Mitchell Reports | February 25, 2013
>> chests. well, big news out of the vatican today. pope benedict xvi has now moved up the date of the conclave to gather to elect his successor. as another cardinal is still touched by the continuing sex abuse scandal. nbc's ann thompson joins me from rome with more details. first of all, the timing of the conclave, i know the rules allow the cardinals to move it up. what is he saying? when do you think this will begin?
>> that's a good question, andrea . despite the pope's actions today, we still don't know when the conclave will exactly start. what the pope did today is give the cardinals the permission to move up the start date with this provico, that all the cardinal electors , all those cardinals under the age of 80 that will vote for the next pope have to be here to decide on the new start date . so the cardinals will start gathering on march 1st , the day after benedict retires, and perhaps they will take a vote, make a decision either march 1st or march 2nd . right now the early date seems to be march 10th , but it's just a guess. nobody is really sure when this conclave is going to get started, and it's very frustrating to many people.
>> and what about cardinal o'brien? he is the top british cardinal, and he resigned today. what is the back story on that?
>> boy, that was a shock, wasn't it? i mean, just the vatican moving in just warp speed in the last 24 hours about this, andrea . you know, on sunday you had in a british newspaper accusations by three priests and a former priest about inappropriate behavior towards them by cardinal o'brien. he denies it. the pope gets that information yesterday afternoon after his final sunday blessing here in st. peters square, and then this morning it is announced that cardinal o'brien is stepping down. in a statement today cardinal o'brien did not address those charges directly. what he did say is that he apologizes to anyone who he offended.
>> ann thompson, thanks so much for your continual reporting from the vatican . cardinal theodore mccarrick is the retired archbishop of washington and, of course, was part of the conclave that elected poen benedict xvi back in 2005 . he joins me now. your eminence, thank you very much. it is good to see you again. all of these historic changes are, to some, unsettling. what is your feeling when you heard that pope benedict was actually abdicating, or resigning, and that there was going to be this dramatic change. sdmri happened to be in rome when that happened by accident, and almost had a chance to go to where they were discussing the causes of saints. unfortunately, i got in a little late and decided, well, i wasn't going to try to go, and then 15 minutes after that i got a call saying did you hear the pope had resigned, and because it's stunning, it's stunning news, it takes you right off your feet. in doing it, he is dish think he has, once again, proven he is a very courageous man and a very, very humble man. you can see in him the desire to serve the church, the desire to take care of people, and he wants to make sure that the best possible minds and the best possible wills are there to do that work.
>> now, as someone who has participated in this process, what kind of qualities do you think the cardinals who are voting on this decision would be looking for in the next pontiff?
>> well, if i could tell you short story, actually the -- a good deal has all been worked out by a decree that pope john paul ii came up with maybe three years before he died, and the critical moment which is sort of an answer to your question. the criminal moment is when each cardinal has the ballot in his hands, and before he puts it in the urn, he has to repeat an oath, and you're standing in front of michelangelo's last judgment, so that wall adds always to the deal. you have this in your hand. you say something like this. i can't translate it exactly from latin. you call upon the lord jesus , my savior, as my witness. he who will judge me. you are looking at the -- he who will judge me that the man i am voting for is the one who under god i believe god wants to be pope. in a certain sense it makes it not any more an election. it makes it a discernment. you are trying to figure out what you think god would want. what man you think god would want for all the needs of the church today. it's a fascinating moment. you do it every time you vote, so it's something -- you never can forget.
>> well, i never knew that before. you bring this new information that michelangelo's last judgment is there. to call it sobering and prayerful is an understatement.
>> yes, exactly.
>> a great deal of prayer and meditation must go into this.
>> oh, yes. and this is why the conclave is held in a very, very holy time. you go in. you pray. you come out. some talk. some go back to prayer. some will say the rosary walking along. each one has his own way of commuting with this very special moment in their lives. it's very beautiful to watch because you are watching a church at prayer. old men, young men, white, black, every color of the rainbow because the church produces its universe as ality because it's a moment of prayer, and thank god it is. we need god's help to get the right person.
>> and does the trouble in the church -- we had the resignation today. these are difficult subjects. is that a heavy shadow over this whole process?
>> it certainly is a shadow. you can't deny it. when things happen to one of our priests, or bishop or cardinal affects all the rest of us. it's a sad thing when these things happen. i think basically there are many shadows. there are many crisises. there are many difficulties. the world is in crisis. we know that. we need to have meant we are strong enough to make the church a real instrument of peace. those are the things that are on our minds, i think, more than anything else when men go into conclave to try to find out who is the one the lord wants to be the next pope.
>> thank you so much for sharing your insights. thank you for being with us today.
>> thank you, andrea . it's great