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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Pope Benedict's Final Farewell

Aired February 27, 2013 - 04:30   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: Back here it in Rome just by St. Peter's Square, there you can see St. Peter's Basilica. Live pictures. Tens of thousands of faithful Roman Catholics packing the square to say farewell to Pope Benedict XVI. This is his final appearance in public before stepping down.

He'll be conducting shortly what's known as a general audience. Usually in the winter he does that inside St. Peter's Square, inside the Basilica. But because it is his last time, he will be doing it outside. He'll be doing it from within the Popemobile where he'll come shortly.

We're expecting him any time now. It's 10:30 a.m. here in Rome and we were told this is when the Popemobile will be making its appearance with Pope Benedict XVI's final time around the square. A final victory lap, if you like, as tens of thousands of people step out there to welcome him.

Now, we do know that he will also be taking part in not just greetings and prayers, but also will be making certain messages.

I'm joined here by John Allen, our CNN Vatican contributor and correspondent, and Jim Bitterman, longtime CNN foreign correspondent, who has covered many of these transitions as well.

What do you think before we see the Pope -- and I can hear loud cheers going up behind me. Perhaps any minute now the Popemobile will come into view. But what do you think we're going to hear from him today?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, Christiane, he's sort of got a farewell in two acts. Tomorrow will be his private farewell to cardinals, some of the people who work with him in the Vatican. Today, however, is his farewell to the whole world. Those 1.2 billion Catholics. But also all the other people in the world one way or another feel an investment (ph) in the new pope (ph) and the papacy (ph).

So I expect that he's going to use this opportunity to reflect on not only the -- his understanding of what it means to be vicar of Christ and a spiritual (ph) leader, but also to in some ways talk about what shaped this decision, what was behind it and what his hopes -- hope for his own continuing (ph) role would be and of course his hopes for this church that he obviously loves dearly.

AMANPOUR: Well, we obviously going to listen to that very carefully because Catholics all over the world want to see which direction their faith is going, what direction the church will take in the future and what kind of penance will be done to really atone for some of the -- not just sins, but some of the crimes that are being committed certainly by pedophile priests in Europe and in the United States and perhaps elsewhere.

You and I and Jim, we were all here eight years ago when Pope Benedict was elected by the conclave and before that. We were here really conducting vigil as Pope John Paul II lay dying.

There is a huge difference, isn't there? Pope John Paul II lived out his final years in pain, in infirmity, and yet remained charismatic and a deep draw to Roman Catholics around the world right until his last breath. Even though Pope Benedict is a scholar, is an intellectual, many who know him call him warm, give me a sense of the difference in character, in public persona, between those two popes.

ALLEN: Well, in a sound bite, if John Paul had not been Pope, he would have been a movie star. If Benedict had not been Pope, he would have been a university professor. You know? I mean, the ideas are pretty much the same. Benedict was the intellectual architect of John Paul's papacy for 20 years. So in terms of substance, broad vision for the church and the world, the two men were clearly in lock step.

But in terms of personality, John Paul had this raw sort of freak of nature charisma that just took the world by storm. Benedict has always been a bit more of an acquired taste. I mean, widely admired for the keenness of his intellect. And that actually, when I've covered his foreign trips, what's interesting is that he often plays best as a kind of cultural critic. You know, a man who was sort of engaged in broad trajectories of culture and trying to bring a faith perspective to them. Plays very well with academics and intellectuals. Doesn't generate the same kind of wild enthusiasm at the grassroots, of course, as John Paul did.

AMANPOUR: Well, I think -- certainly I can tell that from some of the visits that I've done following papal trips. Just Cuba, for instance, I remember the real enthusiasm for Pope John Paul II, that was back in 1998, the first time Pope had come to communist Cuba and he was incredibly received.

I followed Pope Benedict last year to Cuba and you could see that he was also very warmly received, but didn't generate the kind of adulation, if you like, the kind of mass cult following that his predecessor did. And from what I understand, it was that trip to Cuba and indeed to Mexico at the same time which finally convinced him that he was, as he said, not strong enough mentally, physically to go on and lead this massive institution.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The contrast, Christiane, one of the things that was remarkable the other day during the papal -- the last papal mass which was -- on Ash Wednesday, one of the things that happened was that the secretary of state, Bertone, rose up and gave a very, very sort of gushing speech about Benedict XVI's reign and how wonderful it was and all the rest.

Now Benedict XVI's response to that was thank you and let's get back to prayer. Pope John Paul II would have taken that, taken the applause, gone with it for a few minutes, maybe said a few words, advent a few words, but in fact it was an entirely different reaction for the --

(CROSSTALK)

AMANPOUR: And we can't forget it was -- it was many years ago that John Paul also credited with facing down communism in his own country and tearing done the iron curtain across the soviet union and eastern Europe.

We're going now to Ben Wedeman who is in that crowd.

Any sighting yet of the Popemobile?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Not yet, we haven't. And of course everybody is waiting. We understand he should be coming out any minute now. What we -- what we've been listening to is basically various languages. I heard Arabic a little while ago, people -- somebody greeting pilgrims from Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt, so very much an international crowd here, Christiane. In fact we are joined by someone from Ireland. This is Kirin --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Allen (ph).

(CROSSTALK)

WEDEMAN: From Ireland -- from Derry?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. From Derry, yes.

WEDEMAN: And you just were coming here on an ordinary vacation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We were coming for a break for a few -- for a few days and this just happened as we were leaving. So today we thought we'd make our way here and experience the history.

WEDEMAN: And what was your reaction when on the -- on 11th of February you heard that he was resigning out of the blue?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think like a lot of people there was surprise. It's the first time in several hundred years that the Pope has decided to vacate his chair and make room for somebody else. So you sort of -- we're wondering what was going on really, you know. But I suppose at his age it's a great decision.

It's the first time in a long time that he has decided to make way for somebody younger. You know, so maybe he's setting an example for a lot of the other older leaders around the world to think of time for a change. I don't know. But certainly it's a great step for him and we all wish him luck.

WEDEMAN: All right. Thank you very much.

All right. So, Christiane, lots of people from all over and of course, as I said, we are waiting for the Pope to emerge for his penultimate day as Pope -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Ben, thank you very much.

And as we're watching, we can see these incredible live pictures, you've got rows and rows of trellis there waiting for Pope Benedict to arrive. We see the overhead shot of seating and also standing room. We saw the bishops there, we saw the papal colors of the yellow and white balloons. We've seen nuns. And we're going to be coming back after a break as we await Pope Benedict XVI to take his tour around St. Peter's Square in the Popemobile.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our live coverage of the Pope's final public appearance. And there you see the Pope has come into St. Peter's Square. A little later than we expected, nonetheless there he is in that famous Popemobile.

You can see that he's surrounded by people walking around his vehicle and also obviously cameras right there to record every last step, every last wheel, as he tours around the square to say farewell.

This is his general Wednesday audience. Slightly different because it is his final one. He would usually, in winter, hold these weekly audiences inside St. Peter's Basilica, but here now you see he's taking that lap around the square and waving and being greeted by all the pilgrims who've come here.

The Vatican told us that they have handed out at least 50,000 tickets. Obviously the inside of St. Peter's Square can hold many, many more, standing and seated. We've seen pictures of the cardinals waiting, at least 55 of them already by our count, our BDI Associates' count down there.

We've seen the bishops, we've seen nuns and we've seen all these pilgrims. We've heard from them as to why they're here because they want to take part in this historic day to share in this historic moment. Because let's not forget that even though Pope Benedict XVI has only been on the throne of St. Peter for eight years, that is not a huge long time compared to his predecessor John Paul II who was there from 1978 to 2005, and who lived his final years of infirmity and some say agony in a very public way. Some say exemplifying Christ and his suffering on the cross right to the very end of his life.

Pope John -- Pope Benedict XVI has said that he wanted to give way to somebody who is in stronger physical and mental health to be able to guide this church throughout its many opportunities and challenges throughout the future.

You see him approaching those phenomenal Bernini columns, which are the arms of the Vatican that spread out, almost embracing St. Peter's Square. An incredible architectural feat.

Today, after this general audience, after the speeches, after the prayers, after the greeting of certain select pilgrims, he will then return to the Vatican and get ready, we understand. He's already been packing up over these last couple of days because at 5:00 p.m. Rome time, that's 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time, the Pope will leave by helicopter from the Vatican to Castel Gandolfo, which is the summer papal residence. He'll spend several months there while they're getting his permanent residence ready here again in Vatican City. It will be a converted convent and he will be staying there throughout the rest of his life.

Joined again by John Allen, our senior Vatican correspondent and contributor, and also Jim Bitterman.

Just about where he's going to live and how long he's going to be in Castel Gandolfo, that is obviously certainly to take into account the logistics of moving a Pope to a Pope emeritus, but is there also a feeling that perhaps the Pope does not want to be seen to be right over the shoulder of his successor and particularly in this interregnum period while they're choosing him?

ALLEN: Oh, sure. Listen, I think obviously the practical reason for going to Castel Gandolfo right now is because they're continuing the renovations on this former monastery. And by the way, Christiane, when an Italian contractor tells you it's going to take two months, I would double that at least. So we'll see when he actually moves back into the Vatican.

But the other political subjects today is that there's a real concern that Benedict not be seen as in some way trying to shape or influence the process of picking his successor. And I think putting some physical distance between himself and the conclave is seen as useful in that regard.

AMANPOUR: Jim, again, we were here in 2005. This is so different in so many ways. Usually there is a death that we report, then there is a funeral that all the world leaders who come. Give us a little bit of your experiences in the past.

BITTERMAN: This will be the fourth transition I've been through and the -- the fact is that, with the other ones, there is a period of mourning. The pilgrims come to Rome. There is a very solemn atmosphere. It focuses the minds of not only the pilgrims but also the cardinal, basically, it gets them in a mood and in spirit for electing a new Pope.

Here we have a Pope that's stepping down. And by the way, some of the conservatives -- they're not calling this a resignation. They're calling it an abdication. And since it is a monarchy, that's probably the right word to use.

In any case, because Benedict XVI is leaving so quickly, so precipitously, there hasn't been that period of preparation for people to start thinking about a new Pope. On the other hand, maybe they -- because of the publicity around it the cardinals really have been thinking a way that they haven't the first time around. So I -- you know, it's a completely different atmosphere. It's nowhere near as solemn, I don't think. There's certainly going to be a lot of tears shed when he leaves, but it's not necessarily as solemn as when you have a papal death. AMANPOUR: Well, talking of tears shed and waving going on, let's go to Ben Wedeman who's down there in the square for some reaction to now the Pope being there amongst the faithful -- Ben.

WEDEMAN: Yes. Christiane, well, when he came out, we didn't hear large applause or clapping, but I think people very much appreciative of the fact that this is the last opportunity to see him as Pope Benedict making the tour of St. Peter's Square.

Now, Christiane, we are joined by somebody also from Germany, Angel, from outside of Stuttgart. You live in Italy. This is a German Pope. How do you feel about the fact that he's stepping down, he's resigning?

ANGEL, FROM GERMANY: I'm very sad. I also wrote him a letter trying to encourage him to remain.

(LAUGHTER)

Because I love him so much and because he did great things. And -- yes. I appreciated the Pope very much. He really stepped in the footsteps of Pope John Paul II and of our Lord.

WEDEMAN: And what do you think his greatest achievement was?

ANGEL: Well, personally two things I really appreciated very much is the introduction of the Latin mass which is such a strong experience. It's a -- it's a very profound experience, it's a real bomb, especially for the young people. And the second thing is that he fosters perpetual adoration that he wanted perpetual adoration in every city or in every diocese. I don't know exactly. But basically everywhere. And that can come only from a heart that prays. Because eucharistic adoration is so powerful. It's the key to change the world from the inside.

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

ANGEL: You're welcome.

WEDEMAN: Also, like Pope Benedict, from Germany.

So we are expecting more -- I can't tell if the Pope is still out in the Popemobile, Christiane, but nobody is leaving. Everybody is looking at those big screens over St. Peter's Square -- Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Well, Ben, I have an advantage, I can see the bird's eye view of St. Peter's Square. So he most definitely is still there. The Popemobile continues to do its tour around the square not from where you are. And indeed we've seen people lifting children, lifting babies up for the Pope to kiss.

We're going to be right back. Up next, we'll have more from the crowd and they say, as you said, they are part of something historic. And let's not forget that Pope Benedict, a German, his predecessor, Pope John Paul, was from Poland, the first non-Italian Popes in about 500 years. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: Welcome back to our program and our special coverage live from Rome of the Pope's second to last day on the throne of St. Peter. Well, there he's actually in his Popemobile. He is the St. Peter's Square. And he's saying farewell to the faithful who have come to see his last general audience. Shortly he'll begin speaking and we'll bring you his address. First, though, we are going to New York, to John and Zoraida, for some of the latest headlines.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you, Christiane. And we appreciate it. And right now, the deadly winter storm that dumped record snow, canceled flights and caused power outages throughout the plain states and Texas panhandle is headed for the northeast. Heavy snow and ice, collapsed roofs, trees and power lines with them, cutting power to thousands in the plains.

Snow is expected in Michigan and western New York state today and that storm does not appear to be weakening.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New developments over night in Santa Cruz, California, where the police department is mourning two officers killed in the line of duty. The officers were gunned down yesterday while responding to a report of possible domestic violence. Officials say the gunman was killed a short time later in a shoot-out with police.

SAMBOLIN: And the U.S. is moving toward giving Syrian rebels direct aid including sending nonlethal military equipment and possibly providing strategic military training. Sources stressed the U.S. is not considering providing weapons to the rebels.

A senior Obama administration official says Secretary of State John Kerry is discussing the changes with European allies this week on his first overseas trip since taking the job.

BERMAN: Just two days to go until those forced spending cuts kick in. Two days. And there are no meetings scheduled between the White House and congressional leaders to find a solution. Zit.

President Obama visited a shipyard yesterday, a Defense ship building facility, yesterday in Virginia to highlight the negative impact of the impending cuts. Congressional Republicans dismissed the visit as a prop to support the president's tax hike.

SAMBOLIN: All right. That is a quick look at your local headlines. So let's send it back to Christiane Amanpour. She is live at the Vatican.

AMANPOUR: Thank you, Zoraida. Thank you, John. And yes, indeed, we are here, it is all about white and yellow right now, the papal colors, and the Pope is about to start speaking to address the faithful for the final time as Holy Father.

And our special coverage continues at the top of the hour. And of course we'll be here when he actually leaves the Vatican which will be at 5:00 p.m. Rome time. That is at about 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time and also when finally his papacy ends, that will be 8:00 p.m. Rome time today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SAMBOLIN: You are taking a look at live pictures from St. Peter's Square where tens of thousands of pilgrims have gathered to say farewell to Pope Benedict XVI who will be speaking as Holy Father for the last time. We are expecting that to happen just minutes from now.

BERMAN: History being made at this very moment. Meanwhile heavy snow closing highways and crushing homes. A deadly winter storm on the move right now and the misery not over for millions in the plains and in the Midwest.

SAMBOLIN: I know you don't want to know this either but it's countdown to the cuts, two days left and Washington still without a solution to a crisis that it brought on itself.

Good morning to you. Welcome to EARLY START. We're glad you're with us this morning, I'm Zoraida Sambolin.

BERMAN: And I'm John Berman, it is 5:00 a.m. in the East and as we said this morning, it is all about history. Something going on right now at the Vatican that none of us have ever witnessed. A Pope about to speak for the final time before he retires tomorrow.

SAMBOLIN: It really is remarkable to be watching this all morning. Let's go live to Christiane Amanpour who is anchoring our special coverage live from Rome.

Good morning to you, Christiane.

AMANPOUR: Good morning to you, Zoraida and John.

And indeed it is unprecedented. These are unchartered waters. Right now you're soon going to have Pope Benedict XVI making his final official speech to the public before stepping down just over 24 hours from now.

At 8:00 p.m. tomorrow, he becomes the first Pope in centuries to resign. And he's leaving behind a Vatican really at a crossroads. The Catholic Church facing difficult challenges and also opportunities as it moves forward.

Now, as I say, usually when there's a transition and we've covered it so many times, well, not so many times, but at least the last one I was here with my colleagues John Allen and Jim Bitterman, and that was because a Pope died. John Paul II died after living his last years' infirmed and in visible pain. Now we have a transition, you have a living Pope.

You're not watching a funeral there before the next Pope is elected. You're not watching the world's heads of state come here to pay their respects to the departed Pope. You're seeing a much different kind of transition. John Allen, what is Pope Benedict going to do in his speeches right now and for the rest of today?