updated 4/8/2005 1:50:50 PM ET 2005-04-08T17:50:50

Guest: Anthony Figueiredo, Carl Bernstein

NATALIE ALLEN, MSNBC NEWS:  The eyes of the world are fixed on Vatican City.  Millions have made their way to the Eternal City, sending a literal sea of humanity through the streets of Rome.

Over the next two hours, thousands will pour into St. Peter‘s Square for the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

And, hello.  And we thank you for joining us early this morning.  I‘m Natalie Allen.

BILL FITZGERALD, MSNBC NEWS:  And I‘m Bill Fitzgerald.  Thanks again for joining us.  It is early here on the East Coast, but final preparations are underway for what may be the biggest funeral in history.

MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing is live in Vatican City with the latest.  And it‘s sure to be an emotional day.  Good morning to you, Chris.

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC NEWS, VATICAN CITY:  Good morning, Bill.  And it will surely be at least the largest religious gathering in modern times.

Four million people have come here to pay their final respects to Pope John Paul II, at a funeral that will get underway in just about two hours.

Of course, only a fraction of them will be able to make their way into St. Peter‘s Square.  All of the seats ticketed with an extraordinary array of dignitaries - 70 presidents and prime ministers, four queens, five kings, two princes.

We already saw some of the dignitaries arriving.  Kofi Annan, of course, the U.N. Secretary-General is here.  Hamid Karzai, the leader of Afghanistan has arrived, as well.  The president of Taiwan, he is coming.

Everyone from Jacques Chirac on down to what is the real story of this.  And that is the millions of pilgrims who have flocked here.  By estimates, two million of them were able to file past the pope‘s body as it lie in state in St. Peter‘s Basilica.

The doors were closed at 10 o‘clock last night.  And in about 45 minutes, there will be a private ceremony, a small ceremony inside the basilica, which we will not be able to show you.  There will not be cameras.  But it is essentially the closing of the coffin.

A white, silk veil will be faced over the face of Pope John Paul II.  And few things will be laid in the coffin with him - some coins that were minted during his papacy.  That is a tradition.  These will be gold and silver dated coins.

There will also be a scroll written in Latin.  It will be read at that ceremony, that closed ceremony.  It is essentially a short history of his life.  That will be sealed and then placed inside the coffin.

And then he will be brought out for 10 a.m. Rome time, for the funeral, out on St. Peter‘s Square.  But people will be fanned out all over this city.

There are TV screens - huge TV screens - up in at least 27 different locations.  Huge numbers of people who camped out overnight, many of them along that main avenue we‘ve seen so often over this week, leading up to the basilica - the Via della Conciliazione.

They slept there overnight, hoping to be among the few who actually got to stand behind those seats in St. Peter‘s Square.

Again, 10 o‘clock last night the doors closed.  But we had a chance to talk to a few people who were among the last to pay their respects to Pope John Paul II.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We would like say the final thank you to him, and say goodbye, as he‘s leaving this world to go to the other one.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JANSING:  And after a decade of suffering and sickness, Pope John Paul II, of course, died last Saturday.  It has been five days of people coming to this city, of extreme mourning and today a very traditional service.  A Latin mass will be said, expected to last perhaps three hours.  And then a burial rite down in the grottos beneath St. Peter‘s Basilica, which will be private - Bill.

FITZGERALD:  And, Chris, with so many people on the piazza there, and so many outside the colonnade, is there a concern about security with the crush of that many people?

JANSING:  Well, I think the security is really, obviously, about so many dignitaries being here.

How often do you have 70 presidents and prime ministers in one place at one time, not to mention the royalty and other people of high stature?

So, we haven‘t heard much in the skies above us.  They closed down the airspace.  Just some of the helicopters who have been circling above.

NATO has sent in AWACS planes.  A spokesman for NATO saying this is unlike anything that has ever been seen.

Obviously, we‘ve a huge ground presence, thousands of police on the ground.

As far as the rank and file, it really has been just sort of a logistical concern.  They tried to get people to stay out of the center city beginning two days ago, with some mixed success, I would say.

Obviously, people want to be as close as they possibly can to this funeral.  And for some, knowing that they won‘t be able to get near St. Peter‘s Square, it‘s enough for them simply to be able to be in Rome today - Bill.

FITZGERALD:  And a pilgrimage for so many.  Thanks so much, MSNBC‘s Chris Jansing at Vatican City - Natalie.

ALLEN:  With people from all over the world attending the pope‘s funeral, officials in Rome have had to deal with finding lodging for all those temporary guests.

Tent cities have been set up to host the estimated four million pilgrims who traveled to Rome, and the tents, as you can see, stretch as far as the eye can see.  Mostly young adults and teenagers are staying in those blue tents.

Please stay with us right here on MSNBC for special coverage of Pope John Paul II‘s funeral.  Chris Matthews and Chris Jansing will lead our coverage of this historic event, live from Vatican City.  Their coverage begins at 3:30, when we‘re finished here this morning.

The funeral is just under two hours away.  The scene there is unique in history, but also steeped in the traditions of the church.

And joining me now is former papal assistant and MSNBC analyst, Father Anthony Figueiredo, who has been with us so much this week.  And thank you.

FATHER ANTHONY FIGUEIREDO, FORMER PAPAL ASSISTANT:  Hi, Natalie.  Thank you.

ALLEN:  Thank you for being here early, early this morning.  I know this is a heartwarming and a little bit heart-wrenching time for you, because you worked with the pope personally.

Tell us about what‘s going on right now at St. Peter‘s Basilica.

FIGUEIREDO:  Well, Natalie, earlier on I received a program of the funeral.  And I‘ve been looking at it very closely.  And I see that, at the beginning of the program, we‘re really encouraged to participate ourselves, through the TV, in this funeral, principally in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, to pray.

The program invites us truly to pray for this Holy Father, in gratitude for his life.  Also to pray for the church, which feels an orphan.  I feel like an orphan, lost a second father.  And to pray also that, for those who are very close to him.

So we see all these pilgrims arriving to St. Peter‘s.  And if you look around St. Peter‘s at those colonnades, the original intention was that they would be like two great arms of a mother, welcoming all these children who have walked, who have really had a lot of suffering arriving there.

Imagine, very early in the morning in the sun.  And they would arrive in this big piazza.  They would see the magnificent basilica, which really is pointing to the heavens.  We see the heavens open.  Jesus Christ is victorious, that he calls us, as John Paul II himself said, from life to life.

This isn‘t - we‘re not mourning today.  We‘re sad.  We‘re celebrating a resurrection, a new life.

I also think of the cardinals themselves, all those bishops you were seeing earlier on, who also are in prayer at this moment.  And I think especially of those who were very close to him, such as his personal secretary, Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz.

I‘m remembering what the Holy Father said on his death bed.  He said, “I have looked for you through all these years.  Now you come to look for me.  Thank you.”

I hope that we ourselves in these early hours of the morning can give a little bit of our lives, our sufferings, in gratitude to the Holy Father for all the sufferings he gave for ourselves.

ALLEN:  Sounds like it‘s going to be extremely moving.

So many people that came to see him, then the doors were shut.  What has been happening in St. Peter‘s Basilica since the doors were shut to prepare for this?  What do you know about that?

FIGUEIREDO:  I know that, at this point, Natalie, they will be preparing, obviously, the Holy Father‘s body.  We‘re at a funeral, so great respect surrounds the body.

The Catholic Church really believes in the resurrection of the body.  We believe that the soul goes to God immediately upon death.  We rely on His mercy.  But that the body will be raised up on the last day.  And so, great ceremony, great respect will surround now the preparation of John Paul II‘s body.

And it will be preparing for that first stage.  There will be three different stages now in the funeral.  The first will be a private rite, which takes place in the basilica, where the body will be transferred into that first coffin, which is made of cypress wood to represent the humanity of John Paul II.

I can imagine that in the basilica at this particular moment, those who were very close to him are praying around his body.  Again, his secretary.

I think of the nuns who cooked for him, who washed his clothes, how much they must be feeling his loss in these days.  And certainly, they will also be preparing the crypt, where John Paul will be returned to the earth.

ALLEN:  And they get their private time with him, yes?

FIGUEIREDO:  Yes.

ALLEN:  Before the very public funeral, correct?

FIGUEIREDO:  Yes.  What is striking me, Natalie, in this funeral, is that it‘s a very human funeral, a very normal funeral.  That‘s part of the greatness of this pope.  He was an ordinary man and a great man.

ALLEN:  And he would very much want that, too.

FIGUEIREDO:  Absolutely.

ALLEN:  For the people.  Thank you.  We will talk more about the different stages of the funeral a little bit later this hour.  Thank you, Father Anthony Figueiredo.

FIGUEIREDO:  Thank you, Natalie.

ALLEN:  We appreciate it.

Now over to Bill.

FITZGERALD:  All right, thanks, Natalie.

There‘s been a steady stream of mourners arriving from the pope‘s native Poland - upwards of a million of them, for whom the roughly 30-hour journey is a calling.

Two NBC correspondents documented their long journey,  Kelly O‘Donnell in Poland, and Anne Thompson in Rome.  Let‘s begin now with Kelly O‘Donnell in Krakow.

(BEGIN VIDEO)

KELLY O‘DONNELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT, KRAKOW, POLAND:  An exodus of the heart from Poland.

Eight o‘clock Wednesday morning in Krakow, this odyssey of faith begins.

JANUSZ:  I go to Rome to pray, because the Papa very loves young people.

O‘DONNELL:  Students Katarzyna Tudzi (ph) and Janusz Straczek (ph) among the hurried pilgrims.

KATARZYNA:  I must go to Roma.  I must go.

O‘DONNELL:  Over more than 1,000 miles, prayer passes the time.

They pack handmade snacks and a deep respect for the man they knew as Jan Pawel.

To Krystyna Podroza (ph), who clutches the small card given to her 43 years ago when John Paul confirmed her in the Catholic faith.

The ride isn‘t easy.  All day, all night and then some.

But no one complains about the conditions or even the cost.  For most it equals about a month‘s living expenses.  They say, all that matters is getting there.

Even for trip organizer Agata Mik (ph), planning this tour is an act of faith.

AGATA:  We did it for the Holy Father.

O‘DONNELL:  So little sleep, such a long night.  Weary, and after all this, worried.

JANUSZ:  I‘m scared, because it‘s a big, big, big world.  It‘s five million people.

O‘DONNELL:  Waiting for them in Rome.

ANNE THOMPSON, NBC NEWS, ROME:  This is Anne Thompson in Rome.  Bus number four pulls in, after 27 hours on the road, to bad news.  The line to see the pope is closed.

But they are determined to get as close as they can, none more than Agata.

AGATA:  I hope that everybody will remember this trip to the end of their life.

THOMPSON:  After a quick subway ride, their faith is rewarded.  The line reopens.

Under a hot sun, Janusz and Katarzyna wear the traditional costumes of southern Poland, to honor the pope.

But it is also something more.

JANUSZ:  What‘s inside is - it‘s love.

THOMPSON:  After 31 hours, they finally reach their goal - St. Peter‘s Square, the heart of the Catholic Church, and today the heart of Poland.

JANUSZ:  Rome is Polish now, Polish city.

THOMPSON:  Thirty-five hours from Krakow, they pay their respects.  For Janusz, it is all too much.

JANUSZ:  It‘s fantastic.

KATARZYNA:  For my sister.

THOMPSON:  For Katarzyna, one prayer is answered and another begins.

KATARZYNA:  I have talked to all my family, and I take it and I pray to the Papa, help (ph).

THOMPSON:  Two pilgrims, two of millions on a trip of a lifetime to pay homage to one life.

For Kelly O‘Donnell in Poland, this is Anne Thompson, NBC News, Rome.

(END VIDEO)

FITZGERALD:  And still they come.

ALLEN:  And they made it.  Good for them.

MSNBC‘s coverage of the final preparations for the funeral of Pope John Paul II continues right after this short break.

FITZGERALD:  Straight ahead, we‘ll talk about the lasting legacy of the man who became known as the people‘s pope.  I‘ll talk to Carl Bernstein.  More ahead, right here on MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FITZGERALD:  Kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers will be among the millions gathering in Rome to say goodbye to Pope John Paul II today at the Vatican.  The funeral taking place in less than two hours from now.

Joining us now is Carl Bernstein.  He‘s the author of “His Holiness:  John Paul II and the History of Our Time.”  He‘s also an MSNBC analyst.  Thanks, so much, as always, for sticking around for this late hour.

CARL BERNSTEIN, AUTHOR, “HIS HOLINESS:  JOHN PAUL II AND THE HISTORY OF OUR TIME”:  Good to be here.

FITZGERALD:  We‘ve heard a lot about legacy in the last week.  This man who was one of the most influential figures of the last 50 years.  But his legacy is complicated.

Can you expound on that?

BERNSTEIN:  I think the important thing about what we are about to watch, is recognition by the world that the great figure of the last part of the 20th century and the millennium, was a spiritual man, not a secular leader.

That if anyone would have said in the middle of the 20th century or the end of the 20th century, that this would be the case, a man without an arsenal, a man without an army, a man who presided over a little place about 12 square blocks, they would have been told they were crazy.

And yet, here is an individual who today is going to be paid tribute to by this huge number of people - but the attention of the world is going to be focused on a funeral, perhaps as never before around the world - because of his accomplishments.  It is a remarkable thing.

And those accomplishments are really about the man, about a holy man.

You can argue about policies of his church, of his theology.  And at the same time, it‘s impossible not to recognize his greatness.

FITZGERALD:  And when we speak, I mean, you spoke of the middle of the century, looking towards the end of the century, would there be such a man.  They (ph), of course, had just gone through a horrific experience of World War II, and would no doubt think a political leader would be the one to remember.

But he‘s also achieved much in what would be called the political world.

BERNSTEIN:  He‘s a geopolitical genius.  And what makes it so remarkable, that here is, again, a spiritual man without an army, who is the most important figure at the end of the communist era.  And the denouement of communism has an awful lot to do with him, probably more than any other individual, certainly any other individual beside maybe Mikhail Gorbachev.

But his geopolitical genius comes from his infusion, and is infused and informed by his spiritual beliefs.  That‘s what‘s so remarkable.

FITZGERALD:  So, then, would it be safe to say we should judge him, is the Catholic Church stronger today for having had him at the helm for 26.5 years?

BERNSTEIN:  Obviously.  When he became the pope, the church was adrift.  It‘s been the good fortune of the Catholic Church to have had two great leaders in the second half of the 20th century:  John (UNINTELLIGIBLE)III, who convened the Vatican Council and really brought the church into the modern world, and John Paul II.

What‘s so extraordinary about John Paul II and this event, is that now, because of his leadership, the church, if it is going to continue to flourish the way it has under him, it is going to have to have a pope who can continue to capture the attention of the world in his mission - not just through his personality.

There‘s a lot of healing to be done, because, as we know, the church is very divided.  In the West, Catholics don‘t really believe in the teachings of this pope and some of the theology having to do with sexual questions, with gender.

That‘s going to have to be addressed in some way.  It doesn‘t mean their theology will change.  But the world is now watching what the Catholic Church is going to do, in a way it never would have done, had it not been for this funeral.

FITZGERALD:  And as we watch the crowds gather at the Piazza St. Peter‘s, we‘re arriving for the funeral just set to begin in just about an hour and 40 minutes.

You mentioned East and West, or at least the West and perhaps the Third World.  Different forces at work.

You also earlier in our discussion mentioned the word schism.  Is that - that‘s obviously a very charged, very delicate word.  One doesn‘t bandy that about lightly.

Is schism the proper term here?

BERNSTEIN:  I think so.  There‘s a schism in the church.  It doesn‘t mean it‘s going to be a schism like that that created the Protestant denominations.

But certainly, the American Catholic Church exists largely apart from the rest of the Catholic Church in terms of the way its practitioner, or so many of them, regard the Catholic faith.  They ignore, you know, three quarters of American Catholics ignore most of the teachings of the church that have to do with sexual questions, certainly with contraception.

In the West, in Europe, the churches are empty.  You know, you go around St. Peter‘s four blocks away on a Sunday, outside of an event like this, and those churches are going to be largely empty, or there are going to be concerts in them.

FITZGERALD:  Well, will Americans or Western Europeans ever get the majority that say they want what you just named?  Will they ever get what they want?

BERNSTEIN:  Ah, it‘s not that simple of an institution, and it‘s not about wanting one thing or another.  It‘s - look.

This pope is revered by American Catholics, for the most part.  Those Catholics might disagree with him, you know ...

FITZGERALD:  Six days of the week?

BERNSTEIN:  Well, not six days of the week, but on these very important questions.  But I think they also recognize he‘s a great pope.

There are other questions that have to do with the way non-Catholics look at this church.

This pope has made a hallmark of his papacy protecting the weak.  Those who are marginalized, he called them “the other.”  Those who were marginalized by poverty, by weakness, by physical affliction, by age, by discrimination, by genocide.

Well, one of those groups are Africans, who are dying from AIDS.  What is the one institution in the world that could do something about the spread of AIDS, that has an infrastructure in Africa, that could do something through the distribution of condoms?

FITZGERALD:  Absolutely.

BERNSTEIN:  Only the Catholic Church.  Will the church do that?  I doubt it.  But might the church lighten its objections to such things under a new pope?  I think it‘s very possible.

FITZGERALD:  Well, sadly, we are running out of time.  We could talk about it all night long, obviously, one of the big social issues confronting the world, as you mentioned, happening in Africa.

Carl Bernstein, author of “His Holiness:  John Paul II and the History of Our Time,” we appreciate you so much sticking around with us (ph).

BERNSTEIN:  This is a great event.  People should watch through the morning on this.

FITZGERALD:  Absolutely.  Thanks again.  Natalie, over to you.

ALLEN:  And there‘s much more to come here on MSNBC, as we continue our live look at St. Peter‘s Square early this morning.  The faithful beginning to fill the seats outside St. Peter‘s Basilica.

And security is very tight.  We will take a closer look at what police and security teams face this morning.

And later, we will hear from the people who call Pope John Paul II “papa.”

You are watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN:  Welcome back to our continuing coverage of the funeral of Pope John Paul II.  It‘s estimated more than four million mourners have crowded into Rome to be part of the pope‘s funeral.  And you can see many of them staking out their spots right now, here just an hour and a half before the funeral begins.

Pilgrims from all over the world are attending.  The funeral is expected to be one of the largest Western religious gatherings in modern times.

And right now we want to share with you some of the messages we‘ve received here at MSNBC from our citizen journalists.

The pope‘s legacy lives on in the memories and experiences of people like Kelly Loper of Auburn, Alabama, who writes:

“I was given the most amazing gift to see our Holy Father one year ago during a celebration for Palm Sunday.  I didn‘t expect what I perceived then and now as a miracle, to see the pope.  It was an awesome and emotionally charged experience.  I wished I could be there now to pay my respects.  I hold dear the vision and memories of that miraculous day in April 2004.”

And Said Rizby (ph) of Somerset, New Jersey says:

“Pope John Paul II has left behind a legacy deposited upon the silent shores that will not die, and cannot be destroyed.  A man of God, a messenger of peace and goodwill for all mankind.  May his soul rest in peace.  Amen.”

Said Rizby (ph) writing from Somerset, New Jersey.

We invite you to send in your pictures and your memories of Pope John Paul II.  We appreciate them.  As well as your thoughts on what direction the Catholic Church should turn to now.

Just log on to MSNBC.com.

FITZGERALD:  So many heartfelt sentiments.  It‘s hard not to get caught up in it.

Well, from average citizens to heads of state, millions are filing in right now to St. Peter‘s Square, as you take a live look.

ALLEN:  That line has been forming for hours.  It‘s all about lines forming for hours this week.

Chances are, though, not all of the faithful are going to be able to be there in person.  Still they‘re trying to make their way, at least close to the Vatican.

FITZGERALD:  And we will get more, straight ahead.  You‘re watching MSNBC.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BILL FITZGERALD, CO-ANCHOR:  The world descends on Vatican City as you look at one of the most beautiful squares in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, all there from all walks of life, gathering to pay respect to the man who has led the Catholic Church for the last 26 ½ years. 

Hello and welcome, everyone.  I‘m Bill Fitzgerald. 

NATALIE ALLEN, CO-ANCHOR:  And I‘m Natalie Allen.  We were just seeing some of the leaders, obviously from Saudi Arabia, coming in there to attend the funeral.  And we thank you for being with us.

The funeral mass for Pope John Paul II is scheduled to begin just about an hour and a half from now.  NBC‘s Jim Maceda is live in Rome where millions are gathering for this event.  He joins us now live.

Good morning to you, Jim.  Good afternoon.

JIM MACEDA, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Hi there, Natalie. 

Well, I‘m coming to you from the Via Conciliazione.  This is one of the main roads, the main boulevard leading into Vatican City.  We‘re on the edge of Rome, if you will, and on the edge of the St. Peter‘s Basilica. 

Now, it looks pretty close.  I can tell you.  I‘m going to move out of the way and ask my cameraman to push in there to show the distance.  It looks relatively close, but I can guarantee you that walking, as I did the other day with the pilgrims who had packed this particular street here, it took us about 6 ½ to seven hours to do this distance.  That‘s how many people are in the streets.  And it‘s still filling up by the hundreds from various arteries coming into this—this main boulevard here. 

Mostly we‘re seeing flags, Polish flags.  There were a lot of Poles from all over Poland, of course.  They came by train and by bus.  They are still coming in, in fact, into the outskirts of Rome and walking from the outskirts of Rome here. 

There are also a tremendous number of Polish Americans.  We ran into quite a few on the line, the part of the line I was on as we meandered 13 hours from our point two miles away into—two miles away from the St. Peter‘s Basilica into, eventually, the basilica to glimpse for just 30 seconds the deceased pontiff. 

Now, you mentioned the three-hour funeral.  That will commence at 4 a.m.  Eastern.  Of course, this is a huge security concern for Roman and Vatican officials.  To give you just a few of the statistics to give you an idea of how and for what they are bracing, some 15,000 police are going to be out in the streets, almost 7,000 Italian armed forces, as well.  They are enforcing, as of now, a no-fly zone over central Roman air space, and there‘s an AWACS from NATO on loan, as well, over the skies. 

Obviously, thousands of special guests and world leaders will be watching, and seated in those seats outside of the basilica on St. Peter‘s Square including President Bush, who has been here since Wednesday; Bush Sr., his father; and former president, Bill Clinton, as well. 

There are also some interesting mix—there‘s an interesting mix of guests, is that Iran‘s president, Mohammad Khatami, is here.  Syrian president Bashar Assad is also here.  It‘s an indication of just how much this icon of a whole century transcended politics. 

Now, John Paul, we know, is going to be buried after this three-hour ceremony in the crypt in below St. Peter‘s Basilica.  It‘s called the Tomb of the Popes.  They will then commence nine days of official mourning, after which, on April 18, will begin the so-called conclave when the College of Cardinals begins its business of electing a new pope. 

But today is John Paul II‘s day.  It‘s all about his memory.  It‘s all about the love of millions of people who have come from around the world, and it‘s all about his legacy. 

Natalie, back to you. 

ALLEN:  All right.  Thanks so much, Jim Maceda.  Eight-thirty in the morning.  Thank you so much, Jim.  Now to Bill.

FITZGERALD:  Pope John Paul II‘s influence was hardly confined to Rome.  It was felt around the world.  And one area where he had a significant impact improving relations, between Catholics and Jews.  Today, hundreds will come to a very special place in Jerusalem to witness the pope‘s funeral. 

NBC‘s Tom Aspell is in Jerusalem with more.

Good morning to you, Tom. 

TOM ASPELL, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT:  Good morning, Bill.

I‘m in an auditorium at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Center.  Now, this was opened by the pope during his historic visit to the holy land in March of the year 2000. 

And people have been invited here.  They‘ll start coming within the next hour or so, priests and nuns from Jerusalem, perhaps even pilgrims visiting the holy land at this time.  They are invited to come into this quiet auditorium and watch funeral proceedings for the Pope John Paul on the big screen behind me.  That will be brought in by satellite for them to see. 

There are no formal organized ceremonies here in Jerusalem.  It‘s going to be a place of quiet contemplation for those who wish to watch the incoming feed and be alone with their thoughts or their prayers during the services. 

Now, as I say, the center here was named after Pope John Paul II.  He opened it on March 28, 2000, when he visited Jerusalem and the holy land for millennium celebrations. 

He made a special point to go to the Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem during his visit.  He went to the Wailing Wall.  He went to Yad Yashem, the monument to the Holocaust of World War II.  He was in the Jordan Valley.  He was in, of course, Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus Christ and in Nazareth and in Jerusalem itself for talks with Israeli leaders. 

There are signs now that the Israelis are paying particular attention to the mourning period of the pope and looking forward to the conclave to see who his successor will be.  The holy land, of course, almost as important as Rome to a pope and, particularly, the Israelis in this moment of turbulent times down here. 

So, many people expected to come and watch on the big screen here.  There‘s no formal officials expected here.  It will just be pilgrims, people who want to be alone with their thoughts while watching the funeral go on in Rome—Bill. 

FITZGERALD:  And Tom, in a country where only two percent of the population is Christian, we have been talking a lot about John Paul‘s legacy.  Is there any thing plan afoot in Israel to commemorate the pontiff in some other way?

ASPELL:  Well, just in the last few days, the chief rabbis of Israel have been talking about declaring Pope John Paul II to be a righteous Gentile.  Now, this is an accolade that they afford to non-Jews from time to time, particularly those who have helped the Jews in times of need. 

Now, it‘s not a sure thing at the moment.  It‘s just being discussed by the rabbis, but that would put Pope John Paul alongside people, for example, who saved Jews during Nazi times during the Holocaust, who saved the lives of Jew.  They go out of their way to be especially grateful to people who helped them during times of need, and they are considering Pope John Paul II to be in that league, as well—Bill. 

FITZGERALD:  Wow.  Fascinating stuff.  Thanks so much, NBC‘s Tom Aspell in Jerusalem. 

ALLEN:  And stay tuned to MSNBC right here for special coverage of Pope John Paul II‘s funeral.  MSNBC‘s Chris Matthews and Chris Jansing will lead our coverage of this history event, live from Vatican City.  And their coverage begins in just under an hour right here at 3:30 Eastern.

MSNBC‘s coverage of the final preparations for the funeral of Pope John Paul II continues right here after a short break. 

FITZGERALD:  And then straight ahead we will get more from Rome as thousands continue to file into St. Peter‘s Square. 

ALLEN:  And millions are in Rome right now.  How are the authorities there dealing with security concerns?  We‘ll get some answers right after this short break. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

FITZGERALD:  Mecca, Saudi Arabia, January of this year more than two and a half million people arrived in that holy city for the annual Muslim pilgrimage known as the Hajj. 

Today, the city of Rome expects they could have twice that many people for the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

But in Saudi Arabia, the Hajj happens every year.  In Rome, they‘ve only had a few days to prepare for this historic event, as you take a live look at the Via Conciliazione that leads to the St. Peter‘s Square, jam packed with pilgrims, many of whom will not get beyond those last colonnades that you can barely see at the end of that street. 

We also take a live look at some of the clerical figures now arriving near the altar area at the head of St. Peter‘s, just beneath the basilica.  Other dignitaries from many different countries, some 70 presidents and prime ministers, four kings, a number of princes, truly a global happening. 

And one of the major issues, of course, for everyone, security.  Well, now we can get some analysis on the strain that security issues pose in Rome.  I‘m joined now by Dan Goure, MSNBC analyst and defense policy expert at the Lexington Institute. 

Thank you for joining us at this early hour.  We appreciate it.

Security.  We‘ve got heads of state.  We‘ve got several different jurisdictions, Vatican City, after all, but a postage stamp in the side of Rome, a separate country, so to speak. 

What are some of the paramount security issues that they face?

DAN GOURE, MSNBC ANALYST:  Well, one, of course, is to manage the visit of the major dignitaries, including the president of the United States, presidents and senior leaders from most of the world: Nelson Mandela, a whole group of those people. 

Not only to make sure that they‘re secure but also to manage the presence of their security details, who are technically not supposed to go armed within the Vatican City, but apparently that‘s going to be a rule honored in the breach, as long as no one takes Uzis into—into the basilica. 

The second problem, of course, is the crowds.  You‘re talking about millions of people far beyond even what‘s normal, if I can call it that, for major events in the Vatican.  So it‘s managing crowds.

And then thirdly, it‘s managing the potential problem of unknowns, of terrorists, of nut cases, of people who might simply want to start something for the publicity that it would create. 

FITZGERALD:  Would you imagine that the Vatican City and Rome itself presents something of a logistical nightmare?  When you mentioned all these different security teams.  We also, of course, have seen millions, literally millions of people in that small area. 

We‘re used to seeing presidential motorcades shut down major boulevards, but here you‘ve got cobblestone streets.  You do, obviously, have major thoroughfares in Rome, of course.  But would you imagine that there‘s been a lot of advanced planning in these last 72 to 96 hours?  Is it a nightmare?

GOURE:  There has been as much planning as you can do in just that limited amount of time.  But they‘re taking some major steps.  For example, movement of cars is going to be banned in the city of Rome, which if you think about it, is a stunning idea. 

That is not only for managing the crowds but also for security.  You don‘t have to worry about the vans and all the cars and a bomb.  It makes your life simpler. 

They‘re shutting the airports down, as well as putting aircraft overhead in AWACS planes and the like for surveillance. 

So, it‘s not only managing the nightmare of just the local situation in the Vatican, or the situation in the city of Rome, local police.  You‘re talking about affecting, essentially, the country of Italy.  A major part of its international transportation, the movement of goods, the movement of people, aircraft.  That‘s a huge problem. 

You have a ripple effect for perhaps as long as a week now, where you try to put everything back together, whether it‘s flight schedules or just the ability to move things around.  You‘ll have a build-up of stockpiles, for example, of food that couldn‘t get into the city for two days, or fuel that will now have to be moved in in a hurry. 

All of that‘s a big problem. 

FITZGERALD:  With so many not just commoners but obviously, kings and leaders, heads of state, would you imagine that something like this, albeit it a very solemn ritual, could pose a target for terrorists?  Would that be an inviting target?

GOURE:  Well, one has to assume that it is an inviting target.  One of the advantages, of course, is that relatively speaking, it is a target of opportunity.  That it‘s not something where it was known six months ago that this was going to happen.  It would happen at some point. 

And therefore, what—what you really fear is that there‘s a terrorist group that already was in a major plot, that is already preparing for some action in Italy or in Rome itself and now can divert from attacking the airport or attacking the government buildings or doing a Madrid style bombing to doing this. 

FITZGERALD:  As we watch Vicente Fox, the president of Mexico arriving. 

Finally, is it something that—we mentioned we had a limited time to plan for.  Was there any question about heads of state even attending, simply because of that security concern?  Would you imagine that some people are staying away because of it?

GOURE:  I don‘t think anybody‘s staying away, but it was clearly a nightmare for their security services.  This is the kind of situation that, in effect, they all dread because it‘s crowded.  They are too many competing security services.  They‘re competing or at least multiple political jurisdictions and police jurisdictions among the Italian security services. 

So if you‘re the head of the security detail for the FBI, for the president of the United States, you‘re pulling your hair out and crossing your fingers.  And that‘s you can do at this point.

FITZGERALD:  So as we watch the multiple attitudes down the Via Conciliazione, we know that there‘s an awful lot going on behind-the-scenes there.

GOURE:  Absolutely.

FITZGERALD:  Dan Goure, MSNBC analyst and defense policy expert at the Lexington Institute, thank you so much for your time. 

GOURE:  My pleasure.

FITZGERALD:  Natalie. 

ALLEN:  Well, it‘s truly a royal scene in Rome this morning.  Take a look.  Attending the pope‘s funeral you have, as Bill has mentioned, four kings, five queens and at least 70 presidents and prime ministers of various countries from around the world.  And about two million regular folks, the faithful, gathered, as well.

Well, one of those presidents, former President Bill Clinton, sat down with NBC‘s Brian Williams for an exclusive interview.  He spoke about the man he came to Rome to mourn. 

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  He could work a crowd.  He could build a crowd.  He could move a crowd.  And whether I agree or disagree with him, this guy is on my side.  He cares about me as a human being and a child of God.  That‘s what made him great.

BRIAN WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS ANCHOR:  You‘re a Southern Baptist.  Catholics consider their pope a representative of Christ on earth.  You‘re sitting with him in his Spartan apartment at the Vatican.  Do you feel an aura?

CLINTON:  When I was with the pope I—and in the Vatican, I had the feeling that, you know, 2,000 years of history cascaded down and crystallized in this moment, in this man, in this place.  I was overwhelmed by it.  I thought it was—it was one of the more memorable experiences of my life. 

WILLIAMS:  Now let‘s talk about the challenge the church has. 

CLINTON:  How do you keep the faithful?  How do you serve the faithful?  And do they want these questions of how to serve the faithful in the west even answered now, or do they want to just kick the can down the road a little bit and let it germinate until they sort of through it?

I think—I think the cardinals, I don‘t envy them this choice, because it‘s a momentous one.  When I made mistakes in politics during my career, it was usually because I tried to jam too much change too fast down the system.  On the other hand, if you don‘t continue to change, then you wither and die. 

WILLIAMS (voice-over):  The president talked about the plane ride here, his first time back on Air force One.  En route, the three presidents talked about the pope.

CLINTON:  We each talked about what he meant to us and what we thought he meant to Americans and to Christendom and to the world.  And we all have, you know, a slightly different take on it. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN:  That was NBC‘s Brian Williams‘ exclusive interview with former President Clinton. 

Well, in just over one hour the funeral for Pope John Paul II will begin. 

FITZGERALD:  And thousands are still filing into St. Peter‘s Square.  You‘re looking at live pictures from the Vatican right now.  Coming up, we‘ll get a feel for what it‘s like to wait in line for hours on end just to be part of history. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ALLEN:  You have seen the unending lines of people who have waited to see the pope these past few days. 

FITZGERALD:  And sometimes those lines have been cut off, but for two Americans now living in Rome, waiting 14 hours for a 20-second viewing they say was something they had to do.  They describe what it was like waiting in those endless lines, in their own words.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  As the hours progressed we started to realize it was going to be a bit of a journey.  But in the end it was one of the most amazing things of my life. 

MICHAEL WRIGHT, DIRECTOR, DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY:  There were lots of times when pilgrims were singing, and many times that we were getting to know our neighbor, whether people were speaking, whatever language they were speaking, whether they were speaking in English or Italian or Polish. 

Just people getting to know each other, offering water to each other, helping out the people that were fainting.  And it just seemed to a pretty helpful environment. 

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  When I first walked in there were just so many people and it was a very group event, which had been nice all along.  It had been a family event all along, but at that point I needed something a little more personal.  I needed to understand why I personally had come on this journey, especially because I‘m not Catholic.  Yet the pope has played such an important role in my life. 

So when I stood before him, when I stood before John Paul II, and I saw this frail body, which was so small and looked so weak.  And you could tell—you could just see the suffering on his face.  And he was human, but he meant so much more than that to everyone. 

And that was when I rejoined the crowd in that sense, because I was seeing these people.  And I myself, the tears began to just stream, and I didn‘t even know where they were coming from. 

WRIGHT:  I didn‘t realize how sore I was.  I didn‘t realize how tired I was.  I just didn‘t realize how much emotion had built up during these 14 hours of waiting to see him for 20 seconds. 

And I guess it was just then that I really realized that, even though I really suffered a lot during this day, that I really didn‘t suffer anything in comparison to what he did. 

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ALLEN:  From their perspective.

FITZGERALD:  Very moving. 

ALLEN:  Fourteen hours in line.  That‘s amazing.  Just two voices of the millions who traveled so far to pay their respects. 

FITZGERALD:  And coming up we‘ll go back to the Vatican and the crowds.  You‘re watching live now.  The funeral for Pope John Paul II gets under way in just about an hour. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,