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AT THIS HOUR WITH BERMAN AND MICHAELA

Pope Francis, Obama Meeting at White House; What is the Year of Mercy; Conservatives Opposed to Pope Francis on Climate Change; Pope Francis Parades in Popemobile. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 23, 2015 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00] JOHN ANDERSON, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome back. What a morning it has been so far. It is just about 11:00 a.m. here in Washington, D.C. You see the scene there. Some tens of thousands of people, faithful, some merely just curious people, lining the streets, waiting to get their first glimpse of Pope Francis in the popemobile. That's anticipated in the next several minutes or so. Right now, he is still meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office in the West Wing of the White House.

He will be heading, after parading through the streets, he'll head to St. Matthew's where he's going to meet with a number of the faithful, with bishops. There's a live shot inside. He's going to be speaking to bishops there and other members of the clergy. From there, he's then going to head to Catholic University where he will celebrate mass in front of several thousand people.

Standing by is our White House correspondent, Michelle Kosinski; also our Jim Sciutto.

What do you know?

MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We expect this to last 45 minutes to an hour. The White House did give us some idea of what they thought the biggest topics would be poverty, climate change and Cuba. This is really building on the last meeting they had. In a press conference after that meeting, he really spelled it out pretty candidly what went on between the two of them, because this is an intimate, friendly discussion. And I found that to be telling because the president was asked by reporters, what did the pope have to say about Obamacare? Remember, there was so much political wrangling at the time last year. What did the pope say about Russia and what's going on there? What about gay marriage? And the president's response was, well, really the bulk of this meeting focused on poverty, on income inequality and what more could be done on that, and also how elusive peace is in the world and how destructive conflicts are.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You get to the issue of poverty, wealth disparity here and add to the list hot- button political issues here in the U.S. On any given day, particularly in the midst of a presidential race, just tick them off, immigration. We know how much of that has been an emotional issue on both sides. Certainly, the Cuba decision by the president of which the pope was an essential part of the early diplomacy there. Certainly, wealth disparity as well. Again, here is a pope, he is a deft politician. He knows the power of his voice, but he is using his voice to comment on these issues in public and certainly taking that opportunity now with the president in private, with the leader of the free world, the leader of the church and the leader of the free world. And their minds coming together on these issues, certainly on wealth disparity and Cuba and climate change. But separate on other issues, if you're talking about issues of family, abortion and gay marriage.

KOSINSKI: Yeah, and sometimes people think that because something is timely, it's making headlines, that the pope is going to be all over that subject. But some of these things, because they're timely now, the pope has been talking about them for a very long time. The plight of the poor has been really his life's work. And also, after the last meeting between the pope and President Obama, people asked what about those issues on which you disagree? Abortion. I mean, really taking center stage now, at least, in the headlines. Yeah, what about gay marriage? What about the differences? How did the pope bring that up? And the president said, really, that didn't come up. What we focused on was --

(CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: What we agree on, yeah.

KOSINSKI: -- the common ground. And the domestic issue that they focused on during the last meeting was primarily immigration. So we expect this to be much the same topics. It could be broader because they've already had that initial discussion. But building on the foundation is what both sides were looking to do with this.

SCIUTTO: And, Anderson, just one more point there because when you get to those differences, you get to an essential tension with this pope. This pope changes the outlook. He changes the opinion of the church on these issues. He is not changing the church's position on these issues. He is not pronouncing gay marriage OK. The church still very much opposed to it. He's not pronouncing abortion OK. He has made changes around the edges, for instance, on divorce, saying, for instance, that people who have been divorced should be allowed to take Communion in church, but he's not suddenly going to say divorce is OK, and that's about managing of expectations as well. Because there's tremendous expectation about the change he offers, but there has to be a reality check on the change that he can actually bring about in the church.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Let's talk about that, actually, because it's not actually that black and white so far. I mean, he's talked about next year being a Year of Mercy.

I'm joined by Bishop Christopher Coyne; and Delia Gallagher, our Vatican correspondent.

Let's talk about what that means for this pope because it's not that people who have been divorced are automatically going to be able to get Communion at this point. That's up for discussion now coming up in October. So explain what the Year of Mercy means and this meeting in October and how important it may be.

[11:05:14] CHRISTOPHER COYNE, BISHOP: The meeting in October is a synod that's been planned for a number of years on the family and on marriage and family in the world and how to support it and how to basically continue to maintain the great richness that it brings to all cultures throughout the course of history and through the world. The jubilee Year of Mercy is going to start in December and go through the whole year. And it's not just directed at particular groups like divorce and separated Catholics, but it's directed towards all people. And it's expression of god's mercy right across the spectrum of all of life's problems and all of life's situations.

COOPER: But there are a number of issues now which the pope has talked about. I mean, the idea of making annulments easier to procure, that the process to get a marriage annulled has cost money. It's been laborious for people. It's sometimes taken years. And it's dissuaded some people from following through on that.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: The whole thing is connected because the problem was with divorced and remarried people. So divorced people can receive Communion. It's divorced and remarried people that cannot receive Communion because if you're remarried, the church considers you in an adulterous situation if you haven't received an annulment. This is creating a division between the cardinals and bishops as to should we give Communion or should we not? Because Communion is an important aspect, it's a fundamental aspect of being a Catholic. And one way to get around that was to say let's make the annulment process a little bit easier so if they haven't gotten an annulment because they think it's laborious or expensive, let's streamline that. That is an issue they will pick up again in October.

COOPER: Also during this Year of Mercy, the issue of people who have had an abortion is -- in what way is that under consideration?

COYNE: Bishops have always had the right to say that the priests in their dioceses have faculties to grant absolution and forgiveness for abortion. In Vermont, it's been going on for 15 years. It's not universal all over the church. So what the Pope Francis has done has said, this is something I want universal and not just left up to particular bishops to decide, but this should be granted to all people throughout the world and not dependent upon where you live and who happens to be your bishop.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: And it allowed priests to be able to do this.

COYNE: Annulment is a remedial process. It's a healing process. It's a way of determining and looking at something that has gone on and saying, look, yes. Something happened with this marriage. It didn't make it. It didn't quite fulfill the way everyone would understand a meaningful, loving relationship to be in a covenant of marriage. And so now it's a freeing --

(CROSSTALK) AMANPOUR: What did you make also of the pope who said something earlier this summer that sometimes it's morally correct for a couple to divorce, particularly if it affects the child in any way?

COYNE: Or if a woman or man is in an abusive situation. You don't have to stay in these wretched situations. Marriages break down. We're all humans. There are awful situations. And what you want to do is you step in and not make it worse by closing your hands in terms of making annulments difficult. Many dioceses in the United States don't charge for annulments. We don't in Burlington. We didn't in the archdiocese of Indianapolis where I was now.

AMANPOUR: So we've been talking about how some of this comes into sort of confrontation with some of the more conservative traditional Catholics, certainly priests, bishops and laypeople.

And we're going to go right now to Robert George, who is the U.S. commissioner on International Religious Freedom.

And I would like to, you know, ask you to comment not just on the pope but on some of the discussion we've been having.

Firstly, your reaction to the tone and the substance of his speech this morning.

ROBERT GEORGE, U.S. COMMISSIONER, INTERNATIONAL RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Well, I was struck by the president's opening comment. He Drew some resonance from the 118th psalm. He said "what a beautiful day the lord has made." And of course, we can interpret that at a superficial level and just think about the beautiful day, the physically beautiful day for you there in Washington, D.C., and all the people, 11,000 people, there on the White House lawn. But I think that he was invoking something deeper, and that is that this is a significant day. It's an important day. It's a day when the leader of the Catholic Church, the largest religious institution in the world, has come to visit the United States, is at the president's home, being welcomed there. And we have serious discussions of serious issues on some of which the president and the pope disagree profoundly, on others of which they agree.

I was also struck, Christiane, by an important dimension of the optics that I don't think has been mentioned so far. It was wonderful to see a president who is a man of mixed race, whose father was Kenyan, and a pope who is from the global south, who's from the southern hemisphere. In the lifetimes of many, many Americans, people didn't think that such a thing would be possible, that a person of African-American heritage could be president of the United States, that the pope could be not only a non-Italian but a non-European. So there was a great significance, I think, and really beauty in the optics of the moment.

[11:10:21] COOPER: When you think first non-European pope in, I think, more than 1,000 years, it's significant when you see it.

COYNE: North African popes, way back in our history. There was no such thing as Europe at the time. It's kind of -- you know, but he is the first one from the global south. And it does -- he brings a whole different outlook on life and on issues that we in the northern Europe and in North America are just kind of adapting to.

COOPER: Robert, he did talk about climate change. And I'm wondering what your thoughts were on that. Because for many certainly conservatives in the United States who don't agree with his position on that, that's something they really don't want to necessarily hear from the pope.

GEORGE: There was a word that the - pope used frequently. And if you listened carefully would have heard that word. It's a word that also appears in the encyclical on ecology that he released. And that's the word "integral." "Integral." Why is that word significant? He's referring to the way in which all the various aspects of Catholic moral teaching, Catholic social teaching, fit together as a whole. They are integrated with each other. They are not disparate. So whether we're talking about the need to care for the physical environment, not to deify it, not to treat it as pa pantheists do as if it were a god, but it serves the human beings, future generations as well as our own. The way that teaching is integrated with concern for the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions with the need to care for the poor and give priority to the poor in the formation of our policy. To protect marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife in a covenant that is permanently committed and open to children. The need to welcome immigrants and refugees. The pope's point in using this word time and time again, integral, is that these teachings all fit together as a whole. We shouldn't pick and choose. We need to be focused on them.

Now, on the question of climate change, the pope's not putting himself forward as a scientist. He's relying, as best he can, on the scientists who give him the advice that he thinks is the best advice. Other scientists, of course, would disagree on the human contribution to climate change. Where the pope is speaking authoritatively is on the underlying moral question, at least for Catholics, the underlying moral question. And that is the importance of not treating the environment as a throw-away. The pope has used exactly the same term in relation to abortion. We shouldn't become a throw-away culture that throws away unborn children, or who throws away our beautiful, moral ecology. We need to preserve our environment not only for ourselves so that we can have healthy and happy lives, but also for future generations. We have a moral obligation to those who will come after us.

So once again, if we see these teachings as an integrated whole, we'll have the central message of the pope and of the Catholic Church. The pope here is teaching entirely consistently with Pope Benedict, with Pope John Paul II, and also the popes going back to Leo XIII, who back at the end of the 19th century, inaugurated this great tradition of social teaching.

COOPER: We've just gotten word, by the way, Robert, that the pope is now heading toward his vehicle in order to begin this parade in front of the tens of thousands who are waiting for him. That's obviously going to be a high point for many people here. It's the first time they're going to get a chance to see him in the now sort of famous popemobile. We don't have a shot directly -- that's as close as we'll get, but we'll see him as soon as he starts down the parade route as he heads toward St. Matthew's for midday prayers and meeting remarks to U.S. bishops.

Our Carol Costello, I know, is standing by as well on the parade route.

Carol, where are you in relation to the White House? About how far are you from it?

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR, "NEWSROOM": Not very far. I'm at Constitution and 15th. This is where the pope will make the final turn in his popemobile and head back to the White House. So he'll come on down Constitution Avenue, and then he'll make the turn onto 15th and leave. And I don't know if you can see it, but from my vantage point, a lot of people's heads are turned down Constitution Avenue. They know the pope is coming soon, and they're getting kind of antsy now and excited.

As you know, the pope will be traveling in this specially built popemobile. It's a special jeep wrangler. It was manufactured by local dealers and manufacturers right here in the Washington area. And it's more open because, as you know, the pope wants to get close to the people. He doesn't want to feel like he's in a can of sardines. So he wanted it as open as possible. But, of course, the Secret Service wants it as closed as possible. So what you will see is you will see this jeep wrangler outfitted with a special hood on it. And you know, it goes like this. And the glass appears very thick to me, but the sides are completely open, so the pope can reach out and maybe touch people. But again, as you can see, people are mostly being kept behind barriers so they can't run out into the streets to greet the pope because police and the Secret Service want to keep people away. The pope wants to get close.

[11:15:22] But everybody is hoping, as you might expect, Anderson, that the pope will stop exactly where you are. And he'll get out, and he'll come and touch a few people. There are a lot of disabled people in the crowd so the pope could lay hands on them and maybe heal them or bless them or make them feel better. There are many Catholics I've talked to, lapsed Catholics, I should say, who want to renew their faith. And they want this pope to reach out and touch them in a personal way so that they can return to the Catholic Church. In fact, I spoke to one young man, an American University student, in his 20s named Evan. And he said, you know, "I grew up Catholic and then I just moved away from it. But this pope makes me feel welcome. He doesn't make me feel guilty. He talks about things I care about, like caring for the poor and climate change." Those things resonate with him. And he said, "You know what, if I see the pope and he strikes me a certain way, then I just may return to the church."

One more thing that's interesting. Right adjacent to me is the Washington monument grounds. They have a huge Jumbotron set up there so people can watch the ceremony at St. Matthew's Cathedral while the pope prays. And during that time, there will be Catholic priests roaming the crowd. And if you want to give your confession to those priests, they'll be willing and able to hear them. So there you have it.

(CROSSTALK) COSTELLO: And if you're a Catholic, you totally get that.

COOPER: Carol, we are starting to now see the procession of the police motorcycles, which are in front of the pope, obviously, preparing the way for his procession down Constitution and down 15th.

We're joined, as we continue to watch these images, by Bishop Christopher Coyne; also Delia Gallagher, our Vatican correspondent.

Delia, in other places when the pope has been, obviously there have been issues of people rushing the pope. There's not going to be that situation here. Obviously, security is very tight. There's barriers up. There's a heavy police presence. You're saying that in the Vatican -- and there you see the popemobile off in the distance -- the Vatican -- oftentimes Vatican security will bring people to the pope.

GALLAGHER: I'll be curious to see what the U.S. security does. Certainly, it's the Vatican security protocol to literally bring people from the crowd if they want to come. So there's clearly a directive from the pope to allow people to come to him. Obviously, not in a mass way, which could create danger, but you see it often on Wednesdays when he does his general trip around St. Peter's Square, and the security are the people that lift up the babies and bring it to the pope or bring a special message from somebody to the pope. They are under his direction to do that. Now, we'll see, perhaps, here it's a different situation. They might not be able to do that, but I have seen him on plenty of other occasions in other countries stop his popemobile, get down, and shake the hands of people.

AMANPOUR: So we're all waiting to see if that happens.

What should we be watching for? I mean, again, you just go back to what he said in Brazil, either you make the journey as you have to make it with human communication, or you shouldn't make it at all.

GALLAGHER: Well, look, he says he's coming as a missionary. He wants to come and be as close to the people, it's been said numerous times. I think it's an obvious point, but it's worth repeating that this is where you get close to the people, obviously. I mean, yes, he needs to speak to his bishops and to his priests, but the effect for him as well, I mean, he's gotten out of the Vatican once, you know, to go change his glasses in the last year. I mean, he likes to get out. Let's keep that in mind. For popes, it's also tough on them that they've got to be sort of barricaded when you're used to being, for the last seven or eight years, being around people in a parish with the poor. This is his opportunity as well.

COOPER: And let's just listen in as the people on the streets get their first glimpse of Pope Francis in the United States.

(CHEERING)

COOPER: The archbishop of Washington is with Pope Francis in the popemobile.

AMANPOUR: And you know what, the pope can't help himself. He's moved right to the other side, trying as hard as he can to get as close as he can. But there is that glass, although not on that particular side, the bulletproof glass.

COOPER: There's his first stop.

AMANPOUR: There you go. There you go. Just as Delia told us.

[11:20:09] GALLAGHER: That he knows exactly what to do.

COOPER: We've also seen in other places people handing items to the pope. I saw one video somebody handing a pizza to the pope in one place that he went. People are handing the pope something to drink, traditional drinks. All of that something that the Secret Service that the pope's security is very concerned about, very aware of. Oftentimes, they'll take it and they'll hand it off or he'll take it and then hand it off.

GALLAGHER: But he's also -- you remember in Rome, it was, when he went out and embraced the man with the boils? And that was such -- almost a shocking picture. And it said right there and then what this pope's tolerance is and what he will do to make even those who are considered the most hideous feel that he's welcoming them and loving them.

COOPER: Also joining us is Father Edward Beck.

Father Beck, your thoughts on seeing this pope now greeting the faithful.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: He comes alive, Anderson. This is where he gets his energy. It's really not from all of the pomp and circumstance and the formal speeches. He wishes now that he could get out of that popemobile and really wade into that crowd, as we have seen before. But, of course, for security purposes, he cannot.

But this, as we have termed him, is the people's pope. And what you're seeing right here is an energized man. 78 years old, a piece of his lungs missing. He has sciatica. He's not always feeling the best, I'm sure. And yet energized now, yes. He looks a little tired to me when he was at the White House, sitting there, listening to his introduction and then having to give a speech, even though it was a good speech. But this is really where he lives. This is where he lived when he was archbishop. He wouldn't even take vacation. When someone from his parishes, priests, wanted to go on vacation, he, as archbishop, would go into the slums and cover for them rather than take vacation. So this is the people's pope, and we're seeing it right here.

COOPER: It's also interesting, Delia, I mean, he's really making eye connection with individuals in the crowd, kind of pointing to them, waving specifically to people, giving them the sign of the cross.

GALLAGHER: Yeah, obviously, they've told them he's not able to get out and stop the car, but he's doing his best to get as close as possible. And of course, that's charisma. I mean, if you meet -- I remember with John Paul II, it was the same thing. He had the ability, even when he was sick at the end, to look you in the eye and make you feel like you were the only person in the room. And that's what great, you know, leaders can do. And Pope Francis has that, too.

Our Carol Costello is standing by. I know, Carol, you can now see him coming down toward you. You get a sense there --

COSTELLO: Oh, my goodness, Anderson, it's so loud I couldn't hear you for a second because we can see the popemobile. It is on the way down Constitution Avenue. People are waving flags. Flags from every country in the world, it seems like. And of course, there are many American flags as well and Vatican flags. Every head is turned. Every cell phone camera is pointed towards that motorcade that's coming my way. You can see the police sirens surrounding the pope as he comes down Constitution Avenue. Just think, the entire city of Washington, D.C., shut down for a 15-minute parade. That's it. As the AAA described it earlier today, it was traffic apocalypse. But everything is going smoothly right now. The Metro system appears to have worked because there are tens of thousands of people ling Constitution Avenue, also 17th, also 15th, just to get one glimpse of this pope.

COOPER: And there, obviously, we lost the close-up camera. We'll get that back shortly.

But you get a sense of the size of this motorcade with the police motorcycles out in front. The pope is in a specially made popemobile, a Jeep Wrangler that was made here locally, outfitted here locally. And there's the image back as well.

One of the difficulties, obviously, Carol, for this pope is he has people on both sides of the street who want as much personal attention as they can get.

(LAUGHTER)

COSTELLO: That's very, very true. And you notice that the pope is constantly waving. Even when he was in Cuba, he was kissing babies and hugging people, and he was constantly waving because he's always aware of the people around him. He hasn't stopped yet.

But I'm telling you, Anderson, many people have been praying since last night for this pope to stop and get out of the popemobile so that they can see him up close and personal. But, of course, he's had a very, very long day. And while it's a beautiful day in Washington, D.C., the sun is very hot. A few people have collapsed waiting for Pope Francis to come by. So I'm sure they're being very careful with Pope Francis this afternoon.

COOPER: John King, as we look -- oh, there's another child being brought to this pope from the crowd.

Again, Delia, just as you said, Vatican security bringing people to the pope.

[11:25:16] GALLAGHER: Well, I hope you noticed that there was a local policeman that was kind of pushing her back and taking her away, and then the Vatican police went over and got her, because that's what you've got to do.

COOPER: John King, this is the same kind of configuration we saw on inauguration day.

JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is. Except you have, in addition, we say all politics is local, but I guess not necessarily when the pope can give a nod to his people to overrule the United States Secret Service or local law enforcement and bring a child. It is very much looks like an inaugural parade. And you have the same kind of coordination of the security services. The pope essentially take this as I mean it, he's deemed a risk. Not that he is deemed a risk, but this is deemed such a big national security event that you have a coordination, just an unbelievable coordination of the D.C. Police Department, the park police, the capitol police, the FBI, ATF, the Secret Service, just about every law enforcement agency you can imagine. Then, of course, bringing in the Vatican security sources as he moves on to New York. I know you spent some time with the police commissioner up there just the other day.

So the coordination of this and the control centers they have across Washington and they will have across New York as this happens, trust me, we're watching this on television. There are several rooms in this town, and there will be more rooms in New York when the pope moves on and then in Philadelphia where you have people in lines just as you're lined up at an anchor desk, a representative from the Vatican, from local law enforcement, and they are watching every bit of this through the radio communications, through the surveillance cameras all over the place because as we watch this. And it is a remarkable event, the pope clearly wants to get as close as possible. And I'm guessing, like the presidents in this country, he's going to get frustrated from time to time by the bubble. What it takes to pull this off, though, and to coordinate this is nothing short of remarkable.

AMANPOUR: And, John, I think that all of our viewers not only around the United States but around the world who have sort of a jaundiced view of Washington, particularly when there's so much division and in some instances some sort of carnival-like atmosphere, if you like, toward politics, that there seems to be for this moment such a euphoria, such a unity, such an outpouring of something that's just plain good.

KING: And just plain good. That's a great way to put it, Christiane. And I think we should, as I said earlier, my first instinct is to try to get into what the political meaning is of this. I want to throw that aside for the next couple of days and enjoy the people, the people there. As Carol noted, a diverse melting pot of Washington, and people have come here. I got off a plane from New York last night with a member of the LGBT community, who was invited to the ceremony today, and she was ecstatic. She said, "I'm not a Catholic. I'm not quite sure what to make of this pope, but I want to go hear what he says." You hear the excitement here on the streets.

This is a town that far too often it wakes up and by the time you pour your coffee, it's gone off the tracks and into its polarization. Look, the White House will say we welcome what the pope said on climate change and about the refugee crisis and other issues. You will hear Republicans in the next few days say we welcome what he said about the sanctity of life because we're in this big debate about Planned Parenthood and whether to shut down the government. At the moment, let's focus on the thousands of people who are just thrilled beyond belief at the moment that the Holy Father is wandering their streets.

GALLAGHER: If I could also, just to focus on the fact that this is a pope that brings everybody together. As a Catholic, of course, you are thrilled. But I bet you that in that crowd, you have Catholics. You probably have Muslims. You have agnostics. You have Protestants. You have people from all walks of life that are just focused on the message of inclusion. And let's also remember, you know, the pope earlier talked about religious freedom. That's normally a message that is -- that Republicans love. But this is also a pope that said that the Koran has as much valid messaging as the Bible. And so right there, again, he's focusing on the unity that we should all focus on, frankly, at least in the next couple days here in Washington to figure out how to solve all of the problems that he's going to underscore.

AMANPOUR: Maria and John, do you think that stepping into this atmosphere where the top line of all the political discussions right now is that two of the top candidates have said no to a potential Muslim president? I mean, it is an amazing coincidence that that should be the sort of top line while this pope who's unified, as you said and as John said, not just Catholics, but people from all religions or no religions, they like him.

[11:29:56] KING: As we say, timing is everything in politics, and the timing of this pope could not have predicted we would be in this debate about whether Donald Trump is supposed to shout down at a town hall when the president of the united states is a Muslim when we all know he is not.