Pope John Paul II in Failing Health
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JEFFREY BROWN: Jeff Israely, we’re seeing these extraordinary pictures of the scene in Rome. Can you give us a sense of the mood there?
JEFF ISRAELY: Well, I just came up from the piazza from St. Peter’s Square and it is, in fact, as quiet down there as it looks from the images you all are seeing on TV. People are standing around, some are sitting in small groups. There’s not much talking going on among the people.
There’s praying, spontaneous prayers and the reciting of the rosaries and it’s a somber mood at the end of a long day filled with speculation and continuing bad news from the Vatican about the pope’s health. And the mood this evening, we’re just past midnight here local time, is of quiet somberness.
JEFFREY BROWN: Is there a sense of inevitability now in what Vatican officials are saying to you?
JEFF ISRAELY: Well, I spoke earlier today with a Vatican official who said that he and his colleagues in their office gathered for prayer to pray for the Holy Father, and I asked him what they were praying for, what he was praying for, if he was praying for the pope to recover, to get better, to bounce back. And he said he was not praying for a recovery.
I think there’s a sense for many people here that the moment has arrived and that God will work his will, but that it is, in fact, an inevitability. It’s obviously not clear exactly when it will happen, but it feels as though it’s getting close.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, the pope decided to stay at his apartment there at the Vatican rather than go to a hospital. Have officials there explained why?
JEFF ISRAELY: Well, another Vatican official I spoke to said without a doubt the pope himself must have had a sense that the end was near. You know, if they had brought – he has medical facilities in his apartment, but clearly he could get additional treatment.
There are additional machines available in the intensive care unit at the hospital here in Rome, and it was the pope’s choice. The Vatican spokesman, )Joaquin) Navarro-Valls, made that very clear earlier today that the pope himself stated clearly – indicated clearly – that he did not want to go to the hospital.
JEFFREY BROWN: Now, so much of what takes place there at the Vatican is guided by ritual and tradition. Tell us what will happen when the pope does pass away.
JEFF ISRAELY: Well, when the pope does pass away, the Camerlengo, a Spanish cardinal, Somalo, will certify in a religious sense, the death. Obviously it will be confirmed by doctors beforehand, but he will confirm that by pronouncing John Paul’s baptismal name, Karol, three times, and without a response, he will then pronounce that he has died.
There’s a tradition that he also will take a silver hammer and tap it on the pope’s forehead as further confirmation. It’s not clear in recent cases if that’s actually done. But then with that same hammer, he will remove the pope’s ring and smash it with that hammer to signify that the power that’s invested in that ring has been passed on. And the same cardinal, Camerlengo, will then prepare the funeral, which will happen four to six days from the time of his death, which is part of a nine-day mourning period. And will also set a date for the conclave to begin.
The conclave must begin no fewer than 15 days, no more than 20 days from the time of the pope’s death. And then the cardinals will flock in from around the world and participate in the funeral and get ready for the conclave.
JEFFREY BROWN: Okay, Jeff Israely of Time Magazine, thank you very much for joining us.
JEFF ISRAELY: Thank you.