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New Pope is Jorge Mario Bergoglio; Pope Francis' Focus on Poor Likely to Set Him Apart From Recent Predecessors

Aired March 13, 2013 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, CNN HOST: Tonight, we have a Pope. Francis introduces himself to the world.


POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH (Through Translator): Brothers and sisters. Good evening.


MORGAN: The first of the Americas and so much more.


POPE FRANCIS (Through Translator): Let us begin this journey together.


MORGAN: Who is this man? Why was he elected and would he be able to fix a church in crisis?

Plus, the home front. What it means for the Catholics here in America, the faith tested by same sex marriage and by scandal. I'll talk to two outspoken Catholics, former presidential candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.


Good evening. And what an extraordinary evening it is. Certainly for we, Catholics. It's already tomorrow, the Vatican and around the world celebrations for the new Pope by everyone tonight and the cathedral in Buenos Aires, the crowds rejoicing after one of their own becomes the 266th pontiff.

Of course the excitement began early today with billowing white smoke from the Vatican then the peeling of bells, as tens of thousands flooded St. Peter's Square waiting to catch a glimpse of the new Pope on the balcony.

He is Jorge Mario Bergoglio. He's the archbishop of Buenos Aires and he's a Pope of first, a first from outside Europe in the modern era, the first Jesuit pontiff, the first ever from Latin America. What will he bring to the world's 1.2 billion Catholics?

Let's begin with Chris Cuomo. He's live in Vatican City.

Chris, I followed you all this morning. You're obviously stood up there very, very late, apparently it's tomorrow for you. Quite an extraordinary thing to watch on television but I'd imagine supremely magnified to have actually been there. What was it like?

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It's unlike anything I've ever covered before. The simplicity of the theater involved, just a chimney, just waiting for smoke. Anderson and I were co-anchoring it all morning and we were joking about how we just can't stop staring at this chimney. And that's what it is. It's such an unusual thing to report on, because you can't get any well-sourced information because all the guys who know something are locked in a room under threat of ex-communication if they talk.

So you just stare and wait for smoke. And yet, when that smoke comes, it means so much, even though we can't decipher the color half the time. Because you know it means so many different things to so many people, Piers. 1.2 billion people are waiting for their new spiritual father.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, this guy becomes one of the most powerful religious leaders on earth and certainly the most powerful Catholic. But you said that no one really knew what was going on, Chris. I've got a little clip to play from you this morning which suggests that you should have a future role as an astrologer. Let's listen to this.


CUOMO: A name we have not heard yet that is offered up to me is Cardinal Bergoglio, which you may or may not know. John Allen has reported to us many times that what we believe from the last conclave is that Bergoglio was number two to then Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI Emiritus, Pope Emeritus. Bergoglio as the perfect compromised candidate, 76 years old, but that he could be a unifier.


MORGAN: Take a bow, Mr. Cuomo. That was quite some prediction this morning. I didn't hear that on any other network so congratulations. But tell me, he's a fascinating man. He did come quite close before, as you said, which people hadn't really picked up on. But he is the first Latin American Pope.

How significant is that? Because they could have gone for an Italian, they could have gone for the first African Pope, but they went with Latin America. Why do you think they did that and why him?

CUOMO: Well, you know, it's interesting. A lot of decisions always make sense in hindsight, right, Piers? And this is one of those decisions. Before Bergoglio was written off by many because he had finished second, he was older. There were some concerns about his health. And also there were some concerns about his reluctance to take on this kind of task, very simple life, taking the bus to work and all the different anecdotes we have heard. And yet he's also the perfect choice. Latin America is where this church is growing strongest. He presides over a very large collection of Catholics there. It shows that the Catholic Church is looking toward the future. It shows that it's able to do something new.

What's so interesting about all the firsts, even if they just seem like small details, that he's the first Jesuit. That this was the first Pope in over 100 years to be elected on the fifth ballot. They seem like meaningless details, but they're not to a church that often seems so locked in place. And then he takes the name Francis, which means so much spiritually, but also that he's the first of that.

And it gives you a sense of symbolism, at least, that with this Pope, they can move forward in a direction that they haven't. And let's be honest, this church needs to show progress.

MORGAN: We're looking at amazing scenes in Buenos Aires. They're going completely crazy there and understandably. Their first-ever Latin American Pope, and he's from Buenos Aires. He's very popular there. And he's renowned for being a man who really cares about the poor and doesn't just talk a good game when it comes to the poor. He gets on his bus or he gets on his subway, he renounces the chauffeur- driven cars and palaces of other cardinals. He lives in a very humble abode. And so now he's become this incredibly powerful figure.

What do we expect from him, Chris, over the next week? What happens tomorrow? When does he give his first mass and so on?

CUOMO: He's -- they have a schedule for him that's set out the next few days that has with him having mass tomorrow in a discreet way, and he'll start to build towards more public appearances. He's planning a media day on Saturday. So they'll build towards the feast of St. Joseph's next Tuesday when they have the big installment mass for him.

You know, something that's important to remember is that we hear -- we hear from Vatican insiders that the Italians in, quotes, "are scared of him." Why? Because this is a man who believes in the ultimate humility of service. And that that's what holiness is all about. And to come to a place like the Vatican, that is often seen as being somewhat stuck with the trappings of power and how to get through bureaucracy, this man could very well be a real change agent in that regard about where the money is supposed to go. What the mission of this church is.

When Father Rosica, one of the Vatican spokespeople, was talking about how all of the church's problems have to do with holiness, Piers, at first, that may sound like a little bit of a copout, what do you mean holiness? No. It's about sex abuse, it's about fiduciary responsibility, but to those who believe at the end of the day, if you are a holy person, you don't make those mistakes, you don't have accountability problems.

So the hope is that Pope Francis comes into the Vatican, says we need to do business simply. We have to take care of the poor. We have to have responsibility morally. That's what we're about. And that would be extraordinary change for the Catholic Church. MORGAN: It certainly would. Chris, you've done am amazing job all day. You look as bright-eyed and bushy tailed as 12 hours ago. Go and get some sleep and thank you very much.

CUOMO: Pleasure.

MORGAN: I'm now going to bring Lino Rulli, host of the Catholic Channel on SiriusXM.

But before we come to you, Lino, we want to play a clip from the new pontiff, Pope Francis, when he first came out on the balcony earlier today.


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


MORGAN: He does come over as a very humble man. That is certainly his reputation, Lino, but he went for an extraordinary name, Francis. We now know via Cardinal Dolan. We cannot confirm this. And he named himself effectively after Francis of Assisi, the great saint. And one of the great figures in Catholic history. No Pope has ever done that before. How significant is that choice of name?

LINO RULLI, THE CATHOLIC CHANNEL ON SIRIUSXM: Totally significant. I brought the cover of "L'Osservatore Romano," which is the Vatican newspaper, if you can see it. It's shocking, quite frankly. And I know for many people in the square, when we heard the name, we said, really, Francis. OK. Well, for one thing, Pope Francis is a Jesuit. That means he is part of a religious order that is actually founded by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, a different religious order and a different Franciscan.

The thing that struck me most in hearing the name Francis is he didn't take a name of the past like Paul, John, even John Paul, for that matter. But that he went completely off the radar for the majority of us, that is, and said you know what, I'm going, I'm going my own way. And I think this is going to be a Pope who is going to be doing do things a lot differently, including the very name Francis, someone who loved the poor, someone who loved animals, is a rather beloved figure, Saint Francis.

MORGAN: I want to play a quick clip from Cardinal Dolan who I know you know well, and get your reaction to what he had to say. Listen to this.


CARDINAL TIMOTHY DOLAN, ARCHBISHOP OF NEW YORK: 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 Doma Santa Marta, where we've been staying. And he told us, he said, when we toasted him, the cardinal secretary of state toasted him. And then he toasted us and he simply said, "May god forgive you."



MORGAN: Great insight there into what seems to be a good sense of humor for the new Pope. You spoke to Cardinal Dolan. What is the general reaction, do you think, from the cardinals who have elected this man?

RULLI: Well, first of all, I think if there is a great sense of relief that they're not the Pope. So in a sense with Cardinal Dolan, who a lot of people brought the name out saying what do you think, are you going to be the Pope, are you going to be the Pope? A lot of these guys, 114 of them get to sleep a lot better tonight, knowing, ah, I'm not the Pope. That is a huge relief. Because there's a great burden here on this man. And really, a humble man.

You know, I was thinking about it. John Paul II, when he came out, he used to do this a lot. He used to do this with his hands and Benedict XVI when he came out, he did this a lot. And instead we saw Pope Francis come out and he went -- hello.



RULLI: It was -- as if he was shy. It was almost a staring contest at one point. The hundreds of thousands in the crowd staring at him. Him staring back and saying, here we go. I'm the bishop of Rome.


RULLI: You're the people, let's pray together.

MORGAN: Yes, Lino. It was a very special moment. I men, as a Catholic myself, I found it actually very moving. I liked his simplicity. I liked his humility.

Lino, I know it's late for you as well. You've done a great job for us today, as you have been doing all week. Go get some sleep and thank you very much.

RULLI: Thank you, Piers.

MORGAN: Of course the election of the Pope is having a huge impact on more than 75 million Catholics here in America.

Joining me now exclusively is former presidential candidate and outspoken Catholic Rick Santorum.

How are you, sir? Good to talk to you again.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you, Piers. I am -- I'm ecstatic. I was teary-eyed when I -- when I saw Pope Francis come out on that balcony. It's an incredibly moving moment. And to see the humility of this man, obviously a man who is very much of the people, exactly as some of your commentators are saying, exactly what the church needs right now is someone who focuses on holiness, focuses on the mission of the church, which is to serve God and serve his people here on earth. And it seems like what Pope Francis has in mind.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, he's somebody being described as potentially a reforming Pope. But you're talking about an incredibly conservative institution, even by your standards, Mr. Santorum. And what do you imagine his idea of reformation may be?

SANTORUM: Well, you know, I think what we're talking about here is a man who is very much, as every one of the 115 cardinals, is an orthodox man. I mean, this is a man who is completely in line with the teaching of the church, but what we're talking about here is the apparition of the church.

I mean, the biggest problem of the Catholic Church is that it's run by human beings, and so it's fallible in the sense that people in those organizations make mistakes and they do things the wrong way. They tend to focus on -- as you heard talked about, centers of power instead of holiness and doing what is right for -- you know, in following the Holy Spirit.

So for me, this is a -- this is a great blessing to see someone who is so focused on the -- on the core mission of the church, come in there and hopefully get people to focus on that very same thing.

MORGAN: He is known to be anti-abortion, anti-gay marriage, no surprise there. I would imagine all the 115 cardinals would share in those --


SANTORUM: Yes -- they had no other options but that.


SANTORUM: That's where the church is and that's where the church is going to stay.

MORGAN: I understand. Well, that's certainly what the teaching is at the moment. And no one is expecting him to change that. What's interesting about him is that he's very well-known for a trip he made to a hospice in I think 2001, where he kissed the feet of 12 AIDS patients.


MORGAN: He's done the same with many homeless people in Argentina. He's known to be a man who takes on a lot of the more conservative Catholics in his own country. He's berated priests who've refused to baptize, for example, the children of single parents. And so in many ways, quite a progressive conservative. Is that the kind of person, do you think, that the Catholic Church needs? SANTORUM: He is, in my -- I would not call him a progressive conservative. I would call him a Christ-like leader. I mean, Jesus dined with sinners. I mean, we're all sinners. And what his job is, is to -- is to lead people to repentance and to -- and to the truth. And his compassion toward those who are, you know -- who are suffering is something, frankly, we need to show more of.

And I think one of the most important things that we can look for from Pope Francis is a commitment to those who are on the margins of society. Not by lobbying government to do more. But by the church doing more. And by people in the church, whether it's the clergy or the laity that is really a call to holiness, it's a call to service to those who are in far too many places feeling left behind by society.

MORGAN: Let's take a quick break, Santorum, then we'll come back and talk to you about the Catholic Church itself, which many say is in crisis.

And later Dr. Sanjay Gupta will join me to talk about the Pope's health. He's 76 years old and reportedly only has one functional lung.


MORGAN: Back to Senator Rick Santorum. We were talking earlier about how the Catholic Church has faced a series of crises, not least the amount of abuse that's covered up over the years and so on. Do you expect Pope Francis to tackle this head-on? He's known as a pretty tough guy back in Argentina, confronting many issues in his own country. Do you think he's going to go after this?

SANTORUM: I have no doubt that this is a man who, as you heard talk about, is very much committed to doing the right thing, to standing up for the truth and for making sure that people are held to account, and to holiness, I think, a couple of your commentators said.

So, this has clearly been a problem within the church. They were very slow to respond, and did some very wrong things. And I am hopeful that this is a man who will set the procedures right so things like that cannot happen again.

MORGAN: He's been reported tonight -- amongst other publications, "The guardian" back in Britain, a reputable newspaper, as having a position on contraception that's quite interesting in that he believes it is permissible to view condoms, for example, as a barrier to infection. And therefore you could use them in that sense. You and I have had this discussion, I think, before. But how do you feel about that as a potential progression, where a pope comes out and says if you're using it to prevent disease, to prevent infection, then you have my blessing. If it's the contraception, I'm not ready to give that blessing yet.

SANTORUM: Yes, I would -- well, obviously, you know, I think saying if it's for contraceptive purposes is consistent with the teachings of the church, I would have to listen to what he had to say and the rationale for doing it. And I suspect that if the church comes forward and he comes forward with a position, it will be closely examined. And I will be one of the ones who will do so and look forward accordingly.

MORGAN: Could you see yourself supporting that if he said that?

SANTORUM: Well, I'm not going to -- I'm not going to make this judgment until I hear the rationale for, you know, the theological rationale and underpinning as to why that is a morally right thing to do. He can make that case to the Catholic world, and I will certainly be one who will pay very close attention to what he has to say.

MORGAN: That's a very political answer, Senator. But it's not -


MORGAN: -- it's not the hardest rationale to work out, is it? I mean, the rationale is very simple.

SANTORUM: I don't know his rationale.

MORGAN: Well, the rationale is very straight forward. Previous popes have always said that condoms are contraceptive devices, and therefore they can't endorse their use. As you know, this has led to tens of thousands, if not more Catholics all over the world dying of diseases like AIDS. And the reality check is that actually, if a pope came out -- and it may be that Pope Francis is that man -- and says, you can use condoms as a form of infection prevention, then it will save lives. And that surely in the end is a Christian answer, isn't it?

SANTORUM: Well, the most important thing is to save souls. That's the job of the church. The church's job is to lead people to heaven. And so that's - that's the meter that he's going to be judged on. And that all these issues have to be judged on. That we have to look as to what is in the best interests of telling the people the truth as to how they should act in concert with God's will. And that's what I'll look at when he makes the moral case for that to be a change in policy.

MORGAN: Rick Santorum, as always, great to have you on the show.

SANTORUM: Thank you very much. Appreciate it, Piers.

MORGAN: It's been in the story today, we've been (INAUDIBLE) Monsignor Paul McPartlan from the Catholic University. And Christopher Bellitto. He's professor of the Kean University history department. Welcome to you both.

Let me start with you, Monsignor McPartlan. There are lots of Catholics around the world. I saw a survey recently I've cited a few times in the last week in Germany, where over 70 percent of German- Catholics -- a lot of Catholics in Germany -- believe it's time to have female priests, believe it's time that divorced Catholics can remarry in church. And believe in other progressive moves that maybe Pope Francis could consider.

What is your view about changing times, changing moods amongst -- certainly young Catholics?

MONSIGNOR PAUL MCPARTLAN, CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY: I don't think that we can expect from Pope Francis any move along the lines you were just suggesting. As has already been said in your program, Pope Francis, I think, is very firm on the set Catholic teaching, on the very issues that you were mentioning.

But I think he has a wonderful progressive sense in a sort of social area. He's -- as you have said, very, very close to the poor, very vocal in defending the poor. The vast majority of the Catholic Church now lives in the South America, in Africa, in the -- and in the part of the world other than Europe and North America. And so, having that sense of progressive social agenda, looking after the poor, looking after those who are suffering from AIDS, as you mentioned, his care for those suffering from AIDS.

And just bringing a simplicity. I think a lot of young people, what they want, when they look at the church, perhaps they see too much pomp, they see too much ceremony. They want genuineness. And I think Pope Francis is certainly somebody who, if you like, goes to the evangelical heart of the gospel, which is prayer, which is simplicity, which is humility, which is charity. The very characteristics that really flow from his name of Francisco -- I mean, calling himself Francis very much indicates an agenda, which I'm sure we will see him follow. And I think people are very excited at the prospect.

MORGAN: I've got a statement here from the White House from President Obama that says, "On behalf of the American people, Michelle and I offer our warm wishes to His Holiness, Pope Francis, as he ascends to the chair of St. Peter and begins his papacy. As a champion of the poor and the most vulnerable among us, he carries forth the message of love and compassion that has inspired the world for more than 2,000 years that in each other we see the face of God.

As the first pope from the Americas, his selection also speaks to the strength and vitality of a region that is increasingly shaping our world. And alongside millions of Hispanic Americans, those of us in the United States share the joy of this historic day."

Let me come to you, Professor Bledsoe. It's a big day. I mean, for the first Latin-American pope in over 2,000 years, you can see the reaction in Buenos Aires. This is a hugely Catholic part of the world that now has their own man as a pope. Tell me about the historical significance of what's happened today.

CHRISTOPHER BELLITTO, CHAIR, KEAN UNIVERISTY: Sure. We have the first Latin-American pope, although I don't think they sat in a room and said who is the best Latin-American? I think they said who is the best person? Althoug, I think it was an ABC vote. Anybody but a curialist. I think there was a big feeling about that.

The second is, of course, this is the first time a Jesuit has ever been elected pope. The notion was, there wasn't anything like a taboo, but the notion was, Jesuits, because they take that special fourth vow to do whatever it is the pope asks them to do, that those two things just didn't work together. And then the very interesting thing that you have a Jesuit-trained pope who takes the name of a Franciscan. And so we have to remember that Francis is a reformer in the early 13th century. And Ignatius is a reformer in the 16th century. We tend to think of these people as establishment figures. When Francis shows up, he's on the edge. He's an itinerant preacher. People are wondering whether or not he's, quite frankly, kosher. And Ignatius was investigated because of the mysticism by the Inquisition twice and used to carry around a piece of paper, gleefully, that cleared him.

MORGAN: Stay with us. Monsignor, we're going to say goodbye to you. Thank you very much indeed for your contribution.

Coming up, I'll talk to two former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy See and find out what they have to say about this historic election of Pope Francis.


MORGAN: A day of great history for the Catholic Church and its new Pope. Joining me now is Miguel Diaz and Jim Nicholson, both former U.S. ambassadors to the Holy Sea. And let's bring back Christopher Belitto. He's the chair of the Kean University History Department.

Welcome to you, ambassadors. We'll start with you, Miguel Diaz. As the only Latin American I've spoken to on the show so far, what a day for Latin America.

MIGUEL DIAZ, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEA: What a day for the Catholic Church, for the Americas, and specifically Latin Americans and for Latinos in the United States. And I -- that comes from the first U.S. Hispanic to represent the United States of America at the Holy Sea.

MORGAN: The Holy Sea is a fascinating place. The Vatican is this mysterious, extremely well-resourced, very, very powerfully run organization that has presided over many crises, but has been around a very long time. How does somebody like Pope Francis go in there and achieve any real reformation. It's very, very difficult.

DIAZ: You know, the name that he has taken is very significant. For those of us who are great lovers of -- and have a passion for social justice, and have a passion for the preferential love of the poor and the marginalized, Francis of Assisi is the saint who opted for the little ones in God's kingdom. And also, let us remember that Francis of Assisi was also the bridge-builder across religious traditions.

You know, Francis meets the sultan at a time when we need, more than ever, the kind of engagement with other faiths and with people of goodwill from all over the world. This man represents a change and could potentially be a great gift for leadership, servant leadership, for all of us within the church and society.

MORGAN: Jim Nicholson, he has a pretty blameless record in terms of any of the sex abuse scandals that have rocked the Catholic church. I guess the one thing on his resume which would raise eyebrows, and is raising eyebrows, is what his involvement may or may not have been in Argentina's Dirty War of mainly the '70s. He was the number-one Jesuit through some of that period. And the allegations against him, which have never been completely proven, but they're out there, are that somehow he was complicit with the military dictatorship's appalling atrocity of that period, by not doing enough to expose it, and, indeed, on some occasion even being partly responsible for the death of some priests and so on.

Is there any substance to this that should be taken seriously? Is this a smear campaign? What is your belief?

JIM NICHOLSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE HOLY SEA: There is none that I know. You know, he had a lot of enemies, because he was such a principled prelate. And he stood up so strongly and vociferously for the downtrodden and the poor and against the repressive regimes of the government, including currently, that, you know, people use different tactics to try to discredit someone like that. And especially a churchman.

The best evidence that I know of that this was all a lie and a series of salacious attacks was that Amnesty International, who investigated that, said that was -- that was all untrue, that it was not true, and it was -- these were unfair accusations of this fine priest.

MORGAN: It's interesting. Let me come to you, professor, again. He's going to have to deal with this, I should think, now he's Pope. He may have to come out and talk more about it. What's interesting about Pope Francis is that during his long tenure in Buenos Aires, he has clashed regularly with his own president of Argentina, Christina Fernandez, who is a Catholic herself, but she is very progressive.

She has introduced gay marriage into Argentina, one of the first countries to adopt it. She is in favor of artificial insemination, the promotion of free contraception and so on. He has contested all these things, every step of the way. But it may give him, perhaps, some experience of the battles he's now going to face, particularly with younger Catholics who just want the church, as they see it, to be modernized and modernized quickly.

How is that battle going to unfold? Is he going to move, do you think, on any of these key things?

BELITTO: I think the most important thing is his personal credibility. And the notion that this is going to be a person of integrity, not that John Paul II was not or that Benedict XVI was not. But there was a sense of kind of remoteness to Benedict XVI. And of course, the Parkinson's robbed John Paul II of his vitality.

So we are talking about a better than 15 year period where people feel distanced from their clergy. I think his attacks on what he has called neo-clericalism -- you know, he said something very important. "Spiritual worldliness is the church's worst sin. We need to come out of ourselves and head for the periphery. We need to avoid the spiritual sickness of a church that is wrapped up in its own world."

And if I as a married Catholic feel that the person at the top is more sympathetic to what I'm going through as a father, as a mother, as a husband, as a wife, then I think people will be open to other parts of the message. But you have to remember that the Catholic theology and the Catholic church, it doesn't fit on the political spectrum.

MORGAN: Professor and ambassadors, thank you all very much indeed. Coming up next, the Pope's health. He's 76 and reportedly only has one functional lung.

I'll talk about all that with Dr. Sanjay Gupta after the break.

And also Newt Gingrich coming up.


MORGAN: We're learning a lot more about Pope Francis tonight, including extraordinary reports that he lost a lung to an infection when he was a teenager. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me with more.

Sanjay, fascinating background to Pope Francis. The suggestion is he had one of his lungs removed when he was about 20 years old, we think, after an infection. He's now 76. So presumably hasn't held him back so far. But could it be a problem later in his life?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN ANCHOR: I doubt it, Piers, exactly for the reason that you're mentioning. I mean, now you have over 50 years of time, which it sounds like he really hasn't had any trouble with this. So I think that's the most important test.

You know, there's a couple things I think people would want to know, if this were true that he had one of his lungs removed. First of all, did it mean his entire lung? You actually have three lobes on the right side, two lobes on the left side. So, you know, it would make a little bit of a difference in terms of his function.

But also why? Why did he have his lung removed? Was it because of an infection? Or was it because of cancer or something else? If it was an infection, keep in mind, Piers, at that time, that was actually a more common thing. If someone developed a severe infection, because antibiotics weren't widely available, taking out the part of the lung that had the infection was much more common.

But, again, I think, Piers, you hit on the most salient point. And that is that you now have 50 -- close to 60 years where he seems to be -- have been doing OK.

MORGAN: He seems to be in reasonably good health. Obviously, we're all a bit concerned after Pope Benedict retired on the grounds of not feeling great, 10 years older. But he's not a young man, is he? I mean, 76 is not, by any yardstick, young. Are you surprised that they went for somebody of that age, or not really?

GUPTA: Well, age isn't measured in years as much anymore, Piers, as you know. I mean, certainly as doctors, you want to know someone's age. But more importantly, you want to know about their health. And it sounds like -- look it, I don't know much about his health, although he looks lean and fit. This lung -- there's obviously been the rumors about that.

But it sounds like he's done well. But in general, someone who in their 70s, maybe a little bit more concerned because of the lung issue. You do worry about getting certain vaccines to try and prevent pneumonia, to prevent the flu, because they can be more problematic and significantly more problematic as someone becomes elderly.

But I think otherwise, Piers, not really. You have plenty of people who are that age who are very both physically and cognitively very high-functioning.

MORGAN: Yeah, I completely agree. He looks perfectly OK to us, doesn't he, Sanjay? Thank you very much for joining me.

My next guest grew up a Lutheran. But he was so moved by Pope Benedict's visit to Washington in 2008, he became a Catholic. So he has strong feelings about the new Pope Francis, I'm sure, and what he may mean to America. Joining me now, Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Speaker, how are you?

NEWT GINGRICH, FORMER SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I'm doing well. And this has been quite a day.

MORGAN: Yeah, you have immersed yourself, as you do in all things historical, into Catholic history since you became a Catholic. What is your immediate gut reaction to this appointment of Pope Francis?

GINGRICH: Well, I think the fact that he became Pope Francis is extraordinarily important. This is a man who has given up his palace. He has given up his car. He cooks his own dinners in Buenos Aires. He rides the bus. He has explicitly identified with the poor.

And I think he's going to be a wonderful challenge for all of us. He's going to challenge us to think about what is our obligation to the poor. What is our obligation to those who are dispossessed.

And I just think from the very moment that he chose to be Pope Francis, he sent a signal of really being prepared to take on everybody, not in an aggressive, hostile way, but in a manner of insisting on extending Christ's love to every person on the planet. So I think it's going to be a very, very interesting and very spiritually challenging Papacy.

And I'm looking forward very much to seeing how he lives this out. And of course, being a Latin American, he really extends the identity of the church beyond Europe for the first time in almost 2,000 years. And you now have an experience of people being able to identify all over the world with somebody who represents the truly universal church.

MORGAN: A Vatican spokesman said he'll be a reformer and described the church as going back to basics. You know, I have said earlier that he has been having this ongoing battle with his own Argentinean president, who is also a Catholic, but she has been very forceful in pushing forward gay marriage, artificial insemination, free contraception, and so on, clashing with him repeatedly.

Has that given him a taste, do you think of, what battles may be to come?

GINGRICH: Look, I'm going to go out on a limb for a second. I know this will shock you. I am amazed at how much western elites translate reform into sex. If it doesn't relate -- if it doesn't relate to sex, it doesn't count. I think he's going to challenge all of us in terms of dealing with the poor. I think he's going to challenge all of us in terms of spirituality.

I think he's going to wrestle more than any Pope has in modern times with a part of your question, which is if Christ loves everybody, and that certainly includes people of different sexual identities, then what is the church's relationship to everybody? And I don't know that he's going to come up, Piers, with what you would think of as enlightenment. But I think he may come up with some answers that are profoundly spiritual and lead all of us to new dialogue and new conversation, in ways that, frankly, without him as Pope, we might never have imagined.

MORGAN: I mean, that may be great for the poor. I guess what I would say by response -- what I might say is that if you are -- if you are gay, and you want to be Catholic, at the moment, you are basically demonized.

GINGRICH: Piers, time out. Just go back and watch yourself say that for a minute. "It may be OK for the poor," there are several billion human beings who will be thrilled to have a Pope who believes that Christ loves them, wants to wash their feet, wants to feed them, wants to embrace them.

I mean, if we would just -- you know, in the middle of all of the elites' angst about their personal lives, if we could just look at it for a second and say, won't it be amazing to have a Pope who genuinely focusing, in the tradition of Saint Francis, on helping the poorest among us?

MORGAN: Listen, with great respect, Mr. Speaker -- we're going to take a quick break. But with great respect, you do get poor people who are gay as well. And you also have a lot of very poor people in Africa who have died from AIDS, simply because their Catholic leader has refused to allow them to use condoms. So it's not about elitism. It's about the reality check that successive Popes have not moved with the times in a way that many Catholics, and I would be one of those, wish that they had.

We'll come back after the break. I'll let you fume for a little bit. And we're going to bring in Van Jones, who will disagree with you, as well.


MORGAN: Back with speaking English. And also being joined by Van Jones. We're going to segue very quickly into politics. Before I do that, a couple more firsts today. One is this was the first Pope elected since Twitter started. There was actually somebody with a huge banner in the crowd there at St. Peter's Square. It said "we will follow you at #PontiffX." So if you want to follow the Pope, he's at #PontiffX. I loved that.

And the other great fact I unearthed today is that Argentina is having an incredible month. They have the Pope. They have a woman in Holland who is about to become the queen of Holland, Princess Maxima Zorreguieta. And they also have currently the single best footballer in the planet, real football, with no padding and helmets, and possibly the greatest soccer player in history, Lionel Messi.

So I salute all Argentineans watching around the world, because you are having one hell of a month. Anyway, back to politics.

Not a good day, Van Jones, for President Obama. His approval rating is sliding pretty rapidly, and looking like people are beginning to think that the whole impasse with the Republicans over budget, debt and so on may not just be the Republicans' fault.

VAN JONES, AUTHOR, CO-FOUNDER, REBUILD THE DREAM: Yeah, it's true. You know, these numbers coming down now in some ways vindicate his earlier strategy of trying to stay above the fray kind of almost I'm above this dysfunction in Washington. And the public really kind of agreed. They blamed Congress. They didn't blame him.

He's taking some risks now. He's actually reaching out. He's engaging. And sometimes when you do that, people say, oh, you're the leader? We're going to start blaming you.

But it's not just the independents who seem to be moving in that direction. Also his own base I think is starting to get very worried. It's not just he's talking to Republicans, but what he's saying is, I'm willing to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security. So I think he's in a very dangerous situation right now. He is beginning to be a more hands on leader. There's a down side to that sometimes in the polls.

MORGAN: Right. Newt Gingrich, one of the polls that would worry me is, in December, he had an 18 percent lead over Congressional Republicans on the question of who the public trusted more to deal with the economy. Now it's 44 percent lead to 40 percent, just a four percent gap. It's a pretty significant drop in a couple months.

GINGRICH: You know, I think my advice, if they ask me, which they haven't, would be --

MORGAN: Highly unlikely, I would think.

GINGRICH: -- would be ignore the polls. He's re-elected, he's going to be president. I watched Ronald Reagan go through a period in 1981, 1982, where he slid down to about a 38 percent approval level. There was a terrible recession. We were breaking the back of inflation with very high interest rates. People were very unhappy.

And Reagan understood you had -- to be a leader, you have to figure out where you're going to go. And you have to go there. And then if you're right, eventually people come around and say, boy, that was real leadership. If you're wrong, by the way, you turn out not to be very much of an historic figure.

So my first advice, both to the president and the Republicans, would be hide the polls until next January. Let's spend a few months worrying about America and not jockeying every weekend over the next poll, because they don't matter. They are utterly, totally irrelevant. And they're a distraction to good government.

MORGAN: A couple of quick other points for you, Speaker Gingrich, if I may. Roger Ailes, the boss of Fox News, recently called you a "sore loser" and a -- forgive me for using this word -- a prick. Have you made up with him?

GINGRICH: I can't believe you used that word on evening television.

MORGAN: It just crept out. I don't think you're easily offended. Were you offended by that?

GINGRICH: I wasn't worried about me. I was worried about children who might be watching your show.

MORGAN: We're past the border. You can relax. But are you best buddies again with Roger Ailes?

GINGRICH: Look, I have no idea what he said to a reporter who reported all that. I don't worry much about it. Just as I said earlier, presidents shouldn't worry about polls, I don't worry about Roger Ailes. I've had a great relationship with Fox. We've done a lot of things. I've had a great relationship with CNN. We've had a lot of fun on your show.


GINGRICH: And I suspect Roger will go on in life being a big boy and I'll go on in life being a big boy, and we'll both have a pretty interesting time.

MORGAN: Very well said.

Finally, you did hint that you may be a contestant on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice," which, of course, I won. I'm happy to offer you some tips, if you like. But are you seriously going to do this?

GINGRICH: No. Donald wrote me a lovely -- a very nice note saying I would win so decisively, there would be no suspense. So he didn't see how it would work there. But I want to get in one quick plug --

MORGAN: Of course.

GINGRICH: -- before we run out of time. That is, I'm urging every Republican and every conservative to read Gavin Newsom's new book, "Citizenville." Gavin, as you know, is the former mayor of San Francisco, current lieutenant governor of California. "Citizenville" explains a decentralized, Tocqueville kind of citizen society better than anything I've read. And I think it would be a lot -- I wish every person who wants to solve the budget would start by reading that book.

MORGAN: The encouraging things is that Van Jones, who I expected to vigorously disagree with you, was nodding vociferously as you recommended that book.

JONES: Absolutely. It's very, very encouraging. Gavin Newsom is the former mayor of San Francisco. He really started the charge to say, as a mayor, I want to make sure everybody has a right to marry equally. So historic figure for that struggle.

But he's now emerging as somebody that both parties can embrace, because he's got very smart ideas about a 21st century government that relies on the smarts of the people as much as it relies on the mechanism of the state.

He's a leader on the rise in California.

MORGAN: Excellent. Well, he's brought you two together, which is not something I was expecting. So that's a nice way to end, gentlemen. Thank you both very much.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

JONES: Glad to be here.

MORGAN: And we'll be right back.