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The Last Days of Pope John Paul II, the Untold Stories

Aired March 31, 2006 - 23:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): A whole crowd has gathered in order to pray in St. Peter's Square.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN FAITH AND VALUES CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was a time the world came together.

A square, pulsing with prayer. Hoping for life. Preparing for death.

For nearly 27 years we watched as this man, the leader of the Catholic Church grew old and frail. His inner strength was apparent to all.

Now it is a time for faith and reflection. The moment before everything changed.

(on camera): The Vatican, St. Peter's Square, this is where they came. Those millions who rushed to Rome, to pray, to grieve an to say goodbye to their beloved John Paul II. I'm Delia Gallagher.

The images remain as vivid today as they were just a year ago. But for the real story of John Paul's final days, you have to go behind these walls, to those closest to him. Theirs are the untold stories, the stories you've never heard until now.

STANISLAW DZIWISZ, POPE JOHN PAUL II'S PERSONAL SECRETARY (through translator): My life became his life.

GALLAGHER: For nearly 40 years, Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz and Pope John Paul II were inseparable.

DZIWISZ (through translator): I didn't have a private life. He scheduled his work, it became my work, my schedule.

GALLAGHER: Dziwisz was the pope's personal secretary. A job he started when John Paul was still Karol Wojtyla, the young archbishop of Krakow.

DZIWISZ (through translator): He asked me, can you come and help me with my work? And I said when? He said today. I told him I'd come tomorrow, and tomorrow for more than 39 years.

GALLAGHER (on camera): Today, one year after his friend's death, Dziwisz is back home in Krakow, working the same job, living in the same home. And praying in the same private chapel where his mea mentor once prayed.

DZIWISZ (through translator): After breakfast, he'd come here, lock himself in and pray by himself until 11:00. No one else was allowed in. He'd be here alone with Christ. And not only did he pray, he also worked here. The nuns were always curious about what he was doing. They'd peek through the keyhole and would see him prostrate on the floor. That was his way of praying. So this chapel was very close to his heart.

CARDINAL EDMUND SZOKA, VATICAN CITY GOVERNOR: He was always very prayerful. And you rarely saw him without a rosary in his hand.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Edmund Szoka is the governor, the chief administrator of Vatican City. He met the pope 30 years ago.

SZOKA: Oh, gee, he struck me as a very impressive, very kind, very gentle person. He had that gift of expressing friendship. Just not only by what he said, but just by his whole personality.

GALLAGHER: A polish American, Szoka was cardinal of Detroit when in 1990, Pope John Paul summoned him to Rome to help put the Vatican finances in order. A working relationship developed into a friendship.

SZOKA: He always invited me for Christmas dinner and for Easter dinner.

GALLAGHER (on camera): What would that be like? Christmas dinner with the pope?

SZOKA: Oh, it was delightful.

Obviously, he would be tired, you know, after all the ceremonies, but you know, you wouldn't think so to see him at the meal. He looked very relaxed and, of course, the only ones there were people who spoke Polish because I think it gave him a chance to relax and not have to be thinking in another language.

MOTHER TEKLA FAMIGLIETTA, HEAD OF THE BRIGITTINE NUNS (through translator): It was like seeing the face of Jesus for the first time.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): Mother Tekla Famiglietti is the head of the Brigittine nuns in Rome. She first met the pontiff in 1979 after he became pope.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): He asked me, what is your mission? And I said the glorification of God and the reunification of the church. He said we have a long road ahead of us. And I said, yes, Holy Father, this won't be easy. Even for us.

GALLAGHER: But one year ago, they were at the bedside of a dying pope, saying farewell to a friend, a mentor, and the leader of their church.

SZOKA: I knew that it couldn't go on much longer.

DZIWISZ (through translator): God didn't let him suffer long. Only three days.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): It was the hardest time of my life. The loss was just too great.

GALLAGHER: When we come back, their secrets about the last days of Pope John Paul II.


GALLAGHER: It was a scene like so many we had seen before. January 30, 2005. Pope John Paul II, perhaps at his happiest, interacting with children. He had become a grandfather figure to the world. The charismatic face of Catholicism and Christianity. The first pope to enter a synagogue. A man who tried to heal ancient wounds between Catholics and Jews. A tireless advocate for the poor and downtrodden. And perhaps no other person was more instrumental in bringing down the Soviet empire.

But he was a man not without his critics, especially in the United States where many disagreed with his positions on birth control, women in the church, married priests and homosexuality.

Still, he was the most recognizable figure in the world. His frail appearance, by now familiar. An 84-year-old man who had survived an assassination attempt, nine surgeries, and Parkinson's disease. Bent, but never broken.

SZOKA: I'd see him before when he was sick and, you know, one day he'd really be sick and the next day he would be right back. So he was very strong in that sense.

GALLAGHER: For more than a decade, speculation had swirled about John Paul's ability to go on. But the most traveled pope in history refused to bow down to his weakening body.

SZOKA: His declining health did not affect his life. It was clear right to the end. And he didn't let this declining health interfere with his activities. He didn't give up. He didn't say, I can't do this anymore. He did it. And he kept doing it.

GALLAGHER (on camera): Did he ever express frustration?

SZOKA: No, never, never, never.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): For years, Archbishop Renato Boccardo planned the pope's trip.

ARCHBISHOP RENATO BOCCARDO, PLANNED POPE'S TRIPS (through translator): I remember when he first started using a cane. Before he'd appear in public, he'd put it aside and try to walk without it.

GALLAGHER: He watched John Paul adjust to his declining physical conditions.

BOCCARDO (through translator): Gradually he started appearing in public with the cane and he'd start to play around with it. I remember when we were in Manida (ph). He started to spin it just like Charlie Chapman.

I think in the end it became natural for him, you know, this is the way I am.

DR. RODOLFO PROIETTI: Many people described him as the impatient patient. I don't think that's true at all.

GALLAGHER: Dr. Rodolfo Proietti was the head of the pope's medical team at Rome's Gemelli Hospital.

PROIETTI (through translator): But he was inpatient in another sense. When he felt better, he couldn't wait to get out of the hospital, which he called Vatican III, and get back to his job. That was important to him. He never wanted to waste time.

GALLAGHER: Nor would he waste time on self-pity.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): I remember saying to him, Holy Father, I am sorry that you're in such pain and that you cannot walk like you did when you were an athlete. And he looked at me, and I always saw the look of Jesus in his face, and he said, Mother Tekla, the doctors did what they could and I thank them.

But one thing's important for me. I can write many encyclicals, but I believe my suffering, my small suffering can help humanity.

GALLAGHER: Joaquin Navarro-Valls is the Vatican spokesman.

(on camera): So you never said to him, you don't have to do it today?

DR. JOAQUIN NAVARRO-VALLS, VATICAN SPOKESMAN: Yes. Holy Father, it is not necessary. OK. Is there a microphone? Yes, I will do it.

GALLAGHER: Did you ever say to him, Holy Father, slow down?

SZOKA: I don't remember if I said it exactly that way, but I don't think it would have done any good.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): The pope continued on. Wanting his personal suffering to be visible in the most public of ways.

ARCHBISHOP WILTON GREGORY, ARCHBISHOP OF ATLANTA: He still enjoyed and treasured the gift of life.

GALLAGHER: Wilton Gregory is the archbishop of Atlanta.

GREGORY: I think it was a great encouragement to the sick, the elderly, that illnesses and that debilitations don't rob us of our dignity.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Breaking news out of the Vatican.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pope John Paul II -- it says, has been taken to the hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's been six hours since the pope's been admitted.

GALLAGHER: Late on the evening of February 1, 2005, without any warning, the pope was rushed from the Vatican to the Gemelli Hospital.

PROIETTI (through translator): We knew it was an emergency and the hospital was prepared to deal with it.

GALLAGHER: Struggling to breathe, the pope was taken to his private suite on the tenth floor.

PROIETTI (through translator): During this critical times, you have to forget that this is the Holy Father. We have to check our emotions. It's our job.

GALLAGHER: Proietti and his team stabilize the pope's condition. The diagnosis, complications from the flu.

ALESSIO VINCI, CNN ROME BUREAU CHIEF CORRESPONDENT: there was a sense, will he make it? Will he make it out of it?

GALLAGHER (on camera): CNN Rome Bureau Chief Alessio Vinci.

VINCI: And I guess he was the one who wanted to give us the answer.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): As the pope recovered, crowds outside the hospital turned his 10-day stay into a celebration. The streets were packed for his release.

But behind the scenes at the Vatican, whispered questions. Can the pope go on? Should he step down?


GALLAGHER: February 24, 2005, just two weeks after his celebrated release, John Paul II was rushed back to the hospital.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Pope John Paul II on a respirator after a serious medical setback.

VINCI: Honestly, I think a lot of people were surprised that the pope had gone to the hospital the second time. The first question was, you know, did he go home the first time too soon? Is this time worse? And so obviously, we all started drawing the worst case scenarios.

GALLAGHER: This time it was more serious. The pope needed a tracheotomy to breathe.

PROIETTI (through translator): The procedure was absolutely necessary to save the Holy Father's life. All other concerns were secondary to performing the tracheotomy.

GALLAGHER: Doctor Rodolfo Proietti warned the pope this procedure could cost him his voice. Potentially disastrous for a man whose words were so vital. Cardinal Camillo Ruini was one of the pope's closest aids.

CARDINAL CAMILLO RUINI, CARDINAL VICAR OF ROME: He agreed because he knew that without this, he couldn't live, couldn't go on, and he thought maybe I can learn to speak.

GALLAGHER: The 30-minute operation was kept secret until it was over. The condition of the pope's voice was a mystery. But his written words upon awakening were telling.

To Mary, he wrote, I once again entrust myself. Totus Tuus, I'm totally yours.

John Paul's love for Mary dated back to his childhood in Poland. Karol Wojtyla was born in the small town of Wadowice. His family apartment overlooked the Church of Our Lady, where he served as an altar boy.

Before she died, his mother Amelia encouraged her 8-year-old son to become a priest. Soon after her death, the Wojtyla's father took him on a journey to Calvaria, a series of shrines outside his hometown. It was here that his devotion to the Virgin Mary first began.

Decades later, Pope John Paul II would make another pilgrimage. This time to Portugal to thank Mary, Our Lady of Fatima for saving his life.

CHRISTOPHER BELLITTO, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF HISTORY, KEAN UNIVERSITY: He believes that in 1981 when the assassination attempt was made on his life in St. Peter's Square, that Mary diverted the bullet. Literally touched the path of the bullet so that it didn't hit any major organs.

GALLAGHER: That bullet is now in Fatima, welded into the crown of the Virgin Mary.

As John Paul grew older and weaker, his devotion to Mary grew even stronger. In his final year, he visited Lourdes in France, a place of pilgrimage for the sick and suffering. His love of Mary and his feeble condition, on full display.

JOHN ALLEN, VATICAN ANALYST: The struggling, bent, broken, frail figure appeared before them and said, today I am a sick man among the sick. I mean, you cannot imagine the resonance that that had in that crowd. Suddenly their suffering, you know, had meaning, you know, had been ennobled by the fact they shared it with this transparently holy man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The health of the Holy Father, John Paul II, continues to improve and show progress.

GALLAGHER: March 3, 2005. Though the pope's health remained in question, he remained in public. Blessing children outside his hospital window. Reading at a hospital mass. Even appearing at St. Peter's Square via wide-screen TV. VINCI: The Vatican wanted to just project a picture that everything was going to be all right, that the pope was going to recover, that this was just another scare, and that you, the journalists, are making too big a deal out of this.

GALLAGHER: Two weeks later, in mid march, the pope once again journeyed home from the hospital.

VINCI: It was a big television show. I don't think even Hollywood could have organized this. Live cameras all along the roof, helicopter cameras. There was a camera inside the car driving the pope in the crowd. I mean, I've never even seen that.

GALLAGHER: But all the careful camera work could not disguise a visibly pale and weakened pope.

Within the Vatican, questions about his ability to lead. What if he couldn't continue his duties? What if he fell into a coma?

REV. THOMAS REESE, AUTHOR, "INSIDE THE VATICAN": We don't know what to do if the pope becomes incapacitated, so we hope that the pope writes a document -- a secret document that can then be released that says, OK, this is how you deal with it.

GALLAGHER: Rumors swirled of a letter written by the pope, dictating a plan, a succession. Not so, says Archbishop Dziwisz, the pope's personal secretary.

DZIWISZ (through translator): No. He never talked to me about it. But I do know who he did talk to. To Jesus. He did discuss it with some of his closest colleagues, but that was some time ago. There is this beautiful phrase we use that sums it up. You don't come down from the cross.

ALLEN: I think that resignation was just completely inconsistent with the psychology of the man. This is someone who was profoundly convinced that on May 13, 1981, the Virgin Mary changed the flight path of a bullet, to preserve him in office and that this pontificate was part of a broader cosmic story about the forces of good and evil at work in the world. I mean, if that's your conviction, I don't think you ever believe it's up to you to decide when to quit.

GALLAGHER: And the pope made it very clear. Any talk of quitting would not shake his will. He would wait for God to call.


GALLAGHER: Palm Sunday, the beginning of Holy Week, but for the first time in 26 years, the pope did not lead mass. He would miss most of Holy Week. Instead, he watched it all on Vatican TV.

At a time when Christians around the world were commemorating Jesus' last hours, the pope's absence was symbolic.

Then on Easter Sunday, the 84-year-old pontiff made his way to the window above St. Peter's Square. Wanting desperately to see and speak to his flock, who wanted desperately to hear their pope.

But the words would not come out. The microphone pushed away. The pope's frustration evident. His close friend, Archbishop Dziwisz was by his side. In his book, "Let Me Go to the House of the Father," Dziwisz writes, after John Paul returned from the window, he said it might be better that I die if I cannot complete the mission entrusted to me.

ALLEN: There is a lovely kind of poetic art to all of this. Because if you think back to October 16, 1978, when Karol Wojtyla of Krakow was elected as John Paul II, when he came out onto that central loge of St. Peter's Square and gave the blessing and then started to improvise.

And if you remember, the papal master of ceremonies actually reached for the pope to pull him away, as if to say, Holy Father, this isn't how it's done. And Wojtyla slapped his hand away, said, you know, from that moment, it was clear, I'm going to be pope my way.

And there at the very end, you know, that Easter Sunday, when the pope was there at the window for that agonizing 12-minute period, you know, trying to speak and just being utterly unable to do so. And at two different moments, his aides actually tried to roll him away from the window. And once again, he slapped their hands away, as if to say, here at the very end, I'm still doing this my way. You know, I think there was something marvelously appropriate about that.

DANUTA MICHALOWSKA, LONG-TIME FRIEND (through translator): To me, his voice was a priceless gift.

GALLAGHER: As young adults, Actress Danuta Michalowski and Karol Wojtyla were in the same theater group in Krakow. It was his voice that first caught her attention.

MICHALOWSKI (through translator): He stood out then in the same way he stood out throughout his life. He was such an extraordinary person. There was something so radiant about him and you couldn't help but notice him. He could have been a great actor, perhaps one of the greatest in the world because he was such a talent.

GALLAGHER: For decades, they would exchange letters. More than 100. The last one just two weeks before his death. A letter never intended to be shared with the public. But now, Danuta Michalowski feels compelled to do just that. The pope's signature, noticeably unsteady; but the handwritten words, still legible with heartfelt wishes.

For Danuta, the letters are a treasure, a comfort, memories of a dying friend whose suffering would soon end.

MICHALOWSKI (through translator): The body is our dress. And when it starts to tear, when it no longer gives us any warmth, setting it is a wonderful moment.

GALLAGHER: Three days after Easter, the pope tried to speak to the masses once more. DZIWISZ (through translator): We even tested it beforehand.

GALLAGHER: Archbishop Dziwisz remembers the pope's rehearsal and his frustration after his second failed attempt.

DZIWISZ (through translator): I wouldn't have given him the microphone if I didn't think he could speak. But maybe it was the emotion of the moment of God just wanted it that way.

When he gave the sign of the cross, it was very moving. And then nothing.

GALLAGHER: This would be the last time the world would see John Paul.

NAVARRO-VALLS: Through his suffering, through his last moments here, but he was teaching something, something very important. This pope who had teach many people around the world how to believe was also teaching in those moments how the person can die.

GALLAGHER: The next day, Thursday, Pope John Paul II fell ill one last time.

DZIWISZ (through translator): He was dressed for mass. But all of a sudden at the beginning, he started to shiver. I understood immediately after mass that he had a severe infection. And then one thing led to another, and his condition went for the worse.

GALLAGHER: His temperature shot up to 104 degrees. Doctors inside the Vatican said there was nothing more they could do. The pope was asked if he wanted to return to the hospital. He answered the question with a question.

NAVARRO-VALLS: Is there anything in the hospital that can do to me that you cannot perform here? The answer was no, Holy Father. We have everything here. There were different doctors and so forth, and he decided to remain in his apartment.

ALLEN: Certainly the fact that, you know, all of his appointments were canceled and that it was announced that he was under medical care in the papal apartments, and that no other hospitalization was envisioned, I think that certainly set off alarm bells.

GALLAGHER: John Paul II was given Last Rites. His friends would soon gather by his bedside.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Paul is the focus of worldwide...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today from his spokesman, another gloomy medical...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... situation where the pope is still serious... UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... fear that this could be the last night of Pope John Paul II's life. And we have...

GALLAGHER: Friday, April 1st. The pope's condition had worsened. As the news spread, so did the concerns.

From Mexico to Moscow, Poland to London. To Washington D.C. Spontaneous gatherings, prayer vigils, masses for a dying pope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: May the Lord who loves him so much, give him the strength he needs at this moment in his life. And if it is His will, restore him to us. Or if it is His will, save him some suffering and bring him home. Amen.

GALLAGHER: For a man who spent so much of his life traveling, the world is now traveling to him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are thousands of people arriving all the time. The crowd here and the world watching those windows up there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The outpouring of sentiment and concern around the world has been striking.

ALLEN: I was struck by the enormous spirit of prayer. The quiet, I mean, it's a very rare situation where you can assemble a million people in one spot, and you can have the kind of hushed sobriety, in the sense of reverence that you had.

VINCI: The mood was quite somber. I mean, you could clearly tell that we were not back to the previous weeks when we were outside of the Gemelli Hospital, with crowds coming there cheering him, waving flags. That was no longer there.

GALLAGHER: The crowd's attention focused on a window, high above the square, where the pope had come to greet them so many times. Or just to watch them in secret.

DZIWISZ (through translator): At Christmastime at night, when he couldn't work anymore, we'd bring him to the window to peek at the Square below, to see the nativity scene and the crowds without being seen himself.

GALLAGHER: Now, as he lay ill inside, the pope was made aware that once again, his people were there.

BOCCARDO (through translator): In his apartment, you could hear the sounds from the Square.

His secretary was telling him about the crowds below and that messages were arriving from around the world, we are praying for you. We love you.

ALLEN: This was a man who, like no other of his time, had a magical connection with these crowds. And I think up to the very end, it was a source of great consolation for him to know that his people were out there.

GALLAGHER: That connection with the crowd inspired some of the last words he spoke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I had met you around the world and I realize that you're here. And I thank you for that.

GALLAGHER: While a vigil was taking place below his window, behind it, another vigil, one we are only learning about now. Archbishop Dziwisz, the pope's private secretary of nearly 40 years had summoned friends and colleagues to say their emotional farewell.

DZIWISZ (through translator): It was so moving. Especially for the people who cleaned and took care of the house. These people were crying like little children outside the bedroom. When they came to his bedside, they did not let it show.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): The greatest blessing was when Archbishop Dziwisz called me.

GALLAGHER: Longtime friend, Mother Tekla, was one of those who got the call.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): It was 10:00 a.m. on the first of April. He said, Mother Tekla, come say goodbye to the Holy Father.

GALLAGHER: Bishop Boccardo, who coordinated the pope's travels was there as well.

BOCCARDO (through translator): The pope was in bed, like any person on the eve of his death. And around him were his doctors and his household staff.

GALLAGHER: Cardinal Szoka, the head of Vatican City, also paid his respects.

SZOKA: What went through my mind is that here is a pope, a person that I knew and that I loved very much. And I saw that he was dying.

There were three doctors along one side and helping him to breathe. And so I went on the other side of the bed and I knelt down, kissed his hand.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): I remember everybody around him praying. And I remember this enormous bible that a priest was reading.

SZOKA: I said to them in polish, Holy Father, the whole world is praying for you.

BOCCARDO (through translator): I got on my knees near the bed. I kissed his hand, and it was such an emotional moment. So many images came to mind. Words and moments came back to me.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): I knelt down and the pope was lying on his right side with his hand under his cheek. He was praying. It's called the prayer of the soul.

SZOKA: His eyes were wide open and he looked right at me and he nodded to indicate he knew who I was.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): His eyes were like two stars. He spoke, but I couldn't understand anything besides, thank you. It's almost like he was saying, we will see each other again. It was such a beautiful thing. So joyous.

SZOKA: You know, I have been a priest more than 50 years, and every time I visit a sick person, when I was leaving, I give them a blessing. So I got up and without thinking this is the pope, I gave him a blessing. And when I did, he blessed himself. When I left, I thought, gee, what did I do, you know, I gave the pope a blessing, I should have asked him to bless me.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): I didn't believe he would die because I saw him so alive. He was so focused on what I was saying, and how he looked at me. I just couldn't imagine. How could they say he was going to die? Maybe it was an anticipation of the life beyond that I saw.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi everyone. We'll return to the last days of Pope John Paul II in just a moment.

First, though, let's get you caught up with a quick look at the business headlines this hour.

We start with Google. The web search company is offering a new batch of stock, with shares pricing at $390 a piece. Google share prices have quadrupled since its initial offering two summers ago. And that makes it easy for the top execs who own big chunks of the company to turn down a pay raise today. They will keep their salary at just $1 a year.

In the meantime, forget the friendly skies, how about the pricey skies? Delta today saying it will add airport fees to the price of a ticket and match fair hikes announced by United. Look to pay as much as $50 more each way.

And in music, overall sales may be falling, but not as fast as you might think. Why? That's because online music sales are taking off. The industry says revenue from downloads almost tripled in 2004, the most recent year study.

And those are your business headlines. I'm Erica Hill from "HEADLINE NEWS." Our 360 special presentation continues after this.

GALLAGHER: It is now Saturday morning.

(on camera) As can you see, it's dawn now, about seven and a half hours...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... very worried over the Vatican this morning...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The condition of our Holy Father has remained the same.

GALLAGHER (voice-over): These windows are the focus of the world's attention. Behind them, the pope is living the last few hours of his life.

ALLEN: There is a bed. There is a kind of chest of drawers. There is a place for the pope to kneel to say his prayers. And that's really about it. So, a very simple, humble kind of bedroom. And the pope for the last hours of his life was in his bed.

GALLAGHER: Inside the room, those closest to him. Most notably, Archbishop Dziwisz, his friend for so many years.

NAVARRO-VALLS: He read so much in his life. And his last day, he said, read me the gospel. The priests read nine chapters from St. John.

On Friday -- he remembered there was a Friday. And he used to pray only Fridays of his life, the Via Crucis, that is the 14 stations of our Lord, with the cross. And every single time that we read to him a piece of this story, the gospel, he signed the sign of the cross.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Almost always, you know rosaries were being said and litanies of the saints were being invoked. Hymns were being sung. Mass, of course, was celebrated regularly. And I think it was very quiet and it was very prayerful.

NAVARRO-VALLS: There was some moments in which you could see that he was suffering a little bit more. And some of the moments in which he was more at peace. But certainly the sense of serenity for all those days was astonishing, it was tremendous.

GALLAGHER: In St. Peter's Square and around the world, the prayers continued.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): He felt them. Because all of his life he had been with the people. He was a pastor, the shepherd of his flock.

GALLAGHER: And then Pope John Paul II spoke his final words.

NAVARRO-VALLS: He said something like allow me to go to the House of the Father, meaning heaven.

GALLAGHER: Afternoon turned into night. On a table next to the pope, a photo of his parents. In the room, a painting of the Virgin Mary. On the wall in front of him, an image of the suffering Christ.

DZIWISZ (through translator): He had this idea, we have to celebrate mass. And we did. It was during the last hour of his life. It was a beautiful mass because the reading was from the last supper.

GALLAGHER: A single lit candle was placed in the pope's hand, a Polish tradition.

DZIWISZ (through translator): There was an altar. He was next to us. I don't know if he followed everything because his eyes were closed. But even in those moments, when it seemed he wasn't conscious, I'd whisper in his ear, Holy Father, and he would open his eyes. He didn't lose consciousness until the very end.

GALLAGHER: Finally, at 9:37 p.m. Pope John Paul II, surrounded by those who loved him, breathed his last.

DZIWISZ (through translator): Death is sad. But his death was beautiful because he believed in where he was going, to meet God.

GALLAGHER: For those in the bedroom, it was not a time of grief. Instead, they sang this hymn of thanksgiving.


DZIWISZ (through translator): When we saw his heart wasn't beating anymore, we didn't cry. We sang, "To Dome lo Damos," (ph) thanking God for his life, for his accomplishments, and for being able to stay with him until the end.

GALLAGHER: The pope was dead, but only those in his apartment knew. In the Square below, Monsignor Renato Boccardo was still leading millions in prayer.

BOCCARDO (through translator): We said the rosary. When we were done, I said let's continue to bring silence for the suffering pope, and at midnight we would meet again.

Then my cell phone rang. It was the deputy of the Vatican secretary of state, who told me that the pope had just died. He said try to keep the people there, and I will come down to give them news.

We said 10 Hail Marys, and the whole time I was thinking I hope the deputy comes soon because otherwise I don't know what else to do.

And right at the end of the tenth Hail Mary, the deputy Monsignor Sandri arrived and made the announcement.

MONSIGNOR SANDRI (through translator): Dear brothers and sisters. At 9:37, our beloved Holy Father, John Paul II, has returned to his home. Let us pray for him.

BOCCARDO (through translator): Even though we knew what was coming, we felt like orphans. There was this feeling of emptiness. The pope was gone.

SZOKA: This was a great man. Outstanding. Perhaps the most outstanding man in the world, and certainly the most outstanding person I've ever known. And it was really sad to think he'd no longer be with us.

FAMIGLIETTA (through translator): On a personal level, there was emptiness. We all felt it because he was so dear to us. When we speak of the Holy Father, we miss him. But we know that he is always close.

GALLAGHER: One journey had ended. Another was about to begin.



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