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EARLY START WITH JOHN BERMAN AND ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN

Vatican Coverage

Aired February 28, 2013 - 05:00   ET

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


ZORAIDA SAMBOLIN, CNN ANCHOR: And then Cardinal Angelo Sodano is scheduled to deliver a brief speech. He is the dean of the College of Cardinals.

And, finally, Pope Benedict XVI is expected to make a few finally spontaneous remarks before boarding a helicopter and leaving the Vatican. That is about six hours from now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR:: The departure of this pope after what really has been a turbulent eight-year reign leaves the Catholic Church really in uncharted waters right now. Its 1.2 billion followers in search of something of a new direction.

CNN's chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour is live in Rome this morning.

Good morning, Christiane.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning.

We are expecting any moment now Vatican television to start showing us those pictures of the last face-to-face meeting between Pope Benedict XVI on his last day on the throne of St. Peter and talking personally as you've been saying, to all of those cardinals who are in town at the moment. There's a big group who will be gathering and of that huge group there will be a certain number, 115, who will eventually convene in the conclave to elect the next pope.

I'm joined here by John Allen. As you can see, we're in a busy location. Behind us is St. Peter's. Here's the road that's leading up to it.

I can't help but notice for all the attention on this incredible moment of Pope Benedict's decision to resign, when we were back here in 2005, Rome was overflowing with about 5 million pilgrims as John Paul lay dying.

Give us a little sense of the difference of what's happening and the outpouring.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, I mean, the obvious difference is this transition is following resignation rather than death. So, you don't have the same global outpouring of grief. What we have instead is a fairly contemplative moment --

AMANPOUR: We're seeing those live pictures, indeed.

ALLEN: By the way, Christiane, speaking of turbulence, this is taking place in the Vatican hall called Sala Clementina, named for Pope Clementine V, who was arrested and taken to the Crimean, executed, tossed into a river with an anchor around his neck so that his body would not bubble back up.

You want to talk turbulence?

AMANPOUR: And why?

ALLEN: Well, because the authorities of the day saw him as a hostile to their interests. They were hoping to replace him with somebody who would be a little bit more soft. My point is that whatever you think of the turbulence of the last eight years, you really ain't seen nothing compared to centuries past.

AMANPOUR: So, what are we going to see now? Here they all are, they're looking pretty jovial. At least that cardinal is having good laugh and good chat with his compadre.

ALLEN: Well, you've got to remember, you know, these are guys who have known one another for a very long time. Some of them went to seminary together. They met one another over the years, of various Vatican functions. Some of them belong to the same religious order.

So, this is in a sense a kind of gentleman's club. And before the more somber farewell begins, there's just a lot of networking and catching up going on.

AMANPOUR: And they all have a very personal tie to Benedict XVI, not just because they're his cardinals, but because he elevated the majority of those here now.

ALLEN: Well, I mean, first of all, he started out as a member of this club. Remember, he was made a cardinal in 1978, which means for almost 25 years or so, Benedict XVI was one of them. He would have been sitting in this room with them on any number of those occasions.

So, there was a very paternal tie, if you like, between Benedict and this group of them.

AMANPOUR: And as we -- you can hear the sirens because there's a hospital nearby. It does kind of really show us all this activity that has been going on here in Rome. And St. Peter's has been the center of all the activity over the last couple of days.

When Cardinal Sodano makes his speech, what will that be, is that a farewell, is that policy, what are we going to hear?

ALLEN: Well, I don't think we're going to hear any reference to policy questions this morning. I think this is going to be a fairly emotional tribute and farewell to the pope on behalf of the entire College of Cardinals. The idea is that Sodano was not speaking just for himself but he's speaking for the entire group. AMANPOUR: I'm not sure whether he started speaking yet. Of course, we'll get translation when he does. But again, the number of cardinals, there are about 100 here. All of those who have come to Rome and then what we'll have is about 115 of those convene to actually elect in the conclave.

ALLEN: Yes, of course, it is precisely 115. There are 117 cardinals who are under the age of 80. One of them, Cardinal Darmaatmadja, a Jesuit cardinal of Indonesia, has said he can't come because of ill health and, of course, Cardinal Keith O'Brien of Scotland recently resigned and indicated he's not going to come facing these allegations. So, we're down to 115 who will actually cast ballots there in the Sistine Chapel to elect the next pope.

Not all of them will be in the Sala Clementina this morning. Some of them are arriving today, others will wait until the day of the conclave.

AMANPOUR: And a little trivia though, I just saw a cardinal walk out past a screen there, with a mobile phone. Once they're in the conclave, there's not contact, isn't there, with -- no tweeting, no cell phones, no nothing.

ALLEN: No, actually, the term conclave means, comes from two Latin words meaning of two words meaning with the key. The idea is they are thrust in behind locked doors and cut off from the world.

So, the Vatican, even now, is preparing the Sistine Chapel for that event, in part by putting electronic jamming devices on the floor of the Sistine. To prevent --

AMANPOUR: You're kidding.

ALLEN: Not only to prevent cardinals from getting signals out, but presenting you and I from showing up with the shotgun mike and trying to listen in.

And now, that will also be true of the Casa Santa Martha, which is the $20 million hotel on Vatican grounds where the cardinals will be staying. The idea is they are in lockdown during that period.

AMANPOUR: And lest be anybody be alarmed by the shotgun mike, let us explain that that simply is technical term for a long directional microphone that can pick more sound and more specific sound than perhaps one of these that we have on our lapels. But nothing to do with any gun issues or whatever.

However, you know, we talk about a gentleman's club. We talked a lot about some of the concerns and reforms or at least changes and accountability that the next pope will have to conduct. Sort of finishing and here comes Pope Benedict XVI to meet all his cardinals.

One of resilient cardinals said earlier this week that really the next pope must take in hand the unfinished business of zero tolerance policy when it comes to these priest sex abuse scandals. ALLEN: Yes, I would say, Christiane, there's a widespread consensus among the cardinals, the next pope has to carry forward the reforms of Benedict XVI.

Let's go back to New York.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

CARDINAL ANGELO SODANO, DEAN OF COLLEGE OF CARDINALS (through translator): It is with great emotion that the cardinals present in Rome today are joining you to express once again their deep affection and to express to you the gratitude for your selfless apostolic service for the church of Jesus Christ and the whole of mankind.

Last Saturday, at the end of these virtual exercises in the Vatican, you thanked the cardinals and your collaborators in the curia, using these moving words, friends, you called them. I wish to thank all of you not only for this week but for the past eight years during which you have born with me the weight of papal responsibilities with competence and affection.

Yesterday, you addressed the people in St. Peter's Square. Today, we should thank you for the example which you have given us during the last eight years of your pontificate on the 19th of April, 2005, you joined a long chain of successors of St. Peter and today, the 20th of February, 2013, you are going to leave us.

And we expect that the helm of St. Peter's ship will pass through your hands and you will continue the succession which the Lord promised to his church as long as the voice of the angel, the apocalypse is heard, saying time is short. It will be consumed in the mystery of God. Then, the history of the church, together with the history of the world, with the advent of a new heaven and a new earth.

Holy Father, with deep love, we sought to accompany you on your path, living again the experience of the disciples of Emmaus who have walked along the road with Jesus said one to another, was our heart not burning when he talked to us along the road?

Yes, Holy Father, you should know that our heart was burning, too, when we walked with you during the last eight years. Once again, we want to express to you all our gratitude. So, we repeat an expression which is typical of your native country -- Vergelt's Gott -- that God may recompense you.

(APPLAUSE)

(END LIVE FEED)

BERMAN: That was Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the dean of the College of Cardinals right there, with some moving words, thanking Pope Benedict XVI. He said yesterday was the pope's chance to thank the flocks, thank the cardinals. Today, it is the cardinals' chance to thank the pope himself.

We're joined by Father Edward Beck and Monsignor Rick Hilgartner. Monsignor, I want to start with you. What struck you with those words of thanks?

I'm sorry. I'll stop you and let's listen to the pope.

(BEGIN LIVE FEED)

POPE BENEDICT XVI, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): -- and greet each of you personally. I thank also the television channel which has been able to interpret the feelings of this college. I thank you very much.

I would like to say referring to the experience I've had, for me, too, it has been a joy to work and walk with you during these years in the presence of God. And as I said yesterday, to the thousands of faithful who filled the Square of St. Peter, your advice and presence has been very helpful to me in my ministry. During eight years, we have lived with faith, marvelous moments in the history of the church and also times when the world is covered by dark clouds.

However, we do hope that we have expressed a positive side and only Christ alone can cast light on our vantage. And we thank those who have helped us to grow and we will ask Christ to help you grow further in the future so that the College of Cardinals will be like an orchestra where there is diversity and expression of universal church, acting in harmony.

I would like to leave a thought with you, something I have much to heart but something which I could say is of the rationality and the passion for life. There's an expression written by Guardini during the Second Vatican Council, to prove many changes, and these are the words particularly geared to me.

The church is not thought out institution. It is a living unit. It lives over time and becomes and changes and transforms itself. However, its nature remains the same. And at his heart is Christ.

And my experience yesterday tells me that the church is a living body animated by the Holy Spirit and it lives from the strength of God, and it is in the world but not of the world. And we saw this yesterday.

This takes me to another expression of Guardini, that the church lives in the souls, it lives and grows and becomes alive in the souls of people. Those who accept the word of God and work in accordance with the Holy Spirit, in the humility, they become capable of generating Christ in the world.

And through the church and the mystery of the incarnation, the church is present always. Christ continues to walk through time in all places. So we remain united, dear brothers, in these mysteries in our prayer in particular (ph) in the Eucharist every day, and thus serving the church and mankind. That's something which no one can deprive us of.

So, personally, I would like to say, that I will continue to serve you in prayer, in particular in the coming days, so that you may be touched by the Holy Spirit in the election of a new pope and hope that the Lord will show you the right way.

And I promise my obedience and respect for the next pope, I give you the apostolic blessing now from my very heart.

(APPLAUSE)

In the name of God -- may he bless all of you in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

(END LIVE FEED)

SAMBOLIN: A very special moment there as Pope Benedict XVI blesses the cardinals. They are right now at Sala Clementina where Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the cardinals for what presumably is the last time.

As we see him there, he will actually talk to the cardinals, one on one, spend a couple minutes with each one of them.

We have with us Monsignor Hilgartner and Father Edward Beck.

I want to start with you, Monsignor. You listened to what Pope Benedict XVI just said. Can you in our speak decipher for us what the message was he was trying to leave us with?

MONSIGNOR RICK HILGARTNER, CATHOLIC CHURCH: Really, he was offering a reflection, very briefly, on his experience yesterday of, I think, feeling the unity of the church. He actually quoted one of his favorite theologians, Roman Guardini who he knew during the Second Vatican Council. He kept speaking of the church as a living being, the church is alive in the souls of the people who believe.

And I think he was really speaking from the heart about his own experience leading the church in that regard.

And the final moment, the last thing he said, what struck me, is to hear him speak about the next pope, the future pope. He said in particular he will continue to serve you -- meaning his brother cardinals -- in prayer, that as he moves into this ministry of prayer he recognizes that he's continuing to serve the church.

BERMAN: He said he hopes the Holy Spirit guides them in the election of the new pope, hopes the Lord will show you, the cardinals, the right way. Finally, he said, he is promising his obedience to the next pope.

A significant statement, Father?

EDWARD BECK, CATHOLIC PRIEST: I think so. He wants to make it clear that there will be one pope in charge and he is subject as well to that pope. I thought that was very telling.

Also when he said, in the world, but not of it. There's been critique of Pope Benedict that he was not enough in the world, not engaged with it enough in issues that real people care about. He's making it very clear I think that from a spiritual perspective, yes, you need to be in the world, but you can't be controlled by it. It can't be that which defines you totally. He made that clear that he is in the world but not of it.

SAMBOLIN: We're watching Pope Benedict XVI there as he actually individually meets with all the cardinals. It's very fast. Not a lot of time is being spent with them individually.

My question becomes here his legacy. Because you know, he served eight years under a lot of turmoil for the Roman Catholic Church. So, what do you think will be his lasting legacy? Is that what people will talk about?

Because we've heard him say that he has been surprised by the way that the flock has received him with open arms but he's also been shocked at the criticism that he has received. So what do you think we'll be saying about this pope and his legacy?

BECK: His primary legacy will be his resignation. That's what we will remember him for. The fact in humility, he was able to -- where do you find a leader today relinquishing power voluntarily? Perpetual power, he relinquishes it.

That's his statement in humility. I'm not up to the job. I want to make way for someone in this church who can.

Also his writings, he has a trilogy of writings about Jesus, the life of Jesus. That will be remembered.

BERMAN: Monsignor, he did say he thanked the cardinals for serving with him in these marvelous moments but also at time when the world was covered by dark clouds.

HILGARTNER: He really refers not only to issues that might face the church, that have been spoken about a lot, especially in the recent days, but looking at world events that he has witnessed and expressed his concern and care for, acts of violence, natural disasters, just the state of the world.

He's been very concerned about tensions in the Middle East and tried to be very involved in efforts of world peace. So, I think some of what he referred to might have referred to the church but parts of it really about the state of the world, and the place of the church to be something that brings hope in the midst of dark clouds.

SAMBOLIN: I know when we were talking to Christiane earlier, I mentioned, you know, who could potentially be the next pope. She said it's too soon to talk about that, that's kind of a taboo subject right now.

But we would like to discuss a little bit about that. If we can start with the whole conclave process, what is it that the cardinals are looking for specifically?

I'll start with you, Monsignor. HILGARTNER: What they'll do in t coming days as they begin to assemble in what will be called in the general congregation. It will be an opportunity for all the cardinals to look at the state of the church, in the different parts of the world and the issues and concerns facing the church. So, they'll speak in general about concepts, concerns and in a way rather broadly to look at what the needs of the church will be, before they actually enter into the conclave.

The conclave itself is governed by a very strict ritual, so once they enter into the Sistine chapel and the doors are closed, there's not a lot of -- it won't look like the halls of Congress or the floor of the House, where there's debating or discussion going on. It's actually a rather strict ritual of placing their votes one by one in each ballot.

And so, while they're in there for hours and hours and hours, it will seem as the world is watching for white smoke, they will be one by one presenting their ballots each time. And they go in order of precedence and order of seniority as they present votes one by one.

SAMBOLIN: But -- so, in essence while we're sitting here, prior to the conclave, we will really be understanding what the most important issues are as they perceive them in the Catholic Church prior to them going in?

HILGARTNER: Well, they probably won't have opportunities to speak publicly because even the general congregations are closed door. They will have a number of consultants they can name, some priests, a number of priests, people who aren't cardinals who could speak to them. But those are limited in number.

And even though the cardinals over 80 who won't be able to actually go into the conclave itself, they will be able to participate in the congregations and have a chance to give their input before they vote.

BERMAN: Even if we did have an opportunity to hear from them, it would be quite impolitic of them to speak publicly.

HILGARTNER: Yes.

BECK: Interesting historical perspective of conclave, as you heard, the word was conclavis, the Latin with the key. But it was not always thought that they were locked in. It used to be a much more open affair.

The election didn't always take place in Rome. In the Middle Ages, they were taking three years to elect a new pope. And the town got fed up. They locked the cardinals in, literally, so that they would have to make a decision. And when they still didn't make it, they took the roof off where they were meeting and feed them bread and water to make sure that they would get this done.

BERMAN: And the rules keep evolving with the conclave. There are new rules in place this time, I believe, so that there is no decision within three days, they will take a pause for a day to step back, reflect, gather their thoughts and then go back in. I should just mention once again to everyone, what's happening right now is Pope Benedict XVI is greeting every cardinal who is already in Rome right now, private words with each and every one of them.

It is possible very likely at some point during this meet-and-greet session, you will see Pope Benedict XVI with his successor. We don't know who that successor is yet, but it is very possible that he is there saying hello right now.

SAMBOLIN: You know what I found interesting as I was reading about the pope's residence, where he'll be headed to, and that they actually started working on that back in November. It makes me wonder how long they have known that Pope Benedict XVI was set to retire.

Do you find that unusual? Do you think they've known longer than they were letting on?

HILGARTNER: I think he knew but I doubt he shared his thoughts with too many people. I'm sure did he consult with a couple of close collaborators to discuss all kinds of ramifications and just to seek some counsel so that he didn't make -- there's Cardinal George of Chicago greeting --

SAMBOLIN: Who is in ill health. I'm surprised he made it on that journey.

HILGARTNER: He's finished his cancer treatments.

SAMBOLIN: He has. But he's been very weak. I'm thrilled to see him looking well.

BERMAN: One of 11 American cardinals there at this point.

HILGARTNER: Well, 11 who can vote. But there are a number of other American cardinals who are retired, several who live in Rome, and some other of the American cardinals from the United States who traveled.

BERMAN: Let's go back to Rome where Christiane Amanpour, our senior international correspondent is there live with John Allen, our CNN contributor, watching these cardinals one by one say good-bye to Pope Benedict XVI. Christiane?

AMANPOUR: Indeed. We have been watching this procession and we're watching the gentleman in the white tie and tails who is keeping a strict eye on what is personal time, face time for all of these cardinals for one last time with Benedict XVI as he is pope.

John, you recognized a few people, including the cardinal who will come to the window to announce the next pope, of course, if he's not the next pope.

ALLEN: Yes. Well, of course, the Vatican is very big in choreography, as you know. So, the sequence in which the cardinals greeting the pope is very carefully scripted. Within the college, there are three different orders. There are cardinal bishops, cardinal priests and cardinal deacons. By tradition, there are only six cardinal bishops. They come out first and then the others.

So, we've seen, for example, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who as you say is the deacon, the first in the order of deacons, who will be the cardinal who makes the "Habemus Papam!" -- we have a pope announcement.

Just a moment ago, we saw Cardinal Julian Herranz, Spanish cardinal, who is one of the three cardinals who produced that super dossier for the pope on the Vatican leak mess, which as you know has been the subject of tremendous speculation in recent days.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk about that a second, because the pope did receive that document on Monday. There were many of us who thought there may be a statement from the Vatican as to what was in it. We don't know. He's the only one, including the three cardinals, who know what's in it. Most of it apparently about financial either misdeeds or financial goings on and other such things in the Vatican.

So, what do you think is in it and what will it mean for the next pope to have that land on his desk?

ALLEN: Well, the pope actually got that document on the 17th of December. What happened last week is he had his final meeting with the three cardinals, all of whom were over 80, Cardinal Herranz, Giorgi, Tomko, who conducted the investigation.

You'll remember this was an investigation of that sensational Vatican leaks mess last year which culminated with the arrest of the pope's former butler Paolo Gabriele (ph), for being the mole at the heart of the affair, this report, 300 pages we're told, which you say, only Pope Benedict XVI has read, was an attempt to figure out exactly what was behind that affair, who might have been involved, which forces in the Vatican might have had motive to betray the pope's confidence.

There was some talk that Benedict would release that report to the cardinals who will be electing his successor and the theory that they could bring in to their deliberations. But instead, Vatican has announced that he will leave it on the desk, well, presumably under lock and key. In any event, it will be left for his successor.

AMANPOUR: Let's talk as well as we see a procession of cardinals coming out. Let's talk about some of those who we've seen, you know, Cardinal Sodano has been a very prominent cardinal for decades. He was once secretary of state. Now he's dean of the College of Cardinals. And he also is a controversial figure -- the whole idea of having protected the former Monsignor Maciel who had been involved in a lot of scandal, talk a little bit about that.

ALLEN: Well, you're quite right. Cardinal Angelo Sodano has been at the peak of power in the Catholic Church for a long time. He was the secretary of state under John Paul II and then the first year of Benedict's papacy, currently the dean of the college.

He has been linked in a couple of different ways to the child sex abuse scandals that have been such a cancer for the Catholic Church. One as you say, he was a major supporter within the Vatican of the late Father Marcial Maciel Degolado (ph), founder of the Legionaries of Christ, who was later found guilty of a wide range of abuse and misconduct.

And so, with the benefit of hindsight, people will say Sodano should have been more aggressive and should have taken more seriously the charges that came up about Maciel in the mid-'90s.

Further, of course, in 2010, when the sex abuse scandals erupted in Europe, it was also Cardinal Sodano who during an Easter liturgy publicly compared the criticism of the church's handling of the crisis to petty gossip, a comment that obviously wounded a number of the victims of the crisis who felt that voicing their concerns was not tantamount to gossip.

So, he is one of a number of cardinals, as you say, who have been linked to this crisis in some way. Although, of course, the pope is taking --

AMANPOUR: Taking a sip of water.

And let's talk about the bishop cardinal who's standing next to him, because he has served this pope and he will serve the next pope as well at the same time.

ALLEN: Yes. That's right. We're talking about Archbishop Georg Ganswein, who was then-Cardinal Ratzinger's private secretary in the Vatican when he was still running the doctrinal office and, of course, followed him into the papacy. Benedict recently made Monsignor Ganswein an archbishop and named him -- there we see, by the way, Cardinal Donald Wuerl of Washington.