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Awaiting Papal Visit to Statuary Hall; Interview with Rep. Steve King of Iowa. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2015 - 11:00   ET


[11:00:00] CHRIS CUOMO, CNN CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: You also had to speak closely -- Jim and I were discussing this -- because of the subtlety and the nuance the Holy Father used in knitting together so many ideas in an effort to find the space that joins the people in that room. And I think it's very important to note that while Dana is right to point out partisan contrast, they were standing in ovation at the beginning and that at the end. I don't think that was over. Two dozen applause lines. They hoped it would be a sermon, as we watch the pope walking through Statuary Hall. He had to adjust during his message to allow for applause. He wanted to rush through, focusing on the language, focusing on the point of purpose, Jim, but he was stopping to let them applaud. That's what stood out the most to me. He didn't lay it out like a politician would. He was laying it out, there is something we both have to do here. This matters more than our position on them.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Certainly, a call to action. You know, Wolf, with all the debate before this, was this going to be gentle or something of a scolding? I would say there was a toughness here. It was subtle, diplomatic, but he didn't pull his punches, certainly, as laying lines on gay marriage, talking about his worry of family being under threat. He made a strong rebuke of abortion, talking about protecting life at every stage.

Here is the pope here, about to see the statue --


CUOMO: Joined with Vice President Biden there. That's who he's standing next to.

Go ahead, Jim.

SCIUTTO: One other point I would make, on immigration, for instance, this gets to the toughness, he called critics of immigration here in the U.S. and elsewhere, hypocrites. His line, "We, the people of this continent, are not fearful of foreigners, because most of us were once foreigners ourselves." That was a direct rebuke saying, how can you criticize when you came from the same roots? That's a very tough message that only this man, perhaps, can deliver in such a diplomatic way.

CUOMO: But he didn't do it in terms of right/left. He did it in terms of right and wrong.


CUOMO: Global warming was the big message yesterday. Immigration, I think, clearly today.

Christiane, you were right to point out the death penalty. It was some part of a surprise there because even his comments about immigration, he tied into an idea of social justice. And I think it was really clever. This man is known for quoting others. Usually, they're religious figures. As we know, in Cuba, he used Jose Marte. But for him to address the U.S. Congress using their own heroes, Merton, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King and Abraham Lincoln

SCIUTTO: Both bipartisan heroes.

CUOMO: He was basically saying, I'm not telling you who you should be. I'm telling you this is who you already are when you're at your best.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Chris, that's absolutely right. As we've said over the last few minutes, as we watched the pope move from the central message where he was delivering that through Statuary Hall, now moving out and coming up on the balcony.

We're also joined -- Jake is sitting here with me, Jake Tapper, and John Allen, and Father Kesicki, who is a Jesuit priest, who has been watching very carefully for the pastoral nuances here.

He did it very deftly, didn't he, Father?

FATHER TIMOTHY KESICKI, PRIEST: Yes. I think Pope Francis lives by the adage, facts don't shape people's lives, stories do. The story he told about the four Americans who captured the spirit about what's ideal about this country is going to help people remember this address a year from now. People often let facts go in and out have their head. He had factual information but he kept it narrative, interesting and compelling.

AMANPOUR: Interesting. You're a Jesuit. The one Congressman, who we understand boycotted this, was educated by the Jesuits. He is going to maybe feel a little sorry when he sees the immense way that this was welcomed by all sides of the political divide.

KESICKI: We have an expression if there was a barricade, you would find Jesuits on both sides of it, so that's not atypical of Jesuits or educated by Jesuits. It will be interesting to see that congressman's reaction to the Holy Father's address.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I would like to talk, if we could, about the statue the pope just visited, Junipero Serra, who was just made into a saint yesterday at Catholic University. There were a lot of references in the pope's speech that require us to go over it and talk a little more in detail. But I was struck by his acknowledgment, in a way, of why many in the Native American community in California are upset by this move by him to make Junipero Serra a saint. He said those first contacts -- in the United States, I suppose he was suggesting -- were often turbulent and violent. It's difficult to judge the past by criteria of the present. Nonetheless, when the stranger in our midst appeals to us, we must never keep the sins and the errors of the past. He was trying to explain himself about this new saint, I think.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Sure. We'll come to that in one second. First, let's pick up the business about the four Americans, what I'm going to call in today's column the pope's fantastic four. Francis operates on many levels, the pastoral and spiritual level, but also a very politically savvy figure. He knew very well in the run up to this trip there were a lot of people trying to pigeon hole him as somehow anti-American, because of his anti- capitalistic rhetoric. He doesn't speak English, so on. I think the genius of lifting up these four Americans was to say, if I'm anti- American, so are four of your heroes because they stand for the same values as I do. That was very crafty.

[11:05:52] AMANPOUR: John, to that end as well, he used American technological and scientific exceptionalism --

ALLEN: Yeah.

AMANPOUR: -- in terms of how they could work out a solution for climate change. In every way, he tipped the hat to what makes this country great.

ALLEN: Calling himself an American. To Jake's question about Junipero Serra, you know the homily Pope Francis gave last night when he declared Serra a saint in the church, he acknowledged explicitly there were horrible abuses during the Colonial period. He did again today in his address to Congress. We need to understand the pain people feel, the historical pain that people still feel as a result of that era. He simply believes on the basis of that investigatory process that, one, you can't blame Junipero Serra. He believes Serra did what he could to mitigate those abuses and to protect the natives from the worse of it.

TAPPER: We are seeing right now -- there's Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi; Democratic Senate leader, Harry Reid; Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, others coming out of the chamber of Congress right now. We believe the pope is going to at least wave to the crowd from the balcony, if not more. The Park Service does a good crowd -- hundreds of thousands of people.






POPE FRANCIS (through translation): Hello, everyone.


POPE FRANCIS (through translation): I'm so grateful for your presence here.


POPE FRANCIS (through translation): The most important ones here, children.


POPE FRANCIS (through translation): I'll ask God to bless them.

Father of all, bless these. Bless each of them. Bless the families. Bless them all.

And I ask you all, please, to pray for me. And if there are among you any who do not believe or cannot pray, I ask you, please, to send good wishes my way.



POPE FRANCIS: Thank you. Thank you very much. And God bless America.




[11:11:30] AMANPOUR: There goes the pope again in English, "God bless America." In Spanish addressing those huge numbers, tens of thousands of people out there, praying for the little children, referring directly to Christ, suffer the little children, and also asking them to pray for himself.

The speaker, Boehner, was visibly moved, weeping. There also Roman Catholic minority leader, Nancy Pelosi; the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell; and the vice president.

Rosa Flores was out in the crowd -- Rosa.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Christiane. I noticed all the things you guys mentioned, but I also notice a couple other nuanced notes. He mentioned MLK and quoted "The Dream," but if you read it closely, he said that the dream inspires us all in America. So, it inspires all of us. Then he says, it continues for many in America. So, just a couple of words there, but it's definitely an interesting point that the pope made.

Also when he was talking about the refugee crisis, he pretty much was talking about immigration and the immigration crisis that we saw last year here in the United States. He said, a lot of people going north. We saw a huge influx of children coming north. He almost made a reference saying, you're seeing a refugee crisis elsewhere in the world. We're experiencing one right here in the United States. Then another one that was very, very subtle, he mentioned that he was from this continent. We know that he was born in South America. But if you ask anyone, most people in any of the Latin American countries, whenever we're in the United States, we say America. They say, we are all from America. Very subtle. But I think that that was one of the points that Pope Francis was trying to say.

And when he was speaking Spanish out here, I got to tell you, this was very typical Pope Francis, whenever he's able to speak off the cuff. I've heard him say that before. "Everyone, please pray for me." Then whenever he refers to other people who, perhaps, don't believe, he always asks for good wishes and good vibes. Even if you don't pray, send me good vibes. That's very, very much in the character of Pope Francis because he's very inclusive. The message doesn't just go out to Catholics. He wants to be inclusive and he wants to include everyone -- Christiane?

TAPPER: Rosa Flores out there covering the speech for us.

We're going to take a very, very quick break. We'll be right back with more coverage of the pope's visit to Washington, D.C., and the United States after this very, very short message.


[11:16:23] TAPPER: We're back and we're watching Pope Francis leaving the capitol after addressing Congress, the first time an American pope has addressed a joint session of Congress. We see the congressional leaders there. There is Democratic Senator Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell, Republican Senate majority leader behind him.

We expect the pope to go to St. Patrick's in the city, where he'll meet some individuals in Washington, D.C., who are homeless. After that, he will have lunch at Catholic Charities. The former head of Catholic Charities is the current U.S. ambassador to the Holy See.


AMANPOUR: Jake, he is playing true to form, of course. He's not going to some fancy dinner. There's the pope coming out now after that magnificent balcony reception that he had from the people of the United States who were standing out there just before he addressed the representatives inside with a joint meeting of Congress. He touched on all the issues he's so well known for. All of them couched, not just in politically, but in this pastoral envelope he's been so well known for.

We were just discussing the reaction, the reception he's received in Washington, the most highly anticipated speech, because it was in the heart of American politics. The reaction he's got across the board must surely lay to rest any doubt about how this pope, Francis, the pope of the global poor, would be received here in the heart of the United States capital.

Jeff Zeleny, you're out there. How can you feel what's going on right now?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Christiane, I can tell you, we have dozens of members of Congress lining the House steps here, as you can see, watching Pope Francis say good-bye, really, to the leaders of Congress. We have Senator John Cornyn, Republican from Texas, he's talking to right now. He's already said good-bye to Mitch McConnell and others. He's walking to his car. There are hundreds of young House staffers, primarily, some waving flags, most all wielding cameras for a picture of the pope. The small Fiat is dwarfed by the size of the U.S. Capitol behind him. But every member of Congress, to a person, taking pictures, wishing him well.

We're getting a bit of early reaction to the speech. I can tell you one Republican member of Congress told me he thought it was a soft scolding, but it was fine. It was not nearly as strong or strenuous as they thought it might be. We're going to talk to a few other members of Congress here after he leaves.

We can see the Fiat moving slowly now. It's going to be driving in front of us, in front of the capitol here. The drive to St. Patrick's is a short drive. That is a parish in the heart of downtown. I can tell you, if you go to mass there, as I have many times, even on holy days, you see homeless people in the sanctuary. This is a very important symbolic but an important church here, St. Patrick's in downtown Washington, a very old parish here. You can see him as he is slowly making his way. The windows are down, so I can tell you most hill staffers here are hoping for a glimpse of him. Members of Congress as well. We see U.S. Senators holding up cameras here, trying to get one glimpse of the pope as he walks by. He'll be just coming by us in a minute as he drives by in his Fiat here.

Let's just watch this scene.

[11:19:54] TAPPER: Jeff Zeleny, Jake Tapper here.

You and I know covering this town, it's not difficult to become rather cynical but it seems as though the pope has cracked through, when you look at the reaction from members of Congress. Emotional. Vice President Biden very solemn. Speaker John Boehner weeping. What are you seeing up there?

ZELENY: Jake, I cannot remember a scene like this. We have hundreds of members of Congress here. You can hear them. They're waving to him as he's going by.

We're going to give a wave to him ourselves here. He has a smile on his face. He's grinning.

It is a sun-splashed day here in Washington and members of Congress are lining the way as he is driving now across the length of the capital to the Senate side of the capital. The cheers you hear are from Hill staffers who are gathering outside here.

We are right now -- he is driving in between the capitol and the Supreme Court building. He'll be making his way to Constitution Avenue. He's waving his hands there, as you can see. He is so close to so many of these people. He has a smile on his face, really enjoying this moment as so many people up here on Capitol Hill certainly are -- Jake?

TAPPER: And, Christiane, as Dana Bash reported earlier, four members of the Supreme Court were in attendance at the joint session of Congress. They did something they never do, they never do, which is applaud. When the pope -- it was something -- it was a fairly benign and innocuous statement that America is the land of the home of the free and the brave, but still --


TAPPER: -- they were swept up in a moment and Supreme Court justices are, as a rule, never swept up in a moment when they're in that room.

AMANPOUR: I know. It's hard not to appreciate that this is a glorious day and a glorious moment. I think no matter how, as you said, cynical or political or hard-headed or whatever it is, you can't help but get swept up when there's a global moral leader addressing you. He has shown that -- he walks the walk and talks the talk. He's not somebody who sits and pontificates from on high but he does it down low with the people.

You know what, Jake, I was wondering whether anybody here sort of twigged that he chose Thomas Merton, a Cistercian friar who had tolerance, and into religious dialogue. And in that Congress was one of the Republican candidates for presidency. There were two, the top Republican candidates, have decided to make a war on Muslims. 1.5 billion members of another faith. It must be a little bit weird to have that sort of discordance when this pope is here talking about what makes America great, tolerance and all the other issues that have made this country great and the power of immigrants and other religions to build this country.

TAPPER: Our Rosa Flores is out there.

Rosa, when the pope spoke to the assembled throngs, hundreds of thousands out on the mall, he said, pray for me. It was the first thing he said after elected pope. Pray for me. A sign have his humility.

FLORES: Definitely a sign of his humility. He has said that in most every country he's visited, in Cuba, he mentioned that, he was soft other politicians here than he was in his church speaking to bishops and nuns. He said, "Oh, God, please free us from the crying nuns." To the priests he said, "You should have mercy in the confessional." He said, if you are free of sin, throw the first stone directly at priests."

Here, he is a lot more subtle. He did make some strong points. He talks about a lot of issues that are, perhaps, divisive here in the United States. But he did it in a gentle way.

I was talking to Mary Monroe from Alexandria. Tell us your reaction.

MARY MONROE, CAME TO WATCH THE POPE: I agree, he was very gentle. He came to dialogue. That was a word you heard him say over and over. I'm here to start this dialogue, talk about climate change, to talk about immigration, to talk about the family, to talk about the abolishment of the death penalty. There were so many issues he touched upon that, you know, spoke to my heart.

FLORES: Tell me about what spoke to your heart of all those issues, what was the most important in your book?

MONROE: I wanted him to hear about climate change. I know he just wrote the encyclical. I really wanted to hear him talk about the death penalty. I worked to abolish the death penalty. I wanted to hear him say that to our lawmakers. It's so important. It almost made it to the Supreme Court this summer.

FLORES: When he spoke about families and how important it was to have the traditional family, that touched the lives of many as well.

I believe we are going to something else, Jake, so I'm going to toss back to you.

TAPPER: Rosa Flores, thank you so much.

Let's go to Chris Cuomo, who is also out there covering this momentous day in Washington, D.C. -- Chris?

[11:25:10] CUOMO: Boy, you are -- that's the perfect way to put it, my friend.

We're having a great conversation, Representative Steve King and I. You know him from Iowa.

Before we get to the speech, let's deal with the moment. You feel that you were part of something special today.

REP. STEVE KING, (R) IOWA: Oh, you can just feel this. Inside the chamber, you could feel it. You could feel his presence when he walked in the room. The way people reacted inside the chamber, both in the gallery and members, house members and Senators, you just had the feeling you're in the presence of the pontiff and the presence of His Holiness. All eyes and ears were on his words. And the focus and intensity on trying to pick up every sill bell as he spoke, which is difficult, by the way. I don't think I can just say this conclusively. I've never seen such attentiveness on the part of the members in the chamber, not for a State of the Union address, not by a speech by anyone I can recall in my 13 years in Congress.

CUOMO: Jake commented on the same. He and Dana both said, we've never heard them listen like this. Not as a criticism, but an observation. Do you feel relief or pride at how the men and women dealt with what was being said? There were two dozen applause lines, standing ovation on the way in and on the way out.

KING: I would just say both of those. But I wasn't very concerned there would be a partisan division. That message went out to try to avoid that. It was a natural thing that flowed. You know, you listen sometimes, you would hear the applause start on the Democrat side and then roll over to the Republican side. In each case, it was balanced, respectful, appreciative. I think that's reflective of the language he used in his speech as well.

CUOMO: We'll have plenty of time to process the content of this speech. You have to think about it, what mattered to you. He really did emphasize immigration. We were looking at this speech together, preparing for this. Him, likening it to the Golden Rule.

As we see on the screen right now, the pope in the papal Fiat has arrived here, to feed the homeless, a Pope Francis inclination. That's what's going on now.

The likening of the Golden Rule, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, that is his rationale for why to respect the people who want to come to this country. Did it make you think of that niche any differently?

KING: I'd say that one thing I would say the Catholic Church is the important of the nation-state, the sovereignty. If you protect laws, have you to have borders and you have to have a nation-state. Now, also, I absolutely agree with the church's position to respect the dignity of every human person. And the language he uses really focuses on that and we shouldn't encourage opportunities. But by the same token, if we open up our borders, we eventually sink the life boat that is America. That next phase is a practicality of this. It was an arresting speech.

What I said as we spoke earlier, too, all of the language in his speech that I've had an opportunity to evaluate -- and there were a few words I missed in there, the early part, especially. It was broad. It was inclusive. It was logical. There wasn't a lot there to disagree with, whether you were from the right, left or center. And I think it was designed that way. If I had written this speech, as I was kind of joking in a way, it would have been sharper, more definitive. And it's a good thing I didn't. I'm glad he did. And I am relieved he gave the kind of speech that makes everybody feel good about our faith, our Christianity, our country.

CUOMO: And the humanity we should apply to one another.

KING: Indeed.

CUOMO: Congressman, thanks for being with us and sharing --

KING: Thank you, Chris.

CUOMO: -- what it was like to be in that room.

Jake, back to you.

AMANPOUR: Christiane here with Jake, talking now with Father Kesicki and also John Allen about some of the interesting proposals the pope put forward, talking about respect of life at all levels of development. Obviously, from conception to death.

Were you surprised he brought up the death penalty? KESICKI: I wasn't surprised although all. I think everyone we heard

in his speech is consistent with what he has written and what he said once he became pope. Even his cyclical, is A pro-life cyclical. To bring healthy life onto this world, you need a healthy planet. He has a consistent ethic of life that loves life from conception to natural death.

AMANPOUR: And them, John, he talked about the family. He addressed fund mental relationships. What do you think that was about? Was that talking about gay marriage? Was that talking about the rate of divorce among heterosexual couples? What was he talking about there?

ALLEN: Francis is, is all in, so to speak, on the issues of the family. There we see him on the screen. He's called two summits of Catholic bishops from around the world, devoted to issues around the family. He's going to the World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia in a couple of days.