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'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' for April 4

Read the transcript to the Monday show

Guest: Sharon Euart, Jean Carnahan


POPE JOHN PAUL II:  May God bless all of you!

KEITH OLBERMAN, HOST:  Somber, mournful, for hours they have filed past.  They will continue to do so for the sad days ahead, until a million or more have said goodbye.  The people come to see the people‘s pope;  for thousands, seemingly for most who move past, the only pope they have ever known.  And the grim but majestic spectacle of the ages, John Paul II in procession, to his public, lying in state.  Already, the process of transformation to sainthood has seemingly begun.  The Vatican‘s official newspaper has started to call him John Paul the Great.  The great will attend the funeral on Friday morning. 

This once second-choice and unlikeliest of unlikelies will be bid farewell by the president and by the presidents of at least 19 other nations, by 13 prime ministers, by two kings, by one prince, postponing his own wedding to do so.  And by perhaps a mystery cardinal, a bishop appointed in secret, by John Paul. 

This is COUNTDOWN and this is MSNBC‘s continuing coverage of the death of Pope John Paul II. 


OLBERMANN:  Good evening.  The pope will be buried at 4:00 a.m.  eastern time in the grotto in the basilica at Saint Peter‘s, most likely to be entombed with the body of Pope John XXIII, whose pontificate included Karol Wojtyla‘s ordination as a priest, rested until the year 2000. 

The Vatican indicating that John Paul II left no instructions that he be interred in his native Poland.  Though, there, especially in Krakow, there is still a grim, albeit understandable, hope that heart of the man the Poles consider to be a national savior will be buried there, and not in Rome. 

This was the second full day of the nine official days of public mourning.  And the public viewing began at about 5:00 p.m. local time, was to pause just after 2:00 a.m. there, and was to resume after a break of three hours.  It continues, as you see, live.

And while more than half the cardinals who will select his successor were already at the Vatican for procedural meetings in advance of the conclave, the rest of the world, certainly the rest of the world in Rome remains focused on the late pope and the pageantry attending his passing. 

Our correspondent Chris Jansing has been reporting from St. Peter‘s square since last week.  She joins us again to sum up just the first of many public and sad days.  Chris, good morning.  Give us a word-picture of the emotions today. 

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT:  Well, the emotions clearly run deep, Keith.  Love, loss, I think celebration of a life lived extraordinarily well and very publicly.  I can tell you as I stood amid a crowd of at least 100,000 earlier today, I saw in the faces of these people, a true connection to this man, Pope John Paul II.  The couple who had a spontaneous feeling, got in their car, drove hours, went to a ferry, took an overnight ferry, got back in their car, drove for four hours, just to be here from Bosnia.  That is not an unusual story. 

It also occurred to me as I watched today, that the Catholic Church does tradition, does ceremony so beautifully.  But what was amazing was—

I think the most touching, the most poignant moments—were the untraditional.  Never before had a pope‘s body been carried out of the apostolic palace and through St. Peter‘s Square.  But this pope who, had taken that route hundreds of time before, been close to the people, blessed them from the Pope Mobile—it seemed entirely appropriate that his final journey would be along that same path. 

And a break with tradition, not being buried in the papal slippers but instead, those plain brown walking shoes that had taken him to more than 200 countries, that had allowed him to be seen by more people than any other human being.  It was extraordinarily touching and it continues to be tonight as we see all these people lined up. 

Now, the basilica is supposed to close now for three hours but they expect the lines to continue, now through Friday morning when it is closed for the funeral and the body of Pope John Paul II will be moved out into St. Peter‘s Square for the final mass.  Keith?

OLBERMANN:  Chris, the emotions, the only thing that might overwhelm them might be the logistics.  Rome is expecting the arrival of hundreds of foreign dignitaries and these wild guesses about the public.  Two million, three million.  I heard one report now, four million, perhaps.  Where are they going to put them, famous and common alike.  Is there any security or even a sanitation or a logistical nightmare being faced here? 

JANSING:  The logistics are mind-boggling.  The mayor fully admits this is something this city has never seen in its long history.  I don‘t think President Bush or Jacques Chirac of France or Tony Blair of Britain are going to have to worry about their accommodations, but they certainly are worried about where they‘re going to put all the people who are expected to come here. 

Now, they have set up something of a tent city in the old Olympic stadium.  The Circus Maximus, which, throughout its history has been a public gathering place, first a place for chariot races and now it‘s a public park—you see people in there walking their dogs and children in strollers every day.  That will be open with these huge TV screens because they know that, even at the outdoor mass, they can perhaps only accommodate hundred of thousands, not millions. 

It is going to be extraordinary, something this city has next seen.  600 additional security officers, bomb experts, snipers.  You can just imagine with 100 or more heads of state, what it is going to be like here on Friday, Keith. 

OLBERMANN:  For some reason, Chris, at times like this, we‘re supposed to forget we‘re human beings and be only objective reporters, but you have personally been in the company of this pope twice.  What has this day been like for you? 

JANSING:  It‘s been very emotional, frankly, and it has been very nostalgic. 

I first met the pope maybe 15 years ago with my mother.  We talked

with him.  He radiates a kind of holiness that I had never experienced

before, a spirituality, I don‘t know that I‘ll ever see again.  After our

conversation, he walked away but came back and he blessed my mother.  He

laid his hand on her head.  And he made the sign of the cross on the

forehead and, she died in 1995, but one of the last things she said before

she died, was that she felt calm and at peace because she had been blessed

by this pope. 

I was here in November.  I watched him blessing dozens of people, in spite the personal pain he was in, all of these people who are facing possible death or had fatal diseases.  One of my sisters was among them.  He gave her a sense of comfort and peace that is hard to describe. 

So, you step back as a journalist, and you watch, and you observe, and you talk to people.  But you cannot separate yourself from what you have seen personally.  Nor, frankly, the times I saw him in public, in St. Louis or in Israel, the amazing connection he made with Jewish people.  You really get an understanding of what is drawing so many people here from literally every corner of the globe, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  If there are four million pilgrims in Rome on Friday, the one question we won‘t have to ask the is why.  Thanks for sharing that, Chris.  Chris Jansing in St. Peter‘s Square, and great thanks for the report.

By official count, there are 183 members of the college of cardinals but only those under the age of 80 will be eligible to take part in the conclave from which the next leader of the Catholic Church will emerge, no sooner than Sunday the 17th.  Thus the conventional mathematics suggests 117 voters.  There may an 118th

During his last series of appointments of cardinals, John Paul II selected a man in pectore, literally, in the breast, in secret.  The practice is not an unusual one.  There have been others.  Their status as leaders of this church shrouded in secrecy, because to come forward would or did place their live in jeopardy.  Cardinals in the communists countries in the height of the Cold War, by way of example, were often never named. 

But with the fall of the Iron Curtain, speculation surrounding this man of mystery grows, why the pope chose to keep his name secret, who he might be and if he might now be able to reveal his identity, and even be there for the election of John Paul‘s successor.  Sister Sharon Euart is president of the Canon Law Society of America.  She met the pope and perhaps can shed some light on not just this mystery but perhaps also the process of papal succession.

Sister, good evening.  Thank you for your time.


OLBERMANN:  What are the expectations?  Could this mystery cardinal actually attend the funeral or even the conclave? 

EUART:  As you said in your introduction, Keith, the code of canon law does permit the pope to name, in pectore, a cardinal, but not make his name public.  What is interesting is, the appointment, if the pope does not make it public, the appointment ceases with the death of the pope.  So, we have a situation, that if the name of the cardinal that the pope named in 2003 has not been made public, then the appointment ceases. 

OLBERMANN:  How in-public does it need to be named?  Is it sufficient that someone else has the document that says this is my in pectore appointment? 

EUART:  Well, it doesn‘t—the law simply says, it is not made known. 

And then when it is made public, I would imagine that there‘s a great

variation in what that would mean by ‘being public.‘

OLBERMANN:  What would your expectation be if he had been named, if the information had been passed along before the Pope left us, and the man either chose to reveal himself, came forward, attended, wanted to be part of the conclave. 

Would he be permitted to take part in the conclave as a cardinal? 

EUART:  Well, I don‘t think the individual knows that he was named.  So that if the name has been made public, he would be notified and would be able to participate in the conclave with the other cardinals.  Once the name is made public, he assumes all the responsibilities and privileges of all the cardinals.  And his precedence, his line in appointment, would go back to the date that the holy father appointed him, rather than this time today. 

OLBERMANN:  Wow.  Let me get one generalized question out on this subject as we watch mourners continue to file past the pope‘s body.  The popes are not supposed to indicate a preference for a successor.  This is not supposed to be that kind of influence.  But if they serve long enough, as John Paul did, don‘t they in essence choose those who will do the choosing?  There are 117 known cardinals, and all but three of them were John Paul‘s appointees. 

Is he not de facto appointing his own successor? 

EUART:  I think you could say he has appointed as cardinals people that he believes share some of his own values, his own beliefs, his own perspective on the church.  So, in a certain sense, what you‘re saying is accurate.  However, I think we have to keep in mind that each of the Cardinals will bring to the conclave the best interest of the universal church.  And each of them will view that perspective from their experience, not only their understanding of the church there, their knowledge of the holy father, but also, from what they can identify as the needs of the church from the pastoral perspectives of their own dioceses and local church. 

OLBERMANN:  Sister Sharon Euart, president of the Canon Law Society of America.  Great, thanks for your time and insight tonight. 

EUART:  You‘re welcome.

OLBERMANN:  The cardinals‘ meeting for the first time today, procedural events.  They are not supposed to talk succession until the formal start of the conclave, which could be as early as the 17th or as late as Friday the 22nd.  But even as they begin to look to the future, the pagentry and the salindadry, today especially, pointing to what is so suddenly the past. 





OLBERMANN (voice-over):  A day of remarkable images, the first of many to come in the weeks ahead.

And late news tonight from Cuba.  After speculation to the contrary, Fidel Castro saying on Cuban television tonight that he would not in fact attend the pope‘s funeral. 

Also the power of the pope.  When he put pressure on political figures, Castro aside, we will remember John Paul‘s last visit to the United States and the request he made of Missouri‘s then governor, Mel Carnahan.  Former Senator Jean Carnahan joins us next.

And there is other news, yet another insurgent attack against the Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq, and details on the previous ones.  You‘re watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC. 


OLBERMANN:  The power of people‘s suggestion.  In his final visit to the U.S., four words from John Paul II, which out turned to mean life or death for a man he never met.  A remarkable story next here on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  What would you feel like if just by saying four words out loud, you‘d saved a man‘s life?  In the four days, we have seen much of Pope John Paul II‘s visits to New York to Los Angeles to the White House, but no so much of his last trip, during which he said four words in ST.  Louis, Missouri, that changed everything. 

In 1999, this was, as part of the preparations for the Pontiff‘s visit, the execution of convicted killer Darrell Meae was postponed by the state of Missouri out of respect for the pope‘s stance against capital punishment.  That was supposed to be all there was.  Then after the pop gave a recitation on God‘s gift of life and love, he went to Governor Mel Carnahan of Illinois, and said the four words. 

And slurred by his Parkinson‘s, though they might have been, they were unmistakable, Mercy for Mr. Mease.  The late governor was so moved by the power of that moment that he commuted the death sentence against the advice of his staff and as a political campaign approached.  It is a moment remember to by his widow, the former senator for Missouri, Jean Carnahan. 

Senator Carnahan joins us now.  Good evening, thanks for your time. 


OLBERMANN:  Let‘s get this out of the way, right off the bat.  Your husband was not a Catholic, was he? 

CARNAHAN:  That‘s right.  He was a Baptist. 

OLBERMANN:  So what in what the pope said influenced him so greatly and so quickly from the pope? 

CARNAHAN:  Well, when he came down from the altar, and behind him were all the red robed cardinals, he came first over to vice president and Mrs.  Gore, and he shook their hand.  He blessed the people in wheel chairs there by us.  And then he spoke to me and then he turned to my husband and he paused.  And he—their eyes connected, their hands and their hearts, obviously.  He said those four words very softly, Mercy for Mr. Mease.  And that was all. 

OLBERMANN:  Did the governor know that from the time of that man‘s convict, Mr. Mease had talked about how he was confident that God would save him from execution?  Did he know that back story about him? 

CARNAHAN:  I don‘t believe he did.  I never heard him mention that. 


OLBERMANN:  Goodness.  This was a political risk on your husband‘s part, was it not? 

CARNAHAN:  Yes, it was.  He was engaged in a political campaign at the time against Senator John Ashcroft.  They were each running for the United States Senate at the time.  So it was a political risk.  In fact, his advisers said that he should not do it.  It would be perceived as being soft on crime.  But he felt like it was the right thing to do.  And he never regretted it. 

OLBERMANN:  Never lost any sleep over it.  And I gathered that had he done else wise, he really would have lost sleep over it. 

CARNAHAN:  Yes, I think so.  Earlier in the day, he had met with the secretary of state of the Vatican.  And he had said, this puts us in a very awkward position.  Our coming here has spared the life of a man.  But when we leave, he‘ll die.  And he begged then for the clemency.  And my husband was concerned because this was a man who had committed a very terrible and brutal crime.  And so to grant mercy under these circumstances was a very difficult thing to do. 

OLBERMANN:  We should make this very clear that granting mercy did not free this man.  He is still in prison. 

CARNAHAN:  That‘s correct.  He had a life sentence without parole. 

OLBERMANN:  What else besides this, obviously, this is something that will be with you the rest of your life and I think it will be with the rest of us who have just heard it for the first time.  But besides that, as if you needed a besides that, what else do you remember about the Pope‘s visit? 

CARNAHAN:  Well, certainly, I remember the way he was so kind in greeting everyone.  Whether it was someone in a wheelchair or whether it was someone in a high public office.  He took time for each of them.  He looked them deep in the eye.  He held on to their hand.  It was a very personable thing.  And I—it was one of those experiences, you‘d never—you‘d never forget. 

OLBERMANN:  I think in this past weekend, I have done 35 interviews of people who have met this man and they‘ve all said more or less what you‘ve just that.  It is extraordinary, isn‘t it? 

CARNAHAN:  Yes, it is indeed.  And I learned a lot about mercy from this exchange between the holy father and my husband.  You know, Shakespeare said that mercy is an attribute of God.  It fits the throned monarch better than his crown.  I think that was something both of them agreed. 

OLBERMANN:  The quality of mercy is not strained.  Former Missouri Senator Jean Carnahan.  Great thanks for telling the story and great thanks for your time. 

CARNAHAN:  Thanks, Keith.

OLBERMANN:  A story of the pope saving a life.  Later, the many times his life was saved.  More than just the ones you know about.  That‘s later in this news hour. 

Also tonight, the world did not stop with the death of the pope and before him, Terri Schiavo last week.  Important headlines that cable news has largely ignored, including a scathing report on prewar intelligence in Iraq.  We will fill that gap, standby.


On COUNTDOWN, on this Monday night, the life of Pope John Paul II, literally his life.  We all know of the health struggle of the months of the last decade.  We all knew of the assassination attempts.  But in his early years, Karol Wojtyla (ph)  beat death many time over. 

And the star crossed couple gets hit again.  Charles and Camilla, the wedding is Friday, the same day as the pope‘s funeral, oops. 

And there is other news besides the Vatican headlines.  In Iraq, new details about the highly coordinated weekend attack on the prison at Abu Ghraib.  Is the insurgency regrouping? 

The political future of Tom DeLay.  A new poll showing a home town back lash against his actions during the national Terri Schiavo drama. 

And a dramatic day in a California courtroom.  Another past accuser of Michael Jackson‘s is under oath and on the witness stand.  All ahead on COUNTDOWN.


OLBERMANN:  “When sorrows come,” Shakespeare wrote, “they come not as single spies but in battalions.” 

First, the controversial and sad end of the life of Terri Schiavo, then the worldwide impact of the death of the pope.  Thus, in this television news environment, that meant nothing else happened most of last week, nothing else you saw, anyway.  We would like to correct that since much of the news you may have missed, itself dwelt correcting things. 

A presidential commission delivering its report to President Bush last Thursday, summing up the nation‘s pre-war intelligence on Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction capability with two words:  “dead wrong.”  That conclusion referred specifically to the 2002 national intelligence estimate which was supposed to have been the nation‘s definitive analysis of the Iraqi threats.  As for the president‘s daily brief, the intelligence summary that the president receives every morning, the commission said that on the W.M.D. topic, its tone was even, quote, “more alarmist and less nuanced than the intelligence estimate.” 

The commission was headed by Judge Lawrence H. Silverman, a Republican, and former Senator Charlie S. Rob, a Democrat.  And its 601 page report also said the damage to American credibility would take, quote, “years to undo.”  The U.S. spy agencies were, quote, “head strong with an almost perfect record of resisting external recommendations.” 

And that U.S. intelligence flaws, like those that occurred in Iraq, are, quote, “still all too common.”  The commission urged the president‘s nominee for the new post at National Intelligence Director, John rMD+IN_rMDNM_D.rMDNM_ rMDNM_Negroponte, to radically reorganize the nation‘s 15 intelligence agencies, but while it emphasized the dangers of overestimating threats, the president in his weekly radio address, focused on the pit falls of underestimation. 


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE UNITED STATES:  It is not possible to guarantee perfect security in our vast free nation.  But at a time when we‘re at war, and our margin for error is getting smaller, the consequences of underestimating a threat could be tens of thousands of innocent lives. 


OLBERMANN:  If that presidential commission was a reminder of a build-up to war, the latest on the continuing conflict in Iraq hails from Abu Ghraib.  Last year, those two word represented American malfeasance.  This year, the same two words represent an insurgent offensive. 

Reporting from the scene itself is our Pentagon correspondent, Jim Miklaszewski. 


JIM MIKLASZEWSKI, MSNBC PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT:  For the Marines at tower four, the battle of Abu Ghraib was the fight of their lives. 

CAPTAIN ANDREW BONE, U.S. MARINE CORPS:  It‘s the stuff you read about in the medal of honor citations.  It was just the most amazing thing you‘ve ever seen. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  It started when Marine gunners shot up a suicide truck bomb, racing toward the prison.  It blew up short at the wall.  Enemy mortars pounded the prison as dozens much insurgents stormed tower four.  The Corporal Daniel Mitchem (ph) was wounded in the attack. 

DANIEL MITCHEM, US MARINE:  They got close enough to start lobbing grenades into the towers, sir.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  How did they manage to get so close? 

LT. COLONEL MARK BAY, US MARINE CORPS:  It was a combination of suppressive fire, small arms and the rocket fire on the tower. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  A rocket propelled grenade nearly blew a hole in Lance Corporal Joseph Veraliy‘s (ph) armored vest. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  You were wounded and had this done to your sappy plate, and you repelled off a tower? 


MIKLASZEWSKI:  What was the other option? 

VERALIY:  Death. 

MIKLASZEWSKI:  Under intense fire, they abandoned the tower but not their fellow Marines. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We had Marines that were fighting wounded.  We had Marines that refused to get evacked, 18, 19, 20-year-old men, sticking to their guns and not leaving their fellow comrades behind.

MIKLASZEWSKI:  More than 40 Americans were wounded, but none were kill.  At least two enemies were left dead. 

The wanted terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi has claimed credit for the assault on Abu Ghraib.  And U.S. military official say, there is fresh intelligence that indicates Zarqawi‘s terrorist group may indeed be behind the attack. 

Zarqawi‘s blamed for a deadly campaign of terrorist attacks and suicide bombings throughout Iraq.  But U.S. military officials claim they‘re closing in, and have Zarqawi on the run.  Although this latest attack on Abu Ghraib failed militarily, it also shows Zarqawi may be far from finished. 

Jim Miklaszewski, NBC News, Camp Victory, Iraq. 


OLBERMANN:  Meanwhile, back here, the president was afforded an opportunity for praise today, praise for a soldier in Iraq, the first from that theater of war to be awarded the Medal of Honor.  The nation‘s highest award for valor going posthumously to Army Sargent First Class Paul Ray Smith.  According to the presidential citation, in this rarest of recommendations and citations, his heroism saved 100 lives. 

Exactly two years ago, Smith was leading his platoon of the 11th engineer battalion, when it came under fire from the Iraqi Republican Guard, east of the Baghdad airport.  The 33-year-old Smith helped evacuate three wounded soldiers, jumped back into an M-113 armored personnel carrier, and kept fighting, going through at least three boxes of ammunition until he was mortally wounded by a shot to the throat.  The Medal of Honor cited Smith‘s, quote, “conspicuous gallantry, above and beyond the call of duty.”  It was presented to his 11-year-old son, David.  Also, present, as you saw, Smith‘s teenage daughter, Jessica,  and his mother and stepfather and his widow. 


BIRGIT SMITH, WIFE OF PAUL RAY SMITH:  Paul was a very tough and passionate soldier, but with a kind and giving heart.  Paul‘s actions two years ago speak louder than any words ever could, for that was simply the man Paul truly was, always putting others before himself. 


OLBERMANN:  The president‘s on-the-ground allies in Iraq, meanwhile, continuing to dwindle.  The latest troop withdrawal from Ukraine.  President Viktor Yushchenko has ordered the withdrawal of 1,600 troops from Iraq, a pullout expected to be complete by the fall.  Yushchenko, meeting with President Bush today, saying that his country was still committed to helping train Iraqi security forces. 

The president put the best face on that, saying he understood that Yushchenko was, quote, “fulfilling a campaign pledge.”  Mr. Bush added that Ukraine was on the path to join NATO if it meets certain conditions.  The president also emphasized Ukraine‘s bone fides as a genuine democracy, referring to the protests there that kept the once-poisoned Yushchenko from having victory at the polls stolen. 


BUSH:  We share a goal to spread freedom to other nations.  After all, the Orange Revolution may have looked like it was only a part of the Ukrainian, the history of Ukraine, but the Orange Revolution represented revolutions elsewhere as well. 


OLBERMANN:  As for disputed elections here, the president has nothing new to say on that, but a high-profile bipartisan panel will.  Former President Jimmy Carter and former Secretary of State James Baker, they will co-chair a commission on federal election reform.  Also serving, former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, the former House Minority Leader Bob Michael, and others from both sides of the aisle. 

When President Carter teamed up with former President Gerald Ford after the disputed 2000 outcome, their report led to the Help America Vote Act.  Apparently more help is needed; perhaps less act.  President Carter said this will address issues of inclusion in federal elections.  “I am concerned,” he continued, “about the state of our electoral system and believe we need to improve it.”  Secretary Baker, who was President Bush‘s top gun during that top battle in Florida, said the Carter-Ford commission had, quote, “resulted in significant changes for the 2004 election but more can be done to guarantee integrity and accuracy.”  If you are a Republican, you can make one joke here.  If you are a Democrat, you can make an entirely different one. 

Some other numbers in the news about which you probably didn‘t hear.  Previous polls have suggested strong disapproval by Republicans and Democrats alike of the Congressional intervention in the Schiavo case.  That was directed at all those who forced the issue.  Turns out there was also considerable blow-back against the man at the forefront of the legislation.  House majority Leader Tom DeLay, in his own Congressional district. 

The Zogby poll commissioned by the “Houston Chronicle” showed that 58 percent of 501 likely voters in the Texas 22nd district say they think he was wrong to intervene.  Nearly half say the reason DeLay intervened was political gain and not morals;  40 percent say they think less of him now than they did last year.  The poll was heavily skewed in favor of Republicans; 53 percent to 33 percent Democrats taking this poll, yet 45 percent of all respondents said they would vote for somebody else now.  Only 38 percent said they were sure they would vote for him again.  And DeLay‘s complaint about his treatment by the media:  46 percent in his own district say he has been treated fairly.  Only 40 percent think, unfairly.

Also tonight, jokes indeed.  Another week, another cosmic sign for Prince Charles and his fiancee, Mrs. Bowles, whose wedding has now been hit by everything except an asteroid. 

At the Michael Jackson trial, emotional testimony in court today regarding past allegations of abuse. 

You are watching COUNTDOWN on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN:  Certainly someone close to Camilla Parker Bowles or Prince Charles had already said it to them, how many more omens do you need?  The where and the under-what-circumstances had already been changed, the title she does not want, turns out she‘s stuck with it, and his mother will not attend.  And now this, 471 years after King Henry VIII split with the catholic church and started his own religion and was promptly ex-communicated by the Pope Clement VII, Clement‘s 45th successor dies and his burial is scheduled for the same day as the Charles and Camilla wedding.  So, they have postponed it.  The nightmare story of one wedding and a funeral, reported for us now by correspondent Romilly Weeks, of our affiliated British network ITV. 


ROMILLY WEEKS, ITV - WESTMINSTER CATHEDRAL:  A solemn mass in honor of the pope in Westminister today.  Prince Charles rushed back from his skiing holiday to attend with Camilla, having also agreed that the pope‘s funeral will take precedence over their wedding.  The clash of timings had presented a logistical nightmare, not just for the prince but for the prime minister and other guests, including the Archbishop of Canterbury. 

The royal booking at the Guild Hall has been moved to Saturday.  The prince will have to work around the other three weddings on the day who aren‘t prepared to give up their slots. 

FRASER MOORES, ALSO MARRYING SATURDAY AT GUILD HALL:  Absolutely not.  I don‘t think that can happen.  It‘s a lot of preparation.  It would be a nightmare.  Forget it.  No way. 

WEEKS:  When the council insists it will all work. 

LLOYD WHITE, WINDSOR COUNCIL:  The new arrangements are the old arrangement, just 24 hours moved forward.  Obviously, we were very much in the final stages of planning for Friday, anyway, so the change of date is not a great deal for us. 

WEEKS:  It‘s the latest hiccup for Charles and Camilla on what‘s already been a distinctly rocky road to wedded bliss.  Days after the engagement, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) house were forced to reject claims the marriage would be illegal.  Then the venue had to be switched for Windsor Castle to Windsor Guild Hall when officials realized the castle did not have an appropriate license.  Shortly after that, the queen announced that she wouldn‘t even be there.  Her excuse, that the couple wanted a low key event, didn‘t convince everyone.  Then a row erupted over Camilla‘s title:  even though she doesn‘t want to be queen, the law says she will. 

Prince Charles wasn‘t the only mourner here at Westminster Cathedral who would‘ve found it impossible to be in two places at once on Friday.  It might all be adding up to a perception that his wedding is somehow jinxed, but under the circumstances, it was the only decision that could be taken. 

Charles will attend the pope‘s funeral without Camilla on Friday. 

She‘ll be at home, no doubt wondering what else can possibly go wrong. 

Romilly Weeks, ITV news in Westminster. 


OLBERMANN:  So, everything should be fine now.  They‘re getting married on April 9, the anniversary of the day the Beatles split up and the day the Titanic‘s officers came aboard ship. 

So, we transition from one disaster to another and it is your tax and entertainment dollars in action.  Day 504 of the Michael Jackson investigation.  Quite serious developments today.  Jackson arriving to find out just how damaging to his case that judge‘s ruling last week really was, the one that said, past allegations against him could be admitted as evidence. 

In emotional testimony, the son of Jackson‘s former housekeeper described how Jackson allegedly twice fondled him while playing tickling games with him in the star‘s Los Angeles condo, and a third time at the Neverland ranch in 1990, when the witness claims Jackson reached under the witness‘s clothing to touch his, quote, “privates.”  This took a lot of counseling to get over, just to let you know, he told the prosecutor.  He is 24 years old now.  He was 10 years old at the time of the last purported molestation. 

Meanwhile, the man who represented Michael Jackson in his first molestation case lies in repose tonight in a cathedral in Los Angeles.  Tonight‘s public viewing of the late Johnnie Cochran is the first of two such events before public ceremonies are held on Wednesday.  No word on whether Jackson or nor any of the famous attorney‘s other celebrity clients attended.  A private burial service will follow public ceremonies Wednesday afternoon.  Cochran died at his home last week of an inoperable brain tumor at the age of 67. 

And we will end where we began, with the death of Pope John Paul II.  The world knows how he survived in 1981 assassination attempt, but that is only scratching the surface.  You know about how he nearly died in 1930?  1943?  1945?  Stand by; you will. 


OLBERMANN:  Lastly tonight, of the 264 or 265 of them, he was the third longest-serving pope, thus this fact is hard to reconcile.  The arduous 26 years and 4 months of John Paul‘s pontificate might not have been the most challenging of Karol Wojtyla‘s life.  Certainly not the most physically challenging—we know how he survived assassinations, how he survived tumors and fractures and Parkinson‘s, how he survived all the blights of old age.  In knowing just that, we know only the surface of the story of 84 years of near indominability. 


OLBERMANN (voice-over):  The longest-serving pope became such in part because he was elected at age 58, making him the youngest pope since Pius IV in 1846.  But, moreover, this is a man who seems to have cheated death with remarkable regularity over the course of his 84 years.  That Karol Wojtyla survived his childhood and early adulthood, alone, might be called something of a miracle. 

His first near-death experience in Poland came at the age of 10.  The boy was playing with a friend who borrowed his father‘s rifle assuming it wasn‘t loaded.  Jokingly, the friend turned the gun on Karol.  It was loaded.  The bullet whizzed past Wojtyla‘s face, missing him by inches.  He might later have seen that as an omen. 

When the Nazis invaded Krakow in 1939, Karol and his father tried to escape.  They were stopped by low-flying German planes scraping the fleeing refugees with machine gun fire.  The future pope would be pressed into forced labor at a plant in Solvey (ph), another silver lining, as it proved.  The work was dangerous.  He once witnessed the death of the laborer next to him in an accident, but in 1941, when he was arrested in a Nazi roundup, that worker card he had kept him from being sent to Auschwitz. 

Karol Wojtyla instead spent that time in an underground seminary studying for the priesthood in secrecy.  Later, in 1943, he was hit by a German truck that sped off.  It left him comatose.  Had a woman not found him and called for help, he surely would have died in the street.  He woke up in the hospital with severe concussion, covered in bandages, but alive. 

On August 6, 1944, a week after the uprising in Warsaw, the Nazis began arresting every male adult in Krakow in hopes of preventing another revolt, but Karol Wojtyla was spending that day praying in his basement apartment, listening to the sound of the Nazis‘ boots on the floor boards above him.  The noise finally died away.  The stormtroopers had not thought to check the basement.  The following morning, a messenger came for Karol ferried him away to the secret seminary.  After that his name appeared on a Nazi blacklist. 

Gunshots, speeding automobiles, political maelstroms, facets of his childhood and youth that would seemingly coalesce 37 years later.  May 13, 1981, 5:19 p.m., Karol Wojtyla, now Pope John Paul II, circling St. Peter‘s Square in his Jeep, better known as the Popemobile, before his Wednesday general audience.  Turkish terrorist Mehmet Ali Agca fires at the pope, wounding him in the hand and in the abdomen.  He is whisked to Gemelli Hospital, spends six hours in surgery, 22 days in hospital.  Two days after he was released an infection developed.  The pope to return to Gemelli hospital for a second operation.  Nearly three months more of recuperation.  All told, he would spend 78 days there, and return in July 1992. 

That‘s when the pope had a tumor removed from his gallbladder.  The scheduled surgery turned out to be just in time.  Doctors would say later, that tumor was the size of an orange and turning malignant.  They were forced to also remove the gallbladder itself. 

1992 was also the first year that traces of Parkinson‘s disease started to become evident in the pope though the Vatican would deny that disease truth long passed the time anyone else had any doubt.  As it advanced, the complications increased. 

November 1993, John Paul fell down some steps at the Vatican, dislocating his right shoulder.  He underwent surgery and spent the night at Gemelli.  Upon his release, he would say, the pope salutes you.  It‘s a slightly deficient pope, but still in one piece and not dead yet.  In April of 1994, he falls again, fractures his femur, requires hip replacement surgery.  In October 1996, the pope‘s appendix is removed and he spends another week at Gemelli hospital.  And in June of 1999, the pope fell again in the papal residence in Warsaw.  He cut his right temple.  Three days later in Krakow, he came down with a fever and had to postpone his appearances there. 

As the Parkinson‘s progressed, the Vatican‘s silence about it continued.  It wasn‘t until May of 2003, more than a decade since the disease first took on its visible signs, that a Vatican official publicly acknowledged that the pope did indeed have the disease.  None of this slowed Pope John Paul II down for long.  Over the course of his papacy, he set foot in more than 120 countries at every continent save Antarctica.  For years, he would kiss the ground upon arrival at every stop.  When he became to frail to do that he insisted instead a bowl of soil be brought to his lips. 

Two months ago, of course, the pope went into the hospital with the flu and severe breathing problems.  We were told then it was the end.  It was not.  Just as Friday afternoon at 1:30 eastern time, foreign news agencies and an American cable news channel reported the pope had died, he had not.  And when the Saturday morning papers hit Italian newsstands, the headline emblazoned across the front of the daily “La Stampa” prematurely read “Pope John Paul II 1978-2005.”  That headline would prove true eventually but not until 9:37 that night in Rome.  One last triumph, if only in our imagination , one last wry smile or gentle laugh, if only in our memories, for the pope in a victory over death. 


OLBERMANN (on camera):  And, by the way, he saved at least one life during World War II, rescuing a starving 13-year-old girl who had escaped from a Nazi death camp.  They corresponded until last year. 

Much more on the life of Pope John Paul II, how the world shaped him and in turn, how he shaped the world.  That‘ll be next here on MSNBC and in a special edition of “HEADLINERS & LEGENDS.”  That‘s COUNTDOWN, thank you for being a part of it.  I‘m Keith Olbermann.  Good night and good luck.


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