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New Pope Chosen; New Pope Takes Name of Francis;

Aired March 13, 2013 - 16:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're following the breaking news.

The world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics have a new pope. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

Just a few minutes ago, Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, stepped through the red curtains on a Vatican balcony to deliver his first blessing.


POPE FRANCIS I, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): Let us pray for the whole world, because let us have a big brotherhood. I wish that this journey for the church that we are going to start today, and my vicar cardinal is going to help me -- let's hope that this journey bears fruit for the evangelizing from this beautiful city.



BLITZER: Word first came of a new pope in the form of the white smoke rising from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, that signal that the 115 cardinals had elected one of their own. That set the bells ringing out across St. Peter's Square, where thousands and thousands of people still rushing to celebrate even as we speak right now.

Let's go to the scene.

Our own Chris Cuomo has been watching all of this history unfold in very dramatic terms.

This is one of those historic moments that all of us, Chris, will always remember.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's a great memory to cover. There is no question, Wolf.

But the context here is so meaningful. Starting with Pope Benedict's resignation, there was something very unusual in the Catholic Church's history, chances for change, for firsts, for novelty. You had that resignation. Then you had the unusual energy at the general congregation where foreign cardinals were saying they wanted more accountability and they didn't want to just rush into things.

Now we have Pope Francis. He is a first on so many levels. Wolf, he is the first pope from South America. He is the first pope since the original, Peter, from outside Europe. He is the first pope to call himself Francis, which is very significant, because Francis of Assisi was about humility, was about eschewing all the trappings of wealth, was about helping the neediest.

That is the message the church needs now more than ever so the name is very significant. As a side note, being elected on five ballots hasn't happened in a hundred years. This Cardinal Bergoglio, Wolf, he needs a little bit of context, because this is the man we believe finished second to Benedict in the last conclave.

And just today, a retired cardinal had told us, hey, you know, you're not mentioning Bergoglio. Why not? Because if some big name can't deliver 77 votes, he is the perfect compromise. As you know, Wolf, no one had heard about him. So now here he is with all these firsts and all of these suggestions and symbols of what could be change in the Catholic Church. But the big question is, what will Pope Francis bring?

Throughout the day and all around the world, Wolf, the same types of reactions, that they hope he will be sympathetic to the cause of change that is necessary in the church, whether that is about the sex abuse scandal, whether it's about Vatican bureaucracy and administration of the cause. You heard all these young women in St. Peter's Square hoping that this pope is sympathetic to their cause and what it could mean for them, all the children on their parents' shoulders. They are the church.

The people are the church. What will they inherit from Pope Francis? One of the early indications, Wolf, is that the first thing that Pope Francis asked before he prayed for anyone was to be silent in their presence as they prayed for him. Is this an indication that he is going to do for the people what he believes is right?

Will Pope Francis be that? I'm here with John Allen, our senior Vatican analyst, Father Edward Beck, Passionist priest.

In looking at this man, Pope Francis, John, how much do we have to judge him by how he's been? Because, frankly, there is a concern that he is a traditionalist, in quotes, which means he is not going to advance social agenda, he's not going to do the types of things that many more reform-minded Catholics want to see. How much do you judge him by his past? How much can he change in the future?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, I think the book on Cardinal Bergoglio, now Pope Francis, would be looking at his record in Argentina is that he would profile as a solid conservative on matters of doctrine. So that is issues such as abortion and gay marriage and those sorts of things, he would be seen as a traditionalist, I guess, in that sense.

That is someone who would be a robustly orthodox opposed to gay marriage, opposed contraception, and so on. (CROSSTALK)

ALLEN: However, the other part of that picture is, he also profiles as someone four-square committed to the church's teaching on social justice, that is, defense of the poor, defense of the downtrodden.

In other words, it's a kind of hard line on doctrine, but a very soft line with human beings. The classic example is that though he is robustly opposed to gay marriage, he also very famously made a visit to an AIDS hospice in Buenos Aires and actually washed the feet of AIDS patients, which is a symbolic act in Catholicism of service, not placing yourself above someone, but placing yourself with.

So I think that is the combination. You're not going to see reform in quotes -- if by reform we mean overturning church teaching. I do think what you will see is an extraordinarily humble, pastoral man who brings that compassion and projects compassion, particularly for the neediest and the suffering of the world.

CUOMO: Interestingly, just for all of you watching us now, Cardinal Bergoglio is known for not wanting to live in the more majestic place reserved for him as the archbishop of Buenos Aires. He's lived in a humble apartment. He cooks his own food. He wouldn't allow himself to be driven around, unusual humility for someone of his station.

Father Beck, when you see this, that this is Pope Francis and he chose that name, what does it mean to you about who he wants to be?

REV. EDWARD BECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It speaks of that simplicity and humility.

Often, I hear a critique, why doesn't the Vatican just sell all of its art, give the money to the poor? There is a perception that the wealth is somehow destructive. And whether or not that's true, this man represents the opposite of that from his lifestyle and from who he is. I would just say something too about Francis and you brought this up and I have been tweeting about it since we're sitting here.

There is a Jesuit St. Francis, Francis Xavier. We don't know if perhaps he had him in mind. I mean, it is interesting speculation.

ALLEN: Well, I think it is entirely possible he had both. Remember when Benedict XVI chose Benedict, the question was, oh, is that St. Benedict, the founder of the Benedictine Order and European...


BECK: Right.

ALLEN: Or is it one of the Pope Benedicts?

BECK: And he said both. ALLEN: He said both. Right.

So it is entirely possible that Pope Francis had both Francis of Assisi and Francis Xavier.

BECK: He could be true to rebuild the church and his Jesuit heritage at the same time.

ALLEN: And his first act of unification is to bring the Franciscans and the Jesuits to the table together.

BECK: There you go. That is a big act.


And we know in an obvious way he connects the old and the new world by coming from South America. Just a huge time for South America. They have the World's Cup, they have the Olympics, now they have the pope. Now in the more specific, because we have been so caught up in the process, Pope Francis's head is probably spinning. What does he do the rest of the night, John?

ALLEN: Well, I suspect if you put that answer to the Vatican they would say he has dinner.

Traditionally, what the new -- and we don't know yet if this has happened, but in conclaves past, the new pope has asked the cardinals who elected him to remain with him in Casa Santa Marta -- that's the hotel on Vatican grounds where they stay during the conclave -- to have a dinner together and that will also give them time to socialize.

Then the next morning, we are presuming again this has not yet been confirmed, but if things hold to form, he will probably celebrate a mass with the cardinals who elected him in the Sistine Chapel and typically that is the first time you get a programmatic set of remarks from the new pope. Obviously, his comments tonight on the balcony tonight were simply to greet the crowd, but we will probably have the first substantive indication of where Pope Francis intends to go in that mass.

CUOMO: All right, so, Wolf, it's a night of firsts so far for the Catholic Church. The question is what kind of change may be coming. But there you have him, Pope Francis, Wolf.

BLITZER: Lots of unanswered questions that we will try to answer over the course not only of today, but in the days and weeks to come.

Anderson Cooper is on the scene as well. He is in that crowd.

Anderson, tell our viewers where you are and what is going on.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, we're in St. Peter's Square and as exciting as this is for Italians and for Americans who we talked to, imagine what it is like for Argentineans.

And we have two Argentineans here, Roberto (ph) and Dino (ph).

When you heard who this pope was, what did you think?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Big surprise for me. I can't believe it. It is the first time the Argentinean pope. I don't know. It's the lucky country, my country.

COOPER: How about for you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, also for me, it was really a surprise that an Argentinean becomes now the new pope. Actually, I was trusting to have a Latin American pope. But I was not imagining that...


COOPER: There was so much focus on perhaps a Brazilian cardinal. There wasn't really a lot of talk about an Argentinean.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's right. That's right. So it was really a surprise to hear that, you know, we have an Argentinean pope.

COOPER: You actually got a text you said from your mother. What did she say?


I was just sitting here just kind of -- in my office. And then I received from my mom in Argentina from a small village in Argentina. And then she wrote to me, habemus papam. Then I...

COOPER: So, she announced habemus papam to you?


So, I ran to the square and then right here then, well, we just attend the ceremony.

COOPER: I'm wondering, as somebody from Argentina, to see a fellow countryman up...






COOPER: Oh, you're the only two? I doubt that.


COOPER: But to see a fellow countrymen up in the papal robes up on the balcony...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. That's right. It was a sensation that, you know, your country is now there and in the maximum authority of the church.

I think also that it is a clear signal also for Latin American people, because it is one of the biggest communities of Catholics in the world. And so I think that attendance is also a very nice sign for that, you know.

COOPER: What do you hope to see from this pope?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For me, what I think is the big professional is a big person and think he has a big career in Rome, to Argentina too, I think.

COOPER: And for you, what do you think it means for the future of the church?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think that it is a big challenge, you know, to change the church, because they need a lot of things to be changed.

And then for him, it will be a real challenge, but I think that he has a very good skill set. He is a very nice person. He's very charismatic, and very simple person. And so I trust he can go ahead with the church and have a long life to this church.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In South America, many people love Bergoglio. When they came out and said Bergoglio, many people in South America said it was a big surprise for Argentina, for Brazil, for Chile, for the poor people in my country.

COOPER: He is respected as sort of a very simple person, as a person who lives a very simple life.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. He has a simple life. Yes. For me, it is a big surprise, so emotional.

COOPER: I can see the excitement in your faces. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you. Thank you.

COOPER: Really a pleasure. Thank you. I wish you the best.

So, of course, two people from Argentina and, again, we have just seen such a range of reaction here, but so many smiles and people continuing to smile as the evening progresses, Chris.

BLITZER: Anderson, it's Wolf, but let me just pick up on the people you're talking to, because it's fascinating to get the reactions.

Obviously, folks from Argentina are going to be thrilled. What about some of the others who may be a little bit disappointed, some people from Italy, even though the new pope, Pope Francis' father was an Italian immigrant to Argentina, the new pope was born in Buenos Aires. Is there a sense you're getting at least from some folks there, Italians if you will, that they're a little disappointed that an Italian was not selected?

COOPER: I really haven't heard any disappointment, to be honest. We have talked to several Italians, several Americans as well.

There is really just a sense of excitement, I think, particularly for people knowing that they were here and that they saw the first pictures of the pope. They were actually here to witness it. I really haven't heard any disappointment. I think, you know, everybody maybe has favorites of who they thought it might be, but there wasn't really -- you know, there was a lot of talk about a Brazilian.

There was a lot of support for different cardinals, not a lot of focus on who is now Pope Francis, but I -- Wolf, I haven't heard a lot of disappointment. I think it is really just a sense of excitement overall.

BLITZER: Was it a surprise to the folks there where you are, Anderson, that it took the fifth ballot in order to select the new pope?

COOPER: Absolutely.

I think, you know, there were -- there was a big crowd here last night, probably about 40,000 or so people. We didn't get an estimate of how many people were here watching the chimney and were actually here to witness the white smoke. But I think there was a sense of surprise. A lot of people I talked to thought it might happen tomorrow morning. Maybe it would happen tomorrow evening.

But for it to actually happen on the fifth ballot, very rare. I don't think we have -- we have certainly not seen that for a very long time, if ever. So I think it usually takes at least seven or so ballots I think is the average, seven-and-a-half ballots is the average that we have seen in recent years.

BLITZER: And so Pope Francis obviously clearly a favorite among the cardinals, the 115 cardinals who made this decision.

Anderson, stand by.

Becky Anderson is on the scene as well.

Becky, where are you and what is going on where you are?

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We're about 150 yards down from Vatican City. And the crowds are now beginning to thin out.

But as the people streamed past us, we caught one of the ladies who works in the Argentinean Embassy. And I have just spoken to her. She knows Pope Francis I. She spoke to him fairly recently. She says his priority will be the poor. She is so excited, as you can imagine.

Her phone was going off as we were speaking.

I have got Raymond Arroyo here with me.

Fascinating to just hear that.

RAYMOND ARROYO, ETERNAL WORD TELEVISION NETWORK: Absolutely. It underscores what we were talking about earlier. As I was listening to that counselor, I thought, I wonder if it's St. Francis of Assisi or St. Francis Xavier who was the Jesuit saint and great evangelizer.

Bergoglio is known for that, for being an evangelizer and wants to take the church into other parts of the world and beyond where we see it today. He has been very outspoken on that point. We'll see what he does as pope.

ANDERSON: Patricia was the lady I was speaking to from the Argentinian embassy and so emotional.

ARROYO: It is wonderful to see not only the Argentinians but all the Latins. And they were so unrepresented as they went into this conclave and, yet, the church there was so vibrant. We saw it when Benedict went to Mexico, to Cuba last year. The vibrancy and enthusiasm for the faith, that's where it is, in Latin America.

ANDERSON: And the point is this. These cardinals were to all intents and purposes, they were elected by John Paul II and Benedict XVI. The new cardinals, of course, will be elected by Francis I, which will mean one assumes that there will be a bigger Latin American contingent going forward, perhaps more reflective of the size of the Catholic faith in that part of the world.

ARROYO: Without a doubt. He will focus on giving that church the representation it demands on a global scale. He'll bring Latin America into the universal church. And I think I can only imagine what Latins are experiencing not only in Latin America, in the United States, North America and everywhere tonight. It's a big night.

ANDERSON: Remind me why a pope has to change his mind.

ARROYO: He does it because his whole person changes. In the thinking of the church, the theology, the Holy Spirit comes upon this man who has been chosen to be the universal pastor and he changes not only in his person, his name, everything. He becomes a new man. He leaves the old man behind. And he spends the rest of his life here, serving the church as the servant of servants.

ANDERSON: You were just speculating on why perhaps he chose the name Francis. He is now Pope Francis I.

If Sean O'Malley had become pope today, the archbishop of Boston, we were thinking, at least the speculation was, that he would also call himself Francis.

ARROYO: Yes. I spoke to some intimates of the cardinal and at the time they were saying, boy, if he makes it to the throne, he will surely call himself Francis, being a Capuchin. And, unfortunately, the name has already been taken. So, we'll see what happens. But it bespeaks the same humility that I think people saw in Cardinal O'Malley. Certainly this man, Francis I, has that humility, the simplicity that I think they were looking for.

ANDERSON: Now, we spoke to lots and lots of people, Wolf, as they streamed past. Many of them said they thought this was good for the church, particularly because this man is from Latin America, originally, of course, with Italian roots. But one thing we were talking about and some people had a question mark over, was whether this man would be a reformer.

ARROYO: We just don't know at this point. Look, he strives the balance between the moderates and the traditionalists in the church. But he also is Italian by nature and the Italians may think here in the Curia, hey, we might be able to sort of take him under our wing, help him out.

He doesn't have a lot of experience here in the Curia. And --

ANDERSON: Is that good or bad?

ARROYO: Well, it might be a bad thing. I mean, the odds on thinking for many cardinal electors to me at least was we need a man who is an outsider but knows the inside of this system. Bergoglio really doesn't.

But we'll see what happens. Anything can happen. It's a new day. A new page is turned and it's also exciting to witness, I was going to wrap it up but I think you've done it for me. Well done. I've got nothing more to say.

Wolf, back to you.

BLITZER: Becky, thanks very much. Thanks to your guest as well.

Jim Bittermann is on the scene. He's got two guests with him from Argentina -- Jim.

JIM BITTERMANN, CNN SENIOR EUROPEAN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, pretty exciting for anybody out here in St. Peter's Square, tens of thousands of people are gathered around here. But it's got to be most exciting for anybody from Argentina, right?


BITTERMAN: My goodness.

So wait a minute. You are Mercedes and Josephina (ph)?



BITTERMANN: What did you think? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are so excited.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was incredible. Just being here and Argentinian pope, we can't believe it. He's such a simple guy. He travels and (INAUDIBLE).

BITTERMAN: So you know him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, we know him. We went to some masses. He is so --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Simple. He's such a simple guy, like he doesn't even own a car there. What he said here, like go to sleep, rest. So, Argentinian what he said.

I don't know. It's incredible. We can't believe it.

BITTERMANN: I don't suppose you called anybody back home did you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, yes. I told them. They are crying in Buenos Aires. They can't believe it also.

BITTERMANN: Amazing. So how is it going to affect things do you think in Argentina and in Latin America? Do you think it is going to have an impact at all?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Such an important impact.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He's such a radical. He's a Jesuit and I don't know.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is not European so that means a lot. You know? It is a Latin American guy, so it will be a change.

BITTERMANN: What were your expectations when you came out here tonight? Obviously you knew you'd hear and see a new pope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. He is 76 years old. I don't know. I thought it would be like the favorite or a very surprise choice which it was but I never thought Bergoglio. I don't know.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't think of him. It is great they chose him.


BITTERMANN: One of the things the analysts are saying is that maybe this will help the church grow --


BITTERMANN: -- in Latin America. How do you feel about that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, I think it will change the church because he's so charismatic. Yes, a simple guy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: World Youth journeys in Brazil, next to Argentina, like more people will go, more of Argentina will have the possibility and, yes. It will make a radical change there.

BITTERMANN: A pretty big year for the -- for South America.




BITTERMANN: And the pope. Not so bad.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Very important year.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is incredible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We can't believe it. We are so excited.

BITTERMANN: How are you going to celebrate tonight?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're going to pizza and to talk all night. I can't do anything else but think about it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just think about the idea we are having an Argentinian pope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we are here also and an Argentinian pope. It's too much. I can't do anything but talk about it tonight. So happy.


BITTERMANN: OK. Mercedes and Josephina, thanks very much. Back to you, Wolf.


BLITZER: Jim Bittermann, thank to you very much. Thanks to those two ladies from Argentina as well.

So, Pope Francis -- he's now Pope Francis I. He becomes the spiritual leader of the world's 1.2 billion Catholics, about half a billion of them living in Latin America.

CNN's Tom Foreman is taking a closer look at this very, very diverse flock.

What are we seeing right now, Tom?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Wolf, if you want to understand how surprising it is this pope was selected, you really do have to look beyond what happened in this room with the 115 cardinal electors and look at the bigger Catholic world, where Catholics are all over this planet and how that may have helped shape this decision.

If you look over in the far east you can see in Oceania, you have 9 million. As you move up into Asia, you get about 130 million, 185 million in Africa, and 285 million in Europe which is always the place that has produced the popes.

But look at the new reality today. Here is North America, basically talking about the United States and Canada here, 85 million Catholics here.

But this is the powerhouse. This is the powerhouse -- Latin America, 501 million Catholics there.

As you pointed out, Wolf, that's almost half of the world's Catholic population. If this were a democracy, absolutely, this group would rule -- especially when you consider that one-third of the North American Catholics also are Hispanic. This would be the group that decides. But this is not a democracy, and that makes it all the more surprising.

Let me take this all the way and explain what I mean. Think about Italy over here. Italy is really relatively small in the big picture of things, just under 6 million people there who call themselves Catholic, largely Catholic country but a really small group. Compare that to what we pointed out, 501 million in Latin America.

But now, look at the extraordinary change that happens when you look at the number of cardinals representing those areas. Suddenly, Italy becomes huge with 28 cardinals representing that small group of Catholics, and only 19 representing all of Latin America, two from Argentina.

There is no way with this kind of political power in this room that this cardinal could have been elected without a lot of people from that old world group coming over and saying, there is a new Catholic world out there. The world is changing even for a 2,000- year-old church and this election is largely the result -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Good explanation. Tom Foreman, in our virtual Sistine Chapel over there -- Tom, thanks very much.

Argentina's Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio is the first, as we've been pointing out, non-Europeans since ancient times, to become pope.

Let's get a closer look at who the new pope is. I want to go first to Chris Cuomo. He's back on the scene for us.

We're beginning all of a sudden, Chris, to learn a whole lot more about Pope Francis I and everything I've read in the past few hours, he is obviously a very fascinating individual, 76 years old.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He just sets out as such an interesting story for the church at this time. You know, beginning with the fact that in the last conclave, he's said to have finished second. Just imagine what that must have meant to him going forward and yet his response was to live this life of incredible simplicity.

I mean, you just never hear about this type of stuff, Wolf, where he takes the bus to work. He didn't want to be driven. He lives in a simple apartment and makes his own food. Social justice being is so important to him. And symbolically he now connects the old world and the new world and that's where the Catholic Church is growing.

The question of course will be: well, what kind of pope will he be? He is conservative on a lot of things where Catholics want people to be more moderate or more liberal, but then he takes the name Francis, which again is consistent with the humility of service to others.

So a lot of it's open questions, obviously, but he is a great story and also came out of nowhere in a way because he was not being discussed at least in the media who was doing a lot of time talking to people from the College of Cardinals before all this happened as being a contender this time around.

Just today, Wolf, we had a retired cardinal say to us, why aren't you mentioning Bergoglio? He is a perfect compromise for people. Everyone respects him. He needs no introduction. And sure enough, tonight -- Pope Francis.

BLITZER: It's interesting, because there have been a lot of reports that he was supposedly the main challenger to Joseph Ratzinger who became Pope Benedict the last time around, coming in second on several of the ballots, yet as you correctly point out, there wasn't a whole lot of attention paid to him this time around even though our own Vatican analyst, John Allen, did write a beautiful profile of him that he posted on

Why is that? Why weren't more people paying attention to him? Are you getting a good answer on that, Chris?

CUOMO: I'm getting a great answer because I'm sitting next to John Allen. So, you know, I'll bring him in for this. I believe from what you've told me, the expectation was he didn't win the first time. He is now a little older. He's had some health scares. They were going to move on.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Yes, I think the reason that people thought his window had sort of closed is because he is eight years older than last time and particularly on the heels of a pope who had just resigned citing age and exhaustion. Remember, Benedict was only 78 when he was elected. Cardinal Bergoglio now Pope Francis is only two years younger than Benedict XVI was when he was elected eight years ago. I think many people thought that was implausible.

But let's also be clear. When we say he was the challenger to Joseph Ratzinger last time, these guys were not running against one another. There were simply different groups in the college who were attached to each of their candidacies. Substantively speaking when it comes to the main issues, either ideologically or politically, Pope Francis and Pope Benedict would be on the same page. The difference more has to do with priorities and style. Benedict the consummate European who was interested in the church's engagement with secularism. Francis the consummate Latin American gets out of bed in the morning thinking about the poor, the suffering of the world, and the church's concern and passion for their needs.

CUOMO: Wolf, a very interesting thing. As I go back to you, it was so interesting that Pope Francis and one of his first acts as pope asked for the people to pray for him, and before he spoke, he decided to be silent in their presence and symbolically hopefully that means that the Catholic Church is going to have its people's needs put first by this new pope.

BLITZER: You know, let me ask John this question because I think he knows a lot more about this obviously than I do. He is seen as a Jesuit, right, John?

When I think of a Jesuit here in the United States, I think of Georgetown University, a Jesuit university, and I think of a priest there and other Catholic leaders as a little bit more shall we say less conservative than the main stream. Is that a fair assessment?

ALLEN: Well, that's a fair assessment of how the Jesuits are often perceived, although the Jesuits are a massive, worldwide religious order, and you can find a little bit of everything within the Society of Jesus.

Actually, Cardinal Bergoglio now Pope Francis earlier in his career was what is called a provincial, which means a regional leader for the Jesuits in Argentina. And he was seen then as a kind of moderate so he was trying to hold the line against what was perceived as some extreme liberalism among some Jesuits, but he also drew some flack from some of the more traditionalist, conservative elements in the society.

So I think, Wolf, basically speaking, he would be seen as someone who was open both to left and right and did his best to try to bring both of those currents together.

BLITZER: He did have some clashes with the Argentinian government, including the president, Kirchner, over his opposition to same sex marriage, free distribution of contraceptives. How did that play out, John, as far as you know?

ALLEN: Well, I think it played out in the sense that those who disagree with church teaching on those questions would also have issues with the positions that the then-cardinal, now Pope Francis took.

Look, Wolf, I'll tell you. My experience of Catholic leaders across most of the developing world, including the new pope, is that they tend to profile as very conservative by our standards on matters of sexual morality. So issues like abortion, gay marriage, gender roles and so on. And by our standards, they tend to profile as very liberal or very progressive on other social questions such as war and peace, economic justice, the environment, and so on. And I think in some ways the new pope perfectly incarnates those tendencies. That is, you'll find him quite conservative on some things and quite liberal on others, which to us in the West may seem counterintuitive but seems quite natural to people in other parts of the world. Including, of course, two-thirds of the 1.2 billion Catholics in the world who live outside the West.

BLITZER: I know he speaks several languages. Obviously Spanish and Italian. He studied in Germany. I assume he speaks German. Here is the question, John. Do we know if he speaks English?

ALLEN: Honestly, on the occasions I've met him over the years, we've all spoken in Italian, so I am not a hundred percent sure how good his English is. However, this is an extremely polished, urbane, cosmopolitan man. I think you'll find he has command of at least some English. And knowing how important English is is as the language of global communications, I'm quite sure he is also going to be working to bring his English up to speed to fill whatever gaps there may be there. Because he will understand his responsibility as a communicator to be able to communicate in the language of the world's media and business.

BLITZER: What do you take away from the first words that we heard in public from Pope Francis I?

ALLEN: Well, I was struck, Wolf, not merely by what he said but by what he did. I mean, I think obviously we only saw him for a few minutes tonight. He didn't lay out a platform for his papacy. But I think first, the choice of the name of Francis, which even if part of what was in his mind was Francis Xavier the great Jesuit saint, he obviously understands the vast majority of the world will immediately think of Francis of Assisi, the great patron saint of humility, love for nature, love for the poor.

Secondly, I was struck as Chris was pointing out earlier that his first act when he came out on the balcony wasn't to speak in his own voice or to offer his blessing but rather to repress (ph) the crowd's blessing on him and then to pause in silence.

And then, third, I was also struck by just the very gracious way he engaged the crowd. The smile, the gentle touch. In terms of your first steps, your debut on the public stage, so to speak, I think he went three for three in terms of trying to send a signal that this is not going to be business as usual for the Catholic Church, but this is going to be a breath of fresh air.

BLITZER: Yes. That was the impression that I got as well. John, Chris, hold on for a moment. I want to go back to Anderson. He's down with the crowd. Anderson, you're speaking to more people getting more reaction to this historic moment.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. There are still a lot of people here. I just want to introduce some of the folks in the crowd. How you all doing?

(CHEERS) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) I'm from Rome! I'm from here, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Georgetown (ph),Virginia.

COOPER: Virginia. And where are you guys from?


COOPER: Mexico. What does it mean for you to have a pope from South America?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really great. We've never had anybody from outside of Europe to be a pope, so it is really, really exciting.

COOPER: What was it like for you to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, it's really exciting. No words can express being here.

COOPER: And as an Italian, what is it like?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I was here also last time, and I hope to be here next time, too.



COOPER: Why did you want to be here?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am a student here.

COOPER: How long were you here in the square?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today about two hours.

COOPER: Two hours. So you were here in the rain and everything.


COOPER: Wow. But you stayed. I mean, a lot of people would have left in the rain.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I stayed because I just had a feeling, a good feeling about tonight. So -

COOPER: Did you think there would be white smoke tonight?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am from Argentina and I live in a small city in the north. When I heard that he was from Argentina I said, what? From Argentina? And I started screaming. I'm with my sister. I am so excited.

COOPER: What does it mean to have a pope from Argentina? UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is so special. I'm so excited. I'm so, so happy. I can't believe it.

COOPER: Yes. What was it like for you to be here? I mean these crowds, there was tens of thousands of people here. Everybody I saw seemed to be smiling.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. And the first thing I thought about was my family, my country, my friends. This is so special. I want to talk with all the people from Argentina about this. And we took a lot of pictures.

COOPER: What do you think it means for where the church moves now?

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

COOPER: Very exciting. Thank you all. Appreciate it. Thanks.

And, you know, what really strikes us is just the young people and how many young people there were in the square today and still continue to be. A lot of people came from all over Rome when they heard the news, even if they weren't here when they actually -- when the white smoke appeared they wanted to be here and got here as quickly as they can. And are staying here late into the night.

BLITZER: Are there still activities going on, any formal activities, Anderson, as far as you can see?

COOPER: No, not as far as I can see. There's not really formal activities at all. There's nothing officially happening. But I think people -- a lot of people kind of are hanging around and just kind of talking to one another and enjoying the moment.

BLITZER: A celebratory moment indeed. As I've been saying a historic moment. Anderson, we'll get back to you. We're getting reaction from all over the world, including from here in the United States as well. Brian Todd is standing by. Brian, tell our viewers where you are and your special guest.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I'm at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. This is the largest Catholic Church in North America. And I'm here with Monsignor Walter Rossi. He is the rector of the basilica.

Monsignor, first of all, your reaction -- surprised at the selection of the man who is now Pope Francis?

MONSIGNOR WALTER ROSSI, RECTOR OF NATIONAL SHRINE OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION: Absolutely surprised, because he was not one of the ones that people were contending to be elected Holy Father, and so probably like most people, I immediately Googled him to see where he was from and who he was. TODD: He is from this hemisphere. You are the head of one of the largest and most important churches in this hemisphere. What do you hope he does right out of the gate?

ROSSI: Well, I think right out of the gate, he already impressed the world, certainly impressed me by the fact that one of the very first things he did was asked those in St. Peter's Square, those throughout the world on television or radio, to bless him. And then he stopped and bowed down as if to receive a blessing from the entire world. And that right there speaks of his great humility and also reliance on the power of prayer.

TODD: Many analysts and observers say that now more than ever, this is a church in need of reform. Do you believe he is the man for that job? Will he bring reform to the church, especially I guess, in this part of the world?

ROSSI: Well, my guess is that the cardinal electors believe he is the right man at the right moment, and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit chose this man to lead us forward, so I trust that will be the case.

TODD: How soon do you want him here?

ROSSI: As soon as possible.

TODD: We'll see how soon that happens. Wolf, a lot of excitement brewing here and adjacent to here on the campus of Catholic University. There is a mass here in about 45 minutes, a regularly scheduled mass. We'll see if it is more heavily attended than it usually is, Wolf.

BLITZER: Could you ask your guest, Brian, if there is a special prayer that Catholics here in the United States and around the world should say at this moment?

TODD: Monsignor did you hear, Wolf? He said is there a special prayer Catholics around the world can and should say at this moment?

ROSSI: Well, we have been praying for the election for a pope, and now that we have a new Holy Father, I would suggest we pray a prayer of thanksgiving and ask God to give this Holy Father the strength he needs to lead us at this time.

TODD: Are you confident he has the strength? Some have speculated he is another pope being elected in advanced years. He is 76. Are you concerned at all about that?

ROSSI: Not at all. He came out on the balcony of St. Peter's looking very strong and a vibrant 76, and I trust that God chooses the right people at the right time. And so God chose wisely for us and directed the cardinals in that way.

TODD: Monsignor, thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it, sir.

ROSSI: Happy to be here.

TODD: Wolf, again, a lot of buzz around the basilica here and Catholic University. And we'll be spending the next couple hours seeing about students coming around here, people who attend the church seeing their reaction as well.

BLITZER: We'd love to get their reaction and we look forward to getting more reports, Brian, from you. The Catholic University of America by the way. Later, I'll be speaking with Father David O'Connell, the former president of the Catholic University. He'll be joining us.

The White House has just released a statement from the president of the United States. The president's statement on the selection His Holiness, Pope Francis. Let me read this statement to our viewers. This is a statement from President Obama; "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. 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. We join with people around the world in offering our prayers for the Holy Father as he begins the sacred work of leading the Catholic Church in our modern world." That's the statement from the president, President Obama, on his holiness, Pope Francis I, becoming the new pope.

The election of the pope came as the president was meeting with House Republicans up on Capitol Hill. CNN's Dana Bash reports that an aide handed the president a note with the news, and then the president read that note to the group. and there was applause. Someone then yelled out, "Does this mean that the White House tours are open?" And the president responded, and I'm quoting him now, "Vatican tours are." Later, the president spoke about the moment.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I made the announcement we saw smoke, but I actually had not seen the official announcement of name. So we look forward to hearing about it, and I'm sure it's going to be -



BLITZER: Exciting moment. Obviously, Juan Carlos Lopez of CNN Espanol is joining us now. I can't emphasize how important this is for Latin America that there is now a pope not from Europe but from the Western Hemisphere, specifically in this case, Juan Carlos, from Argentina. Give us some context.

JUAN CARLOS LOPEZ, CNN ESPANOL: It would be an under statement, Wolf, to say that this is huge. It's historic. It's the first time a Latin American is heading the Catholic Church.

Now, why is it important? If you look at the numbers, almost half of the more than one billion Catholics in the world live in the Americas. Brazil, the largest country, largest Catholic population in South America. Mexico in North America, the second largest population. But it is the predominating religion in all of Latin America.

Now, in the United States, you have over 50 million Hispanics. About 70 percent of them identify as Catholics. So it is huge. It is very important. The American Catholic Church is very important to the Vatican. It provides lots of resources, but Latin America has the faithful. It has people who are Catholic.

There are problems for Catholics and for the Catholic Church in Latin America, Wolf, but it is still the predominating religion. And this is going to be a boost to Catholicism in the Americas to have a Latin American heading the church.

BLITZER: There have been some inroads, other Christian denominations have made some inroads, evangelicals specifically. He is deeply committed to a missionary role as the new pope, isn't he?

LOPEZ: And he follows a conservative line. He opposes same-sex marriages. He is conservative on birth control following the line. And remember, these cardinals were -- most named by Pope John Paul II and by Benedict XVI. They're conservatives.

But the thing with Hispanic Catholics that is very interesting, even though they identify as Catholics, and even though that is a main religion, there have been inroads by Protestant churches, by evangelical churches. But also, Wolf, although a lot of people though they identify and live as Catholics, they don't follow all the rulings or orders of the church. So, you might find, and you will find many Catholics who use birth control and who do not follow the rulings of the church on marriage and on same-sex marriage. It is a very, very interesting phenomenon that is happening with Catholics all over Latin America.

BLITZER: It certainly is. And Juan Carlos, you know South America, Latin America a lot better than I do. But I know there is a rivalry between Argentina and so many of the other countries of South America and Latin America, especially when it comes to sporting events, as you well know. Give us a little context of how others, Catholics, not in Argentina but in South America, Central America, are reacting.

LOPEZ: Well, there is banter among Latin Americans over this designation, and it is in good nature. But Argentinaians are famous for being -- excelling at sports. And now many have said that this proves that the pope is - that God is Argentinian. And it has to do with the idea -- this idea that Argentinaians have a sense of being superior to others. And this is a source of jokes, a source of wise cracks among Argentinaians and others. But it is a moment of pride. It's a moment of pride for many Latin Americans knowing someone born in Argentina is now the head of the Catholic Church. It had never happened before. There has been no Latin American pope.

There have been European popes, African popes, popes from the Middle East. This is the first pope from Latin America and it will have an impact on the Catholic Church. Obviously as I said the joke now is people are saying, well this proves that God is Argentinean.

BLITZER: It also underscores I think it's fair to say his father Pope Francis I was an Italian immigrant to Argentina. The pope was born in Argentina, but his father was a railway worker from Turin in Italy, came to South America, came to Argentina, and his son is now Pope Francis I. So he does have that Italian connection.

LOPEZ: He does an Italian connection and in this case Argentina, a nation of immigrants just like the United States thousands upon thousands of Italians migrated to that country. They set routes and now one of them an Argentinean born in Buenos Aires now the pope of the Catholic Church and he has a link to Europe, Italy, but he is seen as a Latin American pope.

And I believe for Catholics, Wolf, that is a big sense of pride and a big story and it is going to have a big impact to know the pope is Argentinean. He speaks Spanish fluently and will show another face of Latin America around the world.

BLITZER: Of course, he speaks Spanish fluently. He is born in Argentina. So that goes without saying. I'm sure he speaks Italian fluently. I said before he speaks German. We're trying to figure out if he speaks English. I'm sure he speaks some English as well among other languages.

Probably speaks some Portuguese I wouldn't be surprised either. Juan Carlos, hold on for a moment as the new pope addressed the crowd in the Vatican and viewers around the world. Pope Francis I asked for their blessing then he offered a very special prayer for his predecessor. Watch this.


POPE FRANCIS (through translator): Brothers and sisters, good evening. You know that I was in the conclave. It was to give a bishop of Rome. It seems that my brother cardinals went to choose him from the end of the world, but we are here. I thank you for the hospitality, for greeting me.

The community of Rome, the Bishop, thank you. And before everything, before everything I would like to make a prayer for our Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI. Let us pray, everyone, together, for him so the Lord will bless him and Mary will gather him in.

Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are thou among women. Blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death, Amen.


BLITZER: The first prayers offered by Pope Francis I upon his selection as the new pontiff. Bishop David O'Connell is joining us right now. He is the bishop of Trenton -- the Diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, former president of the Catholic University of America and a good friend.

Father O'Connell, when you heard the news, of the new pope, what immediately went through your mind?

BISHOP DAVID O'CONNELL, BISHOP, DIOCESE OF TRENTON, NEW JERSEY (via telephone): Wolf, I was stunned. It was not a name I expected to be announced. It was not a person I expected to see on the balcony. Like many other popes I was surprised by this appointment, but it took all of about a minute to be delighted by it.

BLITZER: Tell us why you are especially delighted.

O'CONNELL: You know, this is a man who loves the poor and he has a reputation for being a real servant of the poor and that itself speaks volumes about him. You know, he was an archbishop in Buenos Aires and he had the right and the privileges that VIPs have and yet he gave up his limousine.

He took the bus. His first actions after being consecrated a bishop were to spend the day in a soup kitchen. There's just something special about this man. He's a Jesuit. He is a member of a religious order, an order that's known for scholarship.

And yet he, himself, is a terrific blend of both scholarship and learning and pastoral care and love for others. He really is an impressive fellow when you think about it. His name had been floated during the last -- I thought of you -- de javu for the two of us from the last papal conclave.

But he really blends together so many things both the first world and the third world, both old and new, traditional approach to Catholicism and yet a love for social justice and the poor.

I mean, his initial words were beautiful words speaking of love and caring for the people that were there and embracing them and asking them to embrace him and pray for him. And he just radiated such serenity and peace and joy. It was beautiful to see.

BLITZER: Some people thought, you know, he had been -- maybe we should call it first runner-up last time around when Joseph Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI. He got what, 40, at least these are the reports, he got about 40 of the votes among the 115 cardinals. But they thought maybe this time his name wasn't floated around that much because he is 76 years old and given the fact that Pope Benedict stepped down citing his own age were you surprised that they selected someone 76?

O'CONNELL: Yes. I have to confess I was a little bit surprised by that. And yet in looking into the man's eyes as he appeared and his face as he appeared there is a kindly, grandfatherly quality to him that maybe will speak and attract those of us who are much younger and kind of in need of wisdom and guidance. So yes surprised disappointed no.

BLITZER: What will happen? At some point, he will come to the United States. Your school, the Catholic University of America I'm sure he will come there. They usually make some sort of appearance there, right?

O'CONNELL: Two popes have, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict, of course, and you were there for his appearance that time back in 2008. Whether he comes there or not I'm not sure but we know he is scheduled to come to the United States in 2015 for the Year of the Family, which is going to be held in Philadelphia.

And the pope has made a commitment, Pope Benedict made the commitment and I'm sure he'll honor it by traveling to it. He will be very busy these days just trying to -- he is not an insider though he is a member of many congregations as a cardinal and departments of Vatican.

His attention has been focused on being the archbishop of Buenos Aires so he has a lot to become acquainted with and familiarize himself with in Rome in the Vatican. I think these will be very busy days and times for him.

BLITZER: How do you think he is going to deal with some of the issues that the Catholic Church worldwide is now facing? You are very familiar with some of these problems that have emerged over the several years.

O'CONNELL: Well, I think you have to look to the pattern he established as an archbishop. He has been a bishop for a long time, in the role of leadership both in the Jesuit order and in the community in Buenos Aires.

He has spoken out very strongly on a lot of hot button issues and there are no surprises in his positions or points of view and I don't think we have any reason. I think it would be unfair to set ourselves up for expectations that his positions as pope will be much different than his positions as the cardinal archbishop of Buenos Aires.

He is strongly in support of the church's teaching in all areas and very committed to social justice and love for the poor. That is one of the things he is best known for.

BLITZER: Father David O'Connell, the bishop of the diocese of Trenton, New Jersey, the former president of the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Father O'Connell, thanks so much for joining us on this historic day.

O'CONNELL: Great to be with you, Wolf. Take care and God bless everyone.

BLITZER: Thank you very, very much. Chris Cuomo is on the scene for us watching what is going on. Chris, this is one of those moments a lot of folks will certainly always remember, but the process is only just beginning. There are a lot of steps we should be anticipating in the days to come.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It is reportable he called him earlier tonight. So many little steps tonight after we got the white smoke and the next thing you see is the pope himself. Of course, there is the acceptance of the role, offering up of his new name as pope, the full vestments, the meeting of the 114 cardinals. Of course, there was the cardinal deacon who came out and then the procession of the crucifix first.

Other members of the senior part of the college of cardinal and then of course the Pope Francis himself came out and addressed us. Now tonight as John Allen was telling us earlier he will meet and eat with the other cardinals then hopefully get some rest and then there is an entire day, three days of activities to follow.

We have with us Father Rosica. He can give us all of the information about what is going on. Father, congratulations. Thank you for joining us. Let's start with how do you feel about the new pope?

FATHER THOMAS ROSICA: It was a surprise for all of us. I know Cardinal Bergoglio and I just said, thank God. You know, before I tell you about the schedule, which I just announced in the press office there.

If we look at the problems that have surfaced over the past weeks, we heard about them in spades and newspapers and gave the summaries of the issues that were raised. If you look back over the past years the crisis of abuse, the scandals here at the Vatican, financial mismanagement, questions about the leaks and everything.

When you step back from it all, every crisis we faced ultimately is a crisis of holiness that we've missed the calling. We've moved far away from what we're supposed to be. When I saw Cardinal Bergoglio come out on the balcony, this is the first response to the crisis calling us back to the basics, back to the gospels, being so uncomfortable up there and pushing aside the master was ceremonies.

And not following the prescribed Latin formula, all of this because he is going to call us back to basics. And then inviting the crowd to say before I bless you, I want you to extend your hands in blessing over me. I thought I was watching John 23 for a few moments.

And I was rejoicing inside because we have to go back to the basics first before you start all of this rearrangement and reorganizing and he'll have the current -- he knows the curia and has been extremely critical of the mess and disconnect here. I read his statements. I remember meeting him several times.

Sunday night, we were out walking and just before we said goodbye, he took my hands and I said are you worried? He said I'm nervous. He said stop here and just say a prayer with me.

My colleagues and I were there and we said a prayer. People were stunned. Reverend Lombardi who is a member of his congregation was stunned. He was without words at the press conference.

CUOMO: When you looked out and you saw the reaction to people, you didn't know that Pope Francis was going to ask for a moment of silent and be silent to be blessed himself before he'd speak what did you think when you realized the reaction of silence and what was going on in the square?

ROSICA: There was an immediate connection. He made a connection with his diocese of Rome. He referred to that. The pastor came to meet his people. It was beautiful. Then he took the microphone again and didn't follow the book. Thank God. Once in a while we need that.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Maybe that is a good thing. Once in a while we need that.

CUOMO: Can you tell me what was your first reaction to the name when you heard he had taken the name Pope Francis, what first went through your mind?

ROSICA: Everything. Francis of Assisi and this pope, they're kindred spirits. Francis of Assisi is the patron of Italy and the universal saint and someone who reached out between all kinds of lines and divisions, someone who turned his back on the wealth of his family and the lifestyle he had and bonded with lepers and the poor.

Here this is pope known for his care for AIDS patients and people who are very sick. Who is known for his concern with single mothers whose babies were refused to be baptized by priests in his diocese and he scolded those priests last year and said how can you turn these people away when they belong to us?

Here is a pope that is going to come in and look at the situation and say get back to basics. This is about the gospel. This is about what we are at our best. We're called to be saints. I just said wow.

He is going to build on the beautiful teaching of Benedict and the outreach of John Paul II and the smile of John Paul first and on that magnanimous heart of John 23.