VI was interred. His 15-year pontificate had inspired an theretofore unheard of degree of public sorrow, of cardinals present, of international recognition. Even a president attended. The president of Zambia.
That is the true background behind against which today's enormous and overwhelming events transpired: 300,000 in St. Peter's Square alone, perhaps four million more in the streets immediately surrounding it, another 800,000 in an open field in John Paul's native Krakow. Four kings, five queen, the leaders of 14 other religions, at least 70 prime ministers and presidents. Three presidents from this country alone.
The U.S. delegation to Pope Paul's funeral 26 and a half years ago had been led by the first lady, Rosalynn Carter with Senator Kennedy and Governor Carey of New York.
And the cardinals, 104 of them attended Paul's burial in 1978. It was an unheard of number in the church's 1900-year history. Today that number was exceeded by 60 percent.
And yet what was if not the largest funeral in history, one that was on the scale of the ceremonies at least for Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln and even Mao Tse-Tung, ended not as millions watched, but with the actual interment with just a dozen cardinals around - a dozen or so other officials of the church, members of the so-called papal family and a dozen more pallbearers and one photographer to bear witness to the final goodbye.
In the minds of the faithful, of course, not truly a goodbye of any kind, especially not of the crowds chaptering for John Paul to be made a saint through prescient. They were believed to be the first cry magnus magnus since the funeral mass of Pope Gregory I in the year 604.
In the next two hours, we'll be bringing you a summary of the day's events, including over the funereal 90 minutes, much of the funeral's ceremonies unedited without commentary.
It is a contradiction of the electronic age. The mass which our ancestors could never have seen was telecast live everywhere except China. But in Catholic Boston, it began at 4:00 a.m. in Catholic Chicago, 3:00 a.m. in Catholic Southern California, 1:00 a.m. Thus in reprising what circumstances may have forced you to miss, we'll stay out of the way of it as much as we can.
But we begin at the end. Our correspondent Chris Jansing has been in Rome since the pope took ill and she join us yet again.
Chris, good morning. Let me start with the crowd chanting. If the church historians are correct, that was last heard nearly 900 years before Columbus reached North America. Those moments must have nearly defied description.
CHRIS JANSING, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: This was an absolutely glorious celebration, Keith, of a life well lived. So extraordinary, I think, that even President Bush said it was one of the great moments of his presidency.
You could not help but be moved by this amazing contrast. You had the majesty of this ceremony. The extraordinary beauty of the setting in St. Peter's Square, you had Michaelangelo's dome towering over it and everyone being so entirely appropriate.
And it seemed entirely appropriate that the spontaneous applause would come up 10 times, interrupting the sermon alone. And the shouts, you know, saint immediately! And the great. These were things that were coming out of the mood of the moment, out of the spirit of the people who were so touched by this man. You couldn't help but have it give you chills running up and down your spine.
And from our vantage point, which is high up, you see this expanse of people. And the intense focus on this small coffin. And then all those red and white flags. The people of Poland, who had traveled so far to say goodbye to a brother. It was extraordinarily moving.
OLBERMANN: As I said before, you could fill another 900 years just reading all the words written or said about the events today. But from that perspective, from that viewpoint that you were in, what has been left out? What has been underemphasized? What one thing above all else will remain with you, Chris?
JANSING: Well, I think what got maybe underreported is the fact that when things go wrong, we hear a lot about them. But things went very right, I think, this week. Rome officials had a tremendous job on their hands. And they handled it brilliantly.
I had heard of no major problems. I saw no major problems. They handled the logistics. They basically were taking a celebration that happens every 25 years and putting it together in 48 hours. And everything went remarkably smoothly.
But seriously, what I will remember the most, I'm not particular good with faces. But I will remember the faces of some of the pilgrims who I met. The young boy who was standing in line, who spent 38 hours on a bus coming from Warsaw. His named John Paul, named by his father Karol. The couple who live near Rome but spent 16 hours in line until they were completely exhausted, emotionally, physically. They were beaten down by the sun. They came out, gave eloquent testimony to Pope John Paul II. And then I only found out at the end of it, that one was Mormon, the other agnostic but they have felt deeply touched by this man.
It would be the testimonies of these pilgrims who traveled here, four million of them, that I don't think I'll ever forget, Keith.
OLBERMANN: Chris Jansing on the scene of what was at minimum one of the 10 largest funerals in the history of the world. And witnessed to in term of logistics, probably the largest mass travel at least on the continent of Europe since the second world war. Chris, great thanks.
JANSING: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: And again about the concept of santo subeto and John Paul the great, we turn now to one of the leading authorities on Roman Catholic theology, one of John Paul's biographers and confidantes, now NBC News Vatican analyst George Weigel. He too joining us tonight from the Vatican. And my great thanks at this late hour, sir.
We saw that phrase, "the Great" appended to the pope's name in the official Vatican paper last Sunday. Having said that, was it still stunning to their crowd chanting that phrase? And those people who were carrying the signs calling, essentially, for immediate sainthood?
GEORGE WEIGEL, NBC NEWS ANALYST: It is always stunning, Keith, when it is the first time in 1,400 years.
As you said at the beginning, this eruption of popular sentiment, popular piety, popular acclamation and affirmation of a pope's life, has not happened in 1,400 years, since 604. And the funeral of Pope Saint Gregory the Great.
There had been discussion among the pope's friends, among commentators on this pontificate, for more than 10 years. Asking the question, whether history might remember him as John Paul the Great. I think that answer was given in a definitive and remarkably moving, popular way this morning in St. Peter's Square.
OLBERMANN: The chancing of it. Let me read something we were all sent at NBC and MSNBC two hours before the funeral about how the term "the Great" indeed wound up to being applied to pope's Leo and Gregory.
"In both instances, the title was the result, not of some formal process, but of a spontaneous chant from the people of Rome whom the tradition says changed magnus, magnus - great, great - at the funeral. Don not be surprised if a chant of magnus, or in Italian il grande, or giovanni paolo il grande breaks out at some point on Friday."
And that was written and sent to us by George Weigel. So, congratulations on your foresight on that. But, how - take it to the next stage now. How will we know if that new name has, to use the vernacular, stuck? What is the first point at which the informal becomes the formal? Would it appear in a document? In a book? What would the process be?
WEIGEL: There is no process. We'll know that it's stuck when it sticks. I think the reason why it'll stick, Keith, takes us to some parallels between John Paul the Great, Leo the Great and Gregory the Great. Leo the Great, in the fifth century, defended Rome and the Church against a barbarian attack, Atilla the Hun. Gregory the Great defended the city and the church against another barbarian attack, by the Lombards.
This pope, as this enormous four million member congregation today testified, defended not only the church and Rome, but all humanity in the face of new barbarisms: the Nazism under which he grew up, the communism under which he helped destroy, the barbarism of utility which measures human beings only by how much they're worth to us, not by the inherent dignity and value which is built into every human life by God.
He was the man at the gates, defending us against the barbarities of our own time and proclaiming at the same time a true and nobler Christian humanism, a true and nobler vision of human possibilities for all the world.
OLBERMANN: To the signs that read "santo subito." Is that possible? Is immediate sainthood a possibility, and what is immediate in terms of the catholic church and sainthood?
WEIGEL: In the normal process, Keith, the cause, as it is known, for the beatification of John Paul II, John Paul the Great, would begin in Krakow, in his home diocese, five years after his death. The next pope could amend the rules, amend the canons of the church, to allow that process to begin sooner if he chose. At the same time, it's a complex process, particularly with someone like John Paul II who left an enormous body of written work behind him, which the church will want to look through and assess.
However that process plays out, when I looked out the window of my apartment two blocks from here, Wednesday night, saw 40,000 people jammed into this street from the Santana Gate to the Vatican to the river below us. And there was that sign, santo subito, held up by young people, held up by young people, chanting "santo subito, santo subito" you know that in the hearts and minds of hundreds of millions of Catholics throughout the world, this man has already been canonized, and that in fact is how saints were canonized prior to the middle ages, by spontaneous acclamation.
OLBERMANN: Lastly, George, I said in the opening that today, perhaps, his faithful stopped honoring that desire he had for humility, and treated him the way they probably would have wanted to all along, with acclamation and chants of "the great." Would he have been appalled by that appellation, "the great"? How would he have reacted to it?
WEIGEL: I think he would have laughed. The pope had a robust sense of humor. He liked to kid and he liked to be kidded. But what he would have appreciated today, Keith, is that this was not about him in the ultimate sense. His entire life was witness to the truth on which he believed he had staked his life. As he put it, that Jesus Christ is the answer to the question that is every human life. That belief was vindicated, validated, lifted up before the whole world today. And he would be very grateful that at his funeral, the focus was on Christ, not on him.
OLBERMANN: I like the idea of leaving this topic with the image of him laughing. And, papal biographer and NBC news analyst George Weigel, thank you again for joining us, sir. We'll be talking again...
WEIGEL: Thank you, Keith.
OLBERMANN:... in the days ahead. No doubt. We begin to gauge who will get the daunting task of following John Paul II.
Also tonight, the historic day as seen through the eyes of the millions of pilgrims who gathered from the packed streets of Rome to Wojtyla's homeland, Poland.
And, if you were unable to watch the funeral live, we'll have all the special tributes and the most touching of the moments for to you experience or experience again. You're watching Countdown, special coverage of the papal funeral on MSNBC.
OLBERMANN: Our special coverage of the pope's funeral continues.
In a few moments, Father Anthony Figuredo (ph) the former personal assistant to John Paul will join me and we will replay much of this morning's solemnities.
But first - on any given day, about 3.7 million people call Rome home. On any given day, except this one. Today the population of the eternal city doubled. At least. As millions of faithful poured into Italy's capital to pay their respect to Pope John Paul II. Those who could not make it into the Holy See gathered in the churches and town squares across the world to watch the funeral on television.
In a moment, we'll have Kelly O'Donnell's report from Krakow, the Polish city where John Paul became a priest and a hero.
First, our correspondent Anne Thompson amid the remarkable and remarkably well-behaved crowds in Rome.
ANNE THOMPSON, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: In the shadow of the Vatican, they slept anywhere and everywhere, preparing to make one last act of faith for the holy father.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is an opportunity to come and give
thanks to the man for all that he has given to us
THOMPSON: At the Coliseum, where Christians were martyred; the ancient racetrack, Circus Maximus; the Piazza Del Poppelo (ph) - all of Rome became a church, a congregation connected by giant TVs, and devotion to John Paul II.
Carlo Carlosi (ph) never got to see the pope, but the Connecticut man did get to see his funeral.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who would've thought that I'd be here in just such a historical time?
THOMPSON: Driving all the way from Krakow, Peoter (ph) got to St.
John Laterine (ph), the pope's church in Rome, at 3:00 this morning.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And he showed us that, in this materialistic world, you've got to look inside of you for your spirit, for your soul.
THOMPSON: One of millions who came to say goodbye.
To handle the crush, Rome shut down, closing schools, public offices, even its museums. The city famous for its traffic jams banned cars to make way for pilgrims, his final journey too much for some Poles.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was beautiful to see all the...
THOMPSON: Yet Lauri Olson (ph), who waited 13 hours in line to see the pope's body felt compelled to witness his funeral.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Most of the time, I was just in awe and I couldn't believe I was standing there.
THOMPSON: A moment for eternity in the eternal city.
Anne Thompson, NBC News, Rome.
KELLY O'DONNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is Kelly O'Donnell in Krakow, Poland, where, today, Rome did not feel so far away. Amid hundreds of thousands, watching the regal Vatican farewell, one simple legacy, seen in the face of 16-year-old Marta Mcdowell.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hope is with us.
O'DONNELL: Those four words tell her family story. Her grandparents were friends of the pope. They worked together in a quarry during World War II. Her parents now pass on the time, telling her brothers and sisters how John Paul once visited their home.
_A good memory for you? _
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very good.
O'DONNELL: Marta has even felt his touch. So today she is one of the generation just old enough now to know how much this pope really means to Poland.
He said we are the future, that's why I'm here, she explains.
A generation of Poles, young enough still to carry John Paul's legacy forward.
Kelly O'Donnell, NBC News, Krakow.
OLBERMANN: A day of legacies. A day for the ages in so many different ways for so many different people.
Ahead, we will relive, in effect, this most memorable of days from the last glimpse of the pope's casket to the entirety of the touching homily from the pope's friend Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Stand by.
OLBERMANN: This is Countdown's special coverage of the funeral mass of Pope John Paul II. It is likely to prove one of the largest television events in history. If you missed the solemnity of the service late - early this morning when it was live, in the course of the next 90 minutes, we'll take you through the most touching moments from beginning to end. And we'll show you the drama among the millions in attendance. In a week where the massive outpouring of support overwhelmed the Vatican and all of Rome, you'll see that once the funeral started, the crowds remained very vocal in their praise of John Paul, and very well-behaved. Our look back at an extraordinary day resumes after this.
OLBERMANN: We rejoin you now with the Countdown's special coverage of the papal funeral. It began at 4:00 a.m. Eastern, and ended just about two and a half hours later. A solemn, traditional, often emotional mass celebrating the life and death of Pope John Paul II. Tonight, a look back at the remarkable ceremony, witnessed by at least 300,000 in St. Peter's Square, three or four million elsewhere in Rome, and tens of millions more around the world.
To help us appreciate the intricacies of the papal funeral, I'll be joined by Father Anthony Figerado (ph), one of the papal assistants to Pope John Paul II at the meetings of the bishops from 1996 to 2001, and now an MSNBC analyst.
Father, I'm glad we'll be able to talk to you.
FATHER ANTHONY FIGERADO, MSNBC ANALYST: Thank you.
OLBERMANN: We'll get to Father Figerado's insights in a moment. Let's begin at the start of the ceremony as the pope's coffin was carried out a placed on a simple catafull (ph) in front of the gathered faithful.
OLBERMANN: Father Figerado, apart from the constant applause, which we would not hear at an average Catholic funeral, the placement of the Book of Gospels atop the casket, what's happening here?
FIGERADO: This is the most important task of any bishop, Keith, to announce the good news to every nation to the end of time knowing that God will always be with us. John Paul II certainly fulfilled that mission. Even more striking to those pages, which blew in the wind, a sign of the holy spirit. John Paul II moved in life and he moved even more in death. But there came a moment when God closes the book of life in this world and says come, good and faithful servant, inherit the life prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
OLBERMANN: Extraordinary. And here is Cardinal Ratzinger approaching.
CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER, DEAN OF CARDINALS (through translator): Oh God, father and shepherd of humanity, look upon your family united in prayer and grant your servant and our pope John Paul, who in the love of Christ, presided over your church. You share with the flock and trusted to him, the reward promised to the faithful ministers of the gospel.
For our Lord Jesus Christ, the son of God, and who lives and reigns with you in the united of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.
OLBERMANN: And now those who had places in the square are seated as the liturgy of the word is proclaimed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): A reading from the Acts of the Apostles.
In those days, Peter preceded to address the people in these words: In truths I see that God chose no partiality. Rather, in every nation, whoever fears him and acts uprightly is acceptable to him. You know the word he sent to these Isrealites as he proclaimed peace through Jesus Christ who is lord of all.
What has happened all over Judea beginning in Galilee after the baptisim that John preached. How God annointed Jesus of Nazereth with the Holy Spirit and the power. He went about doing good and healing all those oppressed by the devil for God was with him.
We are witnesses of all that he did, both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree.
This man God raised on the third day and granted that he be visible not to all the people, but to us, the witnesses chosen by God in advance, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
He commissioned us to preach to the people and testify that he is the one appointed by God as judge as the living and the dead. To him, all the profits bear witness that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name.
The word of the Lord.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): The word of the Lord.
He guides me along the right path. He is true to his name. And the people join in singing, the Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want.
If should I walk in the valley of darkness, no evil should I fear because you are with me.
You are there with your crook and your staff (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil. My head you have anointed with oil. My cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me all the days of my life.
In the Lord's house shall I dwell forever and ever. And the people respond once again, the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A reading from the letter of Paul to the Philippians. As you well know, we have our citizenship in heaven. It is from there that we eagerly await the coming of our savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will give a new form to this lowly body of ours. And remake it according to the pattern of his glorified body by his power to subject everything to himself. For these reasons, my brothers, you whom I so love and long for, you who are my joy and my crown, continue my dear ones to stand firm in the lord.
OLBERMANN: John McDonald, a seminarian from Mobile Alabama, and Alohandra Koria (ph), an ordinary parishioner from Spain among those chosen to present the readings. An extraordinary honor.
We need to take a break here. When we rejoin you, the proclamation of the Gospel. And a moving tribute to the pope by Cardinal Ratzinger.
OLBERMANN: Countdown's special coverage of the final farewell to the pope continues. We'll here next the passage from the Gospels chosen for this funeral and the homali (ph) for John Paul II, one greated by the crowd of thousands, millions with repeated appplauds. Standby for this one.
OLBERMANN: Countdown's special coverage of today's funeral of Pope John Paul II continues, so too our playing of selected segment of the Mass itself.
Now a special choice of gospel for the service this morning, John Chapter 21 Versus 15-19 in which Christ asks Peter whether he was capable of a greater love than any of his fellow apostles. It's the same passage that a then Cardinal Wojtyla used as the basis of one of his most famous sermons.
DEACON PAUL MOSS (through translator): The Lord be with you.
CHOIR: Spirit to be well with your spirit and also with you.
MOSS: A reading from the gospel according to John.
When they had finished breakfast Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these? He said to him, yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
He said to him, feed my lambs.
Then he said to him a second time Simon, son of John, do you love me?
He said to him, yes, Lord. You know that I love you.
He said to him, feed my sheep.
_He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love me? _
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, do you love me? And he said to him, Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.
Jesus said to him, feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you. When you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted, but when you grew old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you don't want to go.
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said, follow me.
OLBERMANN: And with the acclamation from the crowd, "praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ" that signaled the end of our readings this morning.
Our second hour of special coverage will continue with one of the most moving points in today's funeral mass, the homily, the part of the service in which the celebrant draws on the lessons of the readings today taking on a greater significance with the example set by the life and teachings of Pope John Paul, the vicar of Christ.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger remembers his friend as millions listen next.
OLBERMANN: This is Countdown's continuing special coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II. He is the chief enforcer of Vatican policy, the prefect of papal doctorine and one of the men who might possibly become the next pontiff. So arguably Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as dean of the College of Cardinals was the choice to deliver today's funeral mass and the homily within.
Offically the homily is a reflection on scripture, but today, it also marked a reflection on the life and legacy of Pope John Paul II.
CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER, DELIVERS HOMILY, (FOLEY TRANSLATES):
Follow me, the risen Lord says these words to Peter. They are his last words to his disciple, chosen to shepherd his flock. "Follow me."
This lapidary saying of Christ can be taken as the key to understanding the message which comes to us from the life of our late, beloved Pope John Paul II. Today we bury his remains in the earth as a seed of immortality. Our hearts are full of sadness, and at the same time they are full of joyful hope and profound gratitude.
FOLEY: The people applaud indicating their gratitude to Pope John Paul II.
RATZINGER (FOLEY TRANSLATING): These are the sentiments that inspire us, brothers and sisters in Christ, present here in St. Peter's Square and neighboring streets and in other locations within the city of Rome. Where an immense crowd, silently praying, has gathered over the last few days.
I greet all of you from my heart. In the name of the College of Cardinals, I also which to express my respects to the heads of state, heads of government, and the delegations from various countries.
I greet the authorities and officials representatives of other churches and Christian communities, and of different religions.
Next I greet the archbishops, bishops, priests, religious men and women and the faithful who have come here from every continent, especially the young.
FOLEY: Many young people present applaud.
RATZINGER (FOLEY TRANSLATING): Especially the young, whom Pope John Paul II liked to call the future and hope of the church.
My greetings extended, moreover, to all those throughout the world, who are united with us through radio and television, in this solemn celebration of our beloved Holy Father's funeral.
Follow me. As a young student Karol Wojtyla was thrilled by literature, the theater, poetry. Working in a chemical plant -
Working in a chemical factory surrounded and threatened by the Nazi terror, he heard the voice of the Lord, "Follow me." In this extraordinary setting he began to read books of philosophy and theology. And then he entered the clandestine seminary established by Cardinal Sapieha.
After the war, he was able to complete his studies in the faculty of theology of the Jagiellonian University of Krakow. How often, in his letters to priests and in his autobiographical books, has he spoken to us about his priesthood, to which he was ordained on November 1, 1946.
In these texts he interprets his priesthood with particular reference to three sayings of the Lord. First, "You did not choose me, but I choose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit. Fruit that will last."
The second word is, "The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep." And finally, "As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you. Abide in my love."
In these three sayings we see the heart and soul of our Holy Father.
He really went everywhere, untiringly, in order to bear fruit, fruit that lasts. "Rise, Let Us Be On Our Way" is the title of his next to last book. "Rise, let us be on our way," with these words he rouses us from a lethargic fate, from a sleep of the disciples of both yesterday and today.
Rise, let us be on our way, continues to say to us, even today, the Holy Father was a priest to the last, for he offered his life to God, for his flock, and for the entire human family, and a daily self-oblation for the service of the church, especially amid the sufferings of his final months. And in this way he became one with Christ.
He became one with Christ, the good shepherd, who loves his sheep.
Finally, "Abide in my love." The pope who tried to meet everyone, who had an ability to forgive and to open his heart to all, shows us once again, today, that these words of the Lord, that by abiding in the love of Christ, we learn, at the school of Christ, the art of true love. Follow me.
In July 1958, the young priest, Karol Wojtyla, began a new stage in his journey with the Lord and in the footsteps of the Lord. Karol had gone to the Mazuri Lakes, for his usual vacation, along with a group of young people who loved canoeing. But he brought with him a letter inviting him to call on the Primate of Poland, Cardinal Wyszynski. He could guess the purpose of the meeting. He was to be appointed as the auxiliary bishop of Krakow.
Leaving the academic world, leaving this challenging engagement with young people, leaving the great intellectual endeavor of striving to understand and interpret the mystery of that creature, which is man, and of communicating to today's world the Christian interpretation of our being, all of this must have seemed to him like losing his very self. Losing what had become the very human identity of this young priest.
Follow me. Karol Wojtyla accepted the appointment, for he heard in the church's call the voice of Christ. And then he realized how true are the Lord's words. Those who try to make their life secure will lose it. But those who lose their life will keep it.
Our pope, and we all know this, never wanted to make his own life secure, to keep it for himself. He wanted to give of himself unreservedly, till the very last moment.
OLBERMANN: Cardinal Ratzinger's tribute to his friend, the pope, greatly resonating with the crowd today. The second half of the homily upcoming. How the Cardinal perceived Karol Wojtyla's life changing as he moved from auxiliary bishop to pope. That's next as our coverage continues.
OLBERMANN: Countdown's special coverage of the papal funeral
continues. As promised, the second part of Cardinal Ratzinger's homily
this morning. In it, he recalled how John Paul realized his true calling
as pontiff. How he gleamed his papal message from the scriptures. And how
he struggled through sickness to give his final Easter blessing to the
RATZINGER (through translator): He wanted to give of himself for Christ, and also for us. And thus he came to experience how everything, which he had given over, into the Lord's hands, came back to him in a new way. His love of words, of poetry, of literature, became and essential part of his pastoral mission. And it gave new vitality, new urgency, new attractiveness to the preaching of the Gospel, even when the Gospel is a sign of contradiction.
Follow me. In October 1978, Cardinal Wojtyla once again heard the voice of the Lord; once more there took place that dialogue with Peter, reported in the Gospel of this mass.
"Simon, son of John, do you love me? Feed my sheep."
To the Lord's question, "Karol, do you love me?" The archbishop of Krakow answered from the depths of his heart, "Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you." The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life -
The love of Christ was the dominant force in the life of our beloved Holy Father. Anyone who ever saw him pray, who ever heard him preach, knows that. Thanks to his being profoundly rooted in Christ, he was able to bear a burden which transcends merely human abilities, that of being the shepherd of Christ's flock, his Universal Church.
This is not the time to speak of the specific content of this rich pontificate. I would like to read, only two passages of today's liturgy which reflects central elements of this message.
In the first reading, St. Peter says, and with St. Peter, the pope himself, "I truly understand that God chose no partiality. But in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right, is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ. He is Lord of all."
And in the second reading, St. Paul, and with St. Paul, our late pope, exhorts us, crying out, "My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved. Follow me."
Together, with a command to feed his flock, Christ proclaimed to Peter that he would die a martyr's death. With those words, which conclude and sum up the dialogue on love and on the mandate of the universal shepherd, the Lord recalls another dialogue, which took place during The Last Supper.
There Jesus had said, "Where I am going, you cannot come." Peter said to him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow me now. But you will follow me afterward."
Jesus, from the Supper, when toward the cross, went toward his resurrection, he entered into the pastoral mystery. And Peter could not yet follow him. Now, after the resurrection comes the time, comes this afterwards, by feeding the flock of Christ, Peter enters into the pastoral mystery. He goes toward the Cross and the resurrection.
The Lord says this, in these words, when you were younger, you used to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hand and someone else will fasten a belt around you, and take you where you don't wish to go.
In the first years of his pontificate, still young and full of energy, the Holy Father went to the very ends of the Earth, guided by Christ, but afterward, he increasingly entered into the communion of Christ's sufferings. Increasingly he understood the truth of the words, "someone else will fasten a belt around you."
And this very communion with the suffering Lord, tirelessly and with renewed intensity, he proclaimed the Gospel, the mystery of that love, which goes to the end. He interpreted for us the pastoral mystery as a mystery of divine mercy.
In his last book, he wrote, "The limit imposed upon evil is ultimately divine mercy."
And reflecting on the assassination attempt, he said, "In sacrificing himself for us all, Christ gave a new meaning to suffering, opening up a new dimension, a new order, the order of love. It is this suffering which burns and consumes evil with a flame of love and draws forth even from sin, a great flowering of good."
Impelled by this vision, the pope suffered and loved in communion with Christ. And that is why the message of his suffering and his silence proved so eloquent and so fruitful. Divine Mercy -
Divine Mercy, the Holy Father found the purest reflection of God's mercy in the Mother of God. He who at an early age had lost his own mother loved his Divine Mother all the more.
He heard the words of the crucified Lord as addressed personally to him: "Behold your mother." So he did as the beloved disciples did. He took her into his own home, and pulled (ph) her (ph) to us, all yours, and from the Mother he learned to conform himself to Christ.
None of us can ever forget how on that last Easter Sunday of his life, the Holy Father, marked by suffering, came once more to the window of the Apostolic Palace and one last time, gave his blessing, Urbi et Orbi, to the City and the World.
We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing this day at the window of the Father's house, that he sees us and blesses us.
RATZINGER (through translator): We can be sure that our beloved pope is standing today at the window of the father's house, that he sees us and blesses us. He sees us and blesses us. Yes, bless us Holy Father. We entrust your dear soul to the mother of God, your mother. Who guided you each day and who will guide you now to the eternal glory of her son, our lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
OLBERMANN: Cardinal Ratzinger, dean of the cardinals, concluding his moving tribute to the life and service of Karol Wojtyla. And upcoming, something literally for the ages. If you have lived between the years 605 and 2004, you would not have seen nor heard such a thing in all your years. The cardinal has spoken, now it will be the turn of the pilgrims, "santo subeto" and "magnus" next.
OLBERMANN: Countdown's special coverage of the papal funeral continues.
Along with the former assistant to Pope John Paul, Father Anthony Figueiredo, I'm Keith Olbermann.
Throughout the mass, the emotion and passion of the crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square was palpable this morning. But it wasn't until the final commendation and commitment, two hours into the ceremonies, that the crowd be came overcome with feeling.
As Cardinal Ratzinger prepared to read the prayers, he was interrupted by spontaneous applause and cries from the crowd, cries not heard in 14 centuries, magnus , meaning great, and santo, santo, saint, saint.
CROWD: Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo.
Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo.
Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo. Santo.
CARDINAL JOSEPH RATZINGER, DEAN OF COLLEGE OF CARDINALS (THROUGH
TRANSLATOR): Dear Brothers and Sisters, We entrust to the most gentle mercy of God, the soul of our Pope John Paul, Bishop of the Catholic Church, who confirmed his brothers with believe in the resurrection. We pray to God the Father, through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit for the deceased so that ransomed from death he may be received in his peace and that his body may rise on the last day.
May our Lady of the Savior of the Roman people intercede for him. May the Blessed Virgin Mary Queen of Apostles and Savior of the People of Rome, intercede to God for us, so that the face of Her Blessed Son may be shown to our Pope and comfort the Church with the light of resurrection.
OLBERMANN: Father Figueiredo, the litany of the saints, which we're now hearing, when it occurs during an ordinary funeral mass, that's one thing. When it's is sung in the shadows of the statues of those saints, that's something else altogether, is it not?
FIGUEIREDO: Certainly, Keith.
One of the clarion calls of Pope John Paul II was, do not be afraid to be holy. Do not be afraid to be the saints of this millennium, particularly to young people, who made this call, a saint, is one we believe in whom the risen, divine life of God shine. Divine enters into our humanity, particularly in our sufferings.
This was the greatest pulpit, Keith, from which Pope John Paul II preached, in which he preached that God was with him, that God hadn't forgotten him, that God was love. Truly, he was St. John Paul the Great.
OLBERMANN: And, upcoming, one of the other themes of the pontificate, one of those moments of inclusion that was so startling throughout the reign of John Paul, the outreach, the presence of others, the universality of faith, as expressed by visitors not seen before at such a ceremony in St. Peters. Listen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Oh God, who gives the just reward for the workers of the Gospel, receive your servant and our Pope John Paul that he may contemplate forever the mystery of peace and of love, which he as successor of Peter, the Pastor of the Church gave faithfully to your family through Christ our Lord, Amen.
OLBERMANN: This is the prayer of the oriental churches. We're going to address this in a moment. But we don't want to speak over many of the moving passages of the day. But, in a moment, I'm going to ask Father Figueiredo about this moment in the process in particular.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): And the prayer of the Patriarch: Oh God of souls and all flesh who have overcome death, who have conquered the devil, who have given life to the world, grant repose to the soul of this your deceased servant, John Paul, Pope of Rome.
In a place of light and joy, in a place ever verdant, in a place of blessedness, where there is no more suffering, no more pain, no more weeping. Pardon every sin committed by him, in the words, deeds, thoughts, you who are a good God and a friend of man. Because there is not a man who lives who does not sin. You alone are in fact, without sin. Your justice is for always, and your word is true.
Because you are the resurrection, the life, and the repose, grant repose to the soul of your servant Pope John Paul of Rome who has fallen asleep, oh Christ our God. We acknowledge your glory and with your Father, who has no beginning, and with the Holy Spirit, good and giver of life, now and forever. Amen.
OLBERMANN: Father Figueiredo, the prayer of the oriental churches, the Eastern cardinals, what's generally referred to, I guess, as the Orthodox Church, they're chanting a different tone, a different emphasis to it, but just their presence there, explain the uniqueness of that.
FIGUEIREDO: Truly, it was unprecedented in the funeral of any of his 263 predecessors, Keith.
John Paul II in his last testament mentioned the chief rabbi of Rome. Today, in his funeral, he wanted to honor the Eastern churches, which he called the second lung of the church which makes the church truly breathe fully to fulfill what is the most fundamental mission of the pope, which is that of unity and, indeed, to teach us what is the essence of God, unity which comes through forgiveness, not only in life, but now in death.
OLBERMANN: With the service drawing to a close, the crowd would get one more chance to bid farewell.
You're watching Countdown's special coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): Most merciful Father, we entrust to your mercy our Pope John Paul, whom you made successor to Peter and Pastor of the Church, a courageous witness to your word, and a faithful dispenser of your divine mysteries. We pray that you may receive him in the sanctuary of heaven to enjoy eternal glory with all your elect.
We give you thanks, Lord, for all the benefits which in your goodness you gave him for the good of your people. To the church deprived of its pastor, give the comfort of faith and the strength of hope. To you, father, source of life, in the living spirit through Christ victorious over death, every honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.
OLBERMANN: This is Countdown's special coverage for the final rites for Pope John Paul II and the poignant end to the ceremonies today.
As the bells tolled, 12 pallbearers stepped up to carry the pontiff to his final resting place in the grotto of St. Peter's, pausing on the two - on the top steps, they turned to present the pope to his people one more time.
OLBERMANN: The applause a sign of respect in Italy and much else of Europe.
Father Figueiredo, I asked George Weigel about this now nearly two hours ago, the extraordinary ceremony, the uncountable crowds, the magnitude of the thing.
You worked as his assistant for five years in the bishops' meetings. Would he have accepted this as the way his flock wanted it or would he have made an effort in humility to contain the grandeur in some way?
FIGUEIREDO: Truly, I think, in this coffin, Keith, we see the simplicity of this man.
There is prophecy from Isaiah which says that, in a man who is so disfigured, which we saw in his sufferings - there was no beauty to attract us in his sufferings. Yet, Isaiah says that the kings will bow down. They'll stand up before you. And watch as his coffin goes before those five kings, those four queens, the 70 presidents and prime ministers of the world. Truly, John Paul II would have seen fulfilled the prophecy, the promise of God in his fidelity to his mission as the 263rd successor of St. Peter.
OLBERMANN: Something that was not seen, Father, in some way, should not be the ultimate final word today have been John Paul's himself? Did he not write poetically of his own death?
FIGUEIREDO: What was incredible, Keith, is that John Paul II did write of his death, recording the moment when Pilate brought out the disfigured Jesus before the crowd and said, here is the man, (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE).
Yes, we saw the man in who we saw God, the man whom this day we pray sees God face to face in his final passage from life to life. And so, St. John Paul once wrote, and so the generations pass. Naked, they come into the world and naked they return to the earth from which they were formed. From dust, you came, and to dust, you shall return. What had shape is now shapeless. What was alive is now dead. What was beautiful is now the ugliness of decay. And yet I do not altogether die. What is indestructible in me remains. Be not afraid.
OLBERMANN: It is beyond rare, beyond description that, in this day when everybody has already seen everything, we see and hear something that has not been seen nor heard in 1,400 years. We hope we have done it some justice.
With great thanks to Father Anthony Figueiredo, professor of theology Seton Hall University, formally Pope John Paul's personal assistant for the bishops' meetings, thank you, Father.
And to our producer Greg Kordick, who has risen to new heights tonight, along with the staff.
But one thing more, final thoughts about the one thing missing at today's service when we continue in a moment.
OLBERMANN: Lastly tonight, amid the majesty and the solemnity, there was one thing missing from the farewell to the pope, something that had been there for the passing of John Paul I and John Paul VI, both in 1978, more correctly, not something, someone, Peter Jennings.
As it is inconceivable to a generation or more that Karol Wojtyla is no longer the pope, it is equally inconceivable to an American generation or more that this country's international news anchorman would not be at an international event of the utmost ceremony and moment.
Of course, as you know, Peter Jennings has announced he has lung cancer. Ever the reporter, he explained it himself in his newscast three nights ago. I will not pretend to be even a professional friend of his. We met once unexpectedly while we were each waiting to make on-stage presentations at an ESPN event.
He was, as those who know him far better will insist he always is, gracious and generous and reassuring and true to at least one cliche of the Canadian, an ardent hockey fan who feels immediately beholden and brotherly to any American who supports his favorite sport.
But, for me, Peter Jennings has been much more than just a mandarin of the industry. He is the personification of perseverance. It is amazing to remember that ABC first appointed him to anchor its news in 1965, 16 years before Dan Rather got his job at CBS and 18 before Tom Brokaw at NBC.
In that first stint 40 years ago, he was inexperienced and subjected to vicious criticism by the press, and removed from the chair at the end of 1967. That should have been, could have been, at least, the end of his career. But instead of letting that happen or blaming somebody else, he took some of what was being said against him, too green, too inexperienced, not worldly enough, and he decided to do something about it.
He dived in at the deep end. And for the next 13 - rather, 15 years - he covered the world for ABC and had become an expert in America's place in it long before the wheel turned again in 1978 and he was asked to become the anchor once again.
If calmness and perspective and perseverance are qualities of the lung cancer patients who survive the disease, Peter Jennings has already gotten it beaten. But, for the rest of us, when you hear bad news about a rock-solid, hardworking person in your own field diagnosed with a dreadful illness, you need to hear from someone steeped in reassurance and perspective and perseverance, someone like Peter Jennings.
The thoughts of all of us in this business on both sides of the camera are with you, sir. We missed you today.
That's our special report tonight on the funeral of Pope John Paul II, with a little time taken out for thoughts of another man. Thank you for indulging me little time.
I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED. END