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Liberty Seven Trial; Mass Celebration

Aired April 17, 2008 - 09:00   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: And good morning , everyone. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Tony Harris.

HARRIS: And you will see events come into the NEWSROOM live on this Thursday, April 17. Here's what's on the rundown.

WHITFIELD: Pope Benedict filling Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. this morning for mass. Live coverage. Can he reassure a flock ruffled by scandal?

HARRIS: Perhaps the largest custody battle in U.S. court history. Polygamists fighting for hundreds of children in Texas this morning.

WHITFIELD: Hillary Clinton slamming Barack Obama over and over. "Fight Night in Philly" in the NEWSROOM.

HARRIS: Mass celebration. Next hour Pope Benedict takes center stage in Washington's new sports stadium. Tens of thousands, a live shot here. Another great day in the nation's capital. Thousands already there for the mass.

Among them, CNN's Ed Henry.

Ed, great to see you this morning. Fred was telling me anywhere from 43,000 to 46,000 people expected in that stadium this morning.

ED HENRY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Tony. I'm Catholic myself. I can tell you the excitement here is palpable as this ballpark really begins to fill up. You're right. It's expected to swell up to 46,000 people. Normally a baseball cathedral, but it's been turned in to a church for Pope Benedict. That massive altar behind my shoulder, what's normally center field at this stadium for the Washington Nationals will instead be the altar for the Pope.

You can hear the four choirs behind me warming up. Some 570 singers including Placido Domingo, 14 cardinals, 250 bishops, 1300 priests and that, obviously, means a massive security operation here to make sure everyone is safe.

Now in terms of substance, the Pope is expected to address once again the sex abuse scandal that has really roiled the Catholic Church here in America, nearly 70 million American Catholics. But also he's on a personal mission to sort of introduce himself to American Catholics. The polls show that American Catholics say they like this relatively new Pope, but they don't really know him.

And a short while ago, I got to talk to baseball star Mike Piazza who is Catholic. He's here in the ballpark today. And he says there's a big contrast between Pope John Paul II and this Pope.


MIKE PIAZZA, MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL PLAYER: I think because probably throughout his whole sort of life that -- and life as a priest and as a bishop and he was so entrenched in sort of the academic and the scriptural part of being a priest. And that was his job so to speak. And now that he's on the stage of being the pontiff that he -- I see him enjoying, at least from my perception, that he's enjoying it a little bit more, he's letting go, he's becoming more relaxed and enjoying the interaction of people.


HENRY: Mike Piazza said he thinks that Pope Benedict is sort of almost coming out of his shell. And we saw that, of course, on display yesterday at the White House, in the South Lawn, more than 13,000 people there yesterday when they were serenading him for his 81st birthday.

We've been hearing these little personal details like, for example, that this Pope doesn't really usually drink wine when he's at a dinner in Rome. Instead, he favors Fanta Orange soda. And I'm assuming he could probably get that at one of the concession stands here, Tony, as well as -- I saw some cracker jack as well. This is normally a ballpark. Today it's a church, Tony.

HARRIS: Well, we can certainly get the Fanta downstairs in the Hard News Cafe if you're running a little low there in Washington, D.C. And I have to ask you...

HENRY: Send it up.

HARRIS: Send it up. You got it.

How difficult to get a ticket for the mass today? What a great shot we're watching.

HENRY: Absolutely. I've been talking to Catholics here, and they say that basically their local parishes have been holding lotteries. These tickets have been so hot. Every well connected Catholic in the Washington, D.C. area has been working the phones, working their connections, trying to get this ticket. In fact, also the non-powerful.

I talked to a man a little while ago. He's a chef at St. Mary's Church in Annapolis, Maryland, not far from here. He told me he's been reading the newspaper for two weeks trying - wondering...


HENRY: ...whether he could get a ticket and he cooks normally for 11 parish priests. Well, they surprised him yesterday, handed him a ticket. He's in the ballpark today. He just converted to Catholicism a year ago. He told me he's never had a more exciting moment in his life. He can't wait.

And, in fact, Tony, we're told that just in the next half hour, we're going to see the popemobile before this mass starts at 10:00 Eastern. Pope Benedict is going to do a lap around this ballpark, expected to be around 9:30. So the excitement is just really starting, Tony.

HARRIS: Well, you can help us with a little -- you're in a baseball stadium. You can help us with a little play by play. There is he, Ed Henry, our White House correspondent with what I'm beginning to sense is a really cool assignment this week.

Ed, appreciate it. Thank you.

HENRY: It really is. Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Very exciting there in Washington. And really across the country because everyone is watching this as it happens.

Pope Benedict has a full schedule for his remaining days here in the United States. Tonight, he meets with representatives of other religion as well. That event is being held at the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center. Tomorrow he travels to New York where he addresses the United Nations general assembly and then on Saturday, he celebrates mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.

Sunday he visits ground zero where he will meet with 9/11 survivors and some of the families of those killed in the terror attacks. Then later on, he celebrates mass at Yankee Stadium there Sunday.

HARRIS: And as our Ed Henry touched on just a moment ago, a high demand for a big stadium event. But you can't get tickets through ticket master or a scalper or even a friend, Fred.

CNN's Susan Roesgen reports on getting in to see the Pope.


SUSAN ROESGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Getting a golden ticket to a papal mass this week seems about as miraculous as finding the golden ticket to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory.

Just one ticket is hard enough to get. But six tickets required divine intervention. Six truly golden tickets for Katie and Kevin Teehan and their four children. The whole family will celebrate mass with the Pope in New York's Yankee Stadium.

KATIE TEEHAN, FAMILY TO ATTEND PAPAL MASS: I thought there's no way that we're going to get six tickets. We don't get six tickets to anything.

ROESGEN: About 100,000 tickets were available for the two papal masses in New York and Washington. But it's estimated that had four times that many people applied to get one. According to the New York archdiocese, each ticket holder had to pass a background check. And each ticket is imprinted with a bar code to prevent it from being sold or even given away.

KEVIN TEEHAN, FAMILY TO ATTEND PAPAL MASS: I think I want to keep those close. Those are valuable tickets. We are very blessed to have them. I think I'm going to keep them real close.

ROESGEN: Some parish priests gave tickets to their flock on a first-come, first-serve basis. Others chose parishioners to make what Father Ron Lewinski calls a pilgrimage, little pilgrims included. That's how the Teehans got theirs.

REV. RON LEWINSKI, ST. MARY OF THE ANNUNCIATION: Sometimes for the kids, it's just in a textbook. But to be there present in that stadium with the Pope and all those people, I think will give them a whole different framework for understanding what it means to be a Catholic.

TEEHAN: Are you guys excited?

ROESGEN: The Teehan family doesn't even have a New York hotel room lined up yet, but they're on their way to see the Pope with something more precious than gold.

Susan Roesgen, CNN, Mundelein, Illinois.


HARRIS: In Washington this morning, tens of thousands are gathered to celebrate mass with Pope Benedict. Our guest among the American bishops to visit with the Pope yesterday, Reverend Wilton Gregory is the archbishop of Atlanta.

Reverend, great to see you. Thanks for your time this morning. I have to ask you, first of all, we're taking a look at these wonderful pictures today. Just ahead of the mass scheduled for 10:30. But we'll see the Pope I understand shortly here as he takes a lap of the Nationals Stadium. I have to ask you, what it is like to be in Washington, D.C. over these last few days.

REV. WILTON GREGORY, ARCHBISHOP OF ATLANTA: Well, it's a historic moment, obviously, for the church and the United States and the spirit here in Washington has just been tremendously welcoming and hospitable, warm and outreaching. There's an enthusiasm that is palpable and the people of the Archdiocese of Washington generally have been very accommodating and most cordial. So it's a very, very positive feeling right now.

HARRIS: I have to ask you, the service yesterday and the Pope's message was a key part of his agenda here in the United States. You were there. What were some of the take aways for you?

GREGORY: Well, obviously the Holy Father was very encouraging to the bishops, very supportive of the actions that we've taken, but also quite challenging. I mean, he basically said that if the faith is to grow in our nation, it has to grow with our leadership being creative, inviting, transparent, helpful, compassionate. I mean, he laid it out on the line.

HARRIS: Yes. That sounds like a pretty huge agenda. He's clearly setting a tone and asking the reverends, the priests, to set that tone. How much of a challenge is that for the Catholic Church in America going forward? What are your thoughts on that?

GREGORY: Well, we are not the only voice in the marketplace obviously. But he said you must be a voice. You must be engaged in the public discourse that proposes a moral vision for our nation. You must speak proudly of our Catholic faith. You must be engaged in the marketplace.


GREGORY: Which is why I agreed to do this interview.

HARRIS: Well, I appreciate that. We all do.

Reverend Gregory, the sex abuse scandal that rocked the U.S. Catholic Church in 2002, reverberations still being felt even today. How pleased were you to hear the Pope address it not only in the message yesterday but on the trip to the United States?

GREGORY: I was very pleased. Obviously, he could not come to the United States and not speak of this event in our ecclesial life. It was so central and still reverberates throughout our nation. But he also spoke a word of hope and a word of challenge that we, as the bishops, as the pastors of the church, must be the first to be engaged in the healing ministry that will take a very long time.

If people thought that a six-day visit would be a silver bullet, they were either naive or unrealistic.


GREGORY: What he told us, however, was that healing is possible, that it is necessary, and that we must be the agents to make that happen.

HARRIS: And Reverend Gregory, one final thought as we take a look at these wonderful pictures this morning. "Christ, Our Hope," the over arching theme of the trip, the message from the Pope on his visit to the United States, what does that theme mean to you as we look at these beautiful pictures?

GREGORY: Well, first of all, I believe the Holy Father has consistently said that our world, our society, is in desperate need of the gift of hope. Not panacea, not pretending that we don't have real problems, but with a confident faith that Christ provides for us and that we as his witnesses must provide for the world in which we live.

He has been identified or at least described as a pope of hope. And that's because he believes, and I agree with him, that of all of the virtues that our world needs today, hope ranks right at the very top of that list.

HARRIS: Reverend Wilton Gregory, Archbishop of Atlanta, thank you for your time this morning. We deeply appreciate it. Thank you.

GREGORY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: And you'll be able to watch this coverage live here of the Pope's visit and that mass taking place at Nationals Stadium there in Washington, D.C.

Meantime, other news this morning, one of the largest child custody cases in U.S. history unfolding in Texas. At stake the state of 416 children from a polygamist compound.

Ed Lavandera is at the county courthouse in San Angelo, Texas.

Ed, this must be a logistical nightmare.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Fredricka. And when you start thinking about what will be happening here and the magnitude and the scope of what is happening, 416 kids, as you mentioned, whose lives at stake essentially and the nearly 400 attorneys being brought into this small county courthouse to begin the process where a judge begins the process of determining whether or not these kids should be put in foster homes or if they will be allowed to return with their family members on that polygamist compound, south of here, in the town of Eldorado, a 1600 acre ranch.

We've heard a lot in the last few days as members of this group have opened up the doors in the compound to let the outside world see what has been -- what has been built there over the last four years. But at stake here is the essential question as to whether or not teenaged girls, specifically, have been sexually abused and forced to marry elder members of this group.

All of this started, of course, with a phone call from a 16-year- old girl from inside that compound, who wanted to escape. Authorities and state investigators still have not been able to identify that girl leading many on the other side to speculate whether or not this call might have been a hoax from the very beginning.

But despite all of that, state officials here in Texas say that what they found in their raid gives them enough evidence to have these children removed.


GREG ABBOTT, TEXAS ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's our belief that these children who were under the age of 17 have engaged in sex with older men, which is a violation of Texas law, which is also a potential violation of the bigamy laws. So, yes, we do believe we have information, believe, that will be substantiated in court that will show there has been sexual assault as well as bigamy.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LAVANDERA: Fredricka, family members from the sect have already begun arriving here at the courthouse. A group of mostly men at this point. A few of the women have started showing up, as well. So we anticipate a very lengthy process. The first several hours of the court hearing will be taken up by state officials laying out their case and then we begin the process of hearing from all of the different attorneys and exactly how this is going to play out is really hard to say at this point.

It is a logistical nightmare. Nearly 400 you attorneys representing all of these children and how this will play out exactly has been undetermined at this point.

WHITFIELD: Wow. So what we still don't know is whether each attorney will have a moment to make an argument or whether collectively they will try to make an argument for all of these children.

LAVANDERA: Yes, it's hard to say. Actually if do you the math, we'll put -- you know, you have nearly 400 attorneys. If each one of these attorneys were to get, say, five, 10 minutes for each...

WHITFIELD: You'll be there for days.


LAVANDERA: Yes, we'd be here...

WHITFIELD: In that courtroom.

LAVANDERA: We'd be here for 10 days so.


LAVANDERA: It is a lengthy process. We don't know if they're going to be set up by group, by age or what the deal will be at this point.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, we will be watching. Ed Lavandera, keep us posted. Thanks so much -- Tony?

HARRIS: His first mass on American soil, thousands jamming Washington's new ballpark to hear Pope Benedict XVI. Live coverage ahead in the NEWSROOM.

ANNOUNCER: CNN NEWSROOM brought to you by...


WHITFIELD: You're in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

Airline passengers win one and lose one. New rules from the rule makers. We'll tell you all about it coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: Once again, let's take to you Washington, D.C. and as the non-Catholic on the set this morning, I am relying heavily on Fred to guide me through this so that I don't make some startling mistake as we talk about this wonderful event.

WHITFIELD: Well, this is unprecedented, so...

HARRIS: This is startling, isn't it?

WHITFIELD: It's difficult to know exactly how everything would be playing out. I mean, you've got hundreds of priests and bishops and invited guests.

HARRIS: The procession just moments ago, that was as wonderful to see.

WHITFIELD: Right -- among the 46,000 ticket holders. So this is pretty remarkable and everyone's witnessing it first.

HARRIS: Can't wait. The mass scheduled to get under way at 10:00 a.m. We should see the Pope in the popemobile at about 9:30, about 10 minutes from right now. We understand the Pope will actually do a lap, travel around the track for everyone to get a closer look at the Pope.

But what a wonderful day again in Washington, D.C. for the Pope's visit.

WHITFIELD: Yes, it really is remarkable. You know you always here about the Catholic guilt. I'm a Catholic.


WHITFIELD: I'm feeling very guilty that I'm actually not there.

HARRIS: That you're not there.

WHITFIELD: Because it really is extraordinary. But we will be watching it and we will all be witnessing it, and we'll be there, kind of.

HARRIS: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Through the airwaves live as it happens.

All right. Other news we are following, new violence in Iraq today. A huge suicide bombing kills at least 42 people. The bomber detonating his explosive vest at a funeral for a Sunni tribal leader in Diyalah Province. Police believe the mourners were targeted because they supported U.S. backed movement that's fighting al Qaeda.

Increased attacks come as U.S. and Iraqi troops battle Shiite militants in the capital. The military reports at least two people killed and 16 wounded in overnight clashes and air strikes in Baghdad's Sadr City neighborhood. The military says despite the violence, the overall situation in Iraq has markedly improved since last year.

HARRIS: Iraq on the agenda this afternoon when President Bush meets with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The British leader is in Washington holding back to back meetings with all three presidential candidates. He began talks last hour with Barack Obama at the British embassy. Later Hillary Clinton and John McCain come calling.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama face to face in Philadelphia.

CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley highlights the major moments of last night's debate.


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It is the cornerstone of her case to superdelegates that Barack Obama cannot win a general election. Last night, Hillary Clinton boxed herself out of that argument.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, MEDIATOR: Do you think that Senator Obama can do that, can he win?


CROWLEY: She has never said that before and it was Clinton's one concession during a debate in which she dug into him at every turn, and there was plenty of opportunity. The first half of the debate focused on campaign gaffs, mostly his. It included his suggestion that small-town voters turn to guns and God because they are bitter about decades of government inaction.

CLINTON: I think that is a fundamental sort of misunderstanding of the role of religion and faith in times that are good and times that are bad.

CROWLEY: Obama went after Clinton for criticizing him as an elitist, recalling the '92 campaign when she dismissively noted she had not spent her life baking cookies.

SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: People attacked her for being elitist and this and that, and I remember watching that on TV and saying, well, that's not who she is. The problem is that that's the kind of politics that we've been accustomed to and I think Senator Clinton learned the wrong lesson from it because she's adopting the same tactics.

CROWLEY: From the "bitter" moment to Jeremiah Wright, Clinton tried to elevate the importance of all the incidents.

CLINTON: It is clear that as leaders, we have a choice who we associate with and who we apparently give some kind of seal of approval to.

CROWLEY: But Obama tossed them off as irrelevant. OBAMA: I do think it's important to recognize that it's not helping that person who is sitting at the kitchen table who is trying to figure out how to pay the bills at the end of the month.

CROWLEY: Mostly they agreed on issues, both hardened their stand on Iraq, promising withdrawal no matter what, and both committed to no tax hike on the middle class. They were also in-sync when asked whether they would each promise to put the other on the ticket.

CHARLES GIBSON, MEDIATOR: So I put the question to both of you. Why not? Don't all speak at once.

CROWLEY: It is tense now on this long campaign for the nomination and it is increasingly bitter. No love lost here.


HARRIS: Our senior political correspondent Candy Crowley with the CNN Election Express in Philadelphia.

Candy, good morning. What's the reaction there in Pennsylvania to last night's debate?

CROWLEY: Well...

HARRIS: I'm curious. Any minds going to be changed before Tuesday's vote?

CROWLEY: My guess is no. I mean, basically you saw a debate where Barack Obama was in the frontrunner position and that is on the defensive. Now he's not the frontrunner here, but he certainly is in pledged delegates and in the popular vote. So he was really on defense last night. She was clearly on very aggressive offense going negative on him.

But I didn't see any break-out moments as they say. An absent break-out moments in a debate, it generally doesn't shift things that much.

HARRIS: Yes. All right. Here we go. Can Hillary Clinton's campaign survive if she doesn't win in Pennsylvania?

CROWLEY: Can it survive or does it go on? Which I think are two separate questions.

HARRIS: That's true. That's true.

CROWLEY: If she loses here -- it will be major if she loses here. I -- she loses her argument that she wins in the big states with the working-class voters who are the core of the Democratic Party. She loses, you know, delegates, increases his lead over her in pledged delegates. It would be really hard for her to argue her case to the superdelegates since that's where most of the argument is going on now that she is better positioned to win in the fall.

Would she go on? She's promised to go on through June when the final primaries are held. So my guess is yes.

HARRIS: Yes. All right. CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley in Philadelphia for us.

Candy, great to see you. Thank you.

Presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton face off in another debate. Both agree that either Democratic candidate can beat John McCain. Find out more on the candidates at is your source for everything political.

WHITFIELD: All right. The Pope celebrates mass and tens of thousands gather. You're looking at live pictures right now. CNN is there. We'll take you straight to that stadium in the NEWSROOM.


HARRIS: Pope Benedict XVI in the United States. A total of six days, Fred. You're looking at Nationals Park where the Washington Nationals play baseball.

The Washington Nationals haven't been pretty good over the last couple years so, so I suspect that this is probably the biggest crowd in that stadium. It's a brand new stadium. Maybe opening day of that stadium was a pretty good occasion, but 43,000 to 46,000 people on hand for the mass.

WHITFIELD: Yes. This is sort of a new christening of the stadium.

HARRIS: It really is.

WHITFIELD: And maybe this will help the Nationals kind of restart, you know, their season so to speak.

Well, yes, it's pretty extraordinary. What you're looking at right now is the altar which is usually home base as you heard Ed Henry describe.

HARRIS: That's right.

WHITFIELD: But right now it's a 75-foot altar and right there is a pretty extraordinary crucifix, as well, 14 feet high in here.


WHITFIELD: I'll bet, you know, folks in the audience, different things are taking place. Some spontaneous chanting there and singing. People are really anticipating and excited to see the Pope make his entrance which we understand will be via popemobile. He's making a lap.

HARRIS: Popemobile and a lap of the stadium and that should be exciting. Every moment of this trip has been terrific to see.

WHITFIELD: All right. We're going to keep tabs on that. Meantime we're also keeping tabs on "Your Money" from the New York Stock Exchange. The market just now opening there. Yesterday, it closed at least the Dow did, 44 points down. Let's hope we're starting on an upbeat note today, despite the fact that there's some pretty grim news about oil and the euro versus the dollar.

Oil hitting a new high while pushing the dollar even lower against the euro. A barrel of oil now trading at more than $115. Worries about shrinking supplies ahead of summer demand driving prices into record territory.

So you know what that means at the pump. It's going up again this morning. Today AAA says you're paying an average of $3.42 for a gallon of regular. Premium buyers, you're shelling out $3.76.

And then there are layoffs adding another 17,000 people to the unemployment lines this week. The government reports jobless claims are up. More than analysts expected. Hardest hit, workers in Georgia, Michigan and Texas, while jobless claims are down in New Jersey, New York and Wisconsin.

You want to keep watching CNN. Our money team has you covered, whether it's jobs, debt, housing, or savings. Join us for a special report. It's called "ISSUE #1," the economy. All this week, noon Eastern, only on CNN.

HARRIS: A CNN "Security Watch." Two trial, two hung juries. The government's case against the so-called Liberty Seven ends in another mistrial. These six men are accused of plotting a terrorist attack. A seventh suspect was acquitted. Prosecutors said they planned to blow up Chicago's Sears Tower and bomb FBI offices.

Now two separate juries have been unable to reach a verdict and officials will decide next week whether to pursue a third trial. Our senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, is following the case. He is on the phone with us from New York.

Jeffrey, great to see you -- I mean, talk to you.


HARRIS: And I'm curious, how surprised are you by this second mistrial, given how successful federal prosecutors are generally in winning cases?

TOOBIN: Well, whenever the federal government doesn't win a case, it's is surprise, because they win about 90 percent of their trials. But I think what this underscores is that the Bush administration made a decision shortly after 9/11 that they were going to bring down any possible terrorist attack well before they took place, well before there was ever an actual attack. The problem with that strategy is, they seem to have brought down some organizations that were more talk than action.

And at least these two juries found that the Liberty Seven were a bunch of misfits who were probably having stupid and -- conversations, but it didn't amount to planning a crime. So that's the paradox of this strategy. When you decide to bring down cases very early, you sometimes don't have enough evidence for a conviction.

HARRIS: Jeffrey, when you consider, you know, the prosecutions launched by this government post-9/11, how is the government doing when you talk about -- when you factor in plea deals and jury trials?

TOOBIN: Well, it's certainly a mixed bag. There have been cases in Detroit, in Buffalo, where there was less than a complete government victory. That's for sure. There have been some successes. The Moussaoui case, even though they didn't get the death penalty, was a success.

I think it's safe to say the John Walker Lindh case ended in a plea bargain. But I think the evidence is mixed on this success. But what the Bush administration officials will tell you is, we are going to err on the side of arresting people early, even if we wind up not getting convictions because the stakes of making a mistake are so great.

HARRIS: CNN's senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin on the phone with us this morning from New York.

Jeffrey, great to talk to you. Thanks.

WHITFIELD: All right, Tony, it's clear, right now what you're seeing is the long awaited arrival of Pope Benedict the XVI there in Nationals Park there in Washington, D.C. for a mass to begin in less than 30 minutes from now. He is making that lap around the stadium there to the roar and the cheers of a crowd that's 46,000 strong. Pretty extraordinary.

HARRIS: Wow, that is really is extraordinary. And we love these moments and we have loved these moments so far on this journey when people have had an opportunity to get as close as this and, in some cases, actually touch the hand and kiss the ring of the pope.

It's been terrific to see. And for a pope who, if you listen to a lot of the analysis and maybe psycho analysis of his personality and who he is, he's always portrayed as being rather shy and profisorial (ph). He really seems to be enjoying this moment.

Am I making too much of it, Fred? Is that how you see it?

WHITFIELD: No, I think you're right. At least from what we've been able to witness in the past 24 hours. Just as yesterday when he was at the South Lawn and you could see how he would approach spontaneously people who were waiting his arrival and then now this. I mean, yes, it was planned in terms of at least an hour ago that he would be making this lap around the stadium.

But he really is introducing himself to America because this is his first visit. And people, while they've gotten used to the fact for the past year and a half or so, that he is, indeed, the pope, they don't feel like they really know him like they did, of course, Pope John Paul II. This is an opportunity and I think already within the past 24 hours we've heard from a number of people, Catholics and otherwise, who have said, you know what, I think I've gotten to know him a little bit more.

HARRIS: I am just a little curious at the pictures we're watching now. I'm pretty sure I recall there being a similar moment yesterday on the trip along Pennsylvania Avenue when the top windows on the pope mobile, as you can see here, folded down. I'm just asking, you know, security obviously is very tight. You would have to think that this would be a personal request on the part of the pope to fold down that top window so that he could, in essence, sort of lean out and extend a hand to wave to folks. But I'm just . . .

WHITFIELD: We've been hearing from people who know him that he is a bit of a control freak, given he writes his own speeches. He really does set the agenda, as he did for this trip. So he really may be the one who said, you know what, I want to wave and I want to feel like I'm close to these folks.

HARRIS: It's a wonderful gesture.

WHITFIELD: John Allen is an analyst that we've been leaning upon for the past few days, seemingly around the clock, we're not even giving you a chance to sleep.

You're a Rome correspondent for the "National Catholic Reporter" but you are there. Tell me what it feels like, you know, to kind of match the pictures we're seeing where it certainly seems that people are over the top excited.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fredricka, there's a buzz in this park this morning. I mean, I have to tell you, you know, I covered about almost 50 foreign trips with John Paul II. I've covered every one of Benedict's foreign trips. And it's easy to sort of take for granted, you know, the access to the pope that we in the press corp who move with him have.

But for the people who are here this morning, this may be the one and only time in their lives that they have the opportunity to be sort of unclose and personal with a man they regard as the holy father, their spiritual leader. And so there is an electricity in this park that, you know, you simply don't get for the average, you know, Nationals/Braves game that might be taking part on this field. You can did definitely feel the excitement building.

And these papal masses are almost an interesting mix. On the one hand, it's a spiritual atmosphere because, let's not forget, people are here to pray, they're here to worship, they're here to put themselves in the presence of god. And yet, on the other hand, there is this man who was also a major, global celebrity and they are, you know, amazingly excited to be in his presence. So there's this odd mix of the kind of sacred and the secular. You know, the holy, but also this kind of rock star almost Woodstock sort of climate that will sort of course throughout the event.

WHITFIELD: Well, you know what's interesting, too, John, is that the majority of the 46,000 there are catholic because they received their tickets through their parishes. Unlike when we see the pope traditionally visit so many place, particularly European nation, there are people of all walks. Usually it's a minority represented in terms of Catholics. But here, the Catholics are in the majority of this mass. How is this different?

ALLEN: Well, you know, it really depends to some extent, Fredricka, on the nature of the country the pope is visiting. I mean I remember, for example, when we went with John Paul II to Kazakhstan, you know, there are very few Catholics there or, for example, Azerbaijan, there are actually a grand total of 114 Catholics in Azerbaijan. Obviously you're not going to have a majority catholic audiences there. So, you know, other people are encouraged to come.

I actually did the math, by the way. It would have been four times less expensive to fly all of those Catholics in Azerbaijan to Rome than to bring the pope to them, but that, of course, wasn't the point.

But here, of course, in the United States, you've got 70 million catholic in this country. And, you know, the vast majority of them would love to have the opportunity to be at this mass. And because it is a catholic mass, in a certain sense, pride of place would go to those American Catholics who were lucky enough, fortunate enough, to be able to get a ticket to this event.

WHITFIELD: Well, John, let's take a moment and just listen in.


HARRIS: Fred, four choirs. I just got this note from Ed Henry, who is covering the event in Washington for us. And fun, underlined exclamation point, from Ed Henry, four choirs.

WHITFIELD: He's have a great time.

HARRIS: Yes, he really is. Four choirs, 570 singers, including Placido Domingo. Fourteen cardinals, 250 bishops, 1,300 priests. What a morning in Washington, D.C.

WHITFIELD: Oh, it is incredible. And John Allen is there, as well. And he describes that this sense of euphoria that has just permeated this stadium is unmatched. No one's felt this way certainly in Nationals Park before.

John, you're back with us now.

You know, when we heard the pope yesterday from the South Lawn of the White House, he really was challenging Americans as a whole, not just catholics. Today when we are going to be hearing from him, what do you suppose his message, his resounding message, might be?

ALLEN: Well, Fredricka, I think it's important to frame this morning's talk from the pope in a couple of ways. One is, this is really his first message intended for the average person in the pew. That is the catholic rank and file. Yesterday, of course, he was addressing, in a sense, the nation's political elites at the White House. In the evening addressing the bishops. Today he's talking to the average, mass going catholic.

Secondly, this is a homily and, therefore, it's part of the mass. It's intended as a spiritual reflection on the readings from scripture. So the heart of his homily will be a reflection on what God is trying to speak to the people -- is trying to say to the people who are gathered here today through the voice of scripture.

But I think also, since this is his first message in a sense to the average catholic in the country, he's also going to return to a couple of the main themes of his visit. I think he's probably going to talk about the desire for unity in the church to overcome divisions. And within that, Fredricka, I would expect him, once again, as he has so far throughout the trip, to make reference to this very painful chapter in the recent life of the Catholic Church in America, which is the sexual abuse crisis. He'll probably talk again about the need to bring healing to those who have been scarred by this, acknowledging the pain and also encouraging the church to sort of get through this moment and to not lose sight of the enormous challenges that are facing it.

WHITFIELD: And given this is mass and Catholics who go to mass expect, also, to receive communion, might we see some sort of hybrid of that taking place here? What's your understanding of how this mass will be conducted for the 46,000 ticket holders there?

ALLEN: Well, as you know, Fredricka, this isn't exactly the first time the Vatican has faced this kind of logistical challenge. I've actually (AUDIO GAP) Poland when you had a mass in excess of two million people and they managed to just distributed communion fairly efficiently.

What you'll see today is, you know, a good number of those 1,300 priests that you mentioned that are in attendance, they and a number of deacons will be pressed into service to distribute communion. And the idea is to have that dawn in a space of about 10 to 15 minutes. And so, on the one hand, it is, obviously, a supremely sacred moment. On the other hand, it is also a massive logistical operation. But they've had a number of bites at the apple to get the nuts and bolts ironed out.

WHITFIELD: And thank goodness for great weather there, right?

ALLEN: Oh, absolutely. You know, it is kind of amazing. Usually, even when we have stormy mornings, somehow when the pope arrives, the clouds tend to part and the sun comes out. You know, read into that what you will. But, yes, we are blessed with an absolutely beautiful day here in Washington.

WHITFIELD: Extraordinary. John Allen, thank you so much. We're going to be calling upon you again. We're going to take a short break for now as the pope will soon be taking his position there on the altar. Mass will be beginning at the top of the hour. Just less than 14 minutes from now they're at Nationals Park, there in the nation's capital. Much more from the NEWSROOM when we come right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) WHITFIELD: Pope Benedict's first, historic mass and visit to the United States and you're looking at live pictures right now of Nationals Park, turned into a catholic church, if you will. As the pope has already entered the stadium, he has circled the bases in the pope mobile and we understand he's probably changing into his vestments about now and getting ready to take to that 75 foot incredible altar, which is usually home base, which is also adorned by a 14 foot crucifix.

It's a beautiful scene here. Thousands of bishops, cardinals, priests. It's an extraordinary setting.

And as we heard from John Allen, who's a CNN senior Vatican analyst earlier, he talked about this is the mass for the catholic people. Yesterday he had a message for Americans as a whole when he was at the White House. This one really is for the Catholics, which really do comprise the majority of the 46,000 ticket holders here.

Our John Allen is with us. He's also there. He's got a front row seat. Really a bird's eye view, Tony, of the stadium.

HARRIS: He really does.

WHITFIELD: And, John, this really is extraordinary. You mentioned this is the message for the Catholics who are there. And for those Catholics who are there, they're brimming with excitement. They have come so close. The closest they may ever get to this pope or any pope for that matter.

ALLEN: Yes, Fredricka, you're absolutely right. I think for most Catholics, the pope, obviously, in addition to being a major world figure and all of that, you know, is also their spiritual father, a spiritual guide. You know, they may disagree with him on this or that issue, but Catholics generally feel this kind of family bond to the pope. And there is an enormous kind of excitement and also sort of a deep spiritual meaning to this proximity to this man.

And so it is, in many ways, the event of a lifetime for most of these folks. One that they will remember, you know, not just later today when they go home, but probably something they'll be telling their children and their grandchildren about. And so, you know, it's important to remember that that's the kind of atmosphere that we have here today and I think that explains the kind of just unique electricity that you can feel in this park.

HARRIS: John, as a non-catholic, and let me ask a question that maybe other non-Catholics may be thinking as we watch this, maybe wondering, you know, what is it that the pope really, truly represents? He clearly is a man of faith. He clearly is a man of God. But like so many other leaders of faiths, you know, he is a representative of God and God is the holy. He is the ultimate. So I wonder, what it is that this pope really represents? Who is he for Catholics?

ALLEN: Well, Tony, you make a good point because, of course, the pope is many things to many people. I mean, for followers of other religion, the pope, in many ways, is the kind of supreme representative of Christianity. For the world at large, you know, he is the head of a sovereign state and he's also a voice of conscience in global affairs.

But for Catholics, he is, in a way, their supreme pastor. I mean, just as their local pastor would be their parish priest, who would be their spiritual guide, their confessor, someone they look to bring the consolation and wisdom of God, you know, they see the pope playing that role sort of so the global stage. And he is also, of course, according to catholic theology, the vicar of Christ on earth.

In other words, catholic belief is that Christ created the church and he handed down his authority to Saint Peter, who is the sort of prince of his initial group of disciples. And then through Saint Peter, that authority is handed down from an unbroken chain, over the centuries, and is now held by Pope Benedict XVI.

Catholics talk about the pope stepping into the shoes of the fisherman. Saint peter, of course, was a fisherman. A fisher of souls. And so he represents this unbroken chain of authority and of a presence of Christ stretching all the way back across two centuries of history, you know, to that moment, 2,000 years ago, when Catholics believe Jesus called this church into being. So you wrap all that up, Tony, you understand why proximity to this man, being in the presence of this man, is so meaningful to so many of these people.

HARRIS: Boy, it is, as you describe it, it is awfully weighty. And I'm curious, in everything that I've read or heard and listening to you, John, this is not an appointment that this pope sought. That he would have been just as comfortable to retire and to continue his life as an intellect and as an author, not seeking all that you have described.

ALLEN: Well, Tony, you've got that exactly right. Actually, prior to the death of John Paul in 2005, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, that's the pope's given name, had actually asked John Paul to be able to retire and go home three times. He anticipated that his future would be hanging out with his brother, Dayorg (ph) in Bavaria, you know, reading his books and puttering around in his garden.

And he's actually, Tony, here's a tidbit for you, he's the first pope in history to have ever compared his election to capital punishment. He actually -- a couple days after his election, he was describing the conclave, that's the event in which he was elected, and he said, I felt the noose tightening around my neck.

So clearly, you know, this is not a job he sought. But as a deep man of faith, he obviously believes that it was God and the Holy Spirit who sort of wrote this script. And so he accepted it, I think, with great serenity, great joy. And I think over these three year, we have really seen him grow into it, particularly as the two of you were talking earlier this morning. I think we've seen him grow into the public dimension of this job.

This is, in some ways, a shy, cerebral man, but he is becoming increasingly comfortable being this object of fascination and even adulation. I think his comfort zone has expanded. And as we've seen here in the states, he actually does have a pretty strong presence, you know, when he's in these vast, public settings.

WHITFIELD: And, John, you know what's so interesting here, is in the past 24 to 48 hour, we are learning a lot about this man who really was a mystery to so many of us. Yes, we understood him to be the pope, the newest pope. But something else that's been a very revealing of him is his love of music. And we have seen this event, this mass, as well as yesterday's, welcoming at the South Lawn bathed in music, particularly opera, which is what he loves.

A moment ago we were hearing from Denise Graves, who is a beautiful opera singer, and she's actually from the nation's capital. In fact, she grew up in public housing and has really enamored so many of the world with her music and here she was present during this mass, too. How meaningful it must be, not just for her, but for him that it is recognized his love of music, having Kathleen Battle yesterday, and then Placido Domingo a little bit later, too.

HARRIS: How about that.

ALLEN: Yes, Fredricka, you probably know that the pope actually grew up in Bavaria right across the river from Salzburg, Austria, which is the home of the world's most famous Mozart festival. He is a great lover of music. In fact, he once said that ultimately the only argument that Christianity has to make for itself are its saints and its artists. And when he meant artists, he meant above all its musicians.

He's also -- he's a pretty accomplished pianist himself. He likes to get in about 10 or 15 minutes at a piano keyboard every day. There's a piano in the papal apartment that he can play on. His brother, Georg Ratzinger, in Bavaria, is one of Germany's most famous choir directors. He was the director of the famed Regensburg Choir. And so it's a very, very musical family. And the pope, clearly you can see him in these events when there is beauty, particularly musical beauty, being presented to him. It just -- it really does resonate. It's sort of the deepest level of who he is.

WHITFIELD: John Allen, thank you so much. Really insightful. I think with every moment, we feel like we're getting a little bit closer, you know, to Pope Benedict XVI. We'll be hopefully going to be joining you again. You'll be joining us momentarily as well. We're going to cut you loose for a moment.

Meantime, we're being joined by Father James Martin, author of "Life With the Saint," who was very gracious to join us yesterday as well.

So, Father Martin, I realize this is the pope. You know, he addresses thousands, millions, all the time. But at this moment, can you kind of get in his head? Is there any moment where this pope would feel a bit nervous, a bit reticent or, you know, in any way kind of, I guess, butterflies in the stomach about what's about to happen historically here? REV. JAMES MARTIN, AUTHOR, "MY LIFE WITH THE SAINTS": Well, sure. I think he's the pope, but he's still human. And, you know, I think before any mass, I'm a little nervous and certainly I've never said mass before tens of thousand of people. But remember, he says mass every day. He's been a priest for, you know, most of his life. And I think he's probably very joyful.

You know, I was very taken by that word that he used on the White House lawn, this is, as John Allen was saying, this is the pastor visiting his flock. And so there's a great sense of satisfaction and joy to see all of these people, all of his brothers and sisters gathered around him to support him and pray with him today.

HARRIS: Wow. I'm just sort of curious as I watch this, maybe you could talk us through some of what we're seeing that the moment.

MARTIN: Sure. Right now the pope, at the beginning of the mass, is incensing the altar. And the idea is that the smoke that comes from the sensor rises up to God and is a sign of our prayers rising up to God. So, you know, people at this point, now he's going to reverence the altar, bowing before it.

People at this point are getting ready for the celebration of the mass. And the pope himself is probably praying to God, as most priests do at this time, for God to be with him as he celebrates the mass. He's giving this off now to the deacon and he will soon greet the people with the traditional Trinitarian formula.

HARRIS: Father Martin, I'm just sort of -- I'm really curious and forgive me here because I really am curious about every particular moment here as a non-Catholic. Can you identify the music that we're hearing, the particular section?

MARTIN: You know, I know it from hearing it many times.

HARRIS: I got you. I got you.

MARTIN: But I can't name it.

HARRIS: OK. But you have to tell us --

Let's listen in.

MARTIN: So he's beginning us, in the name of the father . . .

POPE BENEDICT XVI: Peace be with you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Holy father, welcome to Washington.