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Hannity

Did Pope John Paul II Make the Catholic Church Even More Influential in World Affairs?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," April 4, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: First, in his extraordinary papacy, Pope John Paul II traveled to 129 countries. He was an outspoken advocate for Middle East peace and is credited for helping end the Cold War.

Former Soviet leader [Mikhail] Gorbachev once said the collapse of the Iron Curtain would not have been possible without the pope. Did Pope John Paul II make the Catholic Church even more influential in world affairs?

Joining us now, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, who is Catholic. And Father Owen Kerns, editor and chief of the "National Catholic Register."

Good to have you both. Father, welcome. Governor, welcome.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: Thank you.

COLMES: Many people say that when the pope went to Poland in 1979, he really inspired the Solidarity movement, which led ultimately to the fall of communist Eastern Europe. Governor, you want to respond?

RICHARDSON: My view, yes, my view is that he had an incredible impact in Poland. Over one-third of the country turned out. He was there for nine days and, because he inspired the Polish people with his message, which was "be not afraid," Eastern Europe changed and communism collapsed.

And you had an individual like the pope who, not only was his impact in Eastern Europe in the fall of communism. but here was a guy — out of those countries that you mentioned, that he traveled to, 129 of them— 80 percent of those were in the Third World, were in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

So he was truly the first major world leader in the post war, somebody who had a tremendous impact not just in the fall of communism, not just in the Middle East where, by recognizing Israel, — the Vatican in 1993, in reaching out to Jews and going to the Wailing Wall — he healed enormous wounds between Jews and Catholics.

So his impact internationally was huge. And he was probably the quintessential premiere world leader of our time.

HANNITY: Father, you spent seven years at the Vatican and you were first an altar boy?

FATHER OWEN KEARNS, "NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER": That's right. I met the first — the Holy Father first — when I was an altar boy.

Actually, I wasn't really at the Vatican. I was in Rome studying to be a priest.

HANNITY: Right.

KEARNS: And we got to serve the pope's — the Mass where he first spoke to the city and to the world and told the world not to be afraid of Christ, to fling open, burst open the doors to Christ.

And after giving that momentous speech, then he went back inside behind the loge, the central window there at the balcony of St. Peter's behind the second floor, and greeted the seminarians who had served his Mass. And he greeted each one of us and engaged each one of us as if we were the most important people in the world. I mean, the seminarians...

HANNITY: That's important.

KEARNS: ... it's not very high on the totem pole, I have to say.

HANNITY: Governor, you met the pope, as I understand, on three separate occasions. Tell us about your experience with him.

RICHARDSON: He was a very, very cerebral man. He talked Spanish with me. He asked me about the Hispanic community in America. He told me he wanted to come to my state of New Mexico. —The closest he came was Arizona.

He was somebody deeply interested in world affairs. I was a congressman when I saw him and I took some of my constituents from New Mexico.

He seemed somebody that genuinely — he looked you in the eye and there was that very, very rapturous smile. But his passion, clearly, the one time we had a chance to talk — was for foreign policy in Africa, Asia, Latin America. What do we do about poverty, about AIDS, about refugees, about eradicating the huge gap between the Third World — which was his passion— and the industrialized countries?

HANNITY: Father, was that your experience, I mean, the fact that he traveled as often as he did, I mean, that he served as long as he did, the third longest serving pope that's been there, I mean, his contact with the people was it clearly evident that that was his mission from day one?

KEARNS: I think he saw his mission going back to Christ and that's what Andre Prosar (ph), the great French journalist, said when he was commenting on the election. And people were asking, "who is this new pope?" Andre Prosar (ph) said, "This pope is not from Poland. He's from Galilee."

And he took — he went right back and just jumped over all those intervening years of people and traditions, this is how you be a pope, and he created his papacy from Jesus Christ, from St. Paul, go and preach to all nations, go to the world.

HANNITY: And then governor, I mean in that sense he created a new paradigm, which is the point I was trying to make. He really did, but yet, he kept the standards strong and steady and consistent. And he got criticized for it in some corners.

RICHARDSON: Well, he was very firm on some of those domestic issues that divide Catholics in America. There may have been criticism. But on his role as an international statesman, I think along with President Reagan, they did more to eliminate the wall of communism.

In the Middle East, I think the symbolic gestures of going to the Wailing Wall and the Vatican and Israel reestablishing diplomatic relations in 1993, reaching out to Jews...

COLMES: Governor, we thank you very much for being with us tonight. Sir, thank you. Father Kearns, thank you so much for your time tonight.

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