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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Cardinal's Dinner Press Briefing

Aired April 26, 2002 - 14:47   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: We are going to go to Philly in a moment here. Again, that briefing about to begin. 13th Annual Cardinal's Dinner. We will have it for you -- I am hearing now, we are going to go to it now. Back to Philly.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

CARDINAL ANTHONY BEVILACQUA, PHILADELPHIA: I want to say, how good it is to be back on American soil after our meeting in Rome and back in Philadelphia. While in Rome, as you probably know by now, we developed a document in conjunction with his holiness and Vatican officials which will be presented to the bishops at the United States Catholic Conference for discussion at our June meeting next -- in the middle of June.

Each of the American cardinals, including myself, has spoken extensively to the media while in Rome, as well as communicated with the press in their local diocese. I had an extensive press conference with the local media here in this room last evening. I want to take this opportunity to correct a misunderstanding that has been prominent in the media, on the position of the cardinals on the question of zero tolerance of priests credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor, and credibly accused means guilty.

I was surprised to see the headlines this morning that there was less than zero tolerance unanimity among the cardinals, and that's not true. I want to say that all of the cardinals are agreed on zero tolerance. And by that, I mean that we all are agreed that no priest, guilty of even one act of sexual abuse of a minor will function in any ecclesiastical ministry or any capacity in our diocese. And that's -- all the cardinals are agreed on that, and we intend to support this zero tolerance position at the June meeting of the conference of bishops when there is a discussion on the set of national standards, which will -- one of the proposals to the bishops and hopefully be accepted by the Holy See.

I say all of this so I can speak about the purpose of our gathering now, this afternoon, to focus on Catholic University. Catholic University holds a special place in the hearts of Catholic bishops because of its origins. It was conceived of and founded by bishops in the 1800s. Speaking, practically, for Catholic University to continue to be flagship for Catholic higher education, it needs to provide the financial means for the very best students to attend. That is the reason for the American Cardinal's Dinner, and why I am proud to host this dinner in Philadelphia.

This dinner helps all the local Catholic school -- also helps a local Catholic school for children with visual impairments. Tonight, sister Margaret Flemming (ph) of IHM, Immaculate Heart of Mary sisters, the -- who is the principal of St. Lucy Day school for children with visual impairments, will receive the Cardinals' Encouragement Award. St. Lucy's, which is located in Upper Darby, is one of five special education schools in the archdiocese of Philadelphia. As the recipient of the award tonight, the school will receive a gift of $10,000.

The students of Catholic University are part of the future of the church. I am confident that with the excellent education they receive at Catholic University, they will help to continually strengthen the church.

And now, I want to introduce the president of Catholic University of America, Father David O'Connell, who is a native of Philadelphia.

Father O'Connell.

FATHER DAVID O'CONNELL, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: Thank you very much, your imminence. I'm really delighted to have this opportunity to meet with you...

HEMMER: We will keep a close ear on this, in the question and answer session if they become -- the questions, anyway, become relevant to our recent coverage of the church abuse scandal. But you heard the cardinal of Philadelphia saying at the outset that he essentially wanted to clarify something regarding the zero tolerance policy.

He says all cardinals have agreed to a zero tolerance policy, saying any priest found guilty will not have not a place in the Catholic Church, and then he went on to say that he hopes to gain support for it during the meeting in June of the American bishops. So, a clarification given there in Philadelphia. We will keep a close eye on it. Let you know what we hear more, again, as the speakers get done and the reporters start with their questions.

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