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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Pope Announces He will Retire; Reward in California Manhunt; Start Shine at the Grammys

Aired February 11, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We begin with breaking news this morning: Pope Benedict XVI is resigning, the Vatican just releasing a statement this morning. They say age and fatigue are the reasons behind his resignation.

Here's what the statement reads in part, quote, "Both strength of mind and body are necessary. Strength, which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I've had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me."

This tweet came from the Pope's account 23 hours ago. "We must trust in the mighty power of God's mercy. We are all sinners, but his grace transforms us and makes us new." This, of course, would be historical. The last time a Pope resigned happened just about 600 years ago. That would be Pope Gregory XII back in 1415. And in fact, some of the Popes who have resigned -- the very first, we believes, was Pope Clement back in the year 101, which would have been 1,100 years ago roughly that the first Pope resigned.

Now, many questions about whether or not Popes in modern times think that resignation is acceptable or not. Pope Benedict said, in fact, made it very clear that he believed that being able to resign was acceptable and it's this part of the statement that was released from the Vatican, both strength of mind and body is necessary, and the strength has deteriorated.

Lots of questions, of course. We know the date he would be stepping down, which would be February 28th. Many questions about why now? Many people have noticed that the Pope is much more frail in recent months, and the question is it would be unbelievably unusual for a pope to resign raises many questions about what does a pope who has resigned go on to do.

Let's get right to Nic Robertson joining us by phone. Nic, lots of questions. Nic is live in London this morning. This is a bit of a stunner. Was there any indication that this resignation was coming?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Absolutely none whatsoever, and within the last few months, the Pope started a twitter account, which is not the sort of thing you would expect the Pope to do if his health is deteriorating. And what we heard from the Vatican spokesman this morning is that the Pope has looked deep into his conscience, and this has been a very personal and profound decision that he has made with god in light of the responsibilities he has.

And the other thing we heard from the papal spokesperson, which I think is interesting, because the question, is it the Pope's physical health or mental health that pushed him into this position? What we have heard the Vatican spokesperson say today very clearly is that the Pope has done this of his own free will, that this is done legally, the Pope that the Pope has announced this himself and he recognizes the gravity of the situation. So there is a sense here that what the Vatican is doing is saying that the Pope is very aware of what it's doing. But perhaps this does give an indication that it's perhaps more a mental health deterioration than his physical abilities deteriorating, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And yet at the same time, Nic, there is no indication he is canceling any appointments or a slew of appointments. It looks like his calendar is busy, and it's as rigorous as always been.

ROBERTSON: It does. The Vatican has maintained a course of action that has really kept outsiders completely in the dark. One of the things that the Vatican spokesman has said is the pope recognized the position he's in needs vitality. It needs a level of energy. Certainly there are many in the church that look to invigorate the church. Particularly in developed countries, falling numbers of people are attending church, and the Pope is in the driver's seat. And that's why he's keep up this busy travel schedule.

So we're hearing from the Vatican that the Pope recognizes he needs that vitality, needs that vigor to continue, and, as they say, that's been diminished in the past few months, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: And many of the questions that remain, now, what does a Pope that retires do? A retired Pope could be a huge problem in terms of power grabbing. I'm not sure if people are concerned about that as much today. Have they spoken about that at all? Where will he live? What will his role be?

ROBERTSON: These are unanswered questions. One would anticipate he would go into retirement in the Vatican, but he could go back to Germany where he spent his early years. But I think perhaps what he's going to do the Pope has answered that to a degree. He said he will go into of prayer, and will he try and exercise any kind of influence over who will be the next Pope.

And these are key questions. The church is very much on track to go through the normal procedures of the Pope, the cardinals, 80 years of age, about 120 of them, and among them will decide who the next Pope will be. And in that process there is no space for an existing Pope or recently retired Pope. It seems he will be around continuing prayers, but not actively engaged in leading the church in any way, shape, that he has been recently.

O'BRIEN: When you talk about 120 cardinals, new cardinals have been added to the mix, cardinals from India, Nigeria, Lebanon, the Philippines, and the United States. The creation of those cardinals was cause for lots of speck ration about the role and power of cardinals to pick the next Pope when that happened back in October.

ROBERTSON: And certainly there was a lot of talk back in 2005 when Pope Benedict was elected to become Pope. Perhaps it would be a Pope from Africa or perhaps from one South American nation where there is really a sort of real energy in the Catholic Church, where it is still growing, the economies and countries that are developing. We may see a push for that.

And if that happens, it may not be a Pope as conservative and traditional views as Pope Benedict has been, but someone who knows what it takes in developing countries to build the Catholic Church and stop this deterioration and erosion of the flock that we have seen over the past several decades. So there's a real possibility that those new cardinals could make a difference.

O'BRIEN: And then you have back in May, the scandal of the leaked documents. That's the last time you heard rumors that maybe the Pope would resign over this leaked document scandal. It turned out it was his butler in fact who had been leaking those documents.

ROBERTSON: And very interesting, the butler was sentenced to jail, went to jail. The Pope went to visit him just a few days before Christmas just gone by, and gave him his sort of -- if you will, forgave him for taking those documents. These were private letters between the Pope and several cardinals.

But interestingly enough, the butler is out of jail, the papal butler out of jail, and has been given a job at a hospital site built within the Vatican grounds. So really the butler has been brought back into the fold, and a very interesting process for someone who stole those papal letters. And the Pope has made his differences with that butler now has resolved those differences.

O'BRIEN: Nic Robertson joining us live with this breaking news that the Pope will be resigning. We know the date, February 28, but lots of questions about why. Nic, thank you, we'll keep you around and continue to talk to you throughout the morning.

I want to get to Alex Gibney. Much of the questions about the why the Pope is stepping down would be questions of the impact that the sex scandal that has enveloped the Catholic Church will be having. Let's talk about the documentary about the Pope for HBO called "Mea Maxima Culpa, Silence in the House of God." He joins us by phone. Alex, thank you for talking to us.

ALEX GIBNEY, DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER: Sure.

O'BRIEN: Lots of questions right is about the why behind it. The news we're getting from the Vatican is the Pope is old, frail, exhausted physically, emotionally and these are the reasons behind why the news that he would stepping down on February 28th. That's incredibly unusual, of course. There also has to be some impact about the sex scandal that has been a huge problem and enveloped much of the Catholic Church in the west over the last decade.

GIBNEY: Yes, there has. I think Pope Benedict's reign has been design defined by the sex abuse scandal. This is a man who as cardinal as the head of the congregation for the doctrine of the faith, which was the office uniquely charged with overseeing this sex scandal. So he's the most knowledgeable person in the world when it comes to cardinal sex abuse. So I think his time as pope has been defined by these issues.

O'BRIEN: We were talking to Nic Robertson just a moment ago about what would happen when a Pope resigned. The last Pope resigning happened 600 and some odd years ago. So what would be the guess on your part about what could possibly happen, especially in light of the ongoing investigation into some of the scandals? What happens when a Pope resigns?

GIBNEY: You know, I'm not the person to ask about that. You have to go back 600 years to get someone to figure that one out.

I do wonder if it's in response for growing clamor over this, because in the wake of new revelations, Cardinal Mahoney in Los Angeles, and the growing international flavor of the discoveries over sex abuse, it does seem this papacy is more and more embattled.

O'BRIEN: Well, that's interesting, because one of the things Nic said to us a moment ago is it was the job of the Pope is to have aggressive and intense travel schedule in order to invigorate the Catholic Church overall and fight against the erosion of the church. How much of a role has the scandal played in that?

GIBNEY: That's a good question. The other part that Benedict has played here is the man who has gone very hard after dissenters in the church and tried to uphold purity of doctrine. So a lot of people have been drummed out of positions only for questioning things like forced celibacy, gay marriage, or the role of women in the church. So, you know, that's the other aspect of Benedict's role that cannot be overlooked. But that is also is one that has been coming under harsher and harsher criticism.

O'BRIEN: Lots of questions why. Alex Gibney is a documentarian whose documentary about the sex scandal, clerical sex scandal in the church, absolutely riveting. Thank you for being with us. We certainly appreciate it.

We'll take a short break but when we come back we'll continue to follow the news about Pope Benedict XVI resigning. That's the first time that's happened since the 1400s. We'll update you right after this short break.

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O'BRIEN: Good morning, everybody. Welcome, everyone. You're watching STARTING POINT. Some historic breaking news to start with this morning. The pope is retiring. Pope Benedict XVI announcing to his cardinals in Latin that he is resigning due to age and declining strength. He is 85-year-old. He's turn 86 in April. The last Pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII in 1415.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We didn't cover that one to be honest. All jokes aside, this is so unprecedented for all of us here. It raises so many questions. What happens now? Can a Pope resign? Yes, a Pope can resign. For a long time, the Pope felt they should not resign, a father could not leave his flock.

But Pope Benedict XVI is interesting. From the time he was Cardinal Ratzinger, he actually had said that a Pope could resign if he felt that he was not physically up to the job. It's something he discussed in the early 2000's when Pope John Paul II.

O'BRIEN: And talked about it again in his book in 2010 where he made it very clear unequivocally. At the same time, there are questions about the why. He has said, and they have alluded to his declining health and people who have seen him in person say he has looked very frail. And some of the masses talking about hoping that he gets God's strength to make it through on his mission. At the same time, he's been involved in many things that would exhaust anyone. Certainly, he has been focused on cleaning up the financial challenged within the Vatican, the church scandals that have been enveloped in (ph) and led back to the Vatican as well.

A lot of questions about why and then of course what the implications would be if in fact the pope did resign. It is said that John Paul II was thinking about resigning; he had actually prepared letters of resignation, and both from 1975. I guess two times - when he turned 75 and when he turned 80. He never went ahead with the resignations that he was thinking about. But it will be interesting to hear more as we understand why the pope -- the reasons behind why the pope's call to resign, which will happen on February 28th.

Other stories making news this morning. John Berman has that for us too.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. We're talking about the storm here. Families and businesses in seven counties trying to recover from a violent tornado that tore a path through southern Mississippi on Sunday. Ripping apart homes, shops, and causing damage to a university campus. 4,000 homes in the area are still without power. At least 16 people were injured. And a storm chaser captured this terrifying sight. That's just an amazing picture. A funnel cloud on the move in Hattiesburg, which is about 100 miles south of Jackson, Mississippi. That took the brunt of a series of reported twisters that just pounded the region overnight.

Meanwhile, the northeast only beginning dig out from the weekend's history-making blizzard. And there's the possibility of another big headache today. Parts of the region, including the hardest hit state, Connecticut, bracing for freezing rain. The blizzard dumped a staggering 40 inches of snow in Hamden, Connecticut. So much snow, the city's mayor says many roads there are still blocked today. At least nine deaths blamed on the blizzard, and as of late yesterday, 270,000 utility customers still in the dark. Now, another slippery threat in the east and south. Not out of danger zone. Alexandra Steele tracking the threat coming in this morning. Hey Alexandra. ALEXANDRA STEELE, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. Danbury, Connecticut, seeing ice. A mix of ice and snow. All snow in Pitsfield, Mass, in New York City, it's all rain. We've got (ph) a variety of temperatures. The good news, it will all move through by noon today. Freezing rain advisories, winter weather advisories, done by the afternoon. Here's the biggest problem. Yesterday, 15 reports of tornadoes in the south in Mississippi, of course, that awful scenario we saw, that powerful tornado. February in Mississippi on average, they see about eight tornadoes during the month. Not out of the question, but look at this. Just a rain train (ph). Today, the threat not so much isolated tornado but a lot of heavy rain. Between yesterday and Wednesday right along this I-10, I-20 corridor, Dallas to Atlanta through Birmingham, there is the potential for three to five inches of rain. Not moving anywhere. So a big-time flooding. That's the severe threat in the south. Less so, John, isolated tornadoes. Gusty winds certainly in the south today.

BERMAN: Heavy, heavy rain. Alexandra Steele at the weather center, thank you very much.

We have some big developments this morning in the manhunt for Christopher Dorner in southern California. A huge $1 million reward being offered for anyone who provides information that leads to his capture and convistion. Dorner is accused of killing three people, including a police officer. He pledged to wage warfare against members of the police force and their families. As revenge for what he calls, his wrongful dismissal from the LAPD. Authorities call him a domestic terrorist and vow to stop him from killing anyone else. At 7:30 eastern, we're going to get the latest from CNN's Nick Valencia. Who is in Los Angeles. That manhunt continues, Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We're watching that. We're also continuing to follow up on news, breaking news this morning, Pope Benedict XVI's resignation. What happens now, what happens next? How is the next pope chosen and when? We'll take a look at all of that, coming up. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Good morning. Welcome back everybody, we're following breaking news this morning. Pope Benedict XVI has announced he is resigning. He is scheduled to step down on February 28th. He is saying it is because of age and fatigue. We want to get right to Eric Marrapodi, he is the editor of CNN's belief blog. Eric, good morning, thanks for talking with us. We know, obviously, that the pope can resign, Code of Canon (ph) law back in 1917 made it possible. That said, it's incredibly unusual.

ERIC MARRAPODI, EDITOR, CNN BELIEF BLOG: Yes it is incredibly unusual. I was speaking with archbishop Thomas Paprocki just a few moments ago, he's down there in Springfield and some other folks, also the archbishop of Miami. One of the things he was telling was, keep in mind, Cardinal Ratzinger when he was a cardinal had every intention of retiring. Cardinals are forced into retirement at age of 80 and archbishops are forced into retirement at the age of 75 if they have not been elevated to cardinal. So Cardinal Ratzinger, before he became Pope Benedict, had every intention of hanging it up, of stepping out of the theological library and stepping into the summer of his life and enjoying retirement. He was in many ways a surprise candidate to be pope initially as we talked about.

And that forced retirement, is something I know many of them look forward to. I have talked to a lot of cardinals in the retirement age and when you reach that age, keep in mind, many have been studying to be priests since they were in their teens, so this is a full and complete life for them, and they look forward to not being in that position.

The other thing I have been looking at a lot today, Soledad, is the reaction. You of course were in Rome, you remember when Pope John Paul II died, and the outpouring of grief and support we say. I'm not sure we'll see that from the Catholic faithful this time around with the pope. And I think the main reason for that is, Pope John Paul was much more a pastor; he was much more a priest. Benedict, is much more a theologian, much more a thinker. We've talked about that a little bit today - he's much more interested theology and doctrine than some of his past predecessors were interested in talking and connecting with people one-on-one.

O'BRIEN: Eric Marrapodi, for us from CNN's belief blog. We'll continue to watch the belief blog for updates on what is happening with this breaking. We're going to continue to cover this as well, but first we want to get right to John with an update on the other top stories making news.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. A Carnival cruise ship is stranded in the Gulf of Mexico. A fire broke out over the weekend in the engine room of the Carnival ship Triumph as it was on its way to Galveston, Texas. The incident left the ship dead in the water. More than 4200 passengers and crew are on board the liner. There are no reports of injuries right now. Another ship is expected to meet up with the Triumph this morning, and tow it to port in Progresso, Mexico and expected to arrive there by Wednesday.

Late Joe Paterno's family claiming he bears no blame in the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case. Penn State's report last year concluded Paterno failed to stop his former assistant's crimes, but the Paterno's own review of the report now claims it is based on speculation and opinion, not fact. Paterno's widow, Sue, talked about this with Katie Couric.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SUE PATERNO, WIDOW OF JOE PATERNO: It is so hard to accept, but when I read the first charge, I actually got physically ill. I couldn't read any more for a couple of days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Former FBI director Louis Freeh led Penn State's investigation. He says he stands by the report and that Paterno's family's own review is what he calls self-serving.

President Obama will today award the medal of honor to a hero of the war in Afghanistan. Staff Sergeant Clinton Romesha helped rescue the injured and retrieve the dead during an ambush by hundreds of Taloban fighters in Afghanistan, despite a hole in his arm from a rocket propelled grenade. He will also be Mrs. Obama's guest at the State of the Union address. That, of course, tomorrow night.

A little folk, a little fun, not as much flesh at the 55th annual Grammy awards in Los Angeles last night. British folk band Mumford & Sons got top honors with their album "Babel." Song of the year went to "We are Young" by the New York indie group "Fun." who were also named best new artist. Everybody took CBS' tone it down wardrobe request seriously - well almost everyone.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER LOPEZ, MUSICIAN AND ACTOR: As you can see, I read the memo.

(APPLAUSE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: But, it was the performances that really turned heads, including Justin Timberlake's return to the stage in a throwback duet with Jay Z. What everyone's talking about on the interwebs this morning, Chris Brown, not an inch between and he Rihanna, who were cozying up watching the show.

O'BRIEN: That has sent so many people into an absolute tizzy that Chris Brown and Rihanna saying that they are back together.

BERMAN: Way back together, in public, at the Grammys last night. A lot of people have a lot of opinions on this. Brown seemed to be the only one that didn't stand up when Frank Ocean won his Grammy. We have a picture of Chris Brown seated. Clapping, but not standing, they, of course, had a tiff recently too.

O'BRIEN: They had a tiff, snd I believe Frank Ocean could sue him or might be suing him so --

BERMAN: May be why he's not standing up to applaud.

O'BRIEN: We continue to follow breaking news this morning. Pope Benedict XVI resigning, will happen later this month on the 28th. The Vatican citing age. We've got developing details on what this means for the Vatican, for the Catholic church as a whole. And another major we're following as well, what is happening in southern Mississippi when a twister roared (ph) through. More than a dozen people injured. Major damage to tell you about there. Look at the pictures. Then, SNL has fun with the super bowl power outage, listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have no new information, back to you, that J.B. We have no new information, Back to you, J.B.

KENAN THOMPSON, COMMEDIAN: Back to you, Steve.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't "back to you" me, I just "back to you'd you." Back to you!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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