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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

A New Pope Gives World New Hope

Aired March 13, 2013 - 19:00   ET

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


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS: I would like to pray for the Lord so that the prayer of the people blesses also the new pontiff.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: The new pope asked for the people's blessing. Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. What do we know tonight about the new leader of the world's Catholics? We're going to tell you. Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening to all of you. OUTFRONT tonight, we do have a new pope. Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio stepped out on the balcony of the papal residence tonight and greeted a crowd of 150,000 people in St. Peter's Square and more than a billion others who were watching on television around the world. Take a look at how this historic moment unfolded.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT (voice-over): First came the smoke. At 7:06 p.m. in Rome, smoke began rising from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, our only sign that the conclave of 115 cardinals had made a decision.

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, CNN'S "AC 360": There is the smoke, black or white?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Seems to look a little lighter than last time.

COOPER: That looks like white smoke.

BURNETT: But then it was certain. Yes, it was a puff of white smoke rushing out of the chimney and then the ringing bells of St. Peter's Basilica.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Habemus papam.

BURNETT: For one hour and 6 minutes, we knew we had a pope. What we didn't know was who it would be, who would step out on to the Vatican balcony and take one of the most powerful positions on the planet, the leader of 1.2 billion Catholics? Behind the scenes, the 266th pope was praying and getting fitted for his new robes and shoes in the so-called "Room of Tiers" in the Vatican. At 8:22 p.m. Rome time, 3:22 p.m. Eastern Time, the world got its first glimpse of the new pope, Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, a 76-year-old archbishop from Buenos Aires, the first South American pope.

The name he chose also a first, Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi, one of the most admired figures in the history of the Roman Catholic Church. The name symbolizes poverty, humility and simplicity and in that spirit of humility and simplicity, the world heard Pope Francis speak.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): I would like to offer you my blessing, but I'd like to ask a favor first. First before the bishop blesses the people, I would like to pray for the Lord so that the prayer of the people blesses also the new pontiff.

BURNETT: And another first today, a Twitter announcement of the new pontiff from the handle @pontiffx.

POPE FRANCIS (through translator): as you know, the duty of the conclave was to uphold a bishop in Rome and it seems to me that my brothers, cardinals have chosen one from far away, but here I am.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: I want to get to Anderson Cooper in Rome. When the shouts and cheers went up, he was in the crowd. Anderson, it must have been an incredible moment to feel that spontaneous elation and joy. Tell us about the reaction.

COOPER: It really was. From the moment we saw the white smoke, I literally ran over to St. Peter's a couple blocks behind me along with tens of thousands of other people. There are already tens of thousands of people in the square to witness the white smoke.

But as word spread throughout the city, people tweeted one another and texted one another and called their friends and relatives and people saw it on television. More and more people flooded into the square, literally running into the square.

It was packed by the time that Pope Francis came out and there really was a tremendous sense of joy. I was here eight years ago after the death of Pope John Paul II. And traditionally, obviously, you know, a new pope is elected only after the death of the prior pope.

And so there's usually, you know, a sense of sadness, the event is sort of sad. You didn't have this, this time because of the retirement of Pope Benedict. So there was really a joy in the crowd.

A lot of smiles on the faces of people and a lot of young people in that crowd who wanted to witness it, who wanted to be part of this movement of the faithful. And also part of this day in history.

I'm joined now by Father Edward Beck. To you, what do you make of this man being selected and the name he has taken, Pope Francis?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: There are so many firsts with this candidate, Anderson, the first non-European pope, first Jesuit and to take the name St. Francis.

COOPER: It's been about 1,000 years. There were some long, long ago.

BECK: Right. But to take the name St. Francis is revolutionary. No pope has ever taken it because we thought no one could possibly live up to who Francis was. The inspiration was he walked into an empty church that was decrepit and from the crucifix he heard the words of Jesus, Francis, rebuild my church.

So you know that about St. Francis. Now you have a man who knows that the church is in need of rebuilding, taking that name, a champion of the poor, the outcast. This is a man we know who shunned the palace of the cardinal --

COOPER: Literally.

BECK: He moved to a small apartment. He said I don't need a chauffeured car. I'm going to take a bus. Get rid of my cook. I'm going to cook my own meals. So for everyone who critiques the wealth of the Vatican, this man is beginning by saying there is another way to look at this and in my own humility and I think he is a very humble man, I think he's going to show us a new face of the pope and a new face here in Rome.

COOPER: In terms of his history, he has not actually worked in the Vatican. He's not part of the Vatican bureaucracy, which is significant. A, he could be elected and also what that might mean for his ability to come in and he is an outsider and to come if and bring some change.

BECK: And because he's so pastoral, I mean, working among the people and literally in the trenches. That's going to make a difference. We've heard people didn't want a theologian insider. It was so interesting to me, and this is probably a sin against humility, I'm going to say it anyway.

On February 25th I tweeted why isn't anyone talking about Cardinal Bergoglio because last time, it was reported he got the second most votes next to Cardinal Ratzinger? Why isn't anyone talking about him this time?

And people told me well, he's too old. Eight years later, he's 76 now. They didn't vote for him last time, not this time. So when he walked out to that balcony, I thought wow. This group saw something in this man that they think the church needs now and they said we're going to give him to you.

COOPER: He really wasn't much in discussion. Earlier today, Chris Cuomo said on our air, he had talked to a retired cardinal and the retired cardinal's advice to Chris was you need to focus on Bergoglio. You're missing out that you haven't been discussing him. I don't know the source, which retired cardinal it was. He was certainly right on the money on this. Erin, it was an extraordinary day, a day, I think everybody would was here will remember forever.

BURNETT: Certainly imagine that. And Anderson, of course, is going to be live on "AC 360" tonight live from Rome.

I want to bring in Father Richard Hilgartner here with me. You know, here at St. Patrick, when I arrived here, I went inside, mass is going on. There were people who were celebrating this event. Some people had come here just to light a candle. The pope said, you know, pray for me.

FATHER RICHARD HILGARTNER, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Absolutely. I thought that was one of the most beautiful moments this is afternoon. As he came out, the custom is the pope gives the first blessing to the people.

But before he gave that blessing, he asked the faithful to bless him and pray. Then he bowed down and in silence, imagine that vast crowd in St. Peter's Square being quiet and praying for him, and I think that has gone out to the whole world.

BURNETT: Do you think he will be different? You know, Cardinal Dolan is talking about what happened and he said, well, ordinarily he would great each of the cardinals individually and then he would go out on to the balcony. But he said it's raining. I don't want the people to have to wait. Let's flip the order. You don't just flip the order as the pope.

HILGARTNER: Clearly he was aware -- if you're the pope, you can flip the order.

BURNETT: But you don't usually, right. I mean, it's so --

HILGARTNER: Clearly, he has a mind for charity, a mind for concern for the people. He's been known that throughout his priesthood and life as bishop in Buenos Aires. We keep talking about his choice of name, Francis and the comparison to Francis of Assisi. But he is also a Jesuit.

There is St. Francis Xavier who is one of the companions of St. Ignatius Loyola. St. Francis Xavier was known as a great evangelizer. He went out and preached to the masses. I think that is another sign, another inspiration for him.

BURNETT: Another inspiration, Francis. We'll hear more from him on why he chose Francis. For the first time, the world has a pope who is not from Europe. It is hard to say how significant that is, but it is so important.

A priest from Argentina who knows Pope Francis joins us next.

Plus, what will South American pope mean for Americans and the 70 million Catholics here? Bill Donahue and the Reverend Franklin Graham come OUTFRONT. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: As you've seen in these pictures, people around the world tonight are celebrating and witnessing history. We are live tonight from St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York.

And we now know the name of the man who will be leading the church behind me and the church that represents more than one billion Catholics around the world. Pope Francis, the first pope to ever choose that name, the former archbishop from Buenos Aires, Argentina and the first pontiff from South America, Jorge Mario Bergoglio.

He is 76 years old. He was born on December 17th, 1936. Now he was born in Buenos Aires, but his parents were Italian immigrants. He originally planned to be a chemist. But instead, he had the calling and began studies for the priesthood.

Now his early life had challenges. It has been reported that when he was a teenager, actually one of his lungs was removed due to an infection. As an archbishop in Buenos Aires, he got around the city by public bus. He spent time with the poor. He is known for that.

He lived in a small apartment and cooked his own meals. He has been called a straight shooter and is no stranger to controversy. He clashed with the Argentine government over same-sex marriage and the free distribution of contraceptives, both of which he opposed.

He was elevated to cardinal in 2001 by Pope John Paul II and as pontiff, a Vatican spokesman says Pope Francis will be a reformer leading the church.

What does reformer mean? It means different things to different people. OUTFRONT tonight, our Vatican expert and CNN contributor Raymond Arroyo. He is also the news director of Catholic Television Network. And Father Roberto Cid, pastor of St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Miami Beach, Florida. Like Pope Francis, he is also from Argentina and I know just last week, you met the man who is now pope. And Father Hillgartiner is here with me at St. Patrick's.

Raymond, let me start with you. He came in second last time. You've always talked about this as a horse race. Now he is Pope Francis. Who is this man?

RAYMOND ARROYO, NEWS DIRECTOR, CATHOLIC TELEVISION NETWORK: Well, I think he called himself Pope Francis after St. Francis of Assisi. The great builder of the church. Remember, God told St. Francis, rebuild my church.

The new Pope Francis is supposedly a reformer of sorts. He reformed the Jesuits, fighting against liberation theology when that was on the rise in Argentina. And from the people I have spoken to here in the Vatican who know him well, they say he is the - pardon the French here -- the butt kicker that is needed here to face this curia. So, we'll see what happens in the days ahead.

BURNETT: It will be very interesting. As I said, the word reform can mean reforming bureaucracy at the Vatican. It could also mean reforming other things, like the church's policies towards women or gays.

Father Cid, I know you met Pope Francis in Rome last week. I want to ask you your impression of him. But first, I want to play for our view what Cardinal Dolan, who obviously preaches at the St. Patrick's Cathedral behind me had to say about Pope Francis just a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: He kind of come across as shy and reserved, doesn't he? His voice is kind of conversational. He didn't have a big, booming voice. But is a man of confidence and poise and -- but there is also that splendid with the beautiful sincerity and simplicity and humility.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Father Cid, when you met him, what did you think?

FR. ROBERTO CID, ST. PATRICK CATHOLIC CHURCH, MIAMI BEACH: First of all, let me just clarify that it was a chance meeting. It was not that I had an appointment with him. I just happened to be in Rome for the last couple of days on the pontificate of Benedict XVI because I am director of Catholic radio here in the archdiocese of Miami (INAUDIBLE) 8:30 a.m. And I had been invited by Vatican radio officials to be in Rome.

And I was walking down the street in Rome and there he was, the archbishop of about Buenos Aires walking and coming face to face with me. And of course I recognized him and I said hello archbishop, I'm from Argentina. I remember distinctly that he had, because he was cold, he had his hand in the pocket of a coat he was wearing. And when he took out the hand from the pocket to shake hands with me, he had a rosary. So I realized he was praying the rosary.

He asked me what I was doing in Rome. I told him about my duties in the archdiocese and the radio station and he said well, you know, I have some spare time. I thought I was going to go for a walk and pray the rosary. And so I asked him to pray for me and he asked me to pray for him, and then we went our ways.

So, it was not that I had a meeting with him. It was a chance encounter on the walking on the (INAUDIBLE) in Rome as I was there during the last few days of the pontificate of Benedict XVI because of my duties in the archdiocese and the radio station.

BURNETT: Pretty interesting, though, when you describe how he had the rosary and then touched him. That he was -- is such a holy man.

Raymond, I want to ask you, though, about where he stands on other issues. When we talk about reform, he opposed same-sex marriage in Argentina. He opposed free contraception. Now obviously, he lost those battles in Argentina. But they give a sense of where he stands. So when some people hear reform, they think reform on issues like that. It doesn't sound like he will do that sort of reform, or am I wrong?

ARROYO: Well, you know, Erin, when the cardinals say reform -- and many of them going into this enclave were saying we need a reformer -- they meant a reformer to clean up the government here in Rome, the curia. Whether changing doctrine that, was never on the table. These men basically agree on all the doctrine. John Paul II and Benedict XVI appointed all of the cardinals that voted this conclave. There are no major differences among them. Those wars have sort of been fought.

And where I know there are those who would like to see changes in this doctrine or that, remember what I told you weeks ago. The pope just protects the doctrine. He doesn't change it. So, you know, according to Catholic theology, these are the teachings that were given by Christ and it's up to the church to protect them. This (INAUDIBLE) of Christ will attempt to do that.

BURNETT: I want to play another brief thing that Cardinal Dolan here of New York, one of the most well-known Catholics in the United States had to say about who this man Pope Francis is. He just said a few moments ago when he came out of the conclave - everyone didn't think they would come out so quickly, but he did. He went to the cameras, and here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOLAN: He's already won our hearts. He obviously won our hearts because he's the new pope. But he just -- we just had a very beautiful fraternal meal at the Domas Santa Marta where we've been staying. And he told us, he said -- we toasted him. The cardinal secretary of state toasted him, and then he toasted us. And he simply said, "May God forgive you."

(LAUGHTER)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Just something that Cardinal Dolan can do, give you a real sense of who someone is.

All right. Still to come, the world waited for more than an hour to learn the identity of the new pope. Everyone was waiting in the rain in Rome. So, what did the Vatican do that kept its secret safe for so long? In the world of Twitter, an hour and six minutes of a secret?!

Plus later in the show, we'll talk to one of the most well-known Catholic actresses in the world, the star of "Touched By An Angel" and the Bible come OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: From the moment the white smoke poured out of the Sistine Chapel until Pope Francis appeared on the balcony, almost an hour and 10 minutes passed. An hour and six, to be exact. In that time, the identity of the new pope was not leaked.

Now this is a modern miracle. So, how did they keep all of us from finding out who it was? Well, first, they went to a lot of extremes here, people. They painted the windows of the Sistine Chapel and the cardinals' residence with white paint to keep out photographers, so nobody could figure it out that way. Then they swept the buildings for electronic bugging devices. And third, they installed high-tech scrambling devices in the chapel and cars to make sure that nothing would be picked up by listening devices from outside the conclave.

The truth of the matter is, though, that the Vatican was not worried about what got in. They were really worried about what was getting out. Which brings me to tonight's number, 17. That's the number of cardinals who had a Twitter account when the conclave began. Now, despite the oath of secrecy and the threat of ex-communication that every cardinal faces during conclave, there is a precedent. The Vatican was very concerned that one of those cardinals would sing like a canary. That's the real reason they were jamming the electronic signals and searching the cardinals' bags on the way in. It wasn't us, the media. I mean, rumor has it that it dates back to 2005 when a cardinal reportedly texted John Ratzinger's name to a German television station, and I don't think he got ex-communicated.

All right. Still to come, for the first time, the pope is from a country outside Europe. What will a South American pope mean to Catholics in the United States?

And the Catholic Church has been hit hard by scandal. What Pope Francis has to do to fix it.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: And welcome back for the second half of OUTFRONT. We're live tonight outside St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York City. People inside were praying and celebrating a new pope, Pope Francis, the now former archbishop of Argentina.

He's the first non-European pontiff of the modern era. And he said to the world today just after 7:00 local time. And the crowds were packed into St. Peter's Square, about 150,000 people cheering as white smoke finally rose from the chimney on the chapel. There had been five rounds of voting on the second day of the conclave.

When the smoke first came out, it seemed dark. Then, we were saying, it is getting lighter? Is it getting lighter? Then it became very clear it was white.

And after that, it didn't take long for headlines to go around the world. Here's a look at "TIME" magazine already. "The Daily Telegraph" and the Argentine newspaper "La Capital." All of them already with the pope on the front.

Now, earlier, Anderson Cooper spoke with a student from this country who was in Vatican City for the announcement about what she hopes to see from the new pope.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think of him be on the move forward and hopefully make some good changes. Hopefully, he will be similar to John Paul II in some ways and being very progressive. So, we'll just have to wait and see.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: We'll just have to wait and see. That's a sentiment on the minds of many Catholics here in the United States. As people are wondering what will happen?

A recent poll shows only 4 percent of American Catholics say the church in the United States is in excellent condition, 50 percent say good condition, 35 percent not so good, and 10 percent poor.

So how will Pope Francis affect Catholicism and politics in the United States? Because yes, the president of the United States weighed in on this today.

OUTFRONT tonight, Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, Reverend Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Donna Brazile, a CNN contributor and Democratic strategist, and, of course, Father Hilgartner also here with me.

Bill, let me start with you.

Is the pope going to make more Catholics in America excited to be Catholic again?

WILL DONOHUE, PRESIDENT, CATHOLIC LEAGUE: I think he will because he exudes a kind of humility which I think is the most important quality in a pope. And I also think that he has something from those people who are concerned about the poor as well as those of us who accept the traditional understanding of the mariceptual (ph).

So, I think he can bring people together and quite frankly here we are we'll be marching past the cathedral this weekend. Everybody will be Irish on St. Patrick's Day. But you know what? We're all Latino today. We should be proud of it.

And there are people here, Father Hilgartner who have been celebrating, Argentinian flags.

FATHER RICK HILGARTNER, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: We've seen the Argentinian flag waving on the street corner here today.

BURNETT: Yes.

HILGARTNER: One of the things that I found really exciting is that Pope Francis now represents a huge portion of the Catholic population. Certainly in the Americas when you combine all of the North, Central, South America, we make up almost 50 percent of the population, the Catholic population, church and the world.

Thirty percent of the Catholic population of the world is from Central and South America. And he comes from that culture, from that segment of the church. I think that's an exciting development.

BURNETT: It's an interesting way to look at it, that is not just South America.

Reverend Graham, Christians makes up 74 percent, three-quarters, of the population of the United States. Of that, about 25 percent are Catholics. Evangelicals about 26 percent of it.

So what effect does this news today have on other Christians in America?

FRANKLIN GRAHAM, CEO, BILLY GRAHAM EVANGELISTIC ASSOCIATION: I'm sorry. Your audio is breaking up.

First of all, let me just congratulate Catholics around the world and especially want to give my best wishes to Pope Francis. This is kind of a historic day. It's a wonderful occasion.

But I'm so pleased that this pope is concerned about the poor. And he has been speaking out on the poor for many years and helping the poor and being a voice for them.

And I hope he will continue doing that as the pontiff. The church of Jesus Christ is under attack around the world. We see this especially in the Muslim countries. I was recently in Sudan where the churches in the Nuba Mountains are being bombed and Christians are being murdered by the President Bashir of the North who is an indicted war criminal.

And I hope that he will use this, his position to speak out for the poor and for the Christians who are being murdered around the world. We need somebody to be a voice like that. And he certainly can do that. And I've just been so impressed with what I've read today and what he did in Argentina and the way he's been this voice for the poor.

BURNETT: Donna, interesting to me that the president weighed in on this today, the president of the United States. He had a statement which in part said, "Just as I appreciated our work with Pope Benedict XVI, I look forward to working with His Holiness to advance peace, security and dignity for our fellow human beings regardless of their faith." He congratulated Hispanic Americans and others.

It is interesting that president of the United States weighs in on this. You know, we talk so much during this election about the importance of the Catholic vote.

DONNA BRAZILE, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, yes, President Obama is president of all the people, people of faith, of course, and Catholics and Baptists and others, in our society.

But let me just say as a Catholic, I agree with Bill. This is a moment to rejoice. Pope Francis is a man of humility and what I read today I agree with Mr. Graham, it was really impressive that he is someone who stood not just in front of helping the poor and his country but someone who has spoken out very strongly about social justice issues.

I was on campus today at Georgetown. And I have to tell you, I rarely see my students and other students run and really celebrate something. But they were very enthusiastic about this selection of Pope Francis today.

BURNETT: The young which so amazing.

Bill, you know, you wrote a series on the president. You called it "Obama's war on religion."

DONOHUE: Right.

BURNETT: You're talking about contraception and other things. Now he's come out. He came out and he congratulated this pope.

DONONUE: Well, listen --

BURNETT: Will there be a change? Will there be a change from this pope on those issues that you obviously feel are so good?

DONOHUE: I don't know if there will be. I mean, I -- no one should be impugning the character of the president. He's a good man.

We obviously have some serious disagreements with him on his idea of making us paying for abortion-inducing drugs and the like. But, you know, I think there is time for the politics later.

I just hope that this pope brings with him a big stable of men and women from Buenos Aires because there's a comfort level in the bureaucracy in the Curia, in the Vatican, which is not healthy. I hope he brings in flesh blood, some new men and women.

BURNETT: Fresh blood into the Vatican?

DONOHUE: That's right.

BURNETT: And Reverend Graham, what about youth that Donna was just referencing? That there were young people on the campus of Georgetown, obviously -- by the way, this whole contraception issue started last year, who were excited today. How does that make you feel?

(INAUDIBLE)

BURNETT: Yes, obviously sounds like he can't.

But, Donna, go ahead and answer the question. How did it make you feel? You were there.

BRAZILE: Well, look, I've been -- I was born and raised in the Catholic Church, baptized in the Catholic Church, still a practicing Catholic, only belong to two Catholic Churches in my entire life. To see young people excited about the selection of a new pope is very refreshing.

I have friends who are in Rome. They were pilgrims. They wanted to be there. They wanted to celebrate this moment.

But we know that the church must return to its mission. He is a traditionalist and conservative. There is a lot of healing that must be done.

I hope he brings a big broom and clean all autopsy the scandal and corruption and return to church to its original teachings so that everyone can feel comfortable once again as belonging to a church that has so much history for so much hope for the world.

BURNETT: Obviously, a moment of hope for so many. Thanks to all of you.

You know, you have been glued to your TVs all day for that announcement. Americans have been hooked on another drama, maybe you watched this one, too. The new History Channel series called "The Bible." Here's a little peek at it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lady, I believe your son is the promised king of his people. What is his name?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Jesus. His name is Jesus.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That's Roma Downey, one of the best known Catholic actresses. And she is playing role of Virgin Mary.

Now, her performance, along that with other cast members, has made "The Bible" cable's most watched entertainment show of the year. The numbers are pretty incredible. More than 10 million people watch just last weekend.

Roma Downey produced it along with her husband, the famous producer Mark Burnett. Roma Downey is OUTFRONT tonight. She's also an executive producer of the series. And you also may recognize her from the television series "Touched by an Angel."

Now, she came over here to St. Patrick's just a little bit -- a little bit ago tonight to light a candle to pray for the pope. I saw her and I started asking her what she made of today's announcement.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ROMA DOWNEY, ACTRESS: I'm just so encouraged. I was just so thrilled. We were grabbing little pieces on TV as we've been out around the town when he stepped forward and his first request was that everybody would pray for him. That's why I came down here to St. Patrick's to say a prayer.

It looks like the information we're getting that is emerging is that he's a real man of the people, a humble pope. He's taken on the name Francis. And, you know, I think he's going to be a pope of hope. BURNETT: A pope of hope.

You obviously have had religion has been an important part of your life. And you obviously were in "Touched by an Angel." Ten million people last week watched "The Bible" which I know had to be personally gratifying to you as a project of passion for you.

But a lot of those people were young. And some people say well young people are not as interested in the church and they're moving away from the church. But yet so many of them are watching "The Bible."

What do you think is the draw for the young?

DOWNEY: Well, you know, we made the show because we wanted to glorify God, first and foremost. But we wanted to make it in a way that would really engage young audiences. I have three teenagers myself at home. When I was leaving to film in morocco, they said make sure you don't make the special effects lame.

And so we tried to make it exciting and dynamic. We worked with scholars and theologians to make sure it was accurate. And it really, I think people are just hungry for purpose. They're hungry for God. And "The Bible" series has spoken to many, 50 million people have checked out the first two episodes in the last few weeks.

BURNETT: You and I were talking before the interview. And I was saying I was watching David and Bathsheba this past weekend. And I guess overall, are you surprised?

I mean, I know you probably didn't care whether it did well or not because you just wanted to do it and share it. You did it for those reasons. But it is doing very, very, very well.

DOWNEY: It's amazingly humbling and gratifying. We made it to share. It's a great feast and everyone is invited to the table. The fact that people are dialoguing about "The Bible," "The Bible" trended number one on Twitter the last few days.

BURNETT: #thebible, right?

DOWNEY: #thebible. It engaged our nation if a conversation.

Our hope is that the series will go out all over this country and the world, all over the world, and touch people's lives. And the book is -- will change people's lives.

BURNETT: And I know, of course, you played the Virgin Mary. So, you were producer and also an actor in the film. You recently wrote an op-ed, along with Mark Burnett, your husband, in "The Wall Street Journal." And I just wanted to quote something in it to you and get your thoughts.

You said, "For the sake of the nation's children, it's time to encourage, perhaps even mandate the teaching of the Bible in schools as a primary document of Western civilization."

Why do you think that?

DOWNEY: Well, because, you know, one of the things I realize as I've been working on this is how many people don't even know, you know, the great heroes of the Bible. They don't know the Bible story. So, it seems to me that we have a responsibility, the Bible is the corner stone of our culture, of literature, or arts. Not to teach it in schools as religion, but to teach it as literature or history.

BURNETT: I read the Bible when I was younger. I did have it as Western civilization. And I am glad that I did. One thing I wish I had that I didn't was actually the Koran as part of modern society. Do you think we should learn -- children should learn more about that? Because that is important.

DOWNEY: I think kids should be exposed to all the religions of the world that we can be tolerant. Our duty as Christian people is to love all people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Our thanks to Roma. It was a pleasure to meet her.

And still to come, the Vatican has been racked by scandal over the past few years. The communications director for Opus Dei and a nun who left the church join us to discuss the future. That and my thoughts on the new pope -- yes, I am Catholic. And that's OUTFRONT.

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BURNETT: Pope Francis chose his name from Pope Francis Assisi, who was known for building the church, known for a love of animals and known for a concern for the poor. So, we can expect his papacy will emphasize service and compassion to the poor. But will it bring change when it comes to some of the divisive issues that many around the world focus on with the Catholic Church, gay rights, female priests, celibacy?

OUTFRONT tonight is Brian Finnerty. He's the communications director for Opus Dei.

Mary Johnson also joins us. She was a nun for 20 years before leaving the church due to an affair that she had with a fellow nun. She's now an atheist and author of "An Unquenchable Thirst," a memoir about her experiences.

Father Hilgartner is also still with us tonight.

Well, let me start with you, Mary. The pope has obviously strongly opposed gay marriage in Argentina, contraception in Argentina as we talked about earlier in the program. Abortion, of course.

Does this worry you as someone who left the church due to social issues, or do you think that some of the other things we heard about him are more important?

MARY JOHNSON, FORMER NUN: I think that all of those and especially for Catholics in the United States who are wanting to follow the church but have differences within their conscience as far as church teaching goes. I think it would be very important that the pope be open to considering new questions.

There are things, I think, that the pope could do, and should do to start moving in a more inclusive direction -- including women more, including gays and lesbians as -- recognizing that, you know, there are alternate ways of expressing one's sexuality, which are genuine, which are human.

BURNETT: Brian, let me ask you. There has been some criticism today, and the president of GLAD came out with a statement. We just read it to you here. I've got it on my BlackBerry.

"Pope Francis called adoption by gay and lesbian people a form of discrimination against children. The real discrimination against children is the pedophilia that has run rampant in the Catholic Church with little more than collusion from the Vatican."

Let me just -- let me just start with that.

BRIAN FINNERTY, OPUS DEI: Well, I would say that children need to experience a love of both a mother and a father. And in terms of things like gay marriage, we should get away from ideology. What we should be really should be concerned about is what's best for children?

I think being able to have both a mother and a father is something that they need.

BURNETT: Father, do you think that there's any room for a movement on that, especially a statement -- a form of discrimination against children. Some who say children should have parents.

HILGARTNER: Pope Francis has demonstrated a real pastoral charity. Of just last year, he came out and chastised priests in his diocese who refused to baptized children of unwed parents. And really while he's standing pro-family, he's also making these pastoral charitable judgments in favor of the faith and in favor of those in need.

So, we don't know what might be in his heart at this moment. But he's also a man of the church and a man of faith. And some of these questions are questions of doctrine, questions that flow from the sacred tradition of the church.

BURNETT: Mary, do you think that Pope Francis will reach out to some of these groups of people who have felt left out or left behind, not included, whether it be some groups of women, whether it be gays and lesbians? Will he do that or will he remain silent?

JOHNSON: I certainly hope that he would reach out. I know that as archbishop in Buenos Aires, he went and washed the feet of 12 men who had AIDS. This is a move in the right direction, a visible move of compassion. I hope he would continue that way.

I think of Pope John Paul II, as you know, I was a sister with the Missionaries of Charity, the sisters of Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And at one point, Pope John Paul is said to have proposed to Mother Teresa that she become a cardinal. It would require a slight shift in church law, but no church -- no shift in dogma, no church shift in church doctrine.

I think moving to appoint a woman cardinal, several women cardinals, would be a step in the right direction that this new pope could make.

BURNETT: I know, Brian, you don't agree with that. But the -- Francis has said he's going to be a reformer. And some people say that just means reforming the Vatican, which is obviously significant, and I don't mean to imply that it isn't.

But when you hear the word "reform" as someone who is very conservative and believes in the traditional teachings of the church, what do you want it to mean?

FINNERTY: I think more than anything else, it means a reform of our hearts. And he's a man who I believe truly lives the gospel. He takes a bus to work. He lives in a simple apartment. And I think he is someone who really incarnates the full gospel of Jesus.

And I think as he does that, he'll be able to touch people's hearts. And that's why I'm looking forward to it.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thanks very much to all three of you. We appreciate it.

That story Mary told about washing the feet of the men who had AIDS was very profound.

OUTFRONT next, millions of Catholics and millions of others were glued to your television set today. But what can we expect from Pope Francis and the Catholic Church and the days, the months and the years ahead. The reflections of a Catholic girl. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Today, like many of you, I watched the pope's election. I was so excited to see who it might be. I was raised Catholic and I remember my first communion. I actually still have the white dress I wore and the picture on that day with pigtails is still on my dresser. I was confirmed and attended CCD and still have the CCD books.

But as I watch today, I heard priests and others who know Pope Francis describe him as humble and open to new ideas. And in part, they said that because of the name he has chosen, Francis, no other pope has done that. He could have chosen the name for Saint Francis of Xavier, one of the first Jesuits. But I like to think he chose in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, a man who is humble and loved animals.

It should also be noted that Assisi was a friar and a preacher. He was actually never ordained as a priest. Saint Francis claimed that the voice of God came to him and ordered him to rebuild the church. And when I visited Assisi, a town in Italy, it was a spiritual experience. But I do not practice now. I am ecumenical, and I'm not alone. Many people I know who were raised Catholic no longer attend mass and many aren't raising their children Catholic either, whether because of the sex scandal, the views on women, perhaps its openness to other ideas like homosexuality.

The Catholic Church has a lot of issues, but it does a lot of good for a lot of people. The church helps the poor and the lonely. And I bet there are a lot of people who might return to the church if it changed.

After tonight's celebrations are over, the question will be whether Pope Francis will be that change.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.