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Huge Crowds Await Pope at Central Park; Pope Meets Students, Immigrants at Harlem School. Aired 5-6:00p ET

Aired September 25, 2015 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now, breaking news. Waiting for the Pope. Excitement is building as tens of thousands gather in and around New York's Central Park, waiting for a chance to see Pope Francis on this very historic day in New York.

Mass at the arena. Twenty thousand people will soon pack Madison Square Garden as the Pope leads a special service in a setting usually reserved for sports heroes and rock stars.

Message to the world. Pope Francis tells leaders gathered at the United Nations that a selfish pursuit of power and wealth is harming the earth and its poorest people.

And at Ground Zero, at the memorial he prays with families of the 9/11 victims.

We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and around the world.

I'm Wolf Blitzer, overlooking Central Park in New York City. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news right now. We're overlooking New York's Central Park, where tens of thousands of people are lined up still outside, waiting for a glimpse of Pope Francis.

It's another chance for the people's Pope to mingle with the masses on his way to a special mass at Madison Square Garden.

It's been a historic day here in New York. At the United Nations the Pope made a forceful appeal to world leaders, urging them to take immediate steps to protect the environment, saying the thirst for power is harming the earth and its poorest people.

Pope Francis also visited the 9/11 Memorial where the World Trade Center towers once stood. He prayed for the victims, saying this place of death also marks the triumph of life.

The Pope is now ending a visit to a Catholic school in New York's East Harlem, where he's met with schoolchildren and with immigrants. Our correspondents, analysts and guests have full coverage of this day's extraordinary events. The Pope now wrapping up this visit to a Catholic school in East

Harlem, Our Lady Queen of Angels, where he's met with two dozen students and with a group of immigrants.

CNN's Rosa Flores is on the scene for us. Rosa, tell us how it went.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, I can tell you that Pope Francis was glowing with emotion. Just imagine: surrounded by children, immigrants in an area of New York where there is a lot of need, a lot of poverty. And so he was very much in his element. You could see him smiling, just glowing, just his body language. You could tell that he was much more comfortable there than he was when he was surrounded by politicians.

But let me set the scene a little bit for you, because Pope Francis literally just left here moments ago. You can still see a lot of the students here, a lot of the families he met with, about two dozen students from four different schools in New York. And he also met with refugee families, with immigrant families.

Now, we know that he has a very soft heart for these groups. And so he exchanged gifts. And during his remarks, because he was speaking in his native Spanish, he actually left his script and started speaking from the heart.

Now, here's some of the things that he pointed out. He talks about immigrants, first of all, and immigrant children and how it's difficult, it's tough for these children, because they come from a different place, starting to learn the language. And he speaks from the heart, because he himself is an immigrant, his family moving from Argentina -- from Italy rather to Argentina in the late 1920s. And then his family losing everything. So he knows the plight of the immigrant.

And then talking about dreams, Wolf. Now, this is important, because this is the same message, very similar message, that he gave to the children in Cuba earlier in this visit. So very similar themes here, speaking in his native Spanish, going off the cuff and just glowing with emotion -- Wolf.

BLITZER: You could see how excited the pontiff was and for good reason. Rosa, thank you.

Tens of thousands of people, meanwhile, they're still waiting for Pope Francis in New York's Central Park. He's going to be driving through the park in an open motorcade on the way to mass at Madison Square Garden.

Our national correspondent, Jason Carroll, is on the scene for us over there.

Jason, he hasn't yet started this motorcade, but it's about to begin.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf. You can see the shot there as the Popemobile is set and ready to go. The Pope is ready. The question is was the NYPD ready for the thousands of people who had -- went through that lottery system and had tickets to show up here at Central Park throughout the day.

They have been lining up since early this morning, tens of thousands of people waiting in line. And at this point, when you take a look at Central Park West, you still have thousands of people still trying to get through the security checkpoint to get in there around 5 p.m. or so, so they can get their glimpse of the Pope.

The Pope expected to take his tour through Central Park with the thousands of people waiting. That expected to take about 20 minutes when that gets under way.

The problem throughout the day, Wolf, has been for all those people who were still waiting to get inside at this point, thousands of people still lined up along Central Park West. We're now told that the line extends for about two to three city blocks, again, about ten people deep still waiting to get past the security checkpoint, still waiting to get their glimpse of the Pope.

I guess part of the problem was getting through that security checkpoint through the metal detectors. NYPD saying they were doing their best to get people through as quickly and as safely as possible. They want this to be a secure event.

Clearly, Wolf it was very clear throughout the day here, from our vantage point, that the NYPD was not ready for the overwhelming response. Again, 80,000 people went through a lottery system to get tickets, a ticket just like this one here. That simply shows that you can come in, be in the green zone.

But you can see here on this ticket it said that they expected everyone to be through the security checkpoint by 3:30. That's an hour and a half ago. But at this point once again, Wolf, still thousands of people still waiting to get their chance to see the Pope.

BLITZER: I'm looking down at that line at Central Park West right now, Jason. The good news is...


BLITZER: ... it looks like they have been making some significant progress over the past half hour or so. And hopefully, almost all of those people will be able to get through those metal detectors in time to get a glimpse of Pope Francis as he goes through Central Park.

Our Vatican correspondent, Delia Gallagher, is joining us right now. She's already in Philadelphia, where the Pope will be spending this weekend. It's an amazing moment right now, the -- and I want you, Delia, to talk a little bit about what we anticipate as we await the start of this motorcade. The Pope will be in that Popemobile, as it's called. Tens of thousands of New Yorkers getting ready to see the Pope to try to get a glimpse of the Pope as he goes by.

But this World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia this weekend, it could set the stage for, what, a million people gathering in Philadelphia? DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're expecting

upwards of a million people here. They are getting ready. I have to tell you, it's a really festive atmosphere here in Philadelphia for the final leg of Pope Francis's trip.

Let's just connect the dots for a minute, Wolf. The Pope has just met with immigrant families, poor families in Harlem. We know immigration is one of his top themes. He will go to Madison Square Garden, where the mass tonight is on the topic of peace and justice. That is the theme that he has carried through with his two major speeches to Congress and to the United Nations.

And he finishes here in Philadelphia on the topic of the family. Why? Immigration for the Pope, in part, is a problem because it breaks up families. It is a question of justice for the poor, for the immigrant. All of the themes will tie together tonight at Madison Square Garden. And finishing here this weekend for this World Meeting of Families, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Delia, stand by. Jim Sciutto is with me. John Allen is with me, as well.

Jim, set the scene for us right now. Looks like that motorcade is getting ready to start. The Pope will go into that Popemobile, as it's called, and will make its way down from around 70th Street, Central Park West, all the way down to the end near 60th Street. But in the process, tens of thousands of very fortunate, lucky New Yorkers will get a glimpse of the pontiff.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You know, he's traveling around in this little car, this papal Fiat, as we've known it. A tiny, tiny car but an enormous presence here in New York. And an enormous logistical challenge moving around the city from one end to the other. A security challenge certainly, but with the crowds, as well.

And I will say, as you noted, Wolf, we've seen this line up Central Park West shorten just in the last few minutes. We've been watching it a bit nervously, nervously for those people that they get in. But it looks like they're getting closer to getting all those people in, hopefully in time, although it is looking ready to go.

Just one more personal note. I grew up in New York City. Central Park was my backyard. That's where we went to play. In effect, as he meets New Yorkers here, he's meeting New Yorkers on their home turf, in their backyard. It's a very personal place, a personal location, a personal place for them to connect with him.

BLITZER: You're looking at that line. It's not that long right now. It was much longer, several blocks. But now they're getting near the end.

John Allen, we just saw. This is Columbus Circle right at the opening of Central Park. These people will go through metal detectors. They'll go inside. An enormous amount of planning, and the entire decision-making process went into this decision by the pontiff to go through Central Park.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN VATICAN ANALYST: Yes. That's right, Wolf. What will happen is the Vatican won't officially announce that the Pope is traveling some place until about a month out.

But in truth, the planning usually has been going on for about a year and a half. There's actually a Vatican advance team that always makes four or five trips to proposed venues to go over almost minute-by- minute, the tick tock of where the Pope is going to be and where he -- what he's going to be doing. And try to flush out the logistics of it. So it's a mammoth enterprise.

I will say, just to echo Jim's point, you know, last night when he did that vesper service in St. Pat's, that was in a way, for the local Catholic community. This morning at the U.N. was for the world. But this afternoon, this is for New York. I mean, he went to that school in Harlem for the poor immigrant kids in New York. And now he's going through Central Park for the whole city. I mean, this is the Pope wrapping New York in a warm, loving embrace.

SCIUTTO: And of course, to stop at the 9/11 Memorial, a place of enormous meaning and sadness and emotion to go there, as well. He couldn't have picked more meaningful places, really, for New Yorkers.

BLITZER: It was such a powerful moment indeed. I don't know. You're a New Yorker. Have you ever seen Central Park with so many metal detectors lined up right at Columbus Circle right behind us over there?


BLITZER: I'm looking at that line over there, and it's amazing what's going on.

SCIUTTO: It is. And I have to say, I have to give the New York Police Department, of course, the Secret Service and Vatican security credit for coming up, meeting this enormous logistical challenge. It's tough to move 100,000 people into close proximity with the Pope in light of the threat picture, which we have to acknowledge that they consider him under threat here in the U.S. This is, yes, it's a little later than they said, but it looks like all those people are going to get it in time.

BLITZER: I was going to say they will get in and they will be so excited. Go ahead, John.

ALLEN: Well, I was just going to say it's worth saying that it is actually tougher to get into Central Park to see the Pope today than it is normally to get into St. Peter's Square to see the Pope on Wednesdays or Sundays when he does his public appearances. You don't have to pass through metal detectors; you're not wanded.

But obviously, when the Pope is on the road, I mean, nobody wants to be the place where something bad happens to the Pope. So obviously, there's extraordinary security. You're right; they're going to be thrilled. I mean, you know, I've

covered papal trips in every corner of the planet. People are always thrilled. And there we see the Popemobile beginning to make its way towards this very anxious crowd in Central Park.

BLITZER: Pope Francis now getting closer to that Popemobile at Central Park. Central Park, the western part of Central Park near 70th Street. He's going to be getting out of one of those vehicles and will go into that Popemobile.

John Allen, you've seen him do that many, many times. And let's remind our viewers, that Popemobile is different than the Popemobile that previous pontiffs used.

ALLEN: Well, actually it's sort of a return to the early days of the Popemobile, so to speak. Worth pointing out, by the way, Wolf...

BLITZER: The sides are open.

ALLEN: Yes, the sides are open. The Pope used to just ride in the back of an open-air Jeep. And Francis himself will still do that occasionally, as to be fair, did Benedict once in a while.

This is sort of a slimmed-down, humbler, simpler version of the Popemobile.

It's worth mentioning, by the way, that the Popemobile was itself -- you mentioned the visit to the 9/11 Memorial. The Popemobile is itself, in a way, a response to a terrorist act. It was designed after the assassination attempt against John Paul II in May 1981 as a way of allowing the Pope to be visible to people but still be protected.

And, you know, popes have struggled with exactly how that ought to be designed over the years, because they're trying to strike a balance between being safe and being accessible. And this is Francis's version of what that looks like.

BLITZER: And Delia Gallagher, as we see the motorcade, the motorcycles, the police escort beginning to get closer to that Popemobile, it's very important for this Pope, for all popes to be seen by the people who have gathered along the sides as he raises his hands and blesses them. That is so, so significant. Talk a little bit about how powerful this is for Catholics who get close to the pontiff.

GALLAGHER: Well, Wolf, it's a bit difficult to hear, but I do understand that you want to talk about the Pope being seen. And I'll tell you, it's as important for the Pope to be seen as for the Pope to see, because this is a Pope, as we have said, who wants to get out and who wants to be able to meet with people. And that's what we've been seeing all along in this trip, that he meets first with his own priests and bishops so he can greet them, because he is obviously an important figure for them. But then he goes out to the people, and now, of course, he will have a chance to salute New York City. But you know, Wolf, when I was coming here to Philadelphia just a few

hours ago, I heard from a few people that said, well, this is an American trip. This is the Pope's U.S. trip, but he's only on the East Coast, and he only goes to Philadelphia and New York and Washington. And there's a lot more of America to see.

So I think we're going to have to convince him to come back again, because clearly, he's not been able to see all of the United States just yet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: The Pope now getting out of that little Fiat that brought him to the Popemobile. And he will get inside that Popemobile. He'll be standing and begin this drive through Central Park, where tens of thousands of people, 80,000 lottery winners, these are the most fortunate. They got the tickets. They're going to be inside. They're going to get a glimpse. There you see him, Pope Francis. He's getting into that Popemobile right now.

[17:15:15] And John Allen, it's not very often we see that transfer, do we?

ALLEN: No. Because typically, it doesn't happen on camera. But the thing about Pope Francis, I think, is that all of the conveyances he uses, whether it's the kind of Jeep version of the Popemobile or the Fiat, this is sort of form reinforcing function. He's trying to make a statement about sort of rejecting ostentation, about embracing humility and simplicity. Very much the spirit of his papacy, and that's how he wants to project himself to the people. It's one of the things that has caused the world to fall in love with him, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. People have fallen in love with this Pope for good reason. He's called the people's Pope, and he wants to be part of the people. It's amazing some of the words we heard earlier today at the United Nations, words we heard yesterday at the United States Congress.

And especially, I was very moved by what he did over at the 9/11 Memorial earlier today at that interfaith meeting that he had there. That was a powerful symbol of what this Pope is all about.

ALLEN: Yes. I thought one of the most striking lines from that speech at the U.N. this morning, Wolf, was when he was talking about war. And he said, "Listen, I know sometimes there are good causes in these struggles. But never forget that what's behind those causes and more fundamental than those causes is the people who are affected by these conflicts, real people whose blood is shed, whose lives are destroyed."

You know, a colleague of mine, Ines San Martin, who writes for us at "Crux," did a piece recently about the Pope's Argentinian background. And the point she made is that the fundamental thing to understand about this man is that, for him, people are far more important than ideas. And to the extent that he has limits, it's not because his ideas are bad. It's because he hasn't met the right people yet.

BLITZER: Those are U.S. Secret Service, NYPD and the Pope, the Vatican's own security guards, all surrounding this Popemobile as it begins this short trek through Central Park, where tens of thousands of people have gathered to get a little glimpse of the pontiff. And they're all hoping he will raise his hand, he will give them a little blessing in the process.

I want to get some thoughts now from the Reverend John Jenkins. He's the president of University of Notre Dame, who's joining us right now.

Reverend Jenkins, thank you so much. This is really an important moment, not only for United States but especially for Catholics here in the United States. Talk a little bit about that.

REV. JOHN JENKINS, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME: Absolutely, Wolf. It -- the Pope represents the universal church. And he is -- brings the whole church to us. The successor of St. Peter, he connected in time and space.

But as you're saying, it is this person who seems to embody the gospel, who seems to embody his office in such a remarkable way that partly explains the affection and excitement about his coming to our country and the warmth with which he is received.

BLITZER: This Pope really wants to be close to the people. Would you say he's more anxious to be closer to the people, to the crowds than earlier popes?

JENKINS: Yes, I think -- I could answer that on two levels. I mean, one is just the personal level. He's energized by people. He -- it's a joyful moment for him.

But the other thing I'd say about it is that, you know, I was there the past few days. He was with the president, with Congress, the most powerful people in the country, but in a way, I think he most enjoys just ordinary folk. Just simple people, children. He loves that. He's a pastor.

BLITZER: You know what?

JENKINS: He's not into a power show.

BLITZER: You know what, Reverend? I want to listen in a little bit. The crowds are so excited. Let's just get a flavor of what's going on in Central Park.


BLITZER: You can get a sense of the excitement in Central Park right now. Listen to that crowd.

I'm happy to report that those metal detectors at the opening of Central Park, they seem to be all done. Everybody who walked and was waiting in line, they are now inside. And John Allen, they will get a moment. Even if it's only for a brief few seconds, they will get an opportunity to be blessed by this pontiff.

ALLEN: Yes. And I think popes in general, and this Pope in particular, is conscious for the people who turn out to see him in these occasions.

[17:20:06] It may just be one minute out of his day, but to them this is something they will remember and cherish for the rest of their lives. He knows how special it is to them. That's why I think he puts so much energy, even in these fleeting seconds to make eye contact, to wave, to reach out, because he wants people to feel like it's as significant to him as it is to them.

BLITZER: And Jim Sciutto, look at the security surrounding the Popemobile, but also look at those crowds along both sides of Central Park as -- this road in Central Park as the Pope moves slowly but surely down from around, what, we said 70th Street all the way to the 60th Street or so, about ten blocks.

SCIUTTO: That's right. You feel the energy of the crowd. And you feel his energy. I was thinking, when he was interacting with those kids up in Harlem and you see it again now, you never see a bigger smile on his face than when he's close to the people. That is when he is in his element.

He can do the pomp and circumstance, but he loves to be with the people. And as we look at this security here, you certainly have the Secret Service, you have the New York Police Department, but don't forget the Swiss Guards, a centuries-old commitment to protecting the Pope. These are the people you see when he's in Rome, in a medieval- style, almost knight-like caps and colorful tunics, but they have a very central role in keeping him safe wherever he goes. And they're present here, as well.

BLITZER: The Swiss Guard, they put on civilian clothes when they're with the Pope outside the Vatican.

ALLEN: Yes, that's right. These are senior officers in the Swiss Guard. The Swiss Guard actually has an officer corps that typically is plainclothes, and then it's kind of the grunts that actually wear those very colorful outfits.

They originally, of course, were a Swiss mercenary army that, in the 16th century, almost all of them are killed defending the Pope during a sack of Rome. They actually are sworn in every year in a very colorful Vatican ceremony on May 24. And they take an oath to defend the Pope to the point of giving their lives.

BLITZER: It's amazing. It's going -- it's going smoothly, obviously. And hopefully, it will continue to go smoothly.

Is it anticipated, John, that at some point he might stop, get out and go talk to some of these folks? They've all gone through metal detectors getting into Central Park.

ALLEN: Well, Wolf, I'll tell you this. Having followed Francis day in and day out for two and a half years now, I think it's almost impossible to anticipate what he's going to do in any given set of circumstances.

But is it possible? Absolutely it's possible. It's the kind of thing he would do. Although I will say that, at the very beginning, he did that kind of thing all the time. He would just plunge willy-nilly into crowds. He's become a little bit more restrained and a little bit more willing to defer to his security team. Not because he's so much concerned for his personal safety, but because he was persuaded that he was making life a little too difficult for the people who were doing their best to protect him.

BLITZER: You know, and let's not forget, Jim Sciutto and John Allen, as we watch this motorcade and these crowds 00 tens of thousands, 80,000, maybe 100,000 people have been allowed inside Central Park to observe, to get a glimpse of the pontiff right now. This is a 78- year-old man. He's been up since really early this morning. And he's gone through -- he's gone through a United Nations speech, a 9/11 Memorial. He's gone to a school up in East Harlem. He's met with students; he's met with immigrants. Now he's going, and he still has a mass at Madison Square Garden.

ALLEN: He's still got to play at the Garden.


ALLEN: Not only -- not only is he 78 years old, but he also has a case of sciatica that's been acting up since we were in Cuba that is making it painful for him to stand and move around.

And so, you know, but I mean, I will tell you, those of us who follow him, we call him the Energizer bunny of popes, because he just seems to have this inexhaustible reservoir of energy.

I mean, on the plane, Wolf, for example, I remember after the first trip we took to Brazil, it was an eight-day trip, almost as long as this one, grueling schedule. On the way back, he came back and gave us an hour and a half press conference. Then he went up front.

Halfway through the rest of the flight, some Vatican officials were coming back, saying they needed a break, because the Pope was driving them crazy. He kept coming around wanting to know what was happening in their offices and what they were up to. And you know, are you getting out and hearing confessions, and you know, all of this kind of stuff. So -- and of course, he's canceled the normal August vacation that popes used to take at Castel Gandolfo, he works through the month. The man's commitment and his energy are just absolutely flabbergasting.

BLITZER: It is really breathtaking when you think about it.

Delia Gallagher, when you see the Pope, he raises his arms to the crowd. He's not simply waving and saying hi. He's giving all of those people -- those are Catholics by and large -- he's blessing them. Talk a little bit about that.

GALLAGHER: Well, I wanted to say, Wolf, that you know, John and I have been at the Vatican since John Paul II, and there are some popes who you see just get energy from the crowd. You know, they're extroverts. John Paul II and this Pope certainly in that category. Benedict more introverted. But when Pope Francis became Pope, he did seem to have a sort of

transformation. Many people in Argentina said, you know, he was quite different when he was archbishop and cardinal there.

[17:25:08] And he seems to pick up speed, as it were, and get energy from the crowd and have a sense -- and he has said this himself -- of urgency about the issues, about being out with people and getting his message out to the world. I think that he feels that very deeply and possibly only since he's become Pope. You know, sort of taking on the mantle of this huge responsibility, accepted it, and is spending everything he's got for it.

BLITZER: We have the video, the live pictures coming in from the Popemobile. The huge crowds over there.

Jim Sciutto, we've lost the audio from the crowds screaming over there. We can hear it, because we're above Central Park right now right above Columbus Circle, the opening to Central Park. Now we're beginning to hear some of that crowd right now. But these are very excited New Yorkers.

SCIUTTO: The well of sound that is coming to us from Central Park right now, you can feel the excitement and energy. And we watched -- the Pope is just about to pass us here in the southwest corner of the park. You can see -- we hope to be able to see him through the trees, but we watched all the crowds of people who are outside the cordon here as he was coming closer. As they heard the cheers, they all ran up as close as they could get. And again, they're going to be watching it through the security cordon, through some of the trees, but just to catch a glimpse.

And I think we're going to see him just now through the trees here, some of the police escorting him as he makes his way through.

BLITZER: Yes, they're right below us, John Allen. You can see the motorcade and you can see all the lights flashing. You can see the security. We really do have a fabulous view from up here.

ALLEN: Yes, it's magical. You know, what I'm thinking about, Wolf, is in the run-up to this trip, those of us in the press corps, you know, imagine all sorts of ways in which...

BLITZER: There he is.

ALLEN: There's the Pope right now. We imagine all sorts of ways in which this trip might go wrong. You know, that maybe the Pope's anti- capitalist rhetoric wouldn't play so well in the states. His English wasn't very good. He'd never been here before. He might put a foot wrong.

Listen, I think the response of this crowd this afternoon is the definitive response to that. This man is playing extraordinarily well on the New York stage.

BLITZER: And Jim Sciutto, you're a New Yorker. If there's a parade for the New York Yankees, if they win the World Series, I'm not sure they're going to get a response like this.

SCIUTTO: Or the New York Mets, to be fair. But no, it's hard to imagine. I've got to tell you, I mean, it is very personal. This is a Pope who knows the personal, right? And each one of these stops has a personal element and a personal meeting.

I just -- as I said earlier, Central Park was my backyard. This is New York's backyard. He's there now. Nine-eleven, the ties of that horrible day and the emotion there. A Harlem school and now Madison Square Garden.

BLITZER: I want to just show our viewers we're standing right above Central Park, above Columbus Circle. If we look down, we can see the crowds in the midst of those trees right behind us.

And just outside, you see all these people. They're not going to get inside Central Park, John, but they're going to try to get at least a little glimpse of what's going on. A moment they will always cherish.

ALLEN: Yes, that's absolutely right. And it's worth remembering that, for them, this isn't just tourism. And, you know, this isn't just the equivalent of taking in a Broadway show. I mean, for most of the people down there, this has deep religious and spiritual significance.

I mean, you know, as you said, in many ways, for New Yorkers, Central Park is already holy ground. OK? But in a very literal sense for that crowd here tonight, because the Holy Father just moved through it, this has become sacred space.

BLITZER: Take a look, Jim Sciutto. You see now the motorcade has come to a halt and the pontiff is getting out of that Popemobile. And he's going to begin this -- continue this journey down to Madison Square Garden, where he'll be celebrating mass with about 20,000 people. Those are -- how did those 20,000 get selected, John?

SCIUTTO: Well, basically there was a lottery...

BLITZER: They don't have to pay for that.

SCIUTTO: No. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. No, no. It's not like, you know, the difference in the cheap seats and the sky boxes and that kind of thing. No, I mean, basically New York parishes distributed tickets. In many cases, they would hold a lottery, or you know, in some cases pastors would give them to people who were particularly important in the life of the parish and that kind of thing.

BLITZER: All right. You see that Popemobile, Jim Sciutto, has now come to a halt. I want to quickly go now to Jason Carroll. He's on the street. He's an eyewitness to history that's been unfolding.

Jason, what are you seeing?

CARROLL: You know, Wolf, this is the moment that so many people out here have been waiting for. Hoping for the moment when the Pope would exit the so-called Popemobile and get out and try to interact with some people, at least before he hops into his car there.

I can't tell you how many people we spoke to today said, you know, "We may not get close. We may be behind ten. We may be behind 15 people who are standing here, but just to be in Central Park or, in this case, even out in Columbus Circle not being able to get into Central Park, it's still about being part of something -- something special."

I spoke to one man who's lived in New York, Wolf, since 1979. And he said, "You know, I was here when Pope Benedict was here." And he said, "I loved Pope Benedict," but he said, "There's something very special about this particular man." He said, "When I talk about him and when I see him, he said, my hairs on my arms stand up because there's something very special about him. He truly is the people's Pope. And you see that now. You see that with the crush of people who came out here, waited in line along Central Park West for hours, some of them knowing that they might not be able to get in but saying, you know what, I have faith, I have hope, I want to be here anyway. Such a special, special time for so many people who are out here today -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: You know, it's almost a miracle. I hate to use the word, but I think it's almost a miracle that all those people did get inside, all 80,000 who won those lottery tickets, because half an hour or so ago we thought there would be thousands, maybe even tens of thousands, who were stranded outside, who would be frustrated, we would understand would be very disappointed. But you know what, they all got inside. And they're obviously very, very happy as we see what's going on. We can hear the sirens going on. Security, Jim Sciutto, incredibly, incredibly intense.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It is. And think of this, this is about a 20-minute procession through Central Park. Enormously managed. The sad fact of the security situation enormously managed. Right? I mean, a sad fact to the security situation, enormously managed, you drive down, you're surrounded by all those people. But as we said they all got in and just in time. And you know they're not going to forget even us as we're up here and we kind of glanced at him through the trees from a couple hundred yards away.

I'm going to remember that sight for sure. And I'll remember that well of sound rising from the park. He's giving a lot of people in New York something they won't forget.

BLITZER: And take a look, John. You can see the people now leaving Central Park. They're exiting. They're on Central Park West, Central Park South. They're getting away from Central Park with a memory, as Jim just said, they will never forget.

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Yes. You know, I've been covering Popes for a long time, almost 20 years. I covered John Paul, Benedict, Francis, I've seen huge crowds all around the world. You know I saw John Paul draw three million in Poland, I saw Francis draw 6.5 million in Manila. It's easy after a while, Wolf, to get a little jaded. You just sort of think this is par for the course until you see the expressions on the faces of the people who were here today. And you talk to them after the fact about what this meant to them. I

mean, five seconds, maybe, you know, 100 yards away from the Pope they see him coming by. He makes eye contact with them. That's a story they will tell their grandchildren.

BLITZER: For five seconds some of them waited for hours and hours to get inside. And I'm sure none of them regrets that long wait.

ALLEN: Exactly.

BLITZER: All right. Hold on for a moment. We have much more on the Pope's big day here in New York including his tough talk to world leaders at the United Nations. Much more of our special coverage coming up right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


[17:37:23] BLITZER: Welcome back to the breaking news coverage. You're looking at live pictures from outside Madison Square Garden here in New York City. Around 34th Street over there the crowds have gathered. Inside about 20,000 people will celebrate mass with the Pope as he makes his way there. He should be there within a few minutes. And we're going to have of course continuing live coverage of all of this.

The Pope has had a huge impact on tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people, maybe millions of people already since he left the Vatican. We know he did have an impact on one very important person in Washington, D.C., the speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner.

Dana Bash, Gloria Borger are with us.

Dana, talk a little bit about the impact and the fallout to a certain degree of the Pope's address before a Joint Meeting of the U.S. Congress yesterday.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, according to John Boehner himself, there was a pretty major fallout. It was the thing that led to him deciding that it was time to end his time as speaker. He had a very, he said, intense moment with the Pope. Not just what happened in public, but something that happened in private when the two of them he said walked out together.

The Pope put his hand on John Boehner's shoulder and said, pray for me. The kind of thing that we're actually seeing the Pope do all through his travels here. But I'm guessing it's quite a different moment when it's in private and you are the speaker of the House. And coming off a high really because Boehner was trying to get a Pope to speak before the House for 20 years. And this was the culmination of that.

So he says that this was something he was planning to do in November around Boehner's birthday. He was going to announce it then. But he was in such a spiritual place and such a good place personally that he said he made the decision. I was talking to his chief of staff earlier today who said that the two of them did meet last night, said that maybe this is time. The speaker went home, called his wife, said I'll sleep on it, woke up and decided it was the right time. So the Pope's visit and the Pope's actual moment and influence on John Boehner had a very big impact on his decision.

Little bit ironic I think considering the fact that the Pope's big speech and big message to Congress when he did go there yesterday was, you know, you got to work harder to get toward the common good. From Boehner that's getting out because he said that he was at this point too disruptive to the institution.

BLITZER: Just want to tell our viewers we're looking at these tens of thousands of people who are now leaving Central Park now that the Pope has gone through Central Park. They've had an opportunity to get a little glimpse of the pontiff. Now all of these people are beginning to exit through those gates over there and make their way presumably home. And many of them of course going to be watching TV as the Pope celebrates mass at Madison Square Garden.

[17:40:16] Gloria, very quickly, the chances of a U.S. government shutdown now as a result of Speaker Boehner announcing that he was resigning, have those chances gone up or down? Because the U.S. government runs out of money by the end of this month unless legislation is passed.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: You know, Wolf, I think it depends obviously on who becomes speaker. It's hard for me to imagine that the first act of a new speaker and a new leadership in the House of Representatives would be to shut the government down. That sort of sends a message that by the way is very different as Dana was just saying from what the Pope said to members of Congress yesterday which is that it is your job to work on behalf of the American people and work out your problems.

However, I've been surprised before. And it's clear to me that the leadership team is going to take a turn to the right whether it's in the top job or the jobs below that. It could be kind of a coalition government, if you will. So it's really hard to say right now, Wolf. I think you have to kind of -- I think you have to let this play out a little bit. If Ted Cruz were running for speaker, the answer would be yes. But he's not. He's in the Senate.

BLITZER: He's in the Senate.


BLITZER: And once again we're showing our viewers, Gloria, some video just moments ago the Pope going through Central Park in that Popemobile. The crowds are enormous. There will be 20,000 people awaiting him momentarily when he arrives at Madison Square Garden to celebrate mass with those people. They are very, very fortunate people indeed that they got a ticket to get inside Madison Square Garden for this historic mass.

John Allen, just remind our viewers once again the people who are going to be inside, is it going to be a short service, a long service? What's going to happen?

ALLEN: Well, basically when the Pope celebrates mass, it's an ordinary Catholic mass only with better production values. So tonight's mass is -- it has the theme of justice and peace. The Vatican a number of years ago issued a particular form of the mass dedicated to those ideals. And of course it's entirely appropriate because those have been the core themes of his trip here in the United States. But there will be the ordinary thing. There will be an entrance procession, opening prayers, then there will be readings from the bible, Old Testament, New Testament, a reading from the gospel.

The highlight for many people will be when the Pope preaches his homily, which is a brief talk he will give meditating on the scripture readings. Then you'll have the Eucharistic prayers, communion and the -- the exiting procession. And that will be it. Usually these things take about an hour and a half, hour 45 minutes.

BLITZER: What I love, especially love, Jim Sciutto, and you're familiar with this as well because you and I have interviewed many world leaders, many of them speak English well but they're reluctant when they come to the United States to speak English because they say, you know what, I have a thick accent, may not be perfect, I'll speak in their own language and they'll be translated.

This Pope, he's not shy, he's willing to speak in English. And I give him all the credit in the world.

SCIUTTO: Absolutely. And what a difference it makes to speak, you know, to speak. When we heard him in Congress speaking there, you know, you listened up more he clearly, as John has said, he's been working at it. He's had a teacher with him to help him on pronunciation of some of those more difficult words. But he did it and it made a difference in the connection, as do so many of these gestures. He's a Pope of gestures. In that small car that's a gesture.

You are -- you're going through, you're connecting with people, real people, that's a gesture. And I think speaking in English as well a powerful one.

BLITZER: We're told the Pope will arrive at Madison Square Garden momentarily. We'll take a quick break. Our special coverage will resume in just a minute.



BLITZER: Welcome back. We're covering this historic extraordinary day here in New York City. You're looking at live pictures now from inside Madison Square Garden. It's a sellout even though the tickets were not sold, they were handed out. 20,000 people. There you see Pope Francis, he is now inside Madison Square Garden. He's in a golf cart. He's being brought in.

Let's just listen in for a moment. [17:50:23] Delia Gallagher, you're watching this together with all of

us, the Pope obviously excited. He's happy. He's very happy to see -- Cardinal Timothy Dolan right behind him there as he's being driven in this sort of golf cart. A small version of the Popemobile in Madison Square Garden getting ready to celebrate mass with 20,000 very, very fortunate Catholic supporters. The Pope has an enormous responsibility right now.

Delia, walk us through a little of what to expect during this mass.

DELIA GALLAGHER, CNN VATICAN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I want to point out to you that the man that is walking on the screen left of the Pope is the head of Vatican Security. And he is the right-hand man of the Pope on these trips and indeed at the Vatican. If the Pope wants to stop, if he wants a child brought to him, that is the man that he signals to and I think that man probably knows what the Pope wants before the Pope even tells him.

And one of the interesting things, Wolf, that I have noticed on this trip compared to past trips and past Popes, is this -- these speeches of Pope Francis have absolutely his hand print all over it. They are very simple, very direct. The language is vintage Pope Francis and I think it is one of the reasons why we say that he has this effect when you are meeting him in person and his words and his presence, perhaps, even to the speaker of the House but indeed, even in his speeches, the language that he has used is not very typical of papal language.

It is simple, direct, human language and I think that is part of the reason why he is able to get people's attention and why people remember. If you remember when he was elected, Wolf, at the Vatican and he came out onto the balcony and the first thing he said is good evening. A Pope has never started anything -- any kind of speech like that. You don't start a speech like that when you're Pope. You say, dear brothers and sisters, you say another phrase.

So this Pope off the bat, and he has continued it, and I think it's been highlighted in this trip a very simple direct language straight to the heart of the people -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Very simple and direct and powerful and beautiful. You see Cardinal Timothy Dolan, John Allen, right there. The cardinal has been at his side, at the Pope's side, virtually I think every second. You've seen him. There's Cardinal Dolan. It's pretty unusual, isn't it?

ALLEN: No, no. In Washington I'm sure you saw that Cardinal Dolan whirl of Washington was with the Pope almost all the time and once he gets to Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia will be with him. The host bishop is always with the Pope. And I think it's especially important for this Pope because, you know, he doesn't want to be a lonely autocrat. I mean, he wants to govern in communion with all the bishops of the world. And so, you know, giving them this face time, including them in the spotlight alongside him --

BLITZER: Look at that. He just blessed that little child. ALLEN: Yes. And as Delia was saying, that's vintage Francis, it's

something you see him do at all of his stops and there you see Cardinal Dolan reaching out to repeat the gesture. This is something that's extraordinarily important to the Pope. You might see him stop two or three different times along the way tonight to do this kind of thing.

BLITZER: And you see some of those little kids are obviously suffering right now and parents bring their child and hoping that the Pope will give them a blessing.

ALLEN: Sure, and as Delia was saying, the security team that surround the Pope are guys who travel with him all the time. And they know the kind of person that the Pope would like to be able to be present to in a special way and they make that possible for them.

BLITZER: You know, a lot of people don't know this -- look at that, look at that picture, look at these people over there. They're getting a blessing from the Pope.

A lot of people don't know this, Jim Sciutto. You know what was supposed to be at Madison Square Garden tonight? A Billy Joel concert. But that -- Billy Joel obviously understood. He agreed they could reschedule a Billy Joel concert. You can't very often reschedule a visit by the pontiff to Madison Square Garden.

SCIUTTO: Billy Joel is good. He's a New Yorker but no one will play Madison Square Garden like this Pope. As you saw there, the emotion, that that blessing from the Pope raised in those parents there.


SCIUTTO: I watched them as a parent myself and just imagine that feeling. It's -- you see how important it is. You see the effect that he has on people.

BLITZER: And you see a lot of priests who have gathered there, as well. Do they just decide -- who comes? Which priest is allowed to come?

[17:55:02] ALLEN: Well, typically, it would be the local organizers, in this case that's the Archdiocese of New York. Generally speaking, they put out invitations to any priest who wants to come celebrate as long as the facility can physically hold them. Sometimes you'll see some priests on the alter and others in seats around it. We also need a large number of priests obviously to distribute communion to such a large crowd.

BLITZER: There's going to be a lot communion.

All right. Everyone, stand by. We're only minutes away from the start of this historic mass at Madison Square Garden. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.