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STARTING POINT WITH SOLEDAD O'BRIEN

New Pope Holds Mass in Vatican; Winter Storms Hit U.S. Northeast; Joe Biden Visits the Vatican; Body, Weapons Found in UCF Dorm Room; Waiting to See if Cyprus Approves Bailout Terms

Aired March 19, 2013 - 07:00   ET

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


SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, a dramatic moment. Pope Francis shows he truly will be a man of the people, entering in an uncovered pope mobile and going into the crowd to kiss babies and the sick. His message to the world straight ahead this morning.

Plus, the winter that won't go away. The northeast blasted with snow and sleet and high winds.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Developing right now, an explosion at an army depot during a training exercise, and there are injuries. We'll have the latest.

Plus, new information on that planned attack at a college campus. Details on the backpacks full of bombs found in a dorm room.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: And a global sell-off in markets and a vote today to bailout yet another European country. Is this the reason in this country investors were looking to sell?

O'BRIEN: It's Tuesday, March 19th, and STARTING POINT begins right now.

Good morning. Welcome, everybody. Our STARTING POINT this morning, thousands of worshippers in St. Peter's Square, and millions around the world praying for and with Pope Francis during his historic inaugural mass that was quite a scene this morning in Vatican City as the pope entered without the traditional bulletproof glass roof of the Popemobile. The first ever new world pope ushering a new era for the Catholic Church, that has been embroiled in some scandals.

Chris Cuomo kicks off our special liver coverage this morning. It was an emotional mass. But I thought the entrance was one of the most remarkable and most moving entrances ever.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You got to see a nice contrast between what Pope Francis wants and the typical modus operandi for the Vatican. He wanted to be open. He actually wanted to hold babies, kiss the sick, let people see that he was accessible to them. That's been important from the first words he spoke to us.

At the same time, he really only had about a couple of dozen security officers with him. As anybody who's ever covered the president, that is just a fraction of what you'd usually half walking amidst a crowd of 150,000 people.

Now, the significance of the inauguration today was really twofold. While Pope Francis became pope the moment he said that "I accept this" after the Conclave voted him in, he did have to get his pallium, his ring, those things are very important. The fisherman's ring of the Pope, we watched that today, the pallium, the shawl kind of vestment that he's wearing, the same as Pope Benedict. Is there a message in that that he wanted to keep consistency with it? That he didn't want to create something new and fancy for himself?

And also the big deal was his message today. What was his message going to be to people? The beautiful coincidence of this happening on the feast of St. Joseph, Joseph such a central figure in the Catholic Church, certainly in Italy, but also as the father protector, and that was exactly the Pope's message, that we must be protectors of the weak, and the poor, and the environment, and all of god's creatures underneath it. We have an excerpt from the homily that Pope Francis gave. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POPE FRANCIS I: Let us protect Christ in our life in order to protect others in order to protect creation. The vocation of protecting does not regard just us Christians. It has a dimension that proceeds and that is simply human. It regards everyone. It is protecting the entire creation, the beauty of creation, as the book of Genesis tells us.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CUOMO: So those were his words. Father Edward Beck, CNN contributor, good to have you, as always. That message, simple, simply human, we have to take care of everybody, what do you think it means to those leaders from 132 different delegations?

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: We can't help but hear that in reference to sexual abuse scandal, I don't think, especially from an American context. All of those leaders there know the problems the Catholic Church has had. And how many times did he say, "protector, protector, protector"? He said at one point protector of children. And so that certainly is going to be a message coming out of this, the sex abuse scandal, and his protecting of it.

Also, ecology was an issue, protecting creation, which is going to be continuation of what Benedict had talked about. Thou shalt not pollute is one of Benedict's new commandments, when he revised more than ten commandments.

The third thing that was significant was the use of what he said power was. He said let us never forget that authentic power is service, service of the poor and the vulnerable. He's saying the papacy isn't about all the trappings. The power is really for the sake of something else, for service. I thought that was really significant.

O'BRIEN: We're going to have an opportunity to walk through more of this homily which is a remarkable homily. Let's get a little more information about the installation that cast a historic and all but unprecedented transfer of leadership in the Catholic Church. Jim Bittermann is in Rome for us. Jim, good morning.

JIM BITTERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Soledad. The fact is it was a rather unprecedented, it doesn't happen that often that we change Popes. This Pope, reusing the Pope mobile that John Paul II had so much trouble without any kind of bulletproof protection around it. He circulated around the crowd. It was one of these moments back in the early '80s that John Paul II, a man came out of the crowd with a pistol.

Obviously Pope Francis does not feel there's anything to be afraid of. And he talked about protection in his homily. The fact is that in the tour through St. Peter's this morning as he was driving around in the Pope mobile, he did exactly visually what he was later to speak about in the homily, that is to say to protect the children, to protect the weak. At one point he kissed babies that were in the crowd, and then at another point he reached out of the Pope mobile, came down and actually comforted a sick man who was in the crowd. It was a visual representation by accident or design of exactly what his message was this morning.

O'BRIEN: Jim Bittermann for us this morning. Thanks, Jim.

I want to get right to our CNN contributor Father Edward Beck who's been with us for quite a bit over the last couple weeks. And Monsignor Richard Hilgartner, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholics Bishops Secretariat on Divine Worship. From Rome we're joined by John Allen, the CNN senior Vatican analyst, correspondent for the "National Catholic Reporter." Gentlemen, welcome. Nice to have you with us.

John Allen, I'm going to start with you. You heard Jim Bittermann talk about the visual representation of what he really presented in the homily, which was the wading in and being the protector. I have to imagine that there's a number of security people who were terrified by that moment. It might I have to say my heart leapt I have not seen a Pope without the Pope mobile in, in decades. How, is that going to be a sort of, of tension between what the security forces deem as necessary, and, and what the Pope clearly is, is very intrinsic to how he sees the, the role of himself as a shepherd of his people?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Oh, absolutely, Soledad. I mean we were talking earlier this morning that the world may be charmed by Pope Francis so far, but his security detail, not so much. I mean, you know, one of them was quoted in the Italian papers this week as saying that if things don't get back to normal around here pretty quickly this guy's going to drive us all nuts because they're scrambling to sort of keep up with him.

Clearly this is a Pope who does not want to be placed inside a bubble and sort of separated from people, who wants to be accessible to them. There's going to have to be a sort of period of adjustment for the security forces, figuring out how to allow him to do that. And at the same time, keep him safe. I mean, you mentioned on air this morning, Pope John Paul II used to move around St. Peter's square in that open- air, but it was discontinued because of the assassination attempt on May 13th, 1981, the Pope mobile was the response to that tragic event to try to allow the Pope to be accessible to the crowd and stay safer. So there's going to have to be some adjustment here.

Clearly what Pope Francis is doing is trying to set a ton. That's what this whole week has been about from Wednesday when he stepped out on that balcony over St. Peter's square, through this morning, has been the beginning of his papacy. It's been him introducing himself to the world and trying to strike a tone of a humbler, simpler style of leadership, closer to the people.

Today, Soledad, was end of the beginning, and tomorrow, the hard work of actually governing this church begins. It's the transition from style to substance, that's going to be the story going forward.

O'BRIEN: Interesting. All right, let's talk about going forward a little bit as we enter what is the most holy kind of year in the Catholic Church, the season of Easter. Outside of the pomp and circumstance, as we head into this time, what happens with what the Pope does next?

MONSIGNOR RICHARD HILGARTNER, HEAD, U.S. CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS: Well, obviously the preparations now for holy week, he's learning to do what he's been doing as a priest for many years. He was or trained a priest in 1969, so celebrating mass for holy week is not new to him. Celebrating it as Pope is huge.

I'm sure there's a lot of last-minute preparations as all of his assistants who coordinate those things are trying to learn his preferences. And we're seeing a lot of those kinds of things. We talked earlier about the fact that his words has been rather general and painting with broad brush strokes. So we're right now reading symbols. We're looking at his vesture and the things he's choosing to do.

O'BRIEN: What that could mean.

HILGARTNER: Holy week will be filled with those opportunities.

O'BRIEN: More opportunities for us. I like that.

One of the things that, and I think it was a theme in the homily, really talking about the idea of accepting people when you don't quite understand. And when I look at that and think about the polls that when they poll, I think this is a CNN/ORC poll of Catholics only, overwhelmingly high approval numbers for the new Pope, 88 percent of people polled said they approve.

But then when you ask them about -- sort of the drill down into the issues of should the Pope allow birth control, yes, 76 percent, et cetera, et cetera, it carries on like that. I think that one has to imagine there's not -- he's not going to usher in a big era of change within the Catholic Church. BECK: Let's say that he could. There's nothing to say that he can't. Remember, birth control in 1969, a lay committee there said the church should change its position. That was the recommendation. Now it did not happen. But that's up for discussion. Married priesthood for the first 1,000 years of the church we had married priests, we currently have Anglican priests coming from the Anglican communion serving as roman Catholic priests, married with children. There's a precedent for it. If he wants to have the discussion, he can have the discussion.

O'BRIEN: You hear him in anything, and, again, we're watching all these little moments, do you hear anything he's saying where he'd be open to that?

BECK: I do because he say how he pastored in Argentina. He was a pastoral man. Even with same-sex marriage, he said something in Argentina that perhaps civil unions would be something we should consider, so that same-sex marriage wouldn't happen. So it's, again, kind of like a fault. But for him to even say that that is revolutionary.

O'BRIEN: It's going to be fascinating to watch exactly. We're going to stick around and continue to talk about this and walk through the homily a little bit more as we continue through the morning.

Already there's been a, a new tweet from Pope Francis, got to love that, early on tweeting. Here's what he wrote. "Let us keep a place for Christ in our lives. Let us care for one another. Let us be loving custodians of creation."

With that we get to John Berman. He's got a look at some other stories making news today.

BERMAN: Thanks, Soledad. Spring officially starts tomorrow, but spring apparently did not get that memo. Much of the country is in the midst of some sort of messy winter weather this morning. Parts of the upper Midwest saw blizzard-like conditions overnight. Blowing snow forced the closure of several roads and highways in North Dakota and Minnesota. New York City saw snow before it turned into rain Monday evening, caused delays of more than an hour at all major New York City airports.

Boston is bracing for six inches of snow today, prompting all public schools to close. More than a foot of snow is expected in the New England mountains. Good for skiers, I suppose. Alison Kosik is live in Concord, New Hampshire, where they could get a foot and a half of snow. Alison, you still think it's pretty out there this morning?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I still think it's pretty. Come on, look at this. This is the state house. Can you get more picturesque than that? I want to put that on a postcard. If you're going to get a late winter storm with spring literally tomorrow it should be snow like this. This is the kind of snow that's great when you want to go skiing because the ski resorts they're really enjoying this. Now, as far as what's expected today, accumulations up to a foot, maybe more by midnight. So expect to see about an inch of snow accumulations per hour today. But you know, New Hampshire has had it pretty easy the past couple of winters. This winter, though, it's been a little bit more difficult, and after the 72 inches have fallen for the wintertime, compared to 55 inches last year. So yes, they are getting hit lately with a sort of one-two punch of many storms all at once. Plows are ready, though. This is easy for them. They've got it down to a science in Concord.

BERMAN: Alison Kosik, excellent producing having the plow go right behind you dug our live. Our thanks to you.

The south also has had its fair share of wild winter weather as well. Look at this, that's hail in parts of Mississippi and Georgia along with heavy rain and thunderstorms. Look at that come down. This was the scene in Tennessee Monday after a tornado touched down, about 40 miles west of Nashville. I want to go right now to Jennifer Delgado live in the severe weather center. Good morning, Jennifer.

JENNIFER DELGADO, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Good morning, John. You saw that video coming out of Tennessee. We did have a report of an ef-1 tornado that hit just to the west of Nashville. Now, we are still tracking some stronger storms out there Right now affecting parts of Florida, Jacksonville, as well as into Miami. But we're still talking about more snow. We saw Alison reporting live in Concord, and guess what? More of that snow on the way. We are going to see potentially a foot or more of that.

I want to point out to you for areas including Hartford we have that wintry mix from Boston. We're talking a little bit more snow, and then sleet mixing in. That is going to lead to messy travel on the roadways. So be careful out there.

Here's a look at some of the totals that we're talking about -- 12 to 18 inches. Burlington, anywhere between about five to eight, and of course New York City, you started off with the rain but it's going to be quickly coming to an end right around 1:00. It's going to be very windy out there. That means a lot of delays for those airports. Look at some of these snow totals. We're already talking some locations, seven inches of snow. Spring starts tomorrow and that storm will be out of here just in time, 7:02 if you're counting down.

BERMAN: You keep telling us spring starts tomorrow.

DELGADO: I will bring it tomorrow.

BERMAN: All right, Jennifer Delgado, Thanks to you.

It's 14 minutes after the hour right now. We have a developing story from Nevada this morning. There was an explosion a few hours ago at the Hawthorne army depot. A spokesman said it occurred during a Marine Corps training exercise. No word yet on the cause, but a base official says a traffic accident was somehow involved. There are some injuries but we don't know how many. Four medical helicopters were sent to the scene. The spokesman says the blast did not happen near any locations where ammunition is stored.

President Obama leaves tonight on the first overseas trip of his second term. He's heading to the Middle East for meetings in Israel, the West Bank and Jordan as well. Israel is the first leg of his trip and it's the first time the president is visiting Israel since he took office. One of the key topics of the discussion was Israeli leaders how to contain Iran's growing nuclear program. That trip again starts tonight. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: All right. Well let's take a look now if we can I think we've been watching the pope as he's been doing these individual greetings of many of the honored guests who have come and the heads of state who have come to, to pay homage to him. We are expecting to see the lead of the U.S. delegation, the Vice President Joe Biden, a Catholic, and he's the first Catholic to serve as vice president. We're expecting to see him in just a moment, and have his opportunity to, to greet the, the pope.

(CROSSTALK)

BERMAN: (INAUDIBLE) Vice President Joe Biden, the great American political improviser and pope Francis known as an improviser himself.

O'BRIEN: I know. Two improvisers. I hope we're really rolling on that. You never know what's going to happen. I know he's traveling with Nancy Pelosi as part of his delegation, as well, and the president of Georgetown University. Must be a remarkable opportunity to have a chance to be not just part of history but to, to have a moment with the pope, especially a pope who seems like he's spending so much time with each honored guess and not only the honored guests, you see the time he's spending with the random people in the crowd, kissing the babies.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's point out the Jesuits, too, because he said the president of Georgetown University, a Jesuit university, the general of the Jesuit community was there at the mass this morning. So this is a real proud moment for the Jesuits, who have never had a pope before. Here he is.

O'BRIEN: And that, of course, is the Vice President Joe Biden. Joe Biden the first Catholic to serve as VP. He is the lead of the delegation representing the United States at this installation mass. You know, and he's gone back and forth a little bit with his own bishop, partly as - I see Father Beck grimacing a little bit on some of the vice president's stances. You saw him pass through and take just a moment with the new pope.

Following the installation mass there are well over 130 dignitaries who have come to pay homage to the pope after his installation mass, and he's spent some time with each one.

We've got to take a short break. Coming up a backpack filled with homemade bombs you'll remember this story was breaking on our air yesterday morning. Multiple firearms, hundreds of rounds of ammunition. New details this morning on a plot for mass murder at the University of Central Florida. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Police at the University of Central Florida say a campus massacre may have been avoided when a suspected gunman apparently took his own life. Along with the body of 30-year-old James Oliver Seevakumaran officials found plans for an attack, homemade bombs, handgun, assault weapons, plenty of ammunition. CNN's Ed Lavandera is live in Orlando for more on this investigation this morning. Ed, good morning.

LAVANDERA: Good morning, Soledad. The dorm building has been reopened. Students are allowed, once again to come and go. But the suspect who is now dead has been described by university officials and police here as someone who was a loner, and someone who often showed signs of anti-social behavior. Investigators are now trying to figure out what made him tick.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: When the fire alarm sounded inside this dormitory tower on the University of Central Florida campus all of the students scrambled to get out. All, except James Oliver Seevakumaran.

CHIEF RICHARD BEARY, UCF POLICE: They found the subject dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.

LAVANDERA: The 30-year-old former student killed himself, but what investigators say they discovered next were the workings of a sinister and deadly plan to commit mass murder. Four homemade bombs in a backpack, multiple firearms, and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

BEARY: It could have been a very bad day for everybody here. All things considered, I think we were blessed at the university of central Florida.

LAVANDERA: Investigators say they don't know what made Seevakumaran turn his gun on himself instead. Police believe he pulled the fire alarm himself to lure unsuspecting students out into the open of the dorm hallways. He pointed a gun at one of his roommates but police say that student barricaded himself in a bathroom and called 911. The suspect then killed himself. Students in the dorm were left shaken.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It started off as a fire alarm and nobody said that something else was going on with a bomb and the shooting. So we were left in the dark.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just never thought this was going to happen. So it's really horrible that someone had to die.

LAVANDERA: Investigators also say they found writings laying out a time line of what Seevakumaran planned to do. A plan investigators say was designed to, quote, give them hell. We don't know who he planned to target, but investigators say he was acting as a lone wolf.

BEARY: He did not have a lot of friends. One of those people that really and truly flies under the radar, and had some anger issues. He was just truly one of those that are out there, and he made up his mind and set a time line and put a plan into place.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

LAVANDERA: Now, Soledad, Seevakumaran was actually enrolled as a business student here at the University of Central Florida through the end of the fall semester, which ended in December. University officials say he was not enrolled for the spring semester and the university officials had been in the process of trying to remove him from the dorm that you see behind me. Soledad?

O'BRIEN: Ed Lavandera for us. Ed, thank you.

A small country having a very big impact on markets around the globe. Will bailing out Cyprus cause continued panic? Christine Romans has our update up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ROMANS: Welcome back to STARTING POINT, I'm Christine Romans minding your business this morning. On Wall Street, all about Europe again. Stock futures indicate a lower open as we watch to see if Cyprus approves its bailout plan today. It will be the fourth bailout in Europe. Banks there are closed at least until Thursday to give parliament time to work out the details. It will be the fourth European country to get a bailout. Very controversial because it includes a tax on bank accounts. Over the weekend, nervous Cypriots ran to the ATMs to with draw large sums.

Lawmakers holding a hearing today in the U.S. on the US Airways/American merger. A Senate judiciary committee looking into the impact the deal might have on competition. The CEOs of both airlines will appear. Many analysts don't expect ticket prizes to rise, because there isn't much overlap between US Air and American. Still airline mergers are complicated and messy. Complaints about lost bags, screwed up reservations, delayed flights typically soar after two big airlines combine their reservation systems. We'll continue to watch this space (ph) on another big airline merger.

O'BRIEN: Always has the potential to be a hot mess.

ROMANS: yes.

O'BRIEN: Take a look live at the Vatican. The pope now greeting the leaders from around the world. We'll tell you what he says in his message to the faithful in his inaugural mass this morning. Take you back live to Rome coming up next.

And then today marks ten years since the invasion of Iraq. Coming up John's powerful conversation with Paul Bremer (ph) Amercan tasks (ph) force, if you remember, to run the country after Saddam Hussein fled.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

O'BRIEN: Welcome back, everybody. You're watching STARTING POINT. We introduced you to Father Edward Beck a few minutes ago. Plus he's been around with us all last week. This morning, Chris John Farley is joining is, he the senior editorial director of digital features for "Wall Street Journal," and the senior editor of the "Journal's" "Speakeasy Blog." Nice to have you with us.

STARTING POINT this morning we're looking at Pope Francis. He's been meeting with dignitaries from around the world after he was inaugurated in the Vatican ceremony that was just beautiful and steeped in tradition.