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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Pope Benedict's Final Farewell

Aired February 27, 2013 - 04:00   ET

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


CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You're looking live at pictures of St. Peter's Square and the famous St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. And in just moments, Pope Benedict XVI will be arriving for one last time as 1.2 million Catholics around the world prepare to say farewell to their Holy Father.

Good morning, and welcome to a special edition of EARLY START. I'm Christiane Amanpour live from Rome. And we also want to welcome our global viewers watching on CNN International.

So this is the final day of the pope's public audiences. Pope Benedict is about to make his last one right here in the square before stepping down. It is a historic day. Becoming the first pope in six centuries to abdicate, to resign, and he leaves behind a church with many opportunities ahead and many challenges, as well. And we'll talk all about that later on.

In a moment, take a look at St. Peter's Square. More than 50,000 people we're told are expected to witness the pope's final general audience. The anticipation has been building.

Here's the schedule for this morning and for the next couple of days. At 4:30 a.m., that is Eastern Time, that's 10:30 a.m. here in Rome, the pope arrives in his Popemobile. It's an unusual way for him to conduct his Wednesday audience, but because this is the final time, he's going to spend about 15 minutes, we think, driving around the square waving to the crowd before he starts talking and starts making prayers and having his final audience, as I said.

At 5:00 the pope meet with special and select groups of pilgrims and then at about 10 minutes past 05:00, he's scheduled to deliver his final bible passage, teaching and his final greeting. And perhaps a final departing message. We'll just wait to see whether he uses any of these occasions to speak publicly to send a special farewell message.

He is, as I say, going to be here and in the audience. We're going to be also staying with this program. I've got my guests and my CNN colleagues here. John Allen, who has been with us, and is a longtime CNN contributor, and also Jim Bitterman, a longtime CNN correspondent, has covered many papal elections and transitions.

And in the field, we have our senior correspondents Ben Wedeman and indeed Becky Anderson who will give us some color and tell us what's going on much closer to the Basilica there in St. Peter's Square. Let me turn to you, first, John Allen. This is an extraordinary moment. It is truly unprecedented. Yes, we can go back six centuries to, I believe, Pope Gregory, when he had to step down. But even longer than that, seven centuries ago, when a pope stepped down voluntarily.

Put us in the picture of how much of a change this is.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, I mean, you know, when you cover an institution that has more than 2,000 years of history like the Catholic Church, you don't get a chance to use the phrase uncharted waters very often. But that truly is where we are.

I mean, I'll just tell you, the only real precedent for this is Celestine V in 1294. And by the way, shortly after he resigned, he was in prison and died. You know, so this is a completely new situation that we're going to have a retired pope living briefly at the pope summer residence up at Castel Gandalfo, but then will eventually relocated to a monastery in Vatican ground.

Absolutely unprecedented. And it's going to be very interesting to see how it plays out.

AMANPOUR: It is, because again we keep using this unprecedented, uncharted because there has not been in 600 years a living pope and -- and, well, a living pope and a living Pope Emeritus. We know that he's going to be called Pope Emeritus, we know that he'll still be called His Holiness.

What kind of influence do you think, if any, Benedict XVI will have, A, on the conclave to choose his successor, and on the way the papacy proceeds in the future?

ALLEN: Well, I mean, first of all, Christiane, the most important way the pope has to put his imprint on the election of his successor is by naming the cardinals who are going to vote. Sixty-seven of the 115 cardinals who will vote in this conclave have been named by Benedict XVI and frankly any other influence pales in comparison to that.

Now in terms of his on-going influence in the church Benedict XVI has said he's going to be hidden from the world. I don't think we're going to be seeing him or hearing from him. And so in that sense, he's not going to have any direct fingerprint on the future of the church, but, you know, inevitably, there will be people who will be measuring what the new pope does by what the old one might have done.

AMANPOUR: And you mentioned the 67 cardinals that he has elevated throughout his eight years on the throne at St. Peter. We know that there are so many different factions, if you like, different views, different followings of the Catholic Church depending on where you're looking in the globe. In the United States, there is a much more liberal, more progressive wing that would like to see more modernism, a real papacy that corresponds to the challenges of today.

We know that in Africa and Asia, it's growing much faster than anywhere else and by and large much more traditional, much more conservative.

What do you think the fact that these 67 cardinals who will be voting have been in place by Benedict XVI, what will that mean, do you think, for the direction of the church? Will -- inevitably somebody who is in the form, the shape of Benedict's traditions?

ALLEN: Well, I mean, the other point to make here is the cardinals who weren't appointed by Benedict were appointed by John Paul II. They are all --

AMANPOUR: Same page.

ALLEN: So, basically speaking, in terms of the big picture, I think they're all of like mind. And in that sense papal elections are unlike, say, the Iowa caucuses in the States where you have highly charged ideological debate. That's not going to happen. You know, transitions in papacy are more about style and tone than they are of substance.

So I don't think you're going to get a new pope who's going to repeal church teaching on, say, abortion or gay marriage. You could get a pope, however, who has a more global vision, a more popular style who uses the argot of the post modern world a little bit more and in that sense could put a more positive face and voice on the Catholic message.

AMANPOUR: I want to go to our correspondent Ben Wedeman who's in St. Peter's Square.

Ben, what are you seeing? What are the crowds gathering -- are they saying anything now?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: People are very much waiting to see and to hear from Pope Benedict. Now the Italian authorities said they were expecting up to 200,000 people to come today and we know that even in some Italian schools, the children have been told if they're absent today, they will not be penalized.

So we do have a large crowd. A very multinational crowd, Christiane. Now normally the pope holds these general audiences during the winter inside, but in order to accommodate the large crowd that's expected here, he's doing it outside.

Now as I said, there are people from all over the world here. We're joined actually with -- by one guest, Kevin, from Washington, D.C., who is visiting Rome.

Kevin, your thoughts on this historic day, the next to the last day of Pope Benedict in office.

KEVIN, TOURIST FROM WASHINGTON D.C.: Well, what a phenomenal day to be here in Rome, or week actually to be here in Rome. Being a Roman Catholic myself, I was so fortunate to be in the area and be able to make it out here today. It's -- you know you're watching history.

WEDEMAN: And are you going to be here throughout the day? KEVIN: I'll be here much of the day today. I've been -- the last few days whenever I've had the chance, I've been out here trying to get inside and see the goings on and so forth. I'll be here as long as I can today and then probably out here for the next few days also.

WEDEMAN: Now Pope Benedict has been in office for eight years, what are your thoughts about his time as pope?

KEVIN: Well, I think he's known as a great theologian. I think, you know, he's always being compared to John Paul, but, you know, I'm not so sure you should compare. Everybody has their own style of -- you know, of doing things. So I have -- I think he's done a great job for his style.

WEDEMAN: And as a Roman Catholic, what do you think his legacy will be?

KEVIN: As a teacher, as a teacher of -- you know, of Rome Catholicism.

WEDEMAN: All right. Thank you very much, Kevin.

KEVIN: Yes, sir.

WEDEMAN: So, Christiane, we're going to be speaking to lots of people here in St. Peter's Square today. And certainly a lot of appreciation for the last -- the eight years reign of Pope Benedict -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Ben, thanks. We will keep checking in with you.

And as I said, in about 20 minutes from now, the pope will turn up in his Popemobile and make that rather unprecedented tour around the St. Peter's Square, unprecedented in terms of it's not his normal procedure during a Wednesday general audience, but because this is his second to last day on the throne of St. Peter, he wants to greet as many people as possible.

And now coming up after a break, black smoke, white smoke, picking the next pope. We'll look at the sacred duty of choosing the next leader of more than a billion Roman Catholics worldwide.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back. I'm Christiane Amanpour, reporting live from Rome, where Pope Benedict XVI will arrive in about 20 minutes or so and you're looking at a live picture now of Vatican City. You can see the crowds that are gathering there. You can see the colonnades on the front of the Basilica.

And you can also see the police presence, the risers, the big loud speakers, the platforms for the dozens and dozens of press from around the world, who are coming to record this as we've said many times unprecedented, uncharted event in the Roman Catholic Church. At least for the last six centuries or so.

Now what we do know is that the pope will be coming as I said and he'll be in his Popemobile, a very famous and familiar sight to all of those who follow the Roman Catholic Church, and the comings and goings of the pontiff certainly since Pope John Paul II. And he'll be going around St. Peter's Square.

It's not usual. He doesn't usually hold his weekly audiences like that, but this is the day before he resigns and, therefore, a little extra is going into this general audience.

I'm here now with my colleagues, as I say, at 4:45 a.m., that will be 10:45 a.m. here. The pope starts to read and there'll be other biblical readings. He will also have his greeting. And we'll wait to see whether in fact he puts a special farewell message into what is often planned readings for these particular days.

We're still in lent. A period before Easter. And as I'm here with my colleagues John Allen and Jim Bitterman.

This is, John, a very special time not just because of the resignation of this pope, the first time in more than 600 years, since 1450, but it is lent. That carries a whole different sort of significance of sacrifice and preparation for the Catholic Church's most significant holiday.

ALLEN: Well, that's right. Lent is supposed to be a period of penance and spiritual preparation for Holy Week, which will begin with Palm Sunday, commemorating Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. Leading forward, of course, to the commemoration of his death, his crucifixion on Good Friday. And ultimately his triumphant rising from the grave on Easter Sunday.

And actually one of the pope's closest friends, a Dominican theologian and cardinal by the name of Georges Cottier is in the Italian papers this morning saying that Benedict chose to resign specifically at the beginning of lent because he wanted that spirit of penance and preparation to be part of the psychology as the cardinals begin picking the next pope.

AMANPOUR: We'll talk a little bit about penance and preparation in a moment. I want to say and go to my colleague Jim Bitterman.

With a little bit of the style over the substance, you know, so many, we've said the world has about 1.2 billion Catholics in it, and they are very, very keen to know even the smallest details about the papacy, about the person of the pope. And particularly about the person of the retiring pope. Right down to his clothes.

I'm just going to play a little bit of what Fr. Thomas Rosica said yesterday -- Rosica, said yesterday at the Vatican about what he'll be called after he steps down, what he'll be wearing in fact.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FATHER THOMAS ROSICA, VATICAN PRESS SECRETARY: He will wear a simple white cassock. Without the mozzetta, I think it's called, a little cape on top. A simple white cassock. A very important point are the shoes. They will no longer be the red shoes that you've seen him wear, but he has chosen to keep brown shoes that were given to him on his recent trip to Mexico in Leon.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

AMANPOUR: Well, these are the details, as I said, that people are really interested in, particularly those red Prada shoes. And I might just say, you can't see the picture right now, but I am in papal yellow, at least around my neck.

Jim Bitterman, you have covered many, many papal comings and goings, transitions, trips. Gives us your sense from all your experience about what it is about this person that fascinates so many people.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's the office more than anything else. I mean, more than the personality. I think when you have a -- a leader of 1.2 billion people that in fact represents an institution that has been around -- the older human institution, been around for 2,000 years, it's pretty amazing. And you have to sort of look to that for some guidance as to what the future might be, for instance.

But what other thing, just to pick up on what you were talking about earlier about tradition, for a pope who is very traditional, for a church that emphasizes tradition, this is the most untraditional period you can imagine. They are making it up as they go along. The details about the shoes, the cassock, all the rest of that sort of thing. Two weeks ago when this was first announced, when the pope made his startling announcement, the press peppered the spokesman with all these questions and it's taken two weeks to come up with the answers because they are really kind of making it up as they go along.

AMANPOUR: I mean, it wasn't until yesterday that we even knew what his formal titles will be, how he's going to be referred to.

BITTERMAN: And we were talking about (INAUDIBLE) this whole question of when the conclave is going to be, how are they going to do that. Now first we heard that the -- that we would follow the constitution of the church as established by John Paul II, which provided for 15 day waiting period after the seat of St. Peter was left vacant.

Now we're hearing that the cardinals will vote. Well, the cardinals are not necessarily going to be all in town. We hear they probably will be all in town. But how are they going to that vote about when the conclave is going to start? It's a real sort of never, never land we're into here.

AMANPOUR: Well, John, let me --

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: Yes?

ALLEN: (INAUDIBLE), you know, the normal working motto of the Vatican is talk to me on Wednesday and I'll get back to you in 300 years.

(LAUGHTER)

BITTERMAN: Yes, that's right.

ALLEN: Two weeks is fairly remarkable actually.

BITTERMAN: That's right.

AMANPOUR: But let's talk about what you just said, Jim, this whole period, however long it's going to be, the sede vacante, the empty seat. What about when the cardinals will meet? That of in itself is quite complicated. You've got the entire roster of cardinals, whether they're voting age or not, and then you've got the voting age cardinals who've got to get together. Give us a sense of that time table.

ALLEN: Well, what's going to happen is that Benedict's papacy, of course, formally ends at 8:00 Roman time tomorrow. The next morning, the dean of the College of Cardinals, Italian Cardinal Sodano, is going to formally notify the cardinals of the world that the throne of Peter is vacant.

Now in a way this is kind of stilly because all of those cardinals are basically already in town to say goodbye to the pope tomorrow. But this is the Vatican and protocol must be observed. Then we presume on Monday the cardinals will hold their first formal meeting that is called the general congregation and the first order of business in that meeting will be for them to pick a date for the conclave because Benedict XVI last -- this week has given them the authority to set aside that 15-day waiting period Jim described and move things up if they so choose.

What I'm picking up, Christiane, is that many cardinals believe that since we don't need nine days of mourning, we don't need a funeral mass and since they're already all here, they would be of a mind that it's a good idea to bring the curtain up on this show.

AMANPOUR: All right. We can just hear the music that started, that's being broadcast on those great big loud speakers behind me. And as I say, we're going to be watching and waiting for the pope to arrive here shortly and tomorrow of course we'll be with you, as well, because that is the day that he actually leaves the Vatican, goes to what is in fact the summer residence of the pope.

That will be around 5:00 p.m. local here. And then at 8:00 p.m. Rome time, this papacy will end formally and the time to select the next pope will start as we've just been talking with John Allen.

We'll be back after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: You're looking live at St. Peter's Square in Vatican City. In a few moments Pope Benedict XVI is scheduled to speak here one last time before becoming the first Roman Catholic pope in six centuries to step down.

Joined again by my colleagues, John Allen and Jim Bitterman, and our senior correspondent Ben Wedeman who's in St. Peter's and we'll be checking in with him, as well.

We've been talking about some of the colors, some of the uncharted waters. We talked about the penance and also some other things. Penance and possibility.

I want to ask you, John, there is obviously these scandals that have dogged the Roman Catholic Church, particularly the priest abuse scandal against young boys in the Catholic Church that exploded in the United States since 2002 and here in Europe since 2010.

How is the church going to deal with this in a final way if you like moving forward? Is it possible?

ALLEN: Well, I think there would be a great consensus certainly among the cardinals who are going to elect the next pope that in many ways Benedict XVI has moved the church forward from where it was when he took over from John Paul II. First pope to meet with victims, first pope to apologize for the crisis in his own name, the first pope in some ways to embrace zero tolerance as the official line of the church.

But I also think there is a consensus, there is a great deal of unfinished business, and I think probably at the top of that list, would be figuring out a way to enforce accountability, not just for the priest who abuse but also for the bishops who cover it up.

AMANPOUR: And of course that's quite a controversy because some of them are coming here particularly Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles and many Americans had not wanted him to come here and many victims of these sexual abuse scandals have come here to petition for some change.

Tell me your snap frontrunners for the next pope. We'll discuss more in details but right now who do you think will be the next pope?

ALLEN: Well, listen, Christiane, you know, there's an old saying in Rome that he who goes into a conclave as pope comes out as a cardinal. So this is a hazardous business. But I think if you did a kind of poll average of Vatican watchers, the names you would hear the most would be Cardinal Angelo Scola of Milan, Cardinal Marc Ouelett who's a Canadian, who leads the Vatican's powerful congregation for the bishops, and probably just one notch down from those two guys would be Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, who would be a good candidate to be the first pope from the developing world of Argentina.

AMANPOUR: He's from Argentina.

ALLEN: Yes.

AMANPOUR: Fascinating. We'll talk more about that right after a break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)