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THE SITUATION ROOM
Pope Francis Visits U.S. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired September 23, 2015 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question.
John Allen, sitting right next to me here, made this point earlier in the day. There is no pope, really no leader who could speak on such a range of issues that are, at least in our American political content, diametrically opposed. Right?
I mean, he is a -- he wants to solve climate change. He wants to address poverty. He wants to address the refugee crisis on the one hand. But, on the other hand, while he had a better tone, a more welcoming tone, for instance, for homosexuals, for divorced members of the Catholic Church, he's not suddenly...
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Even for women who may have had abortions.
But he's not changing church teaching on this and may very well have no intention to. You have that conflict. And then in those issues there, right, you have issues that Democrats, as Jeff was saying, very comfortable with, climate change, but not so comfortable with, opposition to gay marriage.
So, this is wow. And you hear politicians say, well, tomorrow is a time to all come together and listen and be proud. But with those issues, you talk about hot button issues, just watch our presidential campaign, you will have to kind of close your ears a bit and bite your lip, depending on how strong your feelings are on those issues.
DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And, hopefully, everybody will go away with a positive impression, even of the issues, because I don't think it's this pope's style to come and wag his finger at anybody. He's already said to the bishops, I don't come to condemn, I don't come to judge. We have seen that across the board in all the events that this pope does.
That's just not his way and he wouldn't do it either as a guest in a country and as a guest of the joint sessions of Congress. Yes, he will touch on the issues, but we already know where he stands on the issues. SCIUTTO: But don't you think for a moment that sometimes -- it kind
of reminds me of when you were a kid, and one parent might yell at me, but it was the parent that said there and said quietly I'm disappointed with you that really drove home. Right?
SCIUTTO: I wonder if that kind of quiet scolding, in all seriousness, can have more power.
GALLAGHER: Exactly. It shouldn't even be a scolding. It should be a kind of opening up, I think, of ways of thinking about these issues for both sides.
KEILAR: One of the things that I found so interesting as the pope spoke at the White House and also as President Obama spoke, what they both said about religious freedom, because this is certainly an area of disagreement between the president when it comes to his signature health care law and the position of the Catholic Church and the U.S. bishops.
JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Yes, of course, when Francis talked about religious freedom, he was talking about the American heritage of religious freedom and he went on to say that he wanted to applaud the U.S. bishops for their call to vigilance about protecting that heritage of religious freedom.
And even though he didn't quite come out and say it, everyone understands it's kind of a veiled way of talking about the fight between the bishops and Obama administration over the contraception mandates imposed as part of health care reform.
It was a kind of domestic point. When the president talked about religious freedom, he was talking about persecuted Christians abroad and how awful that is and how we need to do whatever we can to try to come to their aid. He was talking about religious freedom as a foreign policy question. While they could agree on the value, the application of it in those two situations was very different.
KEILAR: The pope was basically saying as you as a government try to build a better society, you still need to respect the religious freedom of Americans and of Catholics certainly and of Christians who are opposed to this contraception mandate.
ALLEN: I think the pope there was trying to make a point on two levels.
One was what you just said, the message to the Obama administration and to public officials generally about the importance of protecting religious freedom. There is also an intra-Catholic point that was being made, because since his election there has been an attempt sometimes in some American media outlets to pit Pope Francis against the American bishops, as if Pope Francis is the hip maverick reformer and the American bishops are the troglodytes, stick in the mud, obstructionists.
And I think this was Pope Francis coming to say, do not try to divide me from my bishops, and on this issue I have got your backs.
KEILAR: Yes. It was a fascinating point that he made right there in the presence of President Obama.
But we also heard him talk, Jeff, about climate change and about relations with Cuba which really would not have reopened had the pope not been involved.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That is what is so interesting about this visit, because it is sort of the -- we don't know exactly what President Obama and Pope Francis said during their quite moment during their alone time with no aides.
But we do know that Cuba, I'm told is certainly one of those things. You're right, it wouldn't have happened. He sent his emissaries. President Obama sent his advisers, Ben Rhodes and others, to the Vatican to have these meetings that opened up this historic change. This is a moment in the Obama presidency, I think, climate change, yes, for sure, but I think Cuba is the biggest point in all of this.
And, of course, the pope visited Cuba on the way here to make that point most succinctly. We're also being told that Vice President Biden is at this mass as well. Of course, he is the first Catholic vice president of the United States, attends mass even when he's out on the campaign trail, even when he's out traveling. His residence is right across from where the pope is staying. He's one of the many pilgrims in that mass there today.
KEILAR: And I understand that Jeb Bush as well as Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor are also in attendance at this mass, as well as our own Rosa Flores who is there at the Basilica.
Rosa, I want to bring you in. We have been talking about some of the issues the pope has come to the U.S. to talk about it in an optimistic way certainly, but also in a very serious way. One of those issues we have heard him talk about over and over is the issue of immigration. He's referenced that he is the son of immigrants. And certainly tomorrow we would expect he will have a message on this to Democrats and Republicans in Congress.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Certainly.
He definitely hinted about that on the papal plane and then we have heard him mention immigration multiple times today. Brianna, I have to tell you I have been reading and reading his homily in Spanish. I really like to dive into the meanings of his words because I really believe that he has a gift of simplifying things and giving you a deeper message that you won't get unless you really pay attention.
And I want you to listen to this because he starts off by saying, be happy, rejoice, and he says, but we all get a little busy and we get comfortable. We get comfortable with the comforts of the everyday.
Now here in America, a lot of us probably get a little too comfortable in our comforts and he says and so that's why God asks us to go out and reach out to other countries, to other people and give, to offer, to give mercy, to help. And so he says because people decided to go outside of that, because people decided to migrate, maybe, didn't use the word migrate, but he said go to other countries, migration, he said because of that, we are here today and then he says, so, while we feel comfortable, while we feel calm here, there is a world out there that is hungry.
I think it's sending U.S. Catholics a message about doing more, giving more, very much in line with what Pope Francis has said throughout this trip.
FLORES: Go ahead.
KEILAR: Good observation there, Rosa Flores, there at the Basilica.
I do need to get to Jim Acosta. He's at the White House. He's been watching all of the events today. He was at the White House earlier, as the pope was there.
Jim, sort of your thoughts from kind of this prism of obviously so much interest, where I know people along the parade route today, they weren't talking about politics, a lot of them talking really just about, I guess, the positivity of the moment, but certainly the politics of the pope's visit, you can't really escape them.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna
The White House was downright giddy today. They couldn't be more pleased after witnessing what you might call the audacity of pope, of Pope Francis. The pope's message, you're right, was ecumenical throughout the day, but it was hardly nonpartisan. It was pointed at times, Brianna, and almost mirrored the president's own remarks here at the White House.
On climate change, the pope's position was unmistakable. It was do something and do it now. This Latin American pope described himself as the son of immigrants, paid tribute to the United States which he said was built by newcomers. That was a clear message in favor of immigration reform in the U.S.
And the pope -- before the pope even spoke, President Obama praised that commitment to immigration reform. We should point out the White House says the president did not get a heads-up on the pope's remarks. There were staff-level discussions between the White House and the Vatican for many months, but they claim the president did not know what the pope was going to say until he said it.
You know, we should also point out, Brianna, they did meet behind closed doors for 40 minutes in the Oval Office, exchanged gifts. The president gave the pope that sculpture of an ascending dove, a symbol of peace. And the White House revealed an interesting detail about today's ceremony here, saying they opted against a 21-gun salute, out of deference they said to the pope's humanity.
KEILAR: Jim, I'm so sorry to interrupt you, but I want to listen to this, as we hear Cardinal Wuerl give the closing prayer blessing.
CARDINAL DONALD WUERL, WASHINGTON ARCHDIOCESE: With the bishops, the priests, the deacons, the women and men in concentrated life and the lay faithful from around this archdiocese and across the country, I greet you in the love and peace of our lord Jesus Christ.
Your pastoral visit to the church in the United States as our beloved chief shepherd is a blessing for all of us.
WUERL: The church that welcomes Your Holiness embraces people from every continent and numerous ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
We gather in worship and seek to reflect your call to be missionary disciples. You can see that this church shows the face reflective of Africa, Central and South America, Mexico, India, Asia, Europe, as well as our own Native Americans.
WUERL: Not far from here, in 1634, the first Catholics arrived in what is now the United States and began the evangelization effort that we see so wonderfully realized today at this great Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and the campus of the Catholic University of America.
WUERL: United in faith, we seek always to grow in the joy of the Gospel.
Today, Your Holiness has just celebrated the canonization of Saint Junipero Serra, who offers us an example of the tireless effort to share the Gospel as we seek today to enrich our human culture with the great law of love of God and love of neighbor.
We also try to care for our common home, the good Earth. All of -- all of us at this mass profess our faith and strive to live it in service and love.
KEILAR: This is the Cardinal Wuerl thanking Pope Francis.
You saw a lot of folks there giving the pope a standing ovation as he was thanked, something that our analysts here point out is very atypical for a Catholic mass. But this is no typical mass here in the U.S. as the pope comes for his first one here. We're going to get a quick break in and then we will be right back
with the pope giving the closing prayer blessing.
KEILAR: You're watching CNN's continuing coverage of the pope's visit to the U.S.
The mass at the Basilica here in Washington, D.C., just wrapping up as we listen now to "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name." It's a classic hymn that certainly many of our viewers may recognize.
Delia Gallagher, this is transitioning now from the mass to the next thing on the pope's agenda, which is a rather interesting meeting that he has.
GALLAGHER: Well, the Vatican has arranged for the pope to meet, they say, with 20 representatives of the Native American community from California, a nod to some of the controversy that has surrounded this canonization.
We also heard during the mass the Native American language used in one of the readings and in one of the prayers. And Cardinal Wuerl also, when he thanked the pope, made reference to the Native Americans thanking him as well, so to try to at least acknowledge the pope is aware that there was a controversy of this and is respectful and would like to at least listen to some of the representatives of that community.
KEILAR: Will we be able to see this as this happens?
GALLAGHER: I believe it is a private meeting, as many of these meetings are. They tend to be not televised.
KEILAR: It's a private meeting.
How many private meetings do we know is he having throughout this visit? Does he have many of them?
SCIUTTO: We know he's going to meet with some victims of sexual abuse as well during his visit here as of course a gesture to the crisis that rocked the church, in many ways still rocks the church. And we saw him reference that when he was at St. Matthew's Cathedral earlier in the day speaking to bishops.
He's wise enough to know these are issues he has to speak about and he has to meet the victims and he has -- there are some who have praised him for refocusing the church's attention on issues like this. But, invariably, of course, there are others who don't think he's done it enough. KEILAR: He's begun a tribunal on the issue, but he has faced, as you
mentioned, Jim, some of this mixed criticism about some in the church who have perhaps hidden or not really stood up to this issue of sexual abuse.
He has certainly taken action against some, but some have argued not against others.
And we're watching right now this huge crowd there, among those in the crowd as this mass has just concluded, Vice President Joe Biden, as you mentioned, Jeff, the first vice president, first Catholic vice president. We understand that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, is there in attendance, as is Jeb Bush, Republican presidential candidate.
This is certainly an event here in Washington. We have been talking about this. It has political as well as spiritual implications as he comes here to the nation's capital.
ZELENY: Right. We're also told that Chief Justice John Roberts, a Catholic as well, is in attendance at this mass today, as well as Justice Kennedy, a very pivotal member of this U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the president's chief of staff, Denis McDonough, who was educated in the Catholic faith, Catholic college. His brother is a priest.
This is very -- a moment to -- it almost to me feels like Ash Wednesday, when you see people at mass who are either chiefs of staff or senators and congressmen. It kind of is a ritual here. But I think that I'm just struck by the crowd here as well and private meetings.
He's also meeting privately with Speaker John Boehner tomorrow one on one for a little while. Of course, this is that reason that the pope will be giving this joint address tomorrow, the first pope ever to give a joint address to Congress tomorrow morning here in Washington.
SCIUTTO: Catholics very well-represented in government today.
Six of nine Supreme Court justices, 31 percent of Congress, in fact, I was told that 10 percent are educated by Jesuits specifically. So, of course, Pope Francis a Jesuit. Seven presidential candidates, including Jeb Bush, in attendance today and, as you mentioned, Brianna, the first Catholic vice president.
So, you have a lot of Catholics who are represented in government and a lot will be present at that meeting, joint meeting of Congress tomorrow morning.
KEILAR: Our panel will stay with me, including Delia Gallagher, our Vatican correspondent.
We are going to take a quick break. And we will be back in just a moment with pictures of what has been just an incredible day here in Washington during the pope's visit to the United States.
KEILAR: We are back live now following the visit of Pope Francis to the United States.
And you are looking at some live pictures that we're bringing to you from Catholic University, where the pope just finished administering the mass there. Vice President Joe Biden among the tens of thousands who attended, as well as a number of other dignitaries from Washington, D.C.
The pope will be heading to a meeting there inside the building at the Basilica to meet with Native Americans. Certainly some controversy over Father Junipero Serra, who was canonized today by the pope. And then it will be onward to a meeting at a seminary with a number of new students for the priesthood.
I want to get now to CNN's Jim Sciutto.
Jim, you have been following all of the day's events. It's been really a spectacular day here in Washington.
SCIUTTO: No question, yet one more day, a first for Pope Francis, of course, his first visit to the White House, his first public address to the American people, the first ever canonization on U.S. soil, and, then, of course, the pope's first public mass.
At each stop, Pope Francis making history here.
SCIUTTO (voice-over): He arrived at the White House in his now iconic and understated Fiat Hatchback, but received an outsized official welcome for a leader.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Holy Father, on behalf of Michelle and myself, welcome to the White House.
SCIUTTO: The president, vice president, secretary of state and 11,000 invited guests forming his first rapt American audience.
POPE FRANCIS, LEADER OF CATHOLIC CHURCH: I hope to listen to and share many of the hopes and dreams of the American people.
SCIUTTO: The pope, mild-mannered, but politically deft, addressed issues right at the center of the U.S. political debate, religious freedom, immigration.
POPE FRANCIS: As the son of an immigrant family, I'm happy to be a guest in this country, which was largely built by such families.
SCIUTTO: And later, climate change.
POPE FRANCIS: It seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to our future generation. SCIUTTO: After a final blessing for the American people...
POPE FRANCIS: God bless America.
SCIUTTO: ... he met privately with the president in the Oval Office.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I notice all of you are much better behaved than usual.
SCIUTTO: Exchanging his Fiat for the Popemobile, Pope Francis had his first chance to connect with his fans and supporters, though under the tightest security. The distance from the crowd bridged for a moment when security personnel carried children right up to him for his blessing.
Later at St. Matthews Cathedral in Washington, he met with U.S. bishops, the pope addressing the Catholic Church's sex abuse scandal, saying he supports their commitment to healing the victims.
POPE FRANCIS: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)
SCIUTTO: The pope's final stop today, Catholic University, where he performed the first canonization of a saint on U.S. soil, Junipero Serra, a 19th Century Spanish missionary in California.
KEILAR: Thank you so much for that report, Jim Sciutto.
And we are looking at some live pictures now that we're bringing you from the basilica. Pope Francis had met with, we believe, already or actually is meeting at this moment with Native Americans. Really, I guess, addressing some of the controversy around the canonization of Father Junipero Serra. And we're looking there at some live pictures. That was the papal Fiat, which has gotten so much attention.
I know that for you, Jim Sciutto, this is one of the moments that really sticks out to you, and so many of us were captivated by this.
SCIUTTO: No -- no question whatsoever. It so fits his personality. He does not want a big GMC; he did not want a Cadillac limousine. He had to be in a Fiat. And I'll tell you, I was speaking to people today who said this was an intentional choice. This was no accident to be driving around in an understated hatchback like that.
I am told, however, that it did have some features, like bulletproof glass et cetera. But listen, the profile of that car fitting the profile of this pope.
KEILAR: Yes. Certainly, maybe, a small carbon footprint as he comes here with his climate-change message.
Here is what we are learning that is really interesting, is that the pope is making an unscheduled move. This is what we're expecting, for him to come out of the front door of the basilica, there the basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where he said mass. And he's going to, as is very characteristic for this pope, just meet people there who are gathered as so many have here in Washington, D.C. So we're awaiting those pictures. Should be a really interesting sight.
And I think, Delia, it sort of speaks to the style of this pope, because even as we looked at those pictures of the parade near the White House, the Popemobile going down Constitution Avenue, he likes to get a little closer to people than he did today, right?
GALLAGHER: Yes. I hope, actually, that he will be able to come out and meet some people and have a little time with them, as much for him as for them, frankly, because that's really what he enjoys and not so much the formal things and being, you know, shuttered here and there and the time schedule and so on. I mean, he's a Latin. He likes to take his time. He loves to chat and hear the stories of regular people.
So if some people have stayed behind and get a chance and are lucky enough, I think it will be a great experience for them, but for him, too.
KEILAR: And these are all live pictures that you are watching. We have three screens there at the basilica where the pope has just said mass, and we're awaiting him coming out and speaking to folks who are there gathered.
ALLEN: I mean, we are going to, we're certainly watching this, and he has not had much of a chance to talk with people. He will here and also tomorrow -- we've talked a lot about this congressional address. He also will be visiting St. Patrick's. It's an old church in downtown Washington, the home of Catholic Charities. And after that, he will be talking to the people who work at Catholic Charities, who do the day in and day out of feeding the homeless, tending to the sick.
So I think tomorrow the moment, of course, we're focusing on, his message from in the House of Representatives chambers, but certainly am important moment for him will be what comes after that, this meeting with individual people at St. Patrick's and afterward at Catholic Charities right in downtown Washington.
[18:35:11] KEILAR: As we wait for the pope to come out of the basilica, Jim, watching this procession this morning and the pope wasn't able to get extremely close to the crowd. Why is that? Is that -- that's obviously a security issue and a security concern. The Secret Service taking the lead on this while he's here in Washington.
SCIUTTO: No question. He has presidential security for this trip. And arguably, I don't want to say more than that, but it's a different kind of trip than the president would make. He's making more stops and more public appearances in a concentrated period of time. It's an enormous challenge.
And this is a pope who is, by nature and personality, unpredictable and who wants to connect with people. So that's something that the Secret Service wants to try to accommodate, but we saw that as they were doing that very tightly-managed circle around the White House Ellipse. You know, it wasn't exactly a parade, wasn't it? You had loads of security between him and the crowd. It got a little better here at the mass, but keep in mind, this crowd would have been screened, right? So you can follow different rules when you're there.
So that's a challenge. He is under threat. He's considered a target, and that's something that the Secret Service, who's in charge of protecting him, has to keep in mind.
KEILAR: And he's always -- that's sort of the risk that a pope takes on, Delia, but this pope has spoken about how that is a risk he is going to take on. And it's interesting. I was talking earlier, and you point out that he goes out and essentially runs errands sometimes. He really wants to sort of get out of the bubble.
GALLAGHER: Well, he'd like to, and he was able to at least go out and get his glasses fixed last week in Rome, but that's rare. I mean, he really can't go out too much.
KEILAR: So he just head -- he just left? Did he leave Vatican City and he just went...
GALLAGHER: Yes. He went with his driver, and he just drove up there in the center of Rome and stopped in front of the eyeglass shop. And all the people that were around, of course, started snapping pictures. They kind of thought it was a phony. But then they realized it really was the pope. And he went in and he fixed his glasses and came back out in a space of ten or 15 minutes.
But you know, that was a kind of rare occasion when he actually got to go out, and that's the case for most popes. I remember John Paul II wanting to get out, as well.
And, you know, one of the things about this pope, and we see it again in this trip, is he always tries to balance the kind of formal occasions and the pomp and circumstance that he has to do with the meetings with regular people. And he does that in the Vatican, and he'll do that tomorrow after the meeting with Congress. He'll go straight to the meeting with Catholic Charities and 200 homeless people. And that's going to be something to see, as well, because we know his work already at the Vatican for the homeless and everything that he's done there.
So always an attention, as soon as there is there is anything that's kind of official and organized, he wants the opposite side, too. He wants to remember the poor and those who are less fortunate.
KEILAR: Why is it when we see him go to other countries, I imagine Jeff and Jim, you noticed this, as well. It seems like people are allowed to get closer to him than perhaps in the U.S.
SCIUTTO: It's definitely true in Rome. I was talking about this with the head of the Jesuits today. In Rome he can get closer to the crowd. The crowd can reach out and touch him.
Now, that's partly a judgment of the security services on the ground. Right? They have to make that call. Might have different styles.
Also, it's a product of the threat picture. I mean, here in the U.S., it is considered a bigger threat, because he's this enormous world figure. And the idea to a terrorist organization of harming him in some way on American soil would have added value, and that's how terrorists think. Right? Doesn't mean there's no threat in Rome, but it is perceived as a greater threat here.
ZELENY: And this, of course, is presidential level security, as Jim said, no question. But also given a good bit of leeway for a president. I mean, we've all been on presidential trips across this country and across the world, and he's actually gotten a fair bit of freedom. If he was the president, he would not be coming into contact with that many people.
So I think it's actually they're trying to strike a balance, no question, but the Secret Service has been under fire for several things in the last year, so not on their watch. I was talking to an agent just a week or so ago. He said, "Not on our watch. He'll be safe on our watch." So I think that is why we're seeing all this, of course.
KEILAR: And I read that top officials from the Secret Service went over to the Vatican to see how the pope does like to engage, to see sort of what he may want to do while he was here and, I imagine, some of the limitations that they might have had to impose.
But let's talk a little bit about the bigger picture here, Jeff. As we are following Pope Francis' visit here to the U.S., he has so much appeal even to people who are not Catholic, may have no interest in becoming Catholic. And obviously, a tremendous amount of appeal to those who are of the faith, but what is it? Is it something that is -- will it inspire people? Is it personality? What is this?
[18:40:15] ZELENY: I think it might be a mix of both. We're at a different moment, for this pontiff, of course, is the first pope who is on Twitter. He's the first pope who is doing so many things. He may be -- this is over-simplified, but we can say a pope, he's just like us. Not quite, of course, but he's very much...
KEILAR: He tries.
ZELENY: Engagement, yes. A sort a breath of fresh air for Catholics, no question about it, who have been very much looking for this.
And as we've said earlier, it's important to point out -- you can see in churches on Sunday -- the attendance of mass is declining in this country. So this is a moment where we can focus on, perhaps, a different style. That's what this pope is bringing here. Not a different substance. The church doctrine has not, will not change, but the style is what's drawing people here.
And I think it's coming at a moment where we're actually sort of weighed down by our fighting and our politics and our faith to come and get a moment in the presidential campaign where we all need a deep breath. So I think this is a perfect antidote for that right at this time.
GALLAGHER: They say at the Vatican that the Holy Spirit chooses the pope. Right? When you're in the conclave, the cardinals always say, "Well, we kind of make a choice, but it's the Holy Spirit that guides the choice." And they never know until afterwards, you know, exactly how that choice plays out. But they tend to look back and say well, actually, you know it had a nice convergence with the times.
John Paul II, even Benedict, who they say was kind of a caretaker pope for a certain period of time that maybe the church and the world needed after John Paul II. And now Francis that has made such an impact in such a short time, as well. I mean, really, he's only in two years in this pontificate and has already got this level of popularity.
KEILAR: I do want to tell our viewers, as we are looking at these live pictures, three live pictures coming to us from the basilica here in Washington, the pope is meeting now, we expect, with a delegation of Native Americans. And then what we understood, he would be on to next was to meet with students for the priesthood, that he is going to a seminary to meet with dozens of them.
What we're also expecting, we have learned that he will come out and make an unscheduled chat, meet-and-greet with so many of the folks here in Washington who have come to see him.
You know, I wonder, Delia, what you would think, how would this visit be if it were not Pope Francis, if it were the last pope, Pope Benedict? What would the interest -- what would the difference be in the interest level?
GALLAGHER: Well, I think it goes back to what we were just saying. I mean, I was here with Pope Benedict in 2008, but that was a different time. And that was a time when we were still under the cloud and the damage of the sex abuse scandal, which is still going on, obviously, the repercussions of that today. But at the time of Benedict, I mean, Benedict was the pope that had to deal with the major fallout from that. So it was an entirely different time, which also affected the trip.
KEILAR: All right. We are going to get a quick break in as we await the pope meeting and greeting some of the faithful who have come to see him at the basilica in Washington D.C. We'll be right back.
[18:47:55] KEILAR: We're back now live here on CNN. We're following the visit of Pope Francis to the United States. And you're looking now at live pictures coming to us from Catholic University where the pope just finished celebrating mass.
You see people there, this is interesting, gathered. They're sort of crushed against the fence there by the motorcade. I think you can see the papal Fiat, the small little car there on the left of the screen.
And the expectation is that, here we go. This is the pope coming out of the basilica. I want to sort of listen to the sound as the crowd greets him.
[18:50:07] KEILAR: You are watching Pope Francis depart now from the basilica in Washington, D.C., where he just celebrated mass.
We had gotten word that he was going to be stopping and greeting people as he so likes to do, really get close to them, talk to them, certainly even meet some of the little babies in the crowd. That did not happen. So, we don't know exactly why that didn't happen but we'll try to get to the bottom of that.
The pope now heading to a seminary where he will be meeting with students for the priesthood. And as we continue to follow his trip here in Washington, D.C., we'll be right back after a quick break.
[18:55:25] KEILAR: Live pictures at the basilica in Washington, D.C., where Pope Francis just celebrated his first mass in the U.S. He steered clear of controversy in his homily, his sermon, but not in his earlier remarks at the White House.
CNN national correspondent Suzanne Malveaux has details of the pope's speech.
What did he say, Suzanne?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I went to the White House this morning and despite the thousands of people in attendance, there really was a sense of intimacy, very quiet, but also this intense curiosity on the South Lawn about how far he would go in challenging the status quo.
MALVEAUX (voice-over): For a man who says he's not political, it took just two sentences for Pope Francis to make what many saw as a political statement today at the White House.
POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH: As the son of an immigrant family, I am happy to be a guest in this country which was largely built by such families.
MALVEAUX: That subtle reference to U.S. immigration policy, along with more blunt statements about climate change, have many of the same conservatives who wanted the pope to come to Washington now nervous about his historic visit.
REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: There's one thing we know about this pope. He's not afraid to take on the status quo or not afraid to say what he really thinks. MALVEAUX: House Speaker John Boehner is a practicing Catholic who
personally invited the pontiff to address a joint session of Congress. It's a huge moment for Boehner that could be embarrassing, depending on what the pope says.
BOEHNER: I can tell you this, I'm not about to get myself into an argument with the pope.
MALVEAUX: Traditionally, the Vatican has been in alignment with the GOP, particularly on social issues. But Pope Francis is far from a traditional pope.
The first Latin-American pontiff is using the papal pulpit to shine a bright light on issues affecting the developing world, issues embraced by many Democrats, including immigrants' rights, climate change and economic equality.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We support your call to all world leaders to support the communities most vulnerable to changing climate, and to come together to preserve our precious world for future generations.
MALVEAUX: This pope has played a critical role in bringing the U.S. and Cuba together to restore diplomatic ties, making him an ally of President Obama and alienating some Republicans.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He's not a political figure. My interests as an elected official is in the national security of the United States, and embedded in that is the belief that it is not good for our country nor the people of Cuba to have an anti- American dictatorship 90 miles from our shores.
MALVEAUX: Catholic Republicans like Marco Rubio and other GOP presidential candidates are trying to walk a fine line, praising the pope while dismissing the parts of his agenda that liberals like.
HILLARY CLINTON (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We'll follow the lead of Pope Francis.
MALVEAUX: Democrats have their own disagreements with the pope and the church's opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. But even on some hot button issues, Pope Francis has softened the Vatican's tone and has called on the Catholics to welcome and accept gay people and recognize what he calls the, quote, "precious support" same sex couples provide for their partners.
DANIEL BURKE, CNN RELIGION EDITOR: He doesn't think that, you know, I'm a spiritual leader, I shouldn't get involved in politics. He thinks that he should be a prime mover in politics before it even gets to the stage of legislation or policy or anything like that.
MALVEAUX: Democrats and Republicans will be eager to embrace what they can when a pope faces a Congress that's deeply divided and in the early throes of a bitter presidential campaign. (END VIDEOTAPE)
MALVEAUX: So, Brianna, tomorrow, intense curiosity, controversy about what the first pope will say and whether he's going to use the podium at the front of the House chamber as his pulpit -- Brianna.
KEILAR: Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much for your report.
And I do just want to tell you what you're seeing on the screen here, this is where we are awaiting Pope Francis' arrival at a seminary where we expect that he will be speaking to a little under 50 students for the priesthood as he tries to grow certainly the Catholic Church. That's a big part of his message here as he's telling bishops and priests to go forth.
So, we will continue our coverage of the pope's visit to the United States. He just celebrated his first mass. So many things ahead this evening and tomorrow. And certainly, don't forget to follow us on Twitter @CNNSitroom and tune in tomorrow.
Thanks so much for watching. I'm Brianna Keilar.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.