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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Pope Francis Visits U.S. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 22, 2015 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:03]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: You're watching now, as you can see that red carpet about to roll out.

And it was interesting. About an hour ago, we saw them roll out the red carpet. And we thought, they have rolled out the red carpet. That was just a practice run. They have practiced everything to a T. here, including that perfectly lined-up honor guard you're seeing there as well.

They want to get this right. It's a special moment. It's a historic moment. And we have heard the crowd as well quiet down a little bit. They have been singing, they have been cheering, they have been praying, they have been playing Pharrell songs, Coldplay songs, the high school band here.

Now a moment of silence, perhaps knowing what they're about to see, and just angling for a chance to see it. We have got a remarkable seat here. I have to tell you, Jake, I have seen official visits before. I haven't seen one quite like this.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Father Rosica, the English-language media attache for the Vatican, tell us what this moment is like for you.

You know the pope. You have been part of the planning for this moment.

FATHER THOMAS ROSICA, VATICAN PRESS SECRETARY: It's an extraordinary moment.

First of all, the joy is palpable, not only here, the joy in Philadelphia, as we're talking here, as we're waiting here. There's thousands, 17,000 delegates of the world meeting of families watching this great event in Philadelphia.

The people of New York very, very happy that he's coming. What's happening here is for the whole world. The world is watching this particular visit. For me personally, the Holy Father is the vicar of Christ. He's our leader. He's our shepherd.

When you know the shepherd, it makes an even bigger difference. His simplicity, his authenticity, his revolution of tenderness he spoke about in Cuba and this revolution of normalcy that he's ushered in, because what he's doing is the work of a pastor. He's with people. He walks with people. The Archdiocese of Washington has this

wonderful pastoral plan, walk with Francis, as they prepared to welcome him. And the preparation here in Washington under Cardinal Wuerl's leadership has been outstanding.

TAPPER: Father Rosica, your colleague Archbishop Joseph Kurtz said that the pope is "coming as a pastor of souls and as a prophet, not as a politician."

But we know that the pope is not shy about sharing his views on what Catholics should think of political issues and what Scripture dictates. What do you think he plans to say to Congress, do you think?

ROSICA: I said earlier this week the playbook, the language of the visit is the language of the Gospel. It's the language of (INAUDIBLE). It's the language of a pastor.

But whenever we apply that language and the Gospel to life, it inevitably involves politics, because politics is the way that we deal with one another and we deal with the world. The pope is coming to wake us up, to take responsibility for our brothers and sisters.

The pope is coming to remind us of the sacredness and the dignity of human life. He's also coming to speak to us about the future of the family, the future of humanity that passes through the family, that wonderful expression of St. John Paul II. The future of humanity passes through the family.

The pope is coming to bless all of those situations, to stir us up and, yes, there will be political ramifications because that means people are listening and people act upon his words. He's not just coming for a series of photo opportunities here.

Now we see the first part of the delegation coming down the plane, the papal photographer. Lined up on the runway there, on the red carpet are representatives of the American Bishops Conference. The first prelate to go up the stairs of the plane will be the apostolic nuncio to the United States. That's Bishop Carlo Maria Vigano.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: Father Rosica, yes, we're looking right now at these images, Father Rosica, of President Obama, with his daughters.

Jim Sciutto, tell us what you're seeing from your vantage point. We see the president and the first family arriving right now. What else is going on there that you can see?

SCIUTTO: Well, I will tell you, someone walking in front of them, Jake, I will note, with two umbrellas because just as the pope landed, a light drizzle began to fall.

They're prepared, but no one -- it's not bothering anyone at this point. Of course, behind the president, you have the vice president with two of his granddaughters and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, walking up.

So, you will have this rare moment with the president, the vice president, and the pope, the leader of the Catholic Church, all on the same red carpet for this unprecedented, this truly unprecedented official welcome for a world leader to the U.S.

TAPPER: The pope right now is in the jetway. We're expecting him to step off the aircraft at any moment. I think that we have been able to see him. here he is.

[16:05:05]

SCIUTTO: And there he is.

(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

TAPPER: You're seeing the pope right now. He just met with -- shook hands with President Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, their daughters, Sasha and Malia, Michael Obama's mother, Marian Robinson.

Now he's shaking hands with the vice president's family, meeting with -- that's the ambassador to the Holy See. Really remarkable and historic moment. This type of thing does not happen very often, only the fourth pope in the history of this nation to visit this nation.

Jim Sciutto, it's just -- you can feel the gravity of this moment, the history of it. I can't imagine what it's like where you are actually on the tarmac. Tell us what it's like.

SCIUTTO: I have to tell you, Jake, so I'm about 20 yards from the pope and the president right now. You see the smile on his face. It reflects the energy of a man who inspires so many around the world, Catholic or not.

We have had a small sample of that here in the relatively small crowd here, by the standards of this trip, some 300 or so kids here, a couple hundred adults. We're going to see thousands and tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, at other stops along the way.

And, remember, as the pope shakes the hands of all the luminaries here escorted by the president and the vice president and the first lady, remember that, with this pope, this is probably his least favorite part of the trip. He's going to want to go shake the hands of the children. He's going to want to eat, as he will tomorrow, with homeless people. That's where the pope is in his element.

And you hear the screams of the some of the children here just now. It's an energy that's been pent up these last couple of hours. They have been -- they have been waiting for the moment to do this, giving him just the welcome he wants.

TAPPER: There are the schoolchildren we have been told were going to be here, four -- students, grade one, three, five, seven from Catholic schools in the Washington, D.C., area, presenting His Holiness with flowers. What a remarkable moment. (CROSSTALK)

SCIUTTO: Jake, one other thing I will add.

TAPPER: Yes, Jim?

SCIUTTO: Is just this is a serious security event, as you know, a cast of thousands to keep him safe.

But I have been seeing a lot of smiles on the faces of the Secret Service here. They know they're witnessing a special moment as well.

TAPPER: And what's next on the docket for the pope after this arrival ceremony, Jim?

SCIUTTO: He's going to get a private meeting, Jake, with the president and his family, a quiet moment, just the president there, the pope, his two daughters and, of course, the first lady with the White House photographer.

You can also see the first lady's mother just behind her there. He's going to have that quiet moment before he then proceeds to downtown D.C.

TAPPER: President Obama has met with Pope Francis before, in March 2014. They had a private meeting.

They are said to have an excellent relationship. And, tomorrow, they will be discussing items where they can work together, items on which they agree.

[16:10:00]

Obviously, Catholic theology disagrees quite a bit with President Obama on his views on abortion, on same-sex marriage, on birth control.

But on issues such as climate change, on issues such as poverty, on issues such as immigration, not to mention Cuba policy, there is a lot of agreement between President Obama and His Holiness.

Delia Gallagher is our Vatican correspondent. She joins me here in the studio.

Tell us about what you're seeing, Delia. This is obviously -- you see this man more often than we do. What strikes you?

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the first thing I think is this is a very humble man, and I wonder what he makes and what he will make of all of the fanfare which he's about to receive in the way that only Americans can do it.

He's never been to this country. He's 78. He will be 79 in December, and he's got a grueling schedule, and Americans know how to pull out the red carpet for him. And that's what we're seeing. And I just wonder. He is from a South American country. He has

certain ideas about our country. And I'm curious to see, after this trip, I hope somebody will ask him on the way back, what he thinks and what he's made of it all. This is not a usual papal trip for him, because it's a long one and it's -- it's really big compared to a lot the other ones.

TAPPER: The pope and the president have just ducked into the building there at Andrews. They will talk for about 10 minutes and then he will come back out.

Just to update everyone tuning in as to what the plan is, we do expect to see the pope in about five or 10 minutes to come out. This is an historic time.

Delia, as I don't need to tell you, this is the first pope born outside of Europe in something like 1,000 years, since -- more than 1,000 years, I believe. So the fact that he is from South America, even though his parents from Italy originally, is quite consequential and important. He wants to talk about immigration.

GALLAGHER: Well, it's important in the way it's shaped him and his understanding, therefore, of the economic system, for example, of the world and of capitalism.

We know that he's critiqued capitalism, and that's been formed by where he has lived and who he is.

TAPPER: These are pictures -- just to interrupt for one second, these are pictures from just a few minutes ago, just to -- just to bring this special moment back for viewers, if they are just tuning in or if they want to see it again.

GALLAGHER: But the other point is that he's a Spanish speaker.

The growing population here of Catholics are Spanish speakers, and a large part of the world are Spanish speakers. He just was in Cuba. And , you know, that's no small thing when we're talking about a pope. That's really a big first, that he will be able to communicate to these people in their language and come from that kind of a cultural background, which is not European.

TAPPER: Right.

GALLAGHER: And that has consequences for everything politically and theologically, if you will, even within the Catholic Church.

TAPPER: Not the first pope to visit Cuba, but the first one to speak to Cubans in their native tongue.

Interesting that you're talking about how the pope's world view and view of economics are definitely a product of his upbringing in South America. A church source told CNN -- quote -- "When Pope Francis speaks to slums in South America, he's talking to the footprint. When he speaks to the United States, he's talking to the boot."

That is an interesting metaphor. Certainly not how the United States views itself.

GALLAGHER: Yes. Yes, let's not take it too far, because, of course, he is representing Catholic social teaching as well.

I mean, popes before Pope Francis have spoken about and critiqued excessive capitalism, and certainly John Paul II and Benedict have done it. But, going all the way back to the last century, we have had that. So, it's not just the fact that he's South American.

TAPPER: OK.

GALLAGHER: But that is influential.

And a lot of what he says about the consumer culture and the throwaway culture and so on is linked also to a holistic view that he has of the family, of social justice problems. It's all linked for the pope.

TAPPER: And, of course, this is a pope who walks the walk. This is a pope who lives that life, that ascetic life of denial, of poverty, of taking the bus, of living humbly.

I want to go to Rosa Flores, who, as you know, was on the papal plane, asked the pope a question while flying from Cuba to the United States.

Rosa, tell us more, now that you have gotten your bearings a little bit, about the pope, about this moment for him, about what you saw.

[16:15:02] ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was definitely a remarkable moment. We took off from Santiago de Cuba, and moments after we got off the ground, Pope Francis came to the back of the plane and took five, six questions from journalists. You know, very calmly, he looks at you in the eye and thinks about his answers and then responds. He's spoken in Spanish and also in Italian. No English, Jake, we haven't heard him speak English just yet. We, of course, anticipate for him to be speaking English before he speaks before Congress.

But just to give you, you know, the headline from the plane. He said -- he got a question about him being a lefty or a communist priest and he said, "That's not right. Everything that I have always said is one with the social doctrine of the church." He said, "Even the economic imperialism doctrine that I preach is in line with the social doctrine of the church."

About the embargo, he said that he's not going to mention the embargo when he speaks before Congress. He said that that was not going to be in the speech that he already wrote the speech and that he was not going to tell us what that was going to be on the plane. But he said he was going to talk about bilateral and multilateral agreements and how that is a sign of progress.

Now, Jake, you're asking me earlier about the dissidents because of reports of dissidents arrested in Havana, right after a mass and also at where the pope stays whenever he makes foreign visits. And the pope didn't have knowledge of these arrests, and when I followed up that question and said, "What would you tell them, Holy Father, if you had the opportunity to speak with dissidents?" And he said, ay hija, he said, ay hija, you know, I don't know, I don't know what I would tell them. But I of course wish everyone well.

So that I would say, Jake, are the highlights of that press conference. But you know, he said he's happy to visit the United States and we, of course, saw him smiling, coming down the -- that plane and meeting with President Obama moments ago.

TAPPER: This is the 50th anniversary of the first ever papal visit to the United States this day when Pope Paul VI in 1965 came to the United States, being the first pope to do so. Today's pope is the fourth. It is a rare and remarkable moment.

I'd like to bring in, if I could, CNN religion commentator and Catholic priest, Father Edward Beck.

Father, an honor to have you. Thanks for joining us. You were tearing up when his holiness stepped off the plane. Tell us what this moment means to you personally.

FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGION COMMENTATOR: Well, you know, Jake, I was thinking -- here's a man who never has been to this country and he's a simple man. As we've heard, he's probably more comfortable in the slums of Buenos Aires, in the favelas in Brazil and here he is entering the quarters of power of our country.

And as Delia mentioned, I think he's probably not all that comfortable with it. But I think what we're going to hear -- and if I could use a Scripture passage that I think would be the epitome of this visit, it would be to whom a lot has been given, a lot is expected. I think that's the challenge he's going to give the United States.

You're the richest country in the world, a country of opportunity, a country that can make a difference. Now, will you make that difference in the world? Will you give back what you've been given?

TAPPER: Father Beck, let me just interrupt you for one second. I just want to alert viewers, we're seeing live pictures of the pope and the first family, President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and obviously uniformed Secret Service -- U.S. Secret Service walking from the building. I think that President Obama will be escorting the pope to his car although given this pope and his love of going to crowds, who knows what he's about to do right now.

Father Beck, I'm sorry for interrupting. Please continue.

BECK: No, I wanted to say, I don't think there's any finger wagging. I think what we'll see this pope, especially when he speaks to Congress will praise the liberty of the United States, the democracy, the opportunity, the plurality all we are as a nation but call us beyond that.

Again, we've been given so much as a country, how can we help those in need? He'll speak I think to the refugee problem in the world. Can we accept more refugees than we are? These issues that are very pertinent to our world right now, I don't think he will shy away from addressing them.

TAPPER: Jim Sciutto, on the tarmac there, we've been talking about this pope and his love of running to crowds, complicated, shall we say, the security mission that so many uniformed and other law enforcement and national security officials have right now.

[16:20:08] What's going on where you are right now?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No question. It is -- well, I'll tell you, he's just -- the president shaking his hand, as I'm sure you're seeing now, before he gets -- before the pope gets into his own motorcade. The crowd bursting the fences really, trying to get closer to him.

I've got to tell you, he's probably fighting every bone in his body to not walk over to that crowd now and embrace and shake hands, as they clear for him.

Just one other detail, notice the car that the pope was getting into. No fancy limousine, no big GMC Suburban, but that, Jake Tapper, is a Fiat, an Italian-made Fiat, a simple car, and the license plate, SCV1, Vatican City 1, I'm told, who else would have that license plate but Pope Francis?

TAPPER: Delia Gallagher, Vatican correspondent, this is -- this pope, I think they picked the right car for him, a fairly -- for this town, that is a very humble car.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Yes. It's a new looking one. I'm surprised --

TAPPER: It's not nice, but in a town where they have huge tank limousines and SUVs, to have a relatively modest Fiat, I'm sure there are upgrades to it we don't know about, says something.

GALLAGHER: By Italian standards, that's a big car. But yes --

TAPPER: We're not in Rome anymore.

GALLAGHER: The pope doesn't want too much fanfare, as we've been saying. He's chatting with the driver. I don't know --

TAPPER: Is this the car he normally travels?

GALLAGHER: No. I've never seen this car before. I think they've done it up over here.

TAPPER: For those not super familiar, not extremely knowledgeable about this pope, tell us about how he practices what he preaches, literally in terms of the life he leads and how he does not like all of these trappings of power.

GALLAGHER: Well, I think the first clue that everybody had that this was a different pope was that seemingly radical decision they took not to live into the papal apartments, right? And he chose to live in what used to be a hotel and still is, to some extent, it's very small, regular kind of room. And he has a second room where his study, and other people live there, and come in and pass by and visit, and it's on the grounds, outside of where the pope and some other cardinals usual live in the place called the Apostolic Palace. Well, he lives in St. Martha's --

TAPPER: Right. And also, some of the things that we've seen him do, in terms of when facing crowds, seeking out the sick, seeking out people who are disabled, embracing them, physically embracing them, nothing scheduled, nothing planned, seeing them in the crowd, approaching them.

GALLAGHER: Well, he does that. And he's done a whole lot at the Vatican for the homeless. I mean, he's put up showers. He has barbers, he gives money, not he himself but he has an actual priest whose job it is to go and hand money out, papal almoner --

TAPPER: The day he took -- he assumed the papacy, he washed the feet of, was it, orphans? Remember?

GALLAGHER: I don't remember that precisely. I do know that, you know, he went back to pay his bill at the hotel, he wanted to go to the train station, he sent his papal almoner to hand out money to the homeless. I mean, they do that on a regular basis and we don't often hear about it.

So, yes, he walks -- he walks the talk, for sure.

TAPPER: He washed the feet of juvenile offenders on his first Holy Thursday.

GALLAGHER: On the Holy Thursday, sure. Yes.

TAPPER: Let me go to Jim Sciutto, who is at Joint Base Andrews, where the pope just left.

Jim, I don't know if you've been able to discern what the chants are coming from this very excited crowd, but it must be an electric mood there.

SCIUTTO: No question, just simple things. Yo ho, yo hey, Pope Francis is on the way. That's the kind of thing we've heard both before and after, just leading up to it, kind of a pep rally, as it were for the supporters here, most of them very young, as he comes to the U.S. for the first time.

You know, it's interesting, in what the pope said on the plane to our Rosa Flores, this idea, "I'm not a lefty," it seems to me there's a message there for U.S. domestic politics. We know in the political debate here, the presidential race, that a lot of the issues the pope is vocal on, abortion one of them, it's a hot-button issue, as we know.

[16:25:06] The pope, certainly not wanting to get involved at that level of U.S. politics, but it's also about church politics. There are tremendous expectations of him, lots of frustration among Catholics about the church's position on women on contraception, et cetera. But in that I think we can see a message, because this pope can change the tone of those positions on homosexuality as well, he has not, may not be able to change the actual church positions on those issues. He's not going to suddenly make divorce OK or abortion OK in the view of the church.

There's that tension there. He represents an enormous change in tone, but in those expectations, you'll have to manage expectations because he's not going to change those church positions, certainly during his term.

He can make some changes. He can push for instance, for a more forgiving view of divorce. He's on record saying that he wants divorced Catholics to be able to receive the Eucharist but he's not suddenly going to say divorce is OK in the eyes of the church.

So, I think that comment of his, "I am no lefty", there's a tremendous meaning as to what he can change and what he cannot change.

TAPPER: Delia Gallagher, our Vatican correspondent, what's next on the docket? So, where is the pope going now? What's next on his trip?

GALLAGHER: Well, fortunately for him, he gets a little time to rest. He goes back to the Nunciature here in Washington and has the night off, as it were, because tomorrow --

TAPPER: Translate that if you would for people who aren't familiar.

GALLAGHER: The Nunciature is where the nuncio, the pope's ambassador lives. It's the kind of Vatican's ambassador's --

TAPPER: Which is right across the street from the vice president's residence here in Washington, D.C.

GALLAGHER: Right. And so, he'll have some rest time because he's had a good few days already in Cuba. And then on tomorrow to the White House --

TAPPER: Well, in fact, right now, if I -- Delia, forgive me for interrupting, this is what we're looking at now, as people waiting for the pope at the precise place you were discussing the ambassador, for want of a better word, his residence.

GALLAGHER: Yes.

And so, then, tomorrow is a big day at the White House. And with the -- first thing we should note when the pope comes to do these visits is he's not going straight to talk to Congress. He does the religious things first, and he talks to his bishops first and he's doing the canonization. He's also here to do a canonization of Junipero Serra.

And so, he's going to be doing that straight off the bat tomorrow, and then we'll get the speech to Congress and then we'll get the U.N.

So, the priority is also in the schedule. You know, obviously, he stops at White House first, because this is the host country, and he goes there. But the priority obviously for a pope is first, his religious duties as it were, and then he goes on to the more political things.

TAPPER: I'm told, Delia, correct me if I'm wrong, that the pope, one of the reasons why he has a empty schedule essentially this evening because it is -- it is the night of Yom Kippur and out of respect to Jews wanted to not schedule anything on the holiest night of the Jewish year.

You're looking right now at the motorcade taking the pope from Joint Air Base Andrews to -- to Joint Base Andrews to the pope's -- to the ambassador's residence.

Delia, is that right about the Yom Kippur?

GALLAGHER: I haven't heard that officially but that would make sense. The other thing that is interesting about that is that the Yom Kippur, of course, for the Jews, a Day of Atonement and Pope Francis' theme for not only this trip but his entire pontificate is the theme of mercy and it's the same thing. It's about forgiveness.

And so, in some way, it dovetails quite nicely with this Jewish holiday. For sure, that is something that Pope Francis would be very aware of and wanting to respect. If not highlight indeed in what he's going to say to us in the next few days because that theme of mercy for him, he's a missionary of mercy, he's going out, the last thing he said to the Cubans -- go out, go out, be - missionaries.

This is exactly what he's doing in coming on this plane, you know, spending all of this time here is because he believes he is a missionary and missionaries go out to people and spread the word.

So, that's what he's doing in this whole activity, this whole action is being a missionary, showing people how to do that, and telling people they in turn should do it.

TAPPER: Right. And Jim was talking earlier about how the pope has been described in terms of his views and there seems to be some mischaracterizations, I think, about how much the pope wants to change Catholic doctrine when it comes to issues such as abortion or same sex marriage.