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Pope Francis Visits New York City; Pope Visiting Students at Harlem School. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 25, 2015 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: To our viewers in the United States and around the world, welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Right now, you're looking at live pictures of Pope Francis. He's in the middle of a very busy schedule as he is making his way around New York. Right now, he has just pulled up to Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem. That's where the pope's arriving as we speak.

On the right side of your screen, a very, very large crowd in Central Park. Crowds there are gathering just to get a glimpse of the pope. He will drive through Central Park later this afternoon. He's just going to drive through. And 100,000 individuals have gotten tickets, received tickets, just to stand in Central Park and watch the pope drive through as he goes on a tour of Central Park.

Let's go to Rosa Flores, who is at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem.

Rosa, tell us about this school, why this is a place where the pope is visiting. All the places he has picked so far in terms of these interactions with the public are specially selected.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me set the scene for you first. Take a look, because Pope Francis is interacting with the crowd right now.

Now, there's a lot of security, Jake, I have got to tell you, from every imaginable agency here to make sure that Pope Francis can be safe while he's doing this. But look at him. He's moving very slowly, greeting the crowd, saying hello to all of these people. You can see them taking pictures and just embracing Pope Francis here in Harlem.

Now, why is this location so important to him? There are a few reasons. He's going to be meeting with refugees, with immigrants. I can tell you from the moment that we got on the papal plane, Jake, he said, "I am very emotional right now because I spoke to refugees when I was leaving Vatican City, refugees from Syria." He said, "I'm very, very emotional."

So, he spoke about war and he spoke about peace. And he said that there needed to be something done in the world. So, he's going to be meeting with refugees, with immigrants inside this school. Most of the students who attend this school are also very much in need.

This is an area of New York that is poverty-stricken. So, imagine all of the emotions, Jake. Not only will he be meeting immigrants, also refugees, but students, children. He glows when he speaks to children. And also an area that's poverty-stricken, and it's -- all of these groups very much important to Pope Francis, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Rosa Flores, who is outside Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem.

Why don't we just take a minute and just listen to the crowd interacting with Pope Francis as he makes his way through the crowd. These images are coming in live. Let's take a listen.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Holy Father, we love you! Holy Father, we love you! Holy Father, we love you!

TAPPER: So much joy, so much excitement, these young people at Our Lady Queen of Angels School in Harlem in Manhattan.

About 300 students attend that school, pre-K to eighth grade. About 70 percent are Latino, 22 percent African-American; 69 percent of the students at that school receive scholarships.

Rosa Flores, who is outside the school, I don't know if you can make out what all the -- what is being chanted there, but it certainly is an excited crowd.


FLORES: It definitely is a very excited crowd.

I actually talked to some of these people before we were, you know, sent over to the media section, Jake. And I can tell you, there's a lot of emotion running through these people's bodies. Some of the women that I talked to couldn't even speak. They were holding their cell phones close to hearts, saying they were hoping to speak to the pontiff, they were hoping to take a photo with him and they were hoping to get his blessing.

Now, there's also some controversy here. Some of the people in this community are hoping that their church is reopened. It was closed by the diocese back in 2007. And one of the women that I talked to said, "I'm hoping that I get two minutes with Pope Francis, so that I can ask him to reopen my church." She said, "We don't have a place to worship."

Sometimes, they get together at a park and just read Scripture. And so we know that Pope Francis usually selects a location with lots of need, Jake. And this is the location that he selected -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Let's listen in again as Pope Francis greets the young people. We know this is his favorite part of being pope, is meeting with young people.

CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen is with us. John, as we're watching these images, we have seen children play a

major role in the pope's trip. It's clearly his favorite focus when it comes to his papacy.


I mean, listen, this is a pope who loves the poor, who loves the young and who loves immigrants. So, obviously, this event is right in his wheelhouse. I mean, actually, you know, I think, from a news point of view, obviously, his address to the United Nations this morning was sort of the day's centerpiece.

But in terms of Francis' heart, that is, what he most cares about and what really sort of brings him alive, I think he would probably tell you the visit to this school is the most important thing he's going to do today.

And, as you say, concern for education and concern for the young has been one of the cornerstones of his papacy. He's actually launched an initiative, together with the number of other global celebrities, including Argentina's own Lionel Messi, the soccer superstar, called Scholas which attempts to promote e-learning and online exchanges among some 500,000 schools worldwide, most of them serving underprivileged populations.

The pope himself has taken part in a couple of Google Hangouts with some of these kids, Jake. On the list of papal firsts with Francis, you can add that one, first pope ever to take part in a Google Hangout.

TAPPER: And we know that the pope, the places he goes are carefully selected, in accordance with issues and individuals whom he wants to highlight.

This school, Our Lady Queen of Angels, is about 70 percent Latino. More than one in five of the students here are learning English as a second language. So, the children of immigrants, a big, big part of what he's trying to emphasize today, as the pope makes his way into Our Lady Queen of Angels School, John.

ALLEN: Yes, that's right.

And it's also worth saying that some of these children are actually unaccompanied minors is have come up from Latin America. That, of course, is one of the aspects of the immigration drama that the United States is living through. Because of civil conflict and poverty, you have an increasing wave of unaccompanied children, that is, children separated from their parents and their families, who are making their way up, often tremendously exploited along the way.

And, clearly, that's a special concern for this pope, who has repeatedly on this trip, Jake, described himself as the son of immigrants.

TAPPER: Let's listen in as the pope enters this classroom.



UNIDENTIFIED STUDENTS: Hail Mary full of Grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus. Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

TAPPER: Such an incredible moment, as the pope visits with these children at this East Harlem school.

The children look amazingly undaunted, as if these images aren't going out throughout the world, the pope as well. Just a lovely human moment between the pope and these kids and teachers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. You want to explain?

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Hello, Holy Father. This is a project, a model of our (OFF-MIKE)



TAPPER: Now asking questions of His Holiness, Pope Francis.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: (OFF-MIKE) And this is the solar panel. (OFF- MIKE)

[16:15:16] TAPPER: Let's bring back CNN senior Vatican analyst John Allen who's watching these images as children ask questions of His Holiness Pope Francis. They are at Our Lady Queen of Angels school in East Harlem, New York. About 90 percent minority, one in five students little bit more than that are learning English as a second language.

John, the school's been asking the students about the pope's visit, posting photos and comments on Twitter. One 9-year-old girl said she's a great hugger. She can't wait to hug the pope. Another boy wants to ask him his favorite flavor of ice cream. An 8-year-old said she's looking forward to telling him about her favorite things in Spanish.

No major liturgical questions going on here among these students. And boy, does the pope love this. His face is beaming. The last time I saw him smiling this much was when he was at the homeless event in Washington, D.C. These are the events he really truly loves.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Yes, that's right. I mean, first of all he's going to enjoy answering those questions much more than arcane matters of liturgical policy, Jake. Secondly, the ice cream question will be perfect for him because he actually loves ice cream. In fact, when we flew back with him from the Philippines, the airline told us they stocked up extra ice cream, every flavor they had available simply to make sure whatever the pope wanted was there. But, you know, you're right. I followed this pope on all ten of his

foreign trips and, of course, I covered him very closely in Rome. And I will tell you, this is setting in which you get the real man. I mean, let me put it this way, what you saw this morning in terms of his address to the U.N., although critically important to Francis, he had very important messages he wanted to send. In many ways, that was more about the office than it was the man.

What you are seeing right now is much more about the man than the office. These are the sort of settings on which Pope Francis just comes alive. You can see it from his body language. You can see it from the expression on his face.

If he could, he would spend the rest of the day there. And it's going to have to be his protocol officers and minders who are sort of pointing at their wristwatches saying it's time to go, because this is just the sort of setting that he loves.

TAPPER: All right. Let's listen in again. As the pope meets with these students in East Harlem.


UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Holy Father, our project is thanking God for a (INAUDIBLE) year. Our project shows some other things we are thankful for on the year.

UNIDENTIFIED STUDENT: Holy Father, we made this project to share with you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They would like to show you.



TAPPER: It's off camera, but the pope is holding hands with the school children as he walks with them. Now playing with high-tech equipment.




[16:20:21] TAPPER: For those of you who are listening but not watching, the pope looking at the sign saying we also thank God for the gift of having you as our pope. And at that point, he touched the heads and blessed the children that have brought him to the high-tech equipment there. Now he's talking to another student.


TAPPER: Look at that smile.

She's telling the pope that her brother is also named Francis.


TAPPER: Senior Vatican analyst John Allen, tell us about some of the individuals the pope is standing with now. I assume some of them are with Our Lady Queen of Angels School.

ALLEN: Jake, there's actually a foundation that supports not only this school but several others. This school is part of a network of schools, Catholic schools in the archdiocese in New York that serves underprivileged and immigrant populations. And these are members of that foundation.

So, these would be benefactors, essentially who make this school and others like it possible across the city. You know, Jake, I have to say I was sitting here as I was watching this thinking that, you know, with many other public figure who would do something like this, for them it would be largely a photo op. And quite often they would look somewhat stiff and awkward.

You know, on the contrary, Francis is obviously in his element. Where he looks stiff and awkward on this trip in some ways was that ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House the other day where with all the attendant pomp and circumstance. Here, however, he looks absolutely relaxed, absolutely comfortable.

I bet, Jake, if we had the opportunity to ask him he would tell you this is the most fun he's had since he got to the United States.

TAPPER: And, John, we were talking earlier about the pope in Buenos Aires and how much time he spent in the slums of Buenos Aires when there were no cameras around.

There's Senator Gillibrand, Democrat of New York.

And, John, you were talking about how anybody who went out to the slums of Buenos Aires to find out the pope's commitment to those people would find out that they loved him madly.

ALLEN: Yes, Jake. I was telling you the story of when I went down to Argentina immediately after Francis' election and I asked a pastor in one of the slums how much time he had -- the pope had spent there. And he said, don't ask me. Go out into the streets and ask the people.

And so I did. And to a person before they would even verbalize an answer they would run into the wood shacks or the tin shacks they called home and come back and show me pictures of Francis baptizing their children or sitting with them in their living rooms because that's where he spent his time.

TAPPER: We saw the pope there with Senator Gillibrand Democrat of New York. There's Mayor de Blasio. We saw Mayor de Blasio with his son, Dante, whom the pope spoke to as well. Andrew Cuomo is there as well. Senator Chuck Schumer.


TAPPER: With the pope having exited the room we are going to take a very quick break. When we come back more on the pope's visit to New York as well as some other news that has taken place today. Stay with us. We'll be right back.


[16:28:53] TAPPER: Welcome back to CNN's live coverage of Pope Francis' visit to the United States.

He's in New York right now. He's at a school in East Harlem. But there are huge crowds gathering in Central Park, many of them ticketed just for the opportunity to see Pope Francis as he goes on a tour through Central Park.

Jim Sciutto is covering the crowds and the security in New York today.

Jim Sciutto -- oh, we're going back to the school for one second. I'm sorry, the pope has come back out.

Let's take a listen and see if we can listen in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you ready? Ready? One, two, three.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to make a technical presentation of our skills for the pope.

Thank you so much, sir. What's your favorite team?