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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Pope's Final General Audience

Aired February 27, 2013 - 05:30   ET

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


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JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): You're looking at live pictures, really amazing historic pictures from St. Peter's Square. The faithful, some 50,000 strong on-hand to say farewell to Pope Benedict XVI as he wraps up his final public appearance before stepping down.

ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Truly a historic day there.

A dark day in Santa Cruz, California. Two cops killed responding to a report of domestic violence. The city's police force trying to cope with an officer fatality for the first time ever.

BERMAN: Homes crushed, highways closed. A killer winter storm on the move right now and there is a lot more suffering ahead. Millions more.

SAMBOLIN: Aren't you tired of this story? Everyday.

BERMAN: Will this storm never stop?

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BERMAN (on-camera): Welcome back to EARLY START, everyone. I'm John Berman.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN (on-camera): I'm Zoraida Sambolin. Really nice to have you with us this morning. Thirty-one minutes past the hour. So, right now, the public life of Pope Benedict XVI is coming to a close.

BERMAN: More than 50,000 people packing St. Peter's Square to say farewell to the Holy Father. CNN's special coverage of this historic event continues live from Rome. Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour is there. Good morning, Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you, John. Good morning, Zoraida. And this has really been papal pageantry on view. It is the final time Pope Benedict XVI will address the public. He had his tour of St. Peter's Square behind me in the pope mobile. Lots of people waving, lots of people cheering, and he's just wrapped up a fairly lengthy address in Italian to the faithful in which he spoke about his decision to leave.

He said he realized the enormity of it. He realized the gravity, the novelty of what he had done. He knows that this is fairly unprecedented at least for the last 600 centuries. But he said that his conscience is at peace and he is at peace with his decision. He also referred to what has buffeted the church left and right, really, for the last more than ten years with the sex scandals, with the fact he leaves, with the financial allegations of misconduct.

He referred to all of that. He talked about how there had been difficult times, things were not easy, but he said that he always knew that God would not allow the Roman Catholic Church to sink. Here's a little of what the pope said.

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POPE BENEDICT XVI, ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): In my request to God with insistence in my prayer to illuminate me with his light, to make me come to the right decision not for my own good, but for the good of the church. I have taken this step in full awareness of the gravity and seriousness and novelty, but also with a profound serenity in my soul.

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AMANPOUR: And so that was the pope. And afterwards, after he'd finished, a huge cheer went up. He opened his arms to embrace the crowd and it always reminds me that gesture of those incredible arms of St. Peter's, the incredible columns of the great sculpt of Bernini. And then, it turned to a Vatican correspondent and contributor, John Allen, and our senior international correspondent, Jim Bittermann.

I was stunned by what he said, that he felt in the last month, his strength ebbing away from him, and that this is not the usual fair that we hear from this pope, this personal, personal attribution.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SR. VATICAN ANALYST: You're 100 percent right. I first covered both John Paul II and Benedict XVI. And John Paul, of course, was famous for wearing his heart on the sleeve. He was mad, you would know. If he was having a blast, you would know (ph). And he talked, itself, and his emotional state and his mind and his heart all the time. Benedict XVI has always been much more reluctant to get that glimpse in terms of what was going on inside.

I think it's part of the man's humility, but as much as possible, as much as you can, when you're the world's most visible religious leader, he wanted to keep himself out of the story. Today, however, he set that normal reserve aside and he gave us a really remarkable look at what was in his mind and his heart as he reached this momentous decision.

AMANPOUR: And I can't help but think of all the things that he obliquely referred to, and that clearly, when he said it was time for a more vigorous, both physically and mentally, person to carry this church into the future and also to deal with the things that he referred to in his speech. You were talking just this week to a journalist whose written all about the Vatican (ph) and who heard the tales right from the butler.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. And one of the things that author (INAUDIBLE) says in his book is that he felt that the pope was surrounded by people who were trying to thwart him into actively or accidentally, trying to thwart the kind of reform efforts that he was trying to make especially in the area of finances.

One of the things that has festered the church for decades now is the problems with the Vatican bank, problems with the contracts, kickbacks sometimes going back through some of the people that are getting the contracts, with people who are getting the contracts, fraud.

It got to the point that at the beginning of this year, the Italian banking system cut off the Vatican, basically ATM machines in the Vatican weren't working and people couldn't use their credit cards to the Vatican because of the fact that there wasn't enough oversight in the Vatican finances. So, the only people who have control over (INAUDIBLE).

There's no one else that can be involved. They don't obey any of the international banking rules. So, basically, in some respects, anything goes. And the Italian banking system finally said wait a second, you have to do something here to clean up your house. And one of the reforms that basically just did not get effected during Benedict's term.

AMANPOUR: And John, the next conclave, we don't think we'll know exactly when it will be held until at least Monday when the cardinals gather in a full formal session here in Rome in the Vatican. But obviously not just electing the next pope, but what are some of the opportunities, what are some of the positive legacies of Pope Benedict XVI?

ALLEN: Well, I think everybody you talk to certainly among those 115 cardinals who are going to elect the next pope will tell you this has been a great teaching pope. He's left behind three encyclicals that's kind of -- on faith, on love, on charity, trying to represent the essentials of the Christian faith in a way that's accessible to people.

But I think that's a permanent contribution. I think what they're looking for is somebody who can take that intellectual legacy and take it to the street, perhaps, that is these were to popularize or if you like almost a pitch-man.

AMANPOUR: You've written a really interesting sort of cheat sheet on ten ways why this next conclave will be different than the previous one back in 2005. Give me your top five.

ALLEN: Well, one obviously, it follows resignation rather than death. So, you don't have the global outpouring attribute to the decease pope. I think that makes -- it gives the pope (ph) a psychological space maybe to take a more critical look at the papacy that just ended. Second one, you're going to weigh (ph) have a much longer period of time for the cardinals to get ready because whereas you'll remember in 2005, we were day to day for John Paul's health. You never knew when the end would come. As of February 11th, everyone in the world has known when the end of this papacy was going to come, which was giving the cardinals a jumpstart, if you like, in terms of their liberations. But here's what I think is especially critical. Last time in 2005, there were only two cardinals in that conclave who had ever done it before.

One was the American Cardinal, William Baum, and the other was a guy by the name of Joseph Ratzinger (ph) you may have heard of who became Benedict XVI. This time, you have 50 conclave veterans in the Sistine Chapel. Fifty guys who have been through the process before and I think, therefore, will be more inclined to think they ought to have say in what's happening.

AMANPOUR: And I believe some 67 who've been elevated to cardinal by Benedict XVI.

ALLEN: Yes. That's right. All 115 were appointed either by John Paul or Benedict. Benedict is responsible for 67.

AMANPOUR: So, Jim and John, as Catholics around the world look to the possible direction that the church might take, and in America, we know there's a big wing of the Roman Catholics which is looking for a more progressive, more modern Catholic Church, that addresses the real issues of living in today's 21st century world.

In other parts of the word, the church is going very, very -- in a much more traditional and much more conservative model. One espoused by Pope Benedict and his predecessor, John Paul. How do you see it going forward and do we think there's going to be an American pope for the first time?

BITTERMANN Well, I would say an American pope is a long shot, Christiane, but for the first time, it's thinkable. And that, itself, is a novelty. I mean, the old idea is you couldn't have a super power pope because America is too powerful and if you put that guy in, half the world is going to think Vatican policy is being scripted from a subterranean chamber at CIA headquarters.

Now, you know, in the 21st century, America is no longer the only game in town and I think that creates the space for at least to be plausible and there are probably a couple of Americans who will get a look.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan from New York, the sort of, you know, back slapping baby kissing freak in nature, Cardinal Sean O'Malley from Boston, very simple, humble Franciscan (ph) and seen as a reformer in the church for sex abuse scandals. I wouldn't necessarily bet your bottom five dollars or Euro on it, Christiane, but I think it's within the realm of possibility.

AMANPOUR: All right. And Jim, just a quick moment of color before we toss back to New York.

BITTERMANN: Well, this is the kind of very emotional experience today and it's interesting what he said. He said that there are hard decisions when you're the leader of the church. He said loving the church is not always taking the easy path and he also said kind of revealing way, he said that being (INAUDIBLE) pope basically means giving up privacy.

AMANPOUR: Giving up privacy, indeed. And he is a very, very publicly globally broadcast farewell and he is still out there. He's still on the stage behind us in the middle of St. Peter's Square there and continuing his readings, continuing his farewells. Remember again, eight years ago, we were here. Did we know, i can't remember, that Pope Benedict was the frontrunner, that Joseph Ratzinger was the frontrunner?

ALLEN: Yes. That is another clear difference between this time and last time. Last time going in, it was obvious there was substantial support for Cardinal Ratzinger. Two days before the conclave began, another one of the cardinal said he had 40 votes in his pocket for Ratzinger.

Again (INAUDIBLE) after they had a gentlemen's agreement not to give interviews. I think the wide consensus would be there is no such clear point of reference this time around, which makes the field more wide open and could potentially make it more complicated for the cardinals to bring this plane in for a landing.

AMANPOUR: You talked about that interview after promising not to. Now, we're told they're going to get, what, ex-communicated or at least kicked out if they even tweet or go on social media during conclave.

BITTERMANN: Well, once conclave begins, of course, yes. They are under lock down. But the question is what happens between now and then. Last time, they tried to have an informal sort of soft compact among themselves that they wouldn't give interviews, and that was honored sometimes more in the breach (ph) than -- we'll see how it plays out this time.

AMANPOUR: And we're going to go to Ben Wedeman who's in the crowd now and who's been listening to the pope's speech and talking to those pilgrims who have flocked to St. Peter's Square -- Ben.

VOICE OF BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SR. INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. people here from all over the world listening intently. Of course, the pope has joined -- rather, they're speaking in a variety of languages. And when those who are -- the speakers of the language listen, they applaud.

But really, the most moving thing I saw was two sisters, two nuns who have been at the barrier on the side of St. Peter's Square all morning long, not saying a word, but simply praying and occasionally weeping clearly for the church, for those who are nuns, priests, as a much more meaningful occasion than many people here who have come here more out of curiosity than anything else that for members of the church, a very moving day here in St. Peter's Square.

AMANPOUR: Ben, thank you. And another cheer going up as the pope seems to have finished this portion of his speeches, and he will be continuing before he goes back inside the Vatican.

And you mentioned the nuns, you mentioned the women there. You know, many American nuns, of course, are hoping, and many American women, that a future pope sometime in the future will raise women in the church, nuns and those who participate in the management of the church, to an equal footing.

You know, so many women hope that, sometime, in the future they, too, will have a chance to be priests, and otherwise, celebrate mass in the same way that the men do. That is possibly far off, but nonetheless, we're told by many nuns in America that that is what they really long for. Going back to John and Zoraida in New York now.

SAMBOLIN: Christiane, we really appreciate it. I love that Christiane has been saying all morning this is an opportunity for the Roman Catholic Church. So, who knows? Maybe that will happen, Christiane. Thank you.

And coming up, we'll continue to watch Pope Benedict XVI's final farewell. And also, we're following other news including a deadly shark attack in New Zealand. We'll see how police tried to stop the giant animal.

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SAMBOLIN: Welcome back. This is a special edition of EARLY START. The pope's final farewell to his flock of billions strong, this is across the globe. And you're looking at live picture from St. Peter Square where thousands have gathered to come and see his last public audience. About 50,000 tickets were actually given out by the Vatican.

They are there to witness this in person. The pope telling them that he is aware of the gravity and novelty of his resignation. After the pope resigns tomorrow, he'll get a new title, Pope Emeritus. He'll also lose the ring and those red shoes that so many people have talked about. He is the first pope to retire in six centuries.

BERMAN: His speech was so interesting, so heartfelt in so many ways. He said loving the church means having the courage to make the difficult decisions. And by that, of course, he means this unprecedented resignation. He said he prayed for it. He prayed for enlightenment and this was the answer he got.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And it started about 4:45, the pope appearing in the pope mobile for a while there. About 15 minutes, he traveled through the audience waving at everybody. And if you see all the banners and signs, they're in all these different languages. So, people from around the world have gathered in order to witness this historic moment. This is not -- we have never seen anything like this before. Look at those crowds.

BERMAN: The Vatican said they handed out about 50,000 tickets to people in St. Peter's Square. It can hold a lot more than that. There may be a great many more people in that standing up there. We've heard horns honking and bells ringing all morning from Rome. People there celebrating along with the people in St. Peter's Square.

SAMBOLIN: Yes. And we heard from Christiane Amanpour and also Ben Wedeman that there are some nuns praying on the side, as well. So, there a lot of tears that are happening today, as well, as people pray for the future of the Roman Catholic Church. So, lot going on in Rome, and we're going to continue to follow all of the developments for you.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, happening right now, a deadly blizzard is on the move. Snow is now headed for Michigan and Western New York, but many residents in the Great Plains and Kansas City are still coping with its aftermath. Wichita broke a 100-year record for February snowfall, and they broke it in just six days.

SAMBOLIN: People are going to be saying good riddance February.

And the U.S. is moving toward giving Syrian rebels direct aid, including sending non-lethal military equipment and possibly providing strategic military training, as well. Sources stress the United States is not considering providing weapons to the rebels. The senior Obama administration official says secretary of state, John Kerry, is discussing the changes with European allies this week.

BERMAN: So, talk about culture shock. You know who that is? That's Dennis Rodman --

SAMBOLIN: How could you miss --

BERMAN: Guess where he is? North Korea. He is there with three members of the Harlem Globetrotters to put on a show for fans while they film a TV documentary. Rodman also known as the Worm is tweeting from within North Korea saying "maybe I'll run into the "Gangnam Style" dude while I'm here."

Of course, his geography is just slightly off. The "Gangnam Style" dude, Psy, is from Korea, Dennis Rodman. Just so you know, you're in North Korea.

(LAUGHTER)

SAMBOLIN: Oh, my goodness.

All right. Also ahead on EARLY START, astronomers successfully tracing the exact origin of that destructive meteor that injured 1,000 people in Russia earlier this month. Where the big rock came from is coming up next?

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BERMAN: It is 53 minutes after the hour right now. And in case you missed it, over the last hour in Vatican City, St. Peter's Square, history has been made. Pope Benedict XVI in his final hours as the Roman Catholic holy father. He emerged to loud cheers in St. Peter's Square, waving to the flock, kissing babies. This is some of what he said just a short while ago.

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POPE BENEDICT XVI: In the last month, I have felt that my strength has diminished. And I have requested God with insistence in my prayer to illuminate me with his light to make me come to the right decision not for my own good, but for the good of the church. I have done -- I have taken this step in full awareness of the gravity and seriousness and novelty, but also with a profound serenity in my soul. Loving the church also means to have the courage to make difficult choices having always before you -- having always before you the good of the church and not your own.

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BERMAN: Those historical words there. Loving the church means having the courage to make difficult decisions. At 8:00 p.m. Vatican time tomorrow, Pope Benedict XVI will officially become Pope Emeritus as he enters into resigning.

SAMBOLIN: Incredible. (INAUDIBLE) Pope Emeritus.

Fifty-five minutes past the hour. Deadly shark attack off the coast of New Zealand. Police officers firing shots at a great white as it chewed on the body out of a 40-year-old male, a surfer that it attacked and killed just a couple of hundred yards offshore. The shark believed to be 12 to 14 feet long rolled over and vanished after the officers opened fire.

BERMAN: Astronomers believe they know where the meteor that exploded over Central Russia earlier this month. They think they know where it came from. The BBC reports the scientists examine camera phones, traffic cameras, and other devices to figure out the height, speed, and position -- this is like CSI outer space here.

SAMBOLIN: Yes.

BERMAN: They believe this came from an asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

SAMBOLIN: Can they figure out how it should -- could never happen again is what I want to know.

All right. And up next, we're continuing to watch the pope's final public address. Plus, the king of beers being served up with a lawsuit. Some claiming they are not getting the buzz they paid for. From pope to beer. Can you believe it?

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SAMBOLIN: A faithful farewell. Live pictures as Pope Benedict XVI speaking for the final time before he steps down and disappears into solitude and prayer. He just thanked the crowd for coming to see him off. Oh, he's just leaving right now. There are tens of thousands live at the Vatican. Christiane Amanpour is standing by live. Christiane, this has to be a very emotional time for the pope.

AMANPOUR: I think it must be. You know, this is a pope who's not known for wearing, as my colleague says, his heart on his sleeve. But how can you fail to be moved by this enormous cheer that has now gone up in St. Peter's Square.