CBS’s Smith: Americans ‘Unsure’ & ‘Fearful’ of Pope

In an interview with Chicago’s Cardinal Francis George about the upcoming visit of Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show," co-host Harry Smith was concerned about the reaction of the American people to the new pontiff: "Explain the difference between the private man and the public Pope that some Americans are maybe even a little unsure or fearful of." Monday’s "Early Show" identified the Pope as a "hard liner" numerous times. [Audio available here]

Smith went on to ask about the priest pedophilia scandals and if the Pope’s mission was meant to "heal" those scandals: "The Pope was talking to reporters about priest abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States, and he said, quote, "we are deeply ashamed and we'll do whatever is possible so that this does not happen in the future." Is this -- this trip to the United States, would you say that this -- part of the mission of this church is some healing?"

Finally, Smith concluded the interview by asking Cardinal George about the Pope’s opposition to the Iraq war: "He is going to be addressing the United Nations, he's going to be speaking to the President of the United States in private chambers. Among the messages of the Catholic Church is an anti-war message. Will he deliver that to President Bush?" The Cardinal responded by explaining: "He is eager, however, that whatever happens next is good for the Iraqi people, that they can live in peace and that we don't leave a very violent Iraq behind. So I'm sure the conversation won't just be anti-war or pro war, it'll be what do we do next?"

On Monday’s "Early Show" co-host Julie Chen asked a similar anti-war question of left-wing priest, Father Thomas Reese, who’s response was not as well-reasoned as Cardinal George’s: "Well, the Pope could certainly turn to President Bush and say, 'I told you so,' because he, like Pope John Paul II, opposed the invasion of Iraq. They recognized that it would be a humanitarian disaster, and they proved to be smarter than the CIA, the Defense Department and the White House."

Here is the full transcript of Tuesday’s segment:

8:06AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Pope Benedict XVI arrives in Washington later today for his first visit to the United States since becoming Pope. CBS News Correspondent Jeff Glor is live at Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington with more. Good morning, Jeff.

JEFF GLOR: Harry, good morning to you. The Pope's plane, Shepherd One, is in the air right now over the Atlantic. It will be landing here at Andrews Air Force Base at 4:00 eastern time when the Pope will be greeted by President Bush. He was elected three years ago Saturday, but for many Americans, it could just as well be three days. Benedict has not broken through.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: I don't know much about the current Pope.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I don't know anything about his background.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN B: I know he's new.

GLOR: While America may not know him, the reverse is not true. The man who was born Joseph Ratzinger visited the U.S. five times before becoming Pope.

FR. THOMAS WILLIAMS: I think the fact that he'll be meeting on American soil on with the president on his birthday and that he'll be celebrating his anniversary with us is a good sign of closeness to the American people.

POPE BENEDICT XVI: Brothers and sisters, friends in the United States, I'm very much looking forward to being with you.

GLOR: Just don't be surprised if he doesn't get the same rock star adulation as his predecessor John Paul. The truth is, Benedict doesn't want it.

JOHN ALLEN: This is a Pope who thinks in centuries. He's not worried about tomorrow's headlines.

GLOR: Part of his long-term plan, both here and abroad, is to expand the Church's outreach to other religions.

RABBI JOSEPH POTASNIK: His predecessor was rather unique. Went to Israel, prayed at the wall, put a note into the wall. Recognized Israel.

GLOR: For Benedict, the focus is on Muslims, so far with mixed results.

ALLEN: The differences he wants to talk about have to do with the need for Islam to reject terrorism and violence and the need for Islamic governments to respect religious freedom.

IMAM SHAMSI ALI: I was really happy and very glad and joyful to hear that the Pope wants to, once again, have dialogue with the Muslim community.

GLOR: The airport greeting this afternoon will be a bit unusual. It's actually the first time an American president has greeted a foreign leader here at Andrews. The two will also spend time together tomorrow at the White House, when Benedict turns 81. Harry.

SMITH: Jeff Glor in Washington this morning, thanks so much. One of the top American church officials who will escort the Pope while he's in the United States, is Cardinal Francis George, the Archbishop of Chicago. He joins us from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Cardinal George, good morning.

FRANCIS GEORGE: Good morning, Harry.

SMITH: It's good to see you again. You have an advantage because you actually know this Pope. In a way that so many in the rest of the United States do not. Explain the difference between the private man and the public Pope that some Americans are maybe even a little unsure or fearful of.

GEORGE: Well, the Pope is the Pope. It's the office that counts, as he would say. But as a person, he's a man who has a long history of study. He's a professor, and even as Bishop in the Curia, he was concerned with papers as much as people. But with people, he's very kind and he listens extremely well. And since he's become Pope, he seems able to connect with the crowds as well. Although it's always a bit of a task for him.

SMITH: Cardinal George, this interesting this wire service -- this wire service story this morning from the -- aboard the Papal plane. The Pope was talking to reporters about priest abuse in the Catholic Church in the United States, and he said, quote, "we are deeply ashamed and we'll do whatever is possible so that this does not happen in the future." Is this -- this trip to the United States, would you say that this -- part of the mission of this church is some healing?

GEORGE: Well, I would hope it would be that and I'm sure he does, too. The Pope is a center of unity and in order to have unity, you have to have healing, particularly in this case. He is someone who has read all these cases, because they had to go over to be reviewed in his congregation in Rome. And so he's very deeply affected by it and ashamed of it as he said, as we all are.

SMITH: He is going to be addressing the United Nations, he's going to be speaking to the President of the United States in private chambers. Among the messages of the Catholic Church is an anti-war message. Will he deliver that to President Bush?

GEORGE: I'm not sure how the conversation will shape up, but he's already spoken with the president about his understanding of the war. He is eager, however, that whatever happens next is good for the Iraqi people, that they can live in peace and that we don't leave a very violent Iraq behind. So I'm sure the conversation won't just be anti-war or pro war, it'll be what do we do next?

SMITH: Well, there's so much excitement on behalf of Catholics around the country and Cardinal George, we thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us today.

GEORGE: Thank you, Harry.

SMITH: Alright, take care.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC