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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

Pope Benedict XVI to Resign

Aired February 11, 2013 - 07:30   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Breaking news this morning, Pope Benedict XVI is resigning. The Vatican releasing what the pope told his cardinals this morning, indicating that his age, which is 85, and fatigue is the reason behind his resignation.

Here is a little bit of what the statement said. Both strength of mind and body are necessary, strength which in the last few months has deteriorated in me to the extent that I had to recognize my incapacity to adequately fulfill the ministry entrusted to me.

And the tweet 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. You might remember back to the last time a pope resigned, that was so 600 years ago.

And, in fact, there have only been ten popes in all of history, and a number of popes resigned over time. Want to get right to Jim Bittermann who is joining us by phone. So Jim, we know, this is very, very unusual. The reasons cited, of course, are the pope's age and health. Tell us about the pope's health and some of the challenges over the last year or so.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, he has had all -- he had what for him was a fairly rigorous travel schedule compared to his predecessor. They are not that rigorous at all because his predecessor took more than 110 trips while he was in office.

In any case, Pope Benedict XVI had traveled a lot for a rather elderly man to begin with. He began his papacy at an advanced age and one of the things a lot of people speculated about is that the College of Cardinals had picked him as kind of an interim pope.

That he will hold on for a while because of advanced age and would eventually die and a new pope would be elected. Of course, what we're seeing is something that just as you mentioned just leading in totally unprecedented in modern times in the church.

And that's the pope resigned, and he said that his predecessor, many of them suffered from ill health, Paul the Sixth, was in not very good shape at all, John Paul -- John Paul XXIII, and Pius, a number of them ended their reigns in very ill health. But in a way, maybe it's a better service to the church, if one feels one can no longer fulfill his duties as Benedict XVI said. Perhaps it's better for the church to step down voluntarily rather than to wait until death -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Yes, it was back in 1989 and 1994, John Paul II had actually prepared we know to resign, if, in fact, he had some sort of condition or disease that would keep him from fulfilling his ministry, we have learned that the late pope's the person in charge of his affairs had said that after the pope's death, Pope John Paul's II death.

But still is incredibly unusual. Want to get right to Dan Lothian who is at the White House for us. The president met with the pope back in July of 2009. Did they have a close relationship or a typical relationship that you would have between a pope and world leader?

DAN LOTHIAN, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think it can be described as a respectful relationship, and the two have met, only one time face to face as far as we're aware during that trip back in 2009 when the president was overseas going to go to Gana and Moscow.

They met face to face for about 25 minutes. They talked about billions of dollars in aid to developing countries and much of their discussion, food aid and much of their discussion centered around that.

There was kind of an interesting sort of behind the scenes moment that took place during that first meeting when the president pointed out that Dennis McDonough, who was then his -- one of his national security advisers and now has been the president's pick to be next chief of staff.

The president pointing out that he's a Catholic and his brother is a priest. So that was kind of an interesting colorful moment during that meeting with the pope. But the president and pope have this respectful relationship. Not always seeing eye to eye on the number of these social issues.

The pope over the years has pressed the president on issues such as abortion, stem cells, so not always agreeing on issues, but certainly respectful. The White House so far has not put out any official comment to the resignation. I did reach out to a number of officials and they will get some reaction from the president later today -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: We're waiting to hear about that. Dan Lothian for us, thanks, Dan.

I want to introduce our team this morning. Former Congresswoman Nan Hayworth is with us, Christopher John Farley is a senior editorial director of Digital Features at the "Wall Street Journal," and "New York Times" columnist, Charles Blow is back with us this morning.

It's nice to have you all with us. This is huge news. Not only because it's incredibly rare, but I think the bigger question is, you what do you do with a pope who is retirement? How is he worked into what has happened -- what has happened in the church.

CHARLES BLOW, COLUMNIST, "NEW YORK TIMES": Does he have some sort of influence or who succeeds him. What kind power does he have?

CHRISTOPHER JOHN FARLEY, SENIOR EDITORIAL DIRECTOR, WSJ DIGITAL FEATURES: What was interesting is that he won't do, which there won't be the customary mourning period when a pope passes on, experts say we will see a new pope sooner rather than later, because there won't be that delay where everyone pauses and a nine-day mourning period and people have speeches and ceremonies, that won't happen.

So a rush of events happening very, very soon about picking the new pope and selecting who that will be and what direction that pope may take the church. So that's fascinating I think.

O'BRIEN: To a large degree that very process is a very political process, the pope has made new appointments, Pope Benedict recently, and I think it was back in mid October, which had a lot of people very curious about the direction he was going in appointments he made, and now we sort of look back to that time in October, early November and think, OK, did he know this was sort of what was in the works?

BLOW: Do you know? What was the nature of what he is saying? Is it really physical or some sort of mental issues? If it's a mental issue, then you start to question how far back does the mental problem exist?

O'BRIEN: They said in the press conference this morning, he was fully aware and full capacity. That he knows exactly what is going on and has decided. And certainly historically, he always felt a pope could resign and back in 2010, in the book he released, A Clear Walk Through."

Something a pope could do. Modern popes that felt popes shouldn't resign. The idea of being the father of the flock was not a job you could opt out of. You remained in office until you die.

NAN HAYWORTH, FORMER U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: In some ways, it's a reflection. You think about the last pope who resigned in the 15th Century who resigned to resolve a dispute about succession. Think about technology today. Human nature has the not changed, but the technology has changed. The means and speed in which we communicate, so it's much harder to conceal infirmities today than it would have been back then. That may have played a role as well.

JOHN BERMAN, ANCHOR, CNN'S "EARLY START": Pope Benedict XVI as Pope John Paul II really declined before our very eyes for a number of years and I think that influenced his decision making.

O'BRIEN: Of course, and the question, who is next? Who is even sort of most likely to be a successor, and what kind of background and what kind of vision would that next pope have? Pope Benedict XVI was considered a hardliner in many areas.

BERMAN: Geography. Will this pope come from the developing world, Africa, Latin America? HAYWORTH: Or America?

BERMAN: But there will be a big push also to have an Italian pope again, something there hasn't been since 1978, of course, a lot of the cardinals Italian. There could be a push for that too.

HAYWORTH: Young, vigorous and ex-European, outside Europe.

BLOW: What kind of influence will the current pope have in choosing his successor?

O'BRIEN: Interesting. We'll continue to follow this story, that's coming to us as we hear Pope Benedict XVI is announcing that he will be resigning from office. He is retiring as of February 28th.

Other stories as well to talk about this morning, and John has got those.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. We have some extreme weather news in the U.S. Homes and buildings shredded. Families and businesses in Southern Mississippi are still assessing the damage this morning after a powerful tornado ripped a path through the town of Hattiesburg.

A storm chaser shot this really amazing video of the giant funnel cloud crossing the highway. The violent weather damaged parts of the University of Southern Mississippi and also injured dozens of people.

We have new developments this morning in the death of a 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton in Chicago. We've learned police have been questioning two men, one in his late teens, the other a 20-year-old. No charges have been filed.

Pendleton shot a week after performing during president Obama's inauguration celebration and first lady Michelle Obama attended her funeral services over the weekend -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: All right, got lots to talk about this morning as we hear from cardinal -- Archbishop Dolan of New York, talking about how sad he is hearing word that the pope is resigning. He said this, "He is the one," meaning the pope, "Pope Benedict, who appointed me archbishop of New York. I am wearing the ring he gave me, the cross he gave me and I am feeling particular loss and sadness to be honest with you."

That would be Cardinal Dolan who is talking on NBC's "Today" show this morning about the sadness that he feels about hearing word that Pope Benedict XVI resigning.

BERMAN: We have some more news right now. Tomorrow night, President Obama delivers the "State of the Union" address, the first of his second term, of course. Administration officials say jobs and the state of the economy will be featured prominently in the address before members of Congress and the nation.

They say the president will unveil jobs programs and an increase in the wages of American workers and he will talk about strengthening the overall economy. Stay with CNN for full coverage. Soledad and I are heading down to Washington to be there tomorrow and Wednesday morning.

Republican Senator Lindsay Graham is threatening to hold up two of the president's nominees. Graham says he will block John Brennan from the CIA director job and Chuck Hagel from the defense secretary post unless the white house gives more information about last year's attack in Benghazi.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SENATOR LINDSAY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: I don't think we should allow Brennan to go forward for the CIA directorship, Hagel to be confirmed to the secretary of defense, until the White House gives us an accounting. Did the president pick up the phone and call anyone in the living government to help these folks? What did the president do?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Graham along with other Republicans have criticized the Obama administration's immediate response to that attack in Benghazi.

We have startling new report just released from the Federal Trade Commission that found up to 42 million Americans have errors in their credit report. About half of which are considered significant.

The Consumer Data Industry Association is hitting back saying, quote, "credit reports are materially accurate 98 percent of the time and when they do contain mistakes, our members work to resolve them quickly and to the consumers' satisfaction 95 percent of the time so a little dueling math there.

Meanwhile, "Saturday Night Live" mocking CBS Sports when the lights went out. You have to take a look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I received word our own Steve Tasker on the sidelines has some new information -- Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know who told you that, J.B. I am willing to bet that you made it up. No new information. Walk to you, J.B.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back to you, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't back to me. I just backed to you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, Dan, news came out this week that you father aid child in an extramarital affair.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, we agreed that was off limits.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was before, Dan Marino.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have to fill air time. We have to admit to some stuff.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: And CBS says the game will resume in 15 minutes.

O'BRIEN: That was so funny. And you know how many times we have done that in general as reporters across the board?

BERMAN: Back to you.

O'BRIEN: Back to you, John. It is so true. All right, we got lots to talk about this morning. We continue to follow this breaking news. The Pope Benedict XVI is announcing that he will be stepping down at the end of month. We'll talk about what this monumental and historic announcement means for the future of the Catholic Church.

Who took home record of the year? We have top winners from the Grammy awards and everyone's performances. Here is Fun. We'll be back in a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. You are watching STARTING POINT. Pope Benedict XVI is going to step down in 17 days. This would be the first time that a pope has resigned since the 1400s.

I want to get right to Nic Robertson. He is live in for us this morning. I believe canon law has said that it is possible. It is -- it can be done. The pope can resign. Are there -- the pope has been in frail health over the last year or so, is there any indication that his schedule has been too grueling? He has been unable to physically or psychologically deal with the demands of the office?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the indication is that the Vatican is trying to convey recently this is a pope who is -- is fully capable of traveling and fully sort of abreast of the latest technologies. He started a Twitter account a few months ago.

He was in Lebanon last year, Cuba as well. So this is a pope who has kept up a relatively busy travel schedule. We haven't had any tip- offs. He had to cancel those who help. I think what we've heard as well from the Vatican today is making it very clear that the pope is doing. This is his decision.

That he has thought about it. That this is allowed for under the law of the church and all the right steps are being carried out as well. So it's being very clearly laid out. Not a pope forced out, moving out because of scandal.

It is only because of his poor health. It's just not clear whether it's really his mental health or his physical health, but the Vatican really has kept all of this very, very carefully guarded.

O'BRIEN: Over the last six months or so, you have had some things happen at the Vatican, surprise appointments of cardinals that happen mid-October. Back in May I believe it was butler, the pope's butler and leaking documents stolen from the pope and what has been the impact of those things, not only on the pope himself, but on the Vatican?

ROBERTSON: Well, it's a scandal for the Vatican and something clearly that the Vatican doesn't want in terms of the butler and documents, the content of the documents not something that they are aware of. The cardinals -- butler sent to jail, just before Christmas went to jail, visited the butler, forgave him, and the butler will be getting a job at a hospital facility that is being built inside the Vatican grounds.

The butler has sort of been drawn back, rehabilitated if you will, slightly surprising. The fact that there are new cardinals appointed, of course, cardinals are replaced when they die, and when there is a need to create other positions, those have been created.

And certainly there will be pressure within the conclave of cardinals that will begin to meet after February 28th when the pope steps down who will make the decision about who the next pope will be. Some of the same pressures that were there in 20005 when Pope Benedict was chosen will exist. People from the developing world will want to see a greater say, perhaps have a pope from the developing world -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Right, that will be one of the pressures. The pressure of what direction does the church direction does the church go? Cardinal Ratzinger as cardinal and again as Pope Benedict was considered a hard liner with the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

And that was a hard point for all people as the Catholic Church struggles with what to do with its American churches at a time when those churches outside the United States are the ones that are flourishing.

We appreciate the update. We are going to obviously check back in with you. Nic, thanks so much. Got to take a break.

Still ahead, we're going to take a look at the Grammys. If you want to know who won and who lost. We'll tell you what the highlights and some of the low lights too straight ahead.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. Last night was music's biggest night. Seems like all the nominees walked away with something. CNN's Nischelle Turner has more for us this morning.

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NISCHELL TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No single performer dominated the 55th Annual Grammys. The night's top prize, album of the year, went to the English folk rock band "Mumford and Sons" for "Babble."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are very grateful.

TURNER: The Grammys were in a fun mood literally. The New York Indy pop band won best new artist and song of the year for "We Are Young." UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what I was thinking writing the chorus for this song. If this is in HD and everyone can see our faces and we are not very young.

TURNER: Gotye and Kimbra took home the record of the year award for their huge hit "Somebody I Used To Know."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are all the musicians and everyone that listens to music, cheers.

TURNER: For the most part, everyone observed CBS' request to tone down the risque outfits, but presenter, Jennifer Lopez, did show a lot of leg.

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

TURNER: The Grammys have always been more about performances than awards. This proved to be a vintage year backed by a big band. Justin Timberlake turned back the clock for his sepia toned duet with Jay-Z.

And country solo winner Carrie Underwood dazzled in a dress that danced with color while Sting, Rihanna, and Bruno Mars fronted an all- star tribute to Bob Marley. Fun weathered an indoor rain storm, and Mavis Staples led an all out salute to the late Levon Helm.

And L Cool J, who kicked things off as the show's host, ended the night leading an all-star rap session. Nischelle Turner, CNN, Hollywood.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: I think L Cool J is a good host. He's done it a couple of times.

BLOW: And he doesn't age. Remarkably.

O'BRIEN: He's from Long Island too.

FARLEY: The premise is interesting. It was great to hear new artists get recognized. They're recognizing the wrong new artist. It's sad that Frank Ocean, a terrific R&B performer didn't win one of the major awards. They give it to ephemeral artists like Fun. Do they have any other song besides "We Are Young"?

O'BRIEN: He is never totally satisfied.

Still ahead this morning on STARTING POINT, we continue to follow the breaking news about Pope Benedict. He has announced he's stepping down. We'll tell you what this monumental announcement means.

Also dozens hurt after a tornado rips through parts of Southern Mississippi. We'll take you live to Hattiesburg with a look at the damage and also a look at the recovery that lies ahead.

The LAPD still on the hunt for that former cop accused of killing a police officer and two others. Now there's a massive reward being offered. Are they any closer to finding Christopher Dorner?

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will join us live with that. You're watching STARTING POINT. We're taking a short break. We're back in just a moment.

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O'BRIEN: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, we begin with breaking news. Pope Benedict XVI has resigned. He is going to step down in 17 days. He would be the first pope to resign since the 1400s. We'll have developments on this story. Also this morning --