Mitchell Reports | February 12, 2013
>> entire world is still absorbing the news of the pope's abdication. there's a fact that he relied on a pacemaker for several years. joining me now from rome chris jansing , host of "januarys and company" and nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel , and with us today veteran foreign correspondent keith miller , who covered the vatican for decades, and he joins us from miami. first to you, chris jansing . as you're hearing more details about the arrival or beginning of the conclave of cardinals, what are you expecting? who are the front runners ? this does have sort of the feel of politics even if it is supposedly a spiritual event.
>> yes. i mean, they say it's a political and excommunication is what happens if you are a cardinal and you leak anything that's going on inside the conclave. that's not to say that there isn't politics, that will aren't certain people that have their favorites. we did talk today to spokesman for the vatican , and they're working all these details up right now. exactly when this is going to happen, but they want to do it sooner rather than later after the pope stepdz down because what they don't want to happen is that runs into the easter season , so i think it's possible that the cardinals would all gather as soon as march 1st we know that the pope is stepping down on february 28th . as to who the front runners are, there's an old saying here, whoever the frontrunner is, just assume that that is not going to be who actually ends up being the pope. i will say this, there is a lot of excitement about the possibility that it will be another non-traditional event. would it be somebody from africa? could it be somebody from latin america ? latin americans , about 42% of the total worldwide catholic population. that's where a lot of people are focussing their interesting, andrea.
>> richard engel , there's one very unlikely choice it would be an american because of the position of the united states within the world of catholicism . it would be more likely to be someone who is more traveled, has more language facility. of course, the cardinal in canada is perhaps the most proficient linguist of all of the cardinals.
>> it seems very unlikely that it would be an american, that people i have spoken to almost say that is not a possibility at all, but who knows really? it's really anybody's guess. what we've been hearing just talking to the people who have come to rome , who have been coming to visit the vatican , is that they hope that the new pope will bring more energy, that it will be someone junger, more dynamic, who can reinvigorate the church and obviously this is a time when there's great sad ands great confusion, but a lot of people will tell you, look, this pope didn't capture the hearts of a lot of young people . he was not the most care iz matic, and he did not draw the enormous crowds that his predecessor did, and there is a feeling that catholicism is in danger and that they need someone who can give it a push. i think especially the people i have been talking to as an opportunity to do just that.
>> and keith miller , you are such a veteran pope watcher. we have never seen anything like this in more than 700 years. what kind of health issues do you think played a role in the pontiff's decision to abdicate?
>> there's no doubt they were very serious. he had a heart condition even before he was elected pope. he was -- he had difficulty with his heart. we know about the pacemaker. there are rumors, but nobody will advance that he has cancer as well. clearly we have to take him at his word, which is basically he doesn't have the energy and the stamina to be the pope. also, we have to keep in mind that he was elected as a caretaker pope. following john paul ii . that was a hard act to follow . they were looking for an elderly pontiff who would not be in position for that long and also there was no way anybody was going to top john paul ii in terms of charisma, in reaching out to the young, and, unfortunately, they didn't get a salgzman for catholicism in this particular pope, which will be a very important ingredient for the next one.
>> he also had the burdens of dealing with the scandals after 27 years of john paul ii . he had to focus on the apology, the fact that he had actually met individually in his role as cardinal ratzinger investigating some of the problems of the abuse in the american church .
>> he did go some way in terms of, you know, issuing an apology from the pope as a pretty lofty ideal , but, many of the, we still have a problem, many of the, worldwide with the sex scandal and the catholic church . they haven't addressed it at all levels. the vatican can pools. they can set lawsuits. there are a lot of damaged people out there who were basically abused as children, and no matter what he apologized for, it's almost as if his retirement now takes that off the stage and allows the next pope to move this a step further. there's a lot of reconciliation still to be achieved on that. he did not have an easy pontificate. he is a scholar. he is a man of incredible intelligence. a theologian. he is not -- the vatican has had very big difficulties in terms of the institution and who runs it and how they run it. it wasn't his fort yea. we should look for that in the next pope that's elected.
>> perhaps there's no significance many it. it depends on your perspective, but let's take a look, all three of you, at this incredible picture from february 11th . the day when he was announcing the abdication when a bolt of lightning struck the vatican . chris and itched richard, you're there in rome , that must have been astounding to see this photo. chris , the reactions there?
>> well, a lot of speculation what does that mean?
>> is it a good thing or bad thing? i mean, is atha a good sign or bad sign? are people -- is that a happy divine intervention or bad one? there has been some debate about that.
>> i think that you can say that having this for the first time sense the middle ages is kind of a bolt of lightning. everyone i've talked to, even insiders at the vatican were really shocked by this, and it leads to the next question. will we be shocked again by who the new pope is? will it be someone that is unexpected? will it be someone from latin america ? could it be someone from africa or will it be from a place where the church is not as influential as it once was here in europe because even though europeans only make up about 25% of catholics worldwide, they're i think a little more than 50% of the voting cardinals in the college of cardinals, so this is going to be an absolutely fascinating one to watch. whether it will live up to the hype of being struck by lightning, i'm not sure.
>> people have been talking about that. it's been tweeted all over the world. the question is was it a good sign or bad sign? you know, italians here are quite conspirit oral.
>> not all are convinced that he can step down for health reasons. a lot of people are nudging themselves and saying, well, was there more to this story or not? some sort of sign of a divine sign.
>> if they weren't saying that, it wouldn't be italy.
>> it has been noticed, yes.
>> dually noted. chris and richard over there in rome , and keith, thank you very much for joining us on this side of the pond. how