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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Pope Francis Leaves Washington; Pope Heads to NYC After Historic DC Speech. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired September 24, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
You're looking at pictures from Joint Base Andrews. Any minute, the plane referred to as Shepherd One will carry one of the holiest passengers in the world, Pope Francis, the vicar of Christ. He just rolled up to the plane in that black Fiat flying the Vatican's banner.
We saw him just a few minutes ago chatting with Secretary of State John Kerry.
Let's take a listen as he boards the plane.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: It should be noted that the pope, as he bids farewell, is carrying his own bag.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
TAPPER: As the pope settles into his seat, hopefully a good one on that converted American Airlines 777, let's chat about the pope's visit and this leg, the Washington, D.C., leg.
Here with me, CNN senior Washington correspondent Jeff Zeleny and Father Timothy Kesicki is the president of the Jesuit Conference.
And, Father, let's just end with that. I have to say, I have been in this town for a few decades now. I don't think I have ever seen anybody carry their own bag as they board a plane in a farewell ceremony such as this. But this is Pope Francis.
FATHER TIMOTHY KESICKI, PRESIDENT, JESUIT CONFERENCE: It's very characteristic of his style. He carries his own bag. We saw him pay his own hotel bill right after he was elected pope. He likes to take care of himself.
I even heard rumors that, in the House, where he lives, he goes around at night turning out lights because he wants to save electricity and participate in the greening of the environment. So, he's a very self- sufficient individual.
TAPPER: And let's talk about just his visit when he ate among the homeless earlier today. He had spent the morning with leaders of the United States, some of whom were moved to tears just in his presence.
But I think it's fair to say his face lit up among homeless people, especially homeless children. That's when he really -- you really saw his glow.
KESICKI: I think he loves all people equally, but he's attracted to some people more.
And he really loves to go to the poor, particularly to the young. We knew when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires, he loved going into the barrios, the slums, and the same here.
And I think those who helped prepare this visit knew, if you want to bring him to life, give him that opportunity, and he really shines. He chose the name Francis. And Francis has this great line preach and when necessary use words. So, he gave a very moving address to Congress. And then he spoke at St. Patrick's, but I think the real message he delivered was walking in and telling the homeless, you are Christ.
And that's really a part of his faith. He -- face, faith -- he sees the face of Christ particularly in the poor and in the young.
TAPPER: And, Jeff Zeleny, there are not many people, other than the pope -- or maybe he's the only one -- who could go before Congress, tell four Supreme Court justices that the death penalty should end, tell Democratic leaders of Congress that life at all stages should be protected, tell Republicans that immigration and climate change should be priorities, and still get standing ovation after standing ovation.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No question they walked away smiling.
And I think it was much, much different than a lot of members of Congress expected, particularly perhaps non-Catholic members of Congress, who really were worried about -- I talked to a senior Republican senator yesterday who said, I don't really know if I want to be lectured to.
Talked to him afterward and said he didn't feel lectured at all. It was very much a -- if it was a scolding, it was a gentle, gentle scolding, more of a -- perhaps a lesson, I think, more of like a grandfather maybe speaking to you. So, I was struck by just the tone of his address. And it was written so carefully, so simply in many ways, but threaded the needle so carefully.
Everyone could find something to like in there. But when I was standing just outside the Capitol, and to see the lineup of senators and representatives sort of sending him off as he was waving out the window of his Fiat was something, hundreds of young Hill staffers cheering and some of the very people who didn't agree with all of his message were cheering him as well.
I think that this is -- it would be foolish for us to say this is going to change Washington and the divisions in Washington. But I do think for a moment at least it made people think a little bit more. So, on the margins, it could change the politics of this town among some of these issues on immigration, et cetera.
TAPPER: If you're just tuning in, Pope Francis has boarded his plane. It's nicknamed Shepherd One here in the United States. It's a converted American Airlines Boeing 777. It will be taking off for New York's JFK Airport.
And we're just watching as the crowd prepares to say goodbye to the pope as the plane takes off.
Father Kesicki, there are not many people in Congress who agree with Pope Francis on everything. I can maybe think of a few moderate Democrats, Catholic Democrats. Maybe Senator Bob cay Casey of Pennsylvania comes to mind perhaps. But I think, as Jeff points out, he really did a good job of deftly giving his position strongly, but in a way that didn't seem to offend anyone.
KESICKI: Well, he had a brilliant opening.
When he identified himself as an American and then he said how happy he was to be in the land of the free and the home of the brave, he won everyone's hearts. And people wondered, is he coming here to scold us, to dress us down, to challenge us? And that opening statement said, I'm one with you.
And he would see the Americas as one. I don't know that he would divide it as easily as North, Central and South America. We are all of the Americas, most of us immigrants. That was a tremendous opening. And I don't think it was a politically calculated message. He doesn't think that way. He doesn't necessarily know American politics or the partisan divisions. He's picked up on some of them.
He doesn't necessarily know them. He's writing from his heart. He's continuing a lot of church teaching. And he references Pope Benedict in the address. And he references common themes that are characteristic of Catholic social doctrine. But he hit also the themes that have been characteristic of his papacy. And he continues -- he continued with that today.
So, I don't think he anticipated the applause. You could see even at times, he talked over the applause, as if to say, let me get through this.
TAPPER: On the left side of your screen is a rebroadcast from just moments ago, when Pope Francis boarded the plane, one of the last to say goodbye to him, Secretary of State John Kerry, who is, of course, a practicing Catholic, and found some reassuring words no doubt in much of what the pope had to say.
The pope seemed to suggest, Jeff Zeleny, that he didn't mention Cuba or Iran by name, but he seemed to mention and suggest that past countries that the world has had trouble with, the path of negotiation should be followed.
Jeff, I'm going to get your thought on that. But we're going to squeeze in a quick break.
Stay with us. We will be right back.
TAPPER: Welcome back.
We just wanted to squeeze in that ad, so you wouldn't miss a second of when the pope's plane actually takes off for New York. You are right now looking at live pictures from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, where the pope is set to take off in just a few minutes on the plane. It's really just an American Airlines Boeing 777, but here with the pope on board in the United States, it's being referred to as Shepherd One.
Let's go right to CNN's Rosa Flores. She is on Shepherd One.
Rosa, has the pope settled in? Give us an idea of what it's like in there.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, all of the journalists are in the back, Jake.
Pope Francis and his entourage are in the front of the aircraft. Now, to note, this papal plane is an American Airlines commercial plane. So, there is no official Shepherd One, if you will, because the Vatican doesn't own any planes.
So, whenever the pope travels outside of Rome, initially, it's usually an Alitalia flight from Rome to whatever country he's traveling to (INAUDIBLE) Cuba and the United States. And now we have switched over to an American Airlines flight.
Now, for us to just board the plane, just to give you a little color, we went through a serious security brief with the Secret Service. (INAUDIBLE) this is -- can you imagine boarding a plane with Pope Francis? We were all sweeped before coming to the back of the plane boarding. And then, of course, we all tried to get a glimpse of Pope Francis getting onto the front of the plane.
But there are some curtains, but you can just barely see Pope Francis hop in and, of course, settle in into the flight.
[16:15:08] Now, Jake, I know you're probably wondering this because you're an awesome journalist, what does Pope Francis carry in his carry-on bag? You know what we journalists carry, we carry a computer and everything we need to do our jobs.
Well, Pope Francis, I'm told by the Holy See, carries an electric razor, a prayer book, a novel, a rosary and a toothbrush. Now, while he's on the plane, I've learned from the Holy See, he enjoys reading, reflecting, praying, preparing for the places he'll be visiting. He also, I'm told, enjoy visiting with journalists. And as you know, coming to the back of the plane chatting with journalists. Now, as we prepare to take off, think about this wherever the pope
goes (INAUDIBLE) -- imagine, Jake, be blessed on our way from Joint Base Andrews all the way to JFK. So, if you're (INAUDIBLE) -- you're going to be blessed by Pope Francis -- Jake.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, that's nice.
Rosa Flores, do we have any idea what novel he's reading? You said -- did you say he's reading a mystery novel of some sort?
FLORES: I don't know if it's a mystery novel or not. I didn't get all of that information. Some of that information is not shared. But I wish I did. I wish I knew what novel he's reading because wouldn't that be a best seller at this point in time?
But, you know, the pope cares about hygiene, he carries his toothbrush with him, and his electric razor. Of course, a prayer book which would be expected. I also read a few other books that he carries from his grandmother.
And, by the way, Jake, his grandmother has a beautiful name, her name is Rosa. So -- and from everything I've read she is a special figure in his life, always carries guidance from her. And we've also learned how Pope Francis speaks about women and women in the church and how important he says the world of women is in the church.
But again, we're on the papal's plane. At this point in time, it's an American Airlines plane. It's a commercial flight. There's nothing special about this plane other than Pope Francis is taking it from D.C. to New York to commute the three-city tour in the United States.
TAPPER: Rosa, give us an idea of what it's like traveling on Shepherd One, the plane that the Vatican has chartered or whomever has charted for the pope's travel. First of all, how crowded is the plane right now? And second of all, is it the same flight attendants, same meal, same type of thing anybody would have if they flew from D.C. to New York?
FLORES: Yes, it's less crowded than a normal airliner because there's less people in the back. It's a lot more crowded as all the journalists are here. But we do get a menu, for example, even though we're in economy. And the menu today has the code of arms of Pope Francis.
It says, "Visit of Pope Francis United States of America September 2015." Here we go with light snack. We're going to have Mediterranean olives and some premium chocolates and our choice of beverage.
You know, among other things as soon as we get on the plane we get some water, little something for the journalists that have been running around. But about kind of traveling with the pope, it's a lot of early mornings, Jake. We have this early morning call every morning, sometimes 4:15 in the morning, 5:15 in the morning. So, we're all up very early getting prepared for the day, getting more about what's going to happen during the day, and kind of learning a little more.
But as we taxi on this runway, New York better prepare for Pope Francis' visit, the pontiff's first visit to the United States, his first visit to New York. We know here, he visited the homeless, he spoke before Congress, and in New York, of course, he will be speaking before the U.N., a much anticipated speech as you know, Jake. Probably will speak about the refugee crisis and putting nations in the hot seats quite frankly when it comes to helping refugees. So, we'll see.
But again, we're taxiing down the runway at this point in time. Pope Francis is probably, I don't know, a football field away for sure from where I'm sitting and where all the journalists are sitting.
[16:20:07] He's with his entourage. I'm here with all the journalists, and we work to the very last moment, Jake Tapper.
TAPPER: Rosa Flores, I don't want to get you in trouble with the flight attendants, are they telling you to turn off your phone as you sit there on Frontier One with the pope?
FLORES: No, actually they've been very, very nice. Both the Alitalia flight attendants and with the American Airlines flight attendants, they know that we're just trying to tell the story of Pope Francis' visit to Cuba and the United States. So, they're very nice. They know we're just trying to do our jobs and they try to cooperate with us as much as possible.
TAPPER: Rosa Flores on trip of a lifetime, following the pope as he travels throughout the United States. She was there in Cuba with the pontiff. Now, she is on Frontier One, which is the name of the Boeing 777, the American Airlines charter that Pope Francis is taking from Andrews Air Base, Joint Base Andrews to JFK airport in New York City.
Let me bring Jeff Zeleny back to finish the question I had asked, which -- Jeff, the pope as we were talking about in his address to Congress had some rather clear positions to take even if he took them in a rather nice way. For instance in referencing, I assumed he was talking about the Cuba diplomatic relations he helped broker, as well with the nuclear deal with Iran, he said efforts in recent months to help historic differences linked to painful episodes of past, this is required and requires courage which is not the same as irresponsibility.
That's a very strong position to take standing in front of a Republican Congress that is overwhelmingly opposed to the Iran deal and to the new diplomatic relations with Cuba, which I assume is what the pope was talking about.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I think to say that the speech was a soft speech I think is the incorrect interpretation. I think it was soft in tone, but I think the speech is very heavy in meaning. And that's a great example you just pointed out.
I mean, we know that the Vatican, that this pope was central to the discussions of the diplomatic opening between the United States and Cuba. We've known that now ever since that happened we've seen some of the president's top advisors were actually holding these meetings like Ben Rhodes, his national security advisor and other holding meets in the Vatican. So, I think that's exactly what he was talking about.
But I think it was interesting that Pope Francis did not specifically use the word Cuba or call for an end to the embargo, because he's not here -- he knows that his position is not here to lobby these members specifically. And that would not have been received well. So I think it takes a couple readings of the speech actually to really see how heavily freighted with meaning it is. But that is certainly one point of that.
But Republicans do not seem to mind that. I mean, they certainly knew his position going in to this. No surprises about where the pope stands on most anything.
TAPPER: That's true. If you're just tuning in Pope Francis has boarded his American Airlines charter a Boeing 777 nicknamed "Shepherd One". Shepherd One, as it takes the pope -- I guess he changed planes here in Washington, D.C. -- from Washington, D.C. to New York City. And it will take him in the coming days to Philadelphia.
We're joined here by Father Timothy Kesicki, president of the Jesuit Conference.
Father, give us a preview of what's next on the docket for the pope. What's the big agenda item for him in New York City?
TIMOTHY KESICKI, PRESIDENT, JESUIT CONFERENCE OF THE U.S. & CANADA: So, obviously, he's going to St. Patrick's Cathedral today. Hopefully, he's getting some rest tonight. He's got to be jet lagged.
TAPPER: Seventy-eight years old.
KESICKI: Seventy-eight years old. I'm hoping he gets some sleep on the plane. And then tomorrow -- really what's big -- the biggest event that's going to happen in New York is address to the United Nations, his mass at Madison Square Garden. He's going to have the opportunity to go to Harlem and to visit a school because they like to have that direct connection with ministry.
But the talk with the United Nations is going to be another significant address. Now, we're used to these addresses to the United Nations, Pope Benedict XVI has addressed the United Nations, St. John Paul II has addressed United Nations. But if you remember the first pope to ever address the U.N. was Pope Paul VI in 1965.
It was an historic address just like Congress was today because that was in the throes of the cold war and everybody wondered what the pope was going to say, was he in a sense going to get in the face of the Soviet Union to protect Catholics. And instead really he said a benchmark. He said war no more. He gave a very profound statement on peace. And that message has lived on.
So, while we've paid a lot of attention to Congress, we're eager to see what he says to the United Nations and what he invites the global community to do.
[16:25:07] TAPPER: If you're just joining us, Pope Francis' plane nicknamed Shepherd One is about to take off from Joint Base Andrews for New York City. It was very historic, Father, as you were just talking as his address to Congress. And I think as we've been discussing what's remarkable is his ability to say so many things that people in the chamber disagreed with and yet offend none of them.
Let's take a moment here and watch as the pope's plane, Shepherd One, takes off.
(POPE'S PLANE TAKING OFF)
TAPPER: We don't anticipate it will take long for the pope to get to New York. It's a fairly short flight. And I doubt he's going to be put in a holding pattern. It is the pope. He'll probably land within the hour of the show. There are crowds already gathering.
We're going to take a very quick break and then more on this historic visit by Pope Francis after this quick break.