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Pope Benedict to Resign This Month; Courthouse Shooting in Delaware

Aired February 11, 2013 - 09:00   ET



CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now in the NEWSROOM, breaking overnight, the Pope calling it quits; the leader of the Catholic Church stepping down at the end of the month. This hasn't happened in nearly 600 years.

The Pope's last tweet even more telling this morning. Quote, "We must trust in the mighty power of God's mercy. We are all sinners, but his grace transforms us and makes us new."

Just ahead, Benedict's health, his replacement and what's next for the Catholic Church. NEWSROOM starts now.


COSTELLO: Good morning. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Carol Costello. We begin with a bombshell greeting 1 billion Catholics around the world. Their spiritual leader, Pope Benedict XVI, stepping down at the end of the month.

We're bringing you all the angles of this developing story. Joining me now for this hour's special coverage, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo. He's in New York. Morning, Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Carol. It's good to join you here.

Shocking news because this simply hasn't been done. It's been almost 600 years since a Pope resigned. That was Gregory XII. It was to end a civil war. So the question becomes why is Pope Benedict doing this now?

We're going to get reaction first because no one saw this coming, certainly in this country.

Let's start off our coverage with Deb Feyerick. She's at St. Patrick's Cathedral here in New York City, the kind of center of the American Catholic tradition here. Deb, what are you hearing this morning? What a shocker.

DEB FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating because the resignation took many here by surprise. We spoke just a short time ago with the Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, and he says he was startled when he heard the news. He said there had been rumors at various points that Pope Benedict XVI would be stepping down, but when the formal word came that, in fact, he was resigning, it took the entire diocese certainly by surprise.

Now, we did speak to him a little bit earlier. He said, you know, Pope Benedict understood that, in fact, he was in frail health, that even back in 2005, when his name came up for consideration to become the Pope, he mentioned that he was getting older. He is going to be 86 years old in the next two months. And so he understood that.

And being Pope is a very grueling kind of job, the cardinal said. People are always sort of trying to get near you, trying to jostle, trying to push, and he said that made it a little bit difficult for Pope Benedict in terms of the physical demands that are required on his job.

Now, Archbishop Timothy Dolan says that the conclave will begin in just about a month. They're really waiting for instructions to come down from the Vatican. That should be happening. But, again, he said he was just as surprised as everybody, and a lot of folks that have passed by here, one woman said, make sure you tell people Pope Benedict was a good Pope, is a good Pope. Another man was also startled, worried that, in fact, our presence here suggested that perhaps it was more than just frail health; that, in fact, perhaps he had passed. Not the case. He has just decided to step down.

But, again, the news filtering to all of his cardinals, his archbishop, everybody in the Catholic Church, taking many by surprise today. Chris?

CUOMO: Deb, thank you for that. Please say with us because you and I have covered what may have been this Pope's high point, his trip to the United States. It was such a re-invigoration point for so many of America's Catholics.

However, this latest news, of course, sparks suspicions. Why now? What does it mean? Is there anything lurking there? Is this a secret? Well, one thing is for sure. Very little happens at the Vatican that is a surprise. People know. This Pope was 85 years old now right now, Pope Benedict. He says in his own statement that for some months he has been looking at his own health, that's unavoidable for him. It is a very taxing job.

And also, remember, as we get more insight from our Vatican correspondent and analyst, that this is a Pope, who as cardinal, as John Ratzinger, was very keenly aware of what happened to Pope John Paul II. He talked to people about how his demise seemed somewhat of a dishonorable end to his papacy. So he had in his mind already what type of glorious exit, to use the phrase, he may want in store for him.

Let's get some perspective of what is coming out of the Vatican right now as to why this is happening, what it means. John Allen, our senior Vatican analyst, joins us now. What do we know, John?

JOHN ALLEN, CNN SENIOR VATICAN ANALYST: Well, what we know is that we are living through a day of enormous shock here in Rome. Not so much that Pope Benedict XVI chose to resign; he signaled two years ago that he would be open to doing that. But the fact that we had absolutely no indication that this was coming today.

And precisely because of that, therefore, there are some enormous unanswered questions about how all of this is going to play out. I suppose the biggest questions would be, (A), what will the role of a retired Pope be? Will he continue to play any kind of public role? Will he continue to exercise any kind of influence on the future direction of Catholicism almost whether he wants to or not?

And the second obvious question is the one, I think, going through the minds of some 120 cardinals around the world today, which is who in God's name are they going to choose as his successor? They obviously themselves had no indication that in a little over a month's time, they would likely be gathering in Rome to begin the process of organizing a conclave.

CUOMO: Right, you make a good point, though, John. Obviously, this is something that the Pope had brought up himself a couple of years ago. There's no reason to believe it means anything about any imminent action or change in direction. The surprise just comes from the timing, right?

ALLEN: Well, that's true. I mean, the surprise, I suppose, is not in the content of the decision, because I think the Pope prepared the ground for it himself in that interview a couple of years ago. I think the surprise is in the timing.

Now, in terms of whether this signals any change in direction, I don't think it will likely signal any change of direction on content, that is, the cardinals who will be electing the next Pope would be largely in lock step with Benedict XVI about the big picture teachings of the church.

But I do think it will likely change -- signal a change in what you might call business management in the Vatican. I think there's a consensus that while Benedict XVI has been a great teaching Pope, there have been a number of crises and controversies and meltdowns on his watch, some of them perhaps inevitable, but some of them self- inflicted. And I do think many of the cardinals are hoping to elect a Pope, perhaps because of age, and perhaps because of personal background, who will be in a position to take the reins of government a bit more closely in his own hands.

CUOMO: There's so much intrigue that surrounds the movements of the Vatican, the mysticism, and it is an intriguing question. If the Pope resigns, which he has just signaled he intends to do on February 28th at 20 hours, he said that's when his papacy will end, he doesn't go back to being a cardinal, I would assume, because that is a designation given. He is certainly a bishop. But do you think he could have -- I don't know the law, maybe you do, the canon law -- could he have any role in the decision process of who the next Pope is? Or is he simply excluded because he's not currently one of the 120 cardinals?

ALLEN: This question obviously came up at the briefing that the Vatican spokesperson, Father Frederico Lombardi, provided for the press early afternoon Rome time. In terms of what the Pope is going to be called, Lombardi says we don't actually know. That's one of the unanswered questions. Probably the Emeritus Bishop of Rome, that is, the former or retired bishop of Rome. But that has not been started.

Lombardi was categorical that Benedict XVI will not have any role, either behind the scenes or in public, in terms of the process of electing the next Pope. As you know, his plans are that as soon as sede vacante, that is, the period of vacancy of the See of Rome, begins at 8:00 Rome time on the 28th, he is going to head for Castel Gandolfo, which is the summer residence of the Pope in the hills outside of Rome. And then eventually will make his way to a monastery within the Vatican, where he intends to lead a quiet life of prayer.

In any event, he will not be joining the cardinals for their daily meetings in the run-up to the conclave, and he certainly will not be inside the Sistine Chapel casting a ballot for the next successor of Rome. He has left that in the hands of the cardinals to determine. The indications are that he will play no role in that and, further, that once a new Pope is on the job, he clearly intends to pass the torch to that man and not play any kind of administrator or governance role in church affairs from that point forward.

CUOMO: And in his own statement, what he said was that he foresees the role of the Pope who resigns as "living a simple life of prayer." John, thank you very much.

A lot of speculation about this, about what this will mean going forward. Let's get another perspective on it. Delia Gallagher is the contributing editor of "Inside the Vatican" magazine. She is in Rome. She joins us by phone right now.

Delia, can you hear us?


CUOMO: Quite a day that you're living there right now. What was the first flush of response to this news? How was it taken?

GALLAGHER: Well, I think everybody's first response was it can't be true. We had to verify it. And of course, the verification came rather quickly. And then the obvious question is why? And I think that maybe the why is just very simple, and that is that probably two considerations for the Pope: one, what he said, his own physical strength, the day-to-day life of a Pope is very taxing. He has readings and speeches to give and travels to make and so on and so forth. For any 85-year-old man, that's quite a task.

On the other hand, I think the priority question for him would have been what's the best thing for the church? As he said in his statement, he understood perfectly that being Pope also required prayer and suffering and, of course, he had seen firsthand the sort of frailty, the years of frailty of John Paul II, and perhaps that was also in his mind when he was considering his own future and saying maybe it wasn't the case to have a repeat of years where things could have been accomplished more quickly.

He said himself that in today's world there are rapid changes. It requires a Pope who has the strength of mind and body. So I think probably a very simple analysis is that this is a very decisive character, Benedict XVI, and he probably decided, for the future, he didn't want to find himself in that kind of a position.

CUOMO: And yet he had just started tweeting, Delia, on December 3rd. He just made this huge step into this new reality, going into the Twitter world, and now, such a short period afterwards, he says that his body, essentially, is not allowing him to continue this.

Now we talk about his influence going forward. Obviously, a looming question, but I don't want to get to it too quickly, will be: well, who will take his place? The Archbishop of Milan is a choice that people talk about. I'm sure you have insight in to that.

But right now, this College of Cardinals, 120, are all picked by either John Paul II or by this Pope, Pope Benedict, so his influence is going to be obvious, no?

GALLAGHER: Yes, absolutely. His and John Paul II. I mean, it's still heavily weighted towards European cardinals. There's about 62 Europeans versus 11 Americans, 11 from Asia, 11 from Africa. And Latin America, of course, has about 20.

But it doesn't really matter exactly how many from each country necessarily. It matters what are they going to think about the future of the church and whether or not Pope Benedict will be seen as that kind of -- what we said in the beginning, when he was elected -- maybe a sort of holdover transition Pope to allow the time for everybody to move forward and elect an African or a Latin American.

So it may be the case that they feel now is the time. I mean, we'll have to wait and see. Certainly, I think the cardinals themselves suddenly will have that question right at the top of their minds, something they didn't expect so soon.

CUOMO: To deal with the end of this papacy, before we move on to the next, what do you think the enduring aspect will be of Pope Benedict's legacy? He took the name Benedict as the patron saint of Europe, to try to inculcate a sense that was going to be his priority, to bring Europe back into the fold, to get more Catholics more active there. It seems he was not able to achieve it. The numbers seem to suggest there are fewer Catholics there now than when he took the papacy on. What do you think the legacy is?

GALLAGHER: Well, Chris, I don't think for him, it was ever a question of numbers necessarily. I think you're right that he chose that name in honor of St. Benedict and as a kind of way of saying, you know, for him, the Catholic roots of Europe were very important, and, for him, the idea of faith and reason and in a world which he considers relativist and secularist and so on, his main prospect (ph) was to try and re-establish a sense of identity and Catholic identity for Catholics themselves and then for people around the world. I think he felt that maybe that was waning a little bit. And the way that he chose to do that and I think the way that he's most effective is through his writings. So you see in terms of his legacy, we can't really talk about some of the day to day things because he came into a very difficult situation. He came after a very popular Pope. He came in the midst of the pedophilia crisis. There was a lot on his plate from a day to day perspective and a practical perspective for the Catholic Church that many people say he wasn't able to do much about because his forte, perhaps, is in his teaching and in his writings and so on. And I think that will be his legacy, but it's a long-term legacy, and it's a legacy for those who are interested in the kind of theology and so on of the Catholic Church.

On the other hand, he did, I think -- we have to give him some credit for attempting to deal with the cases of pedophilia because that was something certainly which was a top priority of this pontificate, but it's a huge issue with lots of consequences that will still need to be dealt with by the next Pope.

GALLAGHER: All right, Delia, thank you so much for the insight into this. Of course, so many questions going to come out of this about the timing, what it means, and what it means next. A discussion that will certainly go on beyond today. But that's all we have for now.

Delia, thank you very much. Carol, back to you.

COSTELLO: Yes, we have a little bit more discussion, because for American Catholics, this is a shocker. This is more than a shocker. For American Catholics, at least half of them, they hope the next Pope is more progressive when it comes to things like birth control and gay rights. Those issues important when it comes to the number of Catholics leaving the church in the United States.

Joining me now, Sister Mary Edwall, she's the director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Good morning, Sister.


COSTELLO: I know Pope Benedict said he's resigning because of his health. Some people there's more to this. Pope John Paul suffered from Parkinson's disease. He died while still Pope.

Do you care to speculate?

WALSH: Well, I think Pope Benedict XVI saw what it was like to have a papacy when the man at the head of the church is so ill. There's a slowdown, so to speak, in getting the work done during the papacy of John Paul II and also during the papacy of Paul VI.

So I think his own experience with what it means to have someone at the helm who is not up to 24/7 because of his own physical limitations probably influenced him. He knew more than others what this really meant because he was right there in the Vatican.

COSTELLO: There are some big issues the Catholic Church is dealing with now, if the new Pope is Italian, as Italians will be pushing for, or American, as Americans will be pushing for, is it more likely that the church will bend on perhaps allowing women to use birth control?

WALSH: I don't think that's a major issue right here at this point. I think, when the Pope is elected, you're looking at what's going on in the world. That is what influences the papal conclave.

So we have intense problems regarding peace, particularly in the Middle East. We have the problem of lack of church unity, the systematic groups the Holy Father has worked very hard to bring back into the fold, (INAUDIBLE). And you have the poverty. I mean, he went to Africa to highlight the terrible poverty there and bring the world's attention to it.

So, I think those are the things that influence papal election.

COSTELLO: Sister Mary Ann Walsh from the U.S. Conference of Bishops -- thank you so much for joining us this morning. We appreciate it.

WALSH: You're welcome.

COSTELLO: When we come back, there's been a shooting in Delaware at a courthouse. We'll have all the details for you, next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

COSTELLO: Twenty minutes past the hour.

And we do have breaking news out of Delaware. Police say a shooter, a gunman, has opened fire outside the courthouse. Several people have been hit, including the constable. No immediate word on the exact number of victims or the severity of the wounds. Police say the shooting took place at the Newcastle County Court of Common Pleas.

To California and still no sign of the ex-cop wanted in the killings of three people, one of them a police officer. Search goes on in the San Bernardino Mountains, the last known location of former police officer Christopher Dorner. Right now, there is a $1 million reward for information leading to his capture. It's the largest ever offered for a criminal suspect in southern California.


CHIEF CHARLIE BECK, LOS ANGELES POLICE: This is an act -- and make no mistake about it -- of domestic terrorism. This is a man who has targeted those that we entrusted to protect the public. His actions cannot go unanswered.


COSTELLO: Los Angeles police department providing additional security at the homes of 50 officers and their families who could be targets of Dorner. Warmer, wet weather in the northeast might help some people dig out from nearly three feet of snow. It still feels cold to more than 250,000 people who remained without power this morning.

Here's a view of the snowfall. It's a time lapse video posted by Jeff Fox in Hamden, Connecticut. They got 40 inches of snow.

Schools closed today after the city was practically buried.

And people in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, will be cleaning up after a tornado that tore through the town. One of our iReporter has captured it on tape. Today, schools are closed, including the University of Southern Mississippi. The storm left at least 16 people injured, two of them critically. This morning, about 4,000 power customers are without electricity.

But the big news of the day, Pope Benedict handing in his resignation. Let's go back to New York with Chris Cuomo.

CUOMO: All right. Thank you, Carol. Thank you for inviting me to your show this morning. Appreciate it.

Joining me is Father Edward Beck. He is the host of "The Sunday Mass" on ABC's Family Channel.

Father, thank you very much.


CUOMO: Let's move into the idea of is there any intrigue here? You could accept it on its face. The Pope is 85 years old. He's got a very strong mind. He's seen his own deterioration. He was very close to John Paul II, saw his own demise and spoken to people about it.

Do you believe there's any cause for intrigue or is there what it seems like on its face?

BECK: Like another Dan Brown book in the making, or something.

CUOMO: Yes. Is it?

BECK: I don't think so. I really don't.

I think it's a frail man who realizes it. He saw John Paul II and was very close to that whole scene of him deteriorating, and he doesn't want that for himself. He talked two years ago about the possibility of a Pope resigning if in ill health, and he's following through with what he said would be a good thing to do.

So, I don't buy the intrigue part of it at all.

CUOMO: And a pope can resign, right? They're throwing around the world abdication.

BECK: Yes.

CUOMO: This is not a throne.


CUOMO: He was not entitled. He was elected, not selected, right?

BECK: It is in Canon Law that the pope has the right to resign. Now, remember, it hasn't happened in 600 years ago, and that was with a lot of political intrigue when they were vying as to who is the real pope at that time. And it was Gregory XII who said, I'm going to resign. You all figure it out.

So, yes. Now, a pope can resign. It's just unprecedented in modern times. I mean, you look at John Paul II, people said, look, if anyone should have resigned, it was he. Parkinson's, couldn't get around.

I think it's the image -- the visual image of a man incapacitated.

CUOMO: Right.

BECK: People say, how much is he really doing then? How much does he have his hands on the pulse of what's happening?

CUOMO: Supposed to be the rock, and that takes the strength in every way you can see the term applied.

Let me ask you. The legacy, he came -- he came into very unfortunate times for the Catholic Church. How do you think he'll be remembered in terms of effectiveness?

BECK: Certainly, he will be remembered as a pope who brought the Catholic Church to the right. Some would say center. I would say to the right.

Conservative in his theology. Conservative in his moral ethics, wanted to bring Catholicism a little bit back to where it had come from, I think, after Vatican II.

So, there are Catholics who would say, you know what? He did the church a lot of damage because we were moving ahead and he brought us back. But there is a very traditional strain of Catholicism and members of that strain who say that's exactly what we needed. We're becoming like everybody else. We needed to have our identity shored up, and he did that for us.

CUOMO: Father Edward Beck, thank you very much for the perspective. Obviously, we all want to see what happens next.

That's what happens, Carol, every time a pope leaves, it's all about who the next pope will be.

COSTELLO: Yes, and that amazing ceremony at the Vatican. Actually, I can't wait.

Chris Cuomo, thank you.

President Obama plans to get tough with Congress in his State of the Union speech on jobs, economy, and the middle class. Should the president use his bully pulpit more? It's our talk back question today.


COSTELLO: Now is your chance to talk back on one of the big stories of the day. The question for you this morning, should President Obama use his bully pulpit more?

Don't expect tea and roses on President Obama's State of the Union speech. He'll come out swinging on jobs, the economy, and the middle class.

Presidential aides telling "Politico" Obama plans to go on the offensive, and maybe burn some political capital to force the Republicans to cave on more taxes and fewer budget cuts, instead of $1.2 trillion in cuts already planned on March 1st.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Right now most members of Congress, including many Republicans, don't think it's a good idea to put thousands of jobs at risk and do unnecessary damage to our economy. And yet the current Republican plan puts the burden of avoiding those cuts mainly on seniors and middle class families. They'd rather ask more from the vast majority of Americans and put our recovery at risk than close even a single tax loophole that benefits the wealthy.


COSTELLO: What's that, Mr. President? Higher taxes again?

Republican Senator Rand Paul, who will give the Tea Party response to President Obama's State of the Union, he'll have none of it.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: The president likes to say everybody needs to pay their fair share, which means he wants to raise taxes. I'll talk about the Republican message, which is we believe that you stimulate the economy by reducing taxes, not revenue neutral. I mean really reducing taxes.


COSTELLO: Bipartisanship -- once Obama's buzz word -- it's so yesterday. Still tough talk helped Obama win a payroll tax cut and perhaps even the election. So, he may be gambling for more.

So the talk back question for you today: should President Obama use his bully pulpit more?,, or tweet me @carolCNN.

And welcome to a special edition of NEWSROOM. I'm Carol Costello at 30 minutes past the hour.

Taking a closer look at the stunning announcement this morning that Pope Benedict will resign. We'll have more on that in just a minute.

But, first, a quick check on other top stories this morning.