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'Today' Televises A Vatican Mass

April 02, 1985|From Associated Press

Cameras from NBC's "Today" show peeked inside the Vatican on Monday for what the network said was the first Mass ever televised from the historic Pauline Chapel.

The Mass, which was celebrated by Pope John Paul II, was attended by "Today" co-hosts Bryant Gumbel and Jane Pauley, along with weatherman Willard Scott.

"Never before have American television cameras been inside this private chapel for the Pope," Pauley said in hushed tones as the boys choir of the Philadelphia archdiocese sang in the background.

"We had goose bumps," Gumbel said after the brief camera footage that showed the Pope delivering an Easter-season message in English.

"Dear brothers and sisters, we have entered Holy Week and our thoughts turn to our Lord Jesus Christ," the Pope told a small gathering in the 15th-Century chapel, which holds the last two paintings of Michelangelo, "The Crucifixion of St. Peter" and "The Conversion of St. Paul."

"We actually celebrate his life and share in his victory. The saving power of his death and Resurrection enters our lives," the Pope said.

He then walked down a receiving line that included the three Americans.

Scott mentioned that he was from Virginia, which brought a bemused reaction from the Pope: "Virginia?" At the end of the line, Gumbel waited and offered a small floral display.

Gumbel told him, "Holy Father, on behalf of NBC News--from Warsaw."

"From Warsaw?" the Polish pontiff asked. "You brought that from Warsaw?"

"We brought that from Warsaw--NBC News," Gumbel said.

NBC officials, who used the Vatican visit to kick off a weeklong Rome visit by the "Today" crew, were refused an interview with the Pope.

"The Holy Father does not grant sit-down interviews," NBC Vice President Timothy J. Russert said.

However, the Pope promoted the televised Mass on the network Wednesday, extending "warm and cordial greetings to all the people of America" during his general audience at the Vatican's Nervi Hall.

As for Monday's event, Russert suggested that the Pope, who is considered very savvy in media matters, saw it as "an opportunity for him to communicate his message. It's an opportunity for us to interact with him on TV. And one little prayer won't hurt any of us."

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