Tuesday, April 19, 2005

'Countdown with Keith Olbermann' Special Edition for April 19

Guest: Jason Berry, Steve Waldman, Anthony Figueiredo, Frank Flinn, Deal Hudson, Carl Bernstein

KEITH OLBERMANN, HOST: His predecessor evaded and fought the Nazis. He was a Hitler Youth and has spent a lifetime atoning for the decisions of a child.

His predecessor was, among the Vicars of Christ, young and unexpected. He is the oldest of the chosen in 275 years, and long thought a likely candidate.

His predecessor seen in his outreach, in his charisma, in his media presence, almost radical. He, just yesterday preaching the homily in his predecessor's memory, and insisting on conformity and doctrine.

His predecessor reached out to Jews as the older brothers of his faith. He, five years before his election, called the other Christian churches deficient.

His predecessor was a human magnet. He heard his own brother say, He doesn't have the faculty to fascinate people.

His predecessor took the name of the man who had served before him for just 33 days. He chose the name last selected by a pope in 1914.

Tonight, there is a new pope, but the memories of his predecessor linger still, and may linger long.

This is Countdown's special coverage of the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI.

Good evening.

Papal historians concur, in the nearly 1,000 years of the conclaves, the preelection favorite has become pope perhaps three or four time. Make that four or five.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, John Paul's right-hand man for church doctrine, elected, and elected quickly on the second day, elected despite his age, elected despite his childhood as one of the "good Germans" of Hitler's Reich, elected, some say, as a transitional pope, which would mean, bluntly, that at age 78, he is not expected to transform the church the way his predecessor did, because he is not expected to live as long as his predecessor did.

His first task may to be try to improve Vatican pyrotechnics and bell ringing. Again, when the smoke of the burned conclave ballots appeared this morning, around noon Eastern time, the color was indeterminate. Might have been white, might have been black, just like yesterday. And the bells that are to remove any doubts did not ring.

Well, they did not ring quickly enough. Then, after half an hour's unceasing electric excitement and hope, the first German pope in nearly a millennium greeted the world with a name last chosen by a pontiff literally in place one month after the First World War began, Pope Benedict XVI.


POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.


OLBERMANN: Today marking only the third time in a century that a new pope has been elected on the second day of a conclave, what could be interpreted as one of many surprises surrounding the election of Joseph Ratzinger.

For more on the reaction to Pope Benedict XVI, at the Vatican tonight, we're joined now by our own Chris Jansing.

Chris, good morning.

Certainly sunk in by now that this is the pope. What is the feeling there even at this late hour?

CHRIS JANSING, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: I think it's a combination of relief, of joyfulness, of great expectation. This is not a pope who necessarily will please everyone in term of his politics, in terms of his theology.

But many of the people here in Rome, and a surprising number of them who have come from other places, have been here either physically or certainly emotionally over the last 20 days, when we saw the final illness of Pope John Paul II, his death, his funeral, this roller-coaster ride of emotion.

And so today was a day of celebration. There is comfort in tradition. This was a great tradition writ large. And I think if there is anything else, there is something that we always see at the beginning, when there is newness, and that is hopefulness. And there is a great hopefulness for the future of this papacy here, Keith.

OLBERMANN: You speak of the celebration. I guess we can break that down into three stages. What it was like there in the time of uncertainty, when even Vatican Radio said the smoke is black, then, Oh, no, no, no, the smoke is white. Then the second part, the suspense of who it was going to be. And then finally the appearance of the new pontiff.

Start with the emotional reaction during that period of the indeterminate smoke.

JANSING: I have never experienced anything like this in my life. Now, you have to set the scene. Remember, this was the third set of smoke that we had seen. And the first two times, there was confusion. So we had smoke that appeared to be white. It went on for a long time. It never really appeared to be black.

But we were waiting for the bells. What they had instituted this time, to make sure we didn't have the confusion of 1978, was the bells. And it seemed to take forever for the bells.

I was in Tallahassee, Florida, in 2000, waiting to find out if Al Gore or George Bush was the next president of the United States. I can tell you, Keith, that that period when we were waiting to find out if those bells will ring felt almost as long.

OLBERMANN: Exactly the analogy, I think. All right, move on to the suspense, that period of time between the awareness that it was white smoke and there were bells ringing, and the appearance of the new pope.

Was it presumed it was to be Ratzinger, because the vote was relatively quickly?

JANSING: I think there was a presumption that it could be Ratzinger. But this is a city and this is a country, in fact, that loves gossip, that loves innuendo, that loves speculation. And it was running rampant over the last couple of weeks.

And so what we kept hearing was that there were 115 potential candidates. And then this report that the official Vatican newspaper had ready to go 60 different headlines announcing the new pope.

So there was this incredible tension, wondering, would it be the most obvious, or would it be a stunning surprise?

OLBERMANN: Like the newspapers in the cities with sports teams in competition.

MSNBC's Chris Jansing. Many thanks, as a~lways, great work. Thanks, Chris.


OLBERMANN: In all, a remarkable day at the Vatican. Throughout the next two hours, we will examine the impact of this day and the election of Joseph Ratzinger will have on the church, its members, and others worldwide. We also hope to learn more about the personality of the man who will no longer be known as Ratzinger.

First we begin with a capsule look at the first hours on the job of the man now called Pope Benedict XVI, including that initial confusion when white smoke seemed to be floating out of the conclave chimney, but the confirming bells did not toll.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to go now to the Vatican. And there you can see the Sistine Chapel and smoke billowing once again from that chimney.

Let's bring in Chris Jansing. She is in Vatican City now, watching it probably from a better vantage point than we can see. But again, Chris, I'll leave it in your capable hands to determine.

JANSING: This is a tough call, although it certainly looks like it's turning darker to us. Yes, there it looks definitely dark. What's your take on this, gentlemen? Monsignor?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you'd need an eye test, almost, to - before you could decide whether that's white or black.

JANSING: No bells are tolling, though...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No bells are tolling...

JANSING:... would they have tolled by now?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They might have. That's maybe them beginning now.

JANSING: Stephen?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. The timing is what may - might make us think that they have a winner. (INAUDIBLE)...

JANSING: Vatican Radio is saying black. But the people outside are cheering. And in fact, we're one level above a group of nuns who are jumping up and down. They are clapping and screaming in St. Peter's Square. The flags are flying. But we have not got a tolling bell.

JANSING: Vatican Radio is saying black. But the people outside are cheering. And in fact, we're one level above a group of nuns who are jumping up and down. They are clapping and screaming in St. Peter's Square. The flags are flying. But we have not got a tolling bell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are the bells.


JANSING: On the second day of the first conclave of the 21st century, the bell is tolling. The smoke is white. We have a new pope.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Italian) Ratzinger.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Italian)

JANSING: He has taken the name of Benedict.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, of course, we'll see that it will still be the coat of arms of John Paul II, which is a bit nostalgic. This is a perfect example of the phrase, Simon may die, but Peter lives on.

POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): Dear brothers and sisters, after the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have let me, a simple and humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord. In the joy of the resurrected Lord, trust in his path. God will help us, and Virgin Mary will be on our side. Thank you.

POPE BENEDICT XVI (chanting): Et benedicta Dei omnipotentis, Patris et Filii et Spiritu Sancti, descenda super vos et mania semper (ph).




JANSING: And a final wave from the former Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. The dean of the College of Cardinals is now Pope Benedict XVI.


OLBERMANN: April 19, 2005, the day the world was introduced to Pope Benedict XVI.

In the days ahead, he will be introduced to us. His first mass following his election will be tomorrow morning Roman time. He will not be officially installed until Sunday.

So what do we know about the new head of the Catholic Church and its 1.07 billion members? His stance on the issues, his relationship with his predecessor, John Paul, his leadership style?

We'll talk to someone who knows him.

And how will American Catholics greet the new pope? Can he connect with so many who say they want change instead of the status quo when he seems to represent the status quo in all battles against change?

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: Rejoining you now with more of the special two-hour edition of Countdown, the election of the new pope, the choice of Joseph Ratzinger, disproving the old Italian adage that any cardinal who enters the conclave a pope leaves a cardinal.

The powerful dean of the College of Cardinals entering the conclave yesterday as one of the favorites, if not the favorite, and emerging little more than 24 hours later on the balcony of Saint Peter's Basilica in the crimson robes.

Choosing the name Pope Benedict XVI, the new pontiff describing himself today as a simple, humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord.

Other parts of his biography read thusly. The strict theologian has been the - leading the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith, the church's enforcer on theology, if you will. Already 78 years old, it is thought that the age of the German-born pope could have been a factor among cardinals who were favoring a so-called transitional pontiff, giving the church time to absorb the legacy of John Paul II's quarter-century pontificate.

For more on the man chosen to lead the Catholic Church, what he believes, how he's going to put that into practice, I'm delighted to again be joined by Father Anthony Figueiredo, formerly the personal assistant to Pope John Paul II at the bishops' meeting, and now of Seton Hall University.

Pleasure again, sir.

FATHER ANTHONY FIGUEIREDO, POPE'S FORMER ASSISTANT: Good to be with you, Keith, on this great night.

OLBERMANN: This - yes. This, but this term "transitional pope" almost makes it sound like talking about a place-holder. They - did they not say that John XXIII was a transitional pope? I mean, he'd only serve a few years, he served five, and he transformed that church with the reforms of Vatican II. This could be a vital and influential pontificate, could it not?

FIGUEIREDO: I truly believe it will be, Keith, and I'm full of hope about this pontificate. John XXIII, a great pope, really did transform the direction of the church. And I believe we're going to see that in Cardinal Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI.

He is going to continue the legacy of John Paul the Great, and yet we're going to see a man who solidifies the doctrine of the church, I believe, as a good and gentle shepherd, contrary to what many people think.

I've worked with the cardinal. I know him personally. And I've always found him to be a man who listens but is not afraid to speak the truth when that truth is needed.

Keith, I believe that's what the world needs at this moment, at a time when we see moral change, moral flux, especially young people. They can find that unsettling, troubling. And a pope who can give us clear direction will certainly bring peace to our own hearts.

I think, as he himself said, God will be on our side.

OLBERMANN: Do you think that he laid out the nature and the direction of his papacy in that homily yesterday for John Paul? And if so, how do you interpret it?

FIGUEIREDO: I do, Keith. He was not afraid to say, to speak about the dictatorship of relativism. But he also gave us an answer. He said we need to go back to an adult faith. You see, faith begins with baptism, when we are able to give ourselves completely to the word of God. And what we're going to find in this pope is a man who loves Christ. And because he loves Christ, he loves the church.

And the church is made up of people. He wants us to receive the divine life that has enabled us to live those difficult teachings of the church, such as on contraception, such as on euthanasia. I believe that this will really mark his pontificate.

So I think we're in for a great, great papacy, Keith. We can be very optimistic this night.

OLBERMANN: Is he, however, going to have to sell himself in places like Latin America? He was the cardinal, after all, who disciplined those in that region who followed the so-called Liberation Theology. Is he going to have to sell himself in the United States, where there are many who believe that the church has not been too lax, but rather too strict? Is there going to have to be some newfound ability to communicate that perhaps would have to exceed even that that John Paul had?

FIGUEIREDO: I believe so. I was reading a comment just yesterday from one of those theologians whom he disciplined, Leonardo Bof (ph), who said, There is no way this man is going to be elected. He's too authoritarian.

Pope Benedict XVI will face that challenge. How will he face it, Keith? He's a solid theologian. He perhaps is the greatest theologian of this century. And what we're going to find is a man who is able to teach the truth fearlessly, but based on very solid theology, relying on the help of God.

That really consoled me and encouraged me, what he said today, "I rely on the work and action of God." And we can be full of confidence for that reason.

OLBERMANN: Perhaps the biggest question of them all tonight, does he have it in him - you know both of these men - to walk what is a fine line on a high wire over the deepest imaginable chasm, between revering the memory of his predecessor, and not living entirely in that predecessor's shadow?

FIGUEIREDO: You remember the night of the funeral, Keith. I was with you. And I choked as we were speaking. But I remember what the cardinal said at his homily, that Pope John Paul the Great, he is standing at the window of the Father. He sees us even now and blesses us. I believe he has a great intercessor in heaven in John Paul the Great.

I also believe very strongly that what will carry Cardinal Ratzinger to face the many challenges he will face is the Holy Spirit, who gives to us a strength beyond our own human strength.

That is truly what carried John Paul II through great physical suffering, right to the end. And I believe that Cardinal Ratzinger will rely on that help, and through prayer, to face these challenges, and to give all of us, Catholics and non-Catholics, those in difficult situations, hope and encouragement for their lives.

That's what I'm hoping for this night.

OLBERMANN: Father Anthony Figueiredo, great thanks, as always. And we'll be coming back to you later to discuss the significance of that name that the new pope chose.

FIGUEIREDO: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: And the speed of the choosing. They're almost never selected so quickly, and the favorites never become pope, except for today. What does all that tell us about what the cardinals are expecting from Pope Benedict?

Stand by.


OLBERMANN: The white smoke goes up over the Sistine Chapel, and the mystery and secrecy behind the selection of a new pope is over.

Benedict XVI, the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church. It took just two days, just four quick votes. Not the fastest papal selection ever, but in context, a rapid one. What does that mean, when a frontrunner is not only picked, but picked so quickly?

Also, reaction in his native country. The first German pope in nearly a millennium. Are they all cheering? Are Americans cheering?

And there is no vote about the name. Benedict was entirely Joseph Ratzinger's decision. Was it meant to evoke one of the 15 Benedicts who went before? Probably not the one who turned to the cardinals the moment the vote was in and said, quote, "You have elected a jackass." We think it meant another Benedict.

Countdown's special coverage, The New Pope, continues after this.


OLBERMANN: Unless we are being misled, it appears there was a total of four votes by the College of Cardinals, one yesterday, two this morning, one, the winner, late this afternoon. That, in the history of this church, is warp speed.

What do we know about the new pope? What can we predict about his tenure, based just on how quickly the cardinals got in and out of the chapel? The headline data on this first. The first John Paul was elected in one day, but still four ballots. So not since Pius in 1939 has a pope been truly more rapidly chosen - one day, three ballots. Benedict XVI, the oldest at the time of election since Clement VII in 1730. And Clement was only three months older than Ratzinger was, as of Ratzinger's 78th birthday this past Saturday. He was the frontrunner. Frontrunners are not supposed to win. But if they do win, they do tend to win quickly.

To help us analyze the meanings within the voting, I'm joined by Frank Flinn, professor of religious studies at Washington University in St. Louis.

Professor Flinn, good evening. Thanks for your time.


OLBERMANN: The timing, that quickness - does that mean that the cardinals were relatively uniform in their hopes going in and this was just a matter of eliminating the equivalents of the favorite sons candidates, or do you interpret it differently?

FLINN: That's the logical conclusion. But there's also a significant voice of - including cardinals, who are not favorable toward Benedict XVI, who have not been in the past favorable toward him.

OLBERMANN: The Italian television networks - and they would make the producers of the worst of our television networks blush - all had tote boards going in with anticipated support and literally vote totals. And oddly enough, they all tallied. They all agreed. The conclave began, and they said Ratzinger had 35 votes behind him. He needed the 77. And the alternative candidate, the man they hoped to rally the opposition around, at least to knock Ratzinger off, was Cardinal Martini. Firstly, do you...

FLINN: That's correct.

OLBERMANN:... buy all that? OK. But secondly, if that's the case, what happened to the opposition and what happened to Cardinal Martini?

FLINN: Well, you have to realize, first of all, that it's Pope John Paul II who selected the vast majority of these cardinals, I think all but two of them. And they were selected because they were ideologically in line with him. And so the person who was closest to John Paul II was Cardinal Ratzinger. So in effect, the vote for Ratzinger was a vote for John Paul II.

OLBERMANN: I'm hardly the expert in this, but I have made some study of it, and I certainly observed the inroads that John Paul made, not merely within the church but on the world. Am I mistaking the history of Cardinal Ratzinger, now the pope, that if he holds to the doctrines of his own past, that this pope could be walking into a buzzsaw in terms of disagreement and protests in - particularly in Europe and in the United States? Could the cardinals have somehow wanted this?

FLINN: I don't think so. I mean, I'd look for the - during the reign of John Paul II, there was a vast exodus of Europeans out of the Catholic church, and I expect that this election and this pope will increase that number. European are very unhappy with the election of this man, first of all, mostly because he is both very dogmatic and doctrinaire. And he's also very divisive and has been divisive throughout his prefecture of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

He did, however, choose the name of Benedict XVI. And if that hearkens back to Benedict XV, who was pope during World War I, that pope was a great peacemaker and sought to bring peace to the world in the midst of the war. And he also brought peace within the church by, in effect, forcing the traditionalists to reconcile with the more modernist type of members of the church. And maybe he's trying to signal to the church that he himself, even though he was doctrinaire and dogmatic and divisive as a prefect, he will try to be much more reconciling and much more pastoral as a pope.

OLBERMANN: Is there something you can point to that we can look for that will answer the question that you just raised? Is that a possibility or not? Is there some early action in this pontificate where we will determine whether or not that is, in fact, his intent?

FLINN: I have not seen it yet. I haven't seen the latest statement, any statements that he's made today, nor did I get to read his statement when he proclaimed himself to the world.

OLBERMANN: We'll see how it turn out. Professor Frank Flinn of Washington University in St. Louis, not happy forecasts, perhaps, but great thanks for them and for your time.

We will go into these again. The reaction here? Many Catholics would say that the church under John Paul was too conservative, too unrealistic. What happens when they meet the new pope, who has said it has been too liberal and too secular? Stand by.



GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Laura and I offer our congratulations to Pope Benedict XVI. He's a man of great wisdom and knowledge. He's a man who serves the Lord.


OLBERMANN: But others are not so sanguine. You may have just heard Professor Frank Flinn of Washington University predict here darkly that the election of Cardinal Ratzinger as Pope Benedict XVI may ultimately be anything but the happy occasion seen televised worldwide from the Vatican this afternoon. He has been both dogmatic and divisive, the professor said. I expect to see Catholics leaving the church in droves.

But the election of a pope is, initially, at least, not a question of pragmatic consequence but rather of hope and even of theater. So as we gauge American reaction to the new pontiff, we go to the grandest stage of the Catholic Church in this country, St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, where our correspondent is Peter Alexander.

Peter, good evening. Was there enough lead time? Was there a crowd this afternoon at St. Pat's? Was there anticipation? What happened there?

PETER ALEXANDER, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Keith, to be honest with you, the anticipation grew. As we ran outside - of course, we not far away in our offices, saw that the white smoke came out, hustled outside St. Patrick's Cathedral. And as that happened and our lights, camera, action scene set up, people quickly gathered here. We - the first camera on scene, they said, What do you know? What happened? We told them, We'll tell you when we know, but frankly, all we know is a pope's been selected. We don't yet know who that is. As they found out, the word spread by text message, by phone calls, by a variety of different sources, of course, by the news media as they simply heard us say it out on the streets here.

This pope, you have to understand, falls into two camps in terms of their opinions. One is his great popularity, so popular that there's actually a fan club Web site in the United States for him that for much of the day was impossible to visit because there was too much traffic there.

The second is just how controversial he is because of a series of opinions that he shares with the late Pope John Paul II about priests not being allowed to marry and also women not having an expanded role within the priesthood. What is significant, though, with everybody that we spoke about, is that there is finally a new pope and that we can now move ahead and go forward. Many of the people we spoke to said, Simply put, we don't know enough about Joseph Ratzinger, the former cardinal, now Pope Benedict XVI. And as they hear about him, they are drawing more conclusions.

Let's take a look inside when the announcement was made during today's mid-day mass.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have a pope. He has assumed the name of Benedict XVI. Let's applaud for our new pope.


ALEXANDER: As you listen in there, initially, it was a scene. There was exuberance and also prayer inside St. Patrick's Cathedral, where three million visitors come over the course of the year. And here were some of the thoughts that they shared with us.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it's a step forward because it's reestablishing some tradition that I know has been lost.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm enthusiastic that he'll definitely hear the concerns of the American Catholic Church.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Apparently, there's a lot of faith in this man to do this job, and I'm going with that.


ALEXANDER: A lot of people say they are good with that for now, but there is also some new concern growing as they learn more about Benedict XVI. We should say that fan club was named the Ratzinger Fan Club site, Keith. They'll have to change that name to Benedict XVI Fan Club, if they like, to keep present. As the times clearly were changing over the course of the day, it is - this seems, in the words of one person, not to be so much a step forward as it is a step to the side for the Catholic Church and for 64 million American Catholics, as well.

OLBERMANN: Presumably, nobody has that address locked up. Peter Alexander at St. Patrick's in New York, great. Thanks.

Pope John Paul was not an American. You had to remind yourself of that sometimes, of course. From his chant at Madison Square Garden 25 years ago, "John Paul II, he wants you," to the last trip to St. Louis in 1999, this was a pontiff who made himself known and loved here, even if his religious policies were not uniformly accepted by the rank and file of the church. What happens if the new pope does not suddenly become that same kind of charismatic leader, the "love him, so-so about his beliefs" kind of pope? Are we left, then, only with controversy over issues like celibacy for priests, birth control, ordination of women, stem cell research, even gay rights and roles?

Just back from Rome is Deal Hudson, executive director of the Morley Institute for Church and Culture, a conservative Catholic think tank. And thank you again for your time, sir.


OLBERMANN: Is that what's going to happen, a less charismatic pope stops getting benefit of the doubt from the - I guess, the doubters among the American Catholics, and this becomes a battle of issues and conservatism versus liberality?

HUDSON: Well, first of all, let me reiterate what I said on your program a few days ago, and that is, I think John Paul II was loved not only for his personality but for what he taught. So I don't think there's as a big divide between those two things as some people say.

I think Benedict XVI will be a much more multi-faceted person than was Cardinal Ratzinger. If you've read his books - I've been spending the day reading one of his books, "God and the World," a wonderful book - you find a great sense of humor, a great compassion, a huge breadth of learning. He's a humanist. And I think the cardinals picked someone who was confidant of John Paul II, his right-hand man, his enforcer when it came to doctrinal matters. And I think they did it on purpose because they wanted the tradition and the legacy of John Paul II to continue, a legacy that goes back to Vatican II, where Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, was an official theologian.

OLBERMANN: The then cardinal on the sex scandals and the American church, comments that he made in Spain in 2002 - let me read this and get your reaction to them. "In the United States," he said, "there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1 percent of priests are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information, nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church."

Saying that and discussing this issue of relativism, and not towing the line in terms of doctrine, could that not be used - a statement like that not be used against the new pope and saying, Well, is this not relativism to say that because it's less than 1 percent, therefore it must be exaggerated by the media?

HUDSON: You know, I happen to have been in the Vatican in the early days of the sex abuse scandal, and a lot of the Curia had that opinion, that the media, "The Boston Globe" and other papers, were overly playing it. But I think as the numbers came out later on, and the number of dioceses involve, not just Boston, I think Cardinal Ratzinger and others probably changed their mind on that particular issue.

But it is true, however, that the media often portrays the Catholic Church in an inaccurate light. For example, this whole issue of the reception of the choice of Benedict XVI. I mean, people love this choice! Catholics in this country are going to embrace him. They're going to embrace him because he is of the papacy of the household of John Paul II. There's no question that people will be devoted to him, and this idea that Catholics are going to leave the church in droves is hogwash, pure and simple.

OLBERMANN: Let me get back to the idea of the charisma issue, which I guess had never truly been part of this equation but will necessarily be part of it for some time to come. What is a success for Pope Benedict to look - what would it look like in terms of personal interaction with the fateful in this country in comparison to what John Paul did?

HUDSON: I think he has charisma. I think we saw it today. When he came out, he had that wonderful child-like smile. He's like that. Personally, people that know him say he has a great sense of humor, he has a great warmth. I think in his very first visit to the United States, he will win the hearts of Catholics in America, just as John Paul II did. I don't think there is a charisma deficiency in the least.

OLBERMANN: Deal Hudson, executive director of the Morley Institute for Church and Culture. Once again, great. Thanks for your time, sir.

HUDSON: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, the new popes do not pull their names out of

a hat. Why Cardinal Ratzinger went for Benedict, when in the last 265

years, only one other pontiff had? Our special coverage continues. Stand

by, please.


OLBERMANN: Karol Wojtyla's predecessor chose the name Pope John Paul to honor and underscore his continuity with his two predecessors, John XXIII and Paul VI. His successor has chosen, as you well know by now, the name Benedict, raising it into a tie for the second most frequently selected papal title, with Gregory, behind the 23 Johns.

This is not mere statistical trivia. As the unfortunate Cardinal Luciani in 1978 was so careful to recognize those who went before him, Cardinal Ratzinger is now invoking the memories of the other 15 Benedicts. The first, chosen in 579 AD, so obscure that the only record of his pontificate is of him granting one Italian estate to an abbot. The second Benedict was reputed to be a great singer. The third had to fight off an invasion by the Saracens.

Numbers IV to IX are generally considered to mark the darkest period in papal history. One was deposed. One was killed. One was bribed into resigning. The 10th was literally the anti-pope during the pontificate of Nicholas II in the 11th century. Benedict XI made peace with the French. Benedict the XII we will get to presently. The 13th was pretty much nondescript. The 14th was feisty. He once seized the French ambassador, shoved him in his papal chair and said, be the pope yourself. And the 15th, who ascended in 1914, tried to keep the Vatican neutral during the First World War and publicly pleaded with world leaders not to fight.

And then there was the Benedict the 12th. Elected in 1342 on the first ballot in Avignon in France, he was cardinal Jacques Fournier, and he was not too happy about getting the job. To his fellow cardinals, he said, quote, "You have elected a jackass."

Certainly, that is not the Benedict which the former Cardinal Ratzinger hopes to evoke here. But to interpret what he may have had in mind, I'm honored to be joined again by Father Anthony Figueiredo, the former personal assistant to Pope John Paul II.

And is there any doubt that the new pope is trying to evoke Benedict


FIGUEIREDO: Yes, I don't believe he wants to be called a jackass.


FIGUEIREDO: But Benedict XV, as you quite rightly said, Keith, was living in a time - he faced challenges from two fronts. One was that the war was breaking out, and that caused great divisions. The second was the threat of a theological heresy called "modernism" which placed an exaggerated emphasis on all that was modern, the turn to the subject. His predecessor clamped down on that. Pius X clamped down on that. And Benedict XV's aim was to bring peace both on a political level and on a theological level. In fact, he was known as the Good Samaritan of humanity at the end of his papacy.

So I think he is following in the line of Benedict XV. I also believe, Keith, that he goes back to St. Benedict. St. Benedict's a great saint. One of the key elements of his rule is that all may be brought to Christ and Christ may be brought to all.

I think that's significant because Benedict is one of the patrons of Europe. And in Western Europe today, Christianity has all but collapsed. And this is surely going to be one of the great challenges of Benedict XVI, to bring Christ to those who have left the faith.

Finally, I think it's very significant what the name itself means, Keith. Benedictus means "blessed," someone who brings joy. We see those pictures there. He wants to bring joy to the world in fidelity to Christ's command: I have come that they may have joy and have it to the full. At the end of his life, one of Benedict XV's last words were, "We offer our life to God for the peace of the world." I truly pray that this will be continued by Pope Benedict XVI.

OLBERMANN: Father, could there be a personal element in this, as well? I mean, he will still have to shake off the stories that will be reported by an ever-widening press about his childhood in Nazi Germany and the coerced participation in the Hitler Youth. So is it more than a coincidence that he chose the name of the pope who tried to stop the aggression of Germany and Austria in the preceding world war?

FIGUEIREDO: I think that may well have something to do with it, Keith. And I think Pope Benedict XVI, one of his first actions will certainly be to hold out an olive branch to our brothers in the Jewish tradition. I truly also believe that Pope Benedict XVI will use this as a strength. In other words, he lived under a harsh totalitarian regime. He experienced the atrocities of Nazism. And how he will stress, like his predecessor, John Paul II, the dignity and value of every human person, no matter what their background, what their religion, what their social class or creed.

OLBERMANN: Philosophize for me for a moment. What does the name mean, in the end, in the case of a pope? Obviously, when Hilarius I became pope in 468, the word - that word still largely meant "gracious and cheerful," and now there's probably never going to be a Pope Hilarius II. But does the name shape the pope, or does the pope shape the name?

FIGUEIREDO: I think it's a little bit of both. Remember, in the Old Testament, Jacob's name was turned to Israel, "one who is strong with God." Peter, his name, in fact, meant "kifa (ph)," "the rock." And Jesus says, "You are the rock on which I will build my church." So I think there will be a symbiosis - in other words, that Pope Benedict XVI will want to think of his new name every day to mark his mission to bring joy to others. And I think the very name itself, God will give him that name - God has given him that name truly to remind him of this as his fundamental mission.

OLBERMANN: Lastly and briefly, this is only the second Benedict since 1740. Is there some evocation of the ancient elements of the church in the selection of the name?

FIGUEIREDO: Oh, I believe so. I believe that right from that great saint, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wants to continue a tradition of the church which goes back to St. Benedict but also, remember, to the great Sermon on the Mount of Beatitude, the Mount of Blessings which was truly the most important sermon Jesus gave, Blessed are the poor of spirit. Blessed are those who are in trouble. Blessed are those who are peacemakers. I think Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wants to go right back to Jesus Christ and fulfill his teachings for the good of all humanity. He, too, wants to be the Good Samaritan of humanity.

OLBERMANN: Father Anthony Figueiredo joining us again with some more insight. Great. Thanks, sir.

FIGUEIREDO: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: That concludes this hour of our special coverage tonight. I'll rejoin you in a moment as Countdown's special coverage continues of the election of the 265th pope of the Roman Catholic Church, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. Tonight, he is Pope Benedict XVI.


OLBERMANN: The new Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. A new papacy begins in Rome, but will an old era begin again for the Catholic Church? Does the election of Cardinal Ratzinger signal a commitment to hard-line Catholic doctrine? How will the old-school Pope be received in a new-school world?

The American Catholic Church, still reeling from sex scandal, now led by the man who called that scandal a media conspiracy. How the new Pope will handle one of the church's greatest predicaments, and how often he will have to handle his own past.

Karol Wojtyla fought the Nazis. Joseph Ratzinger was a Hitler Youth.

And then there was the original smoke signal.

Once again, they blow smoke of an uncertain color and don't ring the bells quickly enough. We'll have another special recreation of the re-confusion.

Countdown's special coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI now continues.

Good evening again. Keith Olbermann reporting.

It would be inappropriate and tasteless to suggest that a new pope has a honeymoon, even though some in the Middle Ages were said to have had mistresses and even children. But for them, as for any other public figure, private figure, as well, there is a time when he or she can do no wrong. For Pope John Paul II, that time in much of this world lasted until he died just 17 days ago.

For the new pope, Benedict XVI, the question is, will that time of unquestioning support last passed sunrise tomorrow here in the U.S.? Only six years younger upon election than his predecessor was upon his death, a doctrinaire Pope, someone once called him God's rottweiler.

Already tonight, a Maryland nun, who was ordered by Cardinal Ratzinger to stop ministering to gays and lesbians called his election, quote, "devastating," and said she despairs of the church, quote, "moving into the 21st century and out of the Middle Ages."

That takes us to the Vatican where the new pope will, in a few hours, conduct his first mass since having been elected just before noon Eastern time yesterday on the fourth ballot on the second afternoon of the Conclave of the College of Cardinals.

Our correspondent, David Shuster, is there now.

David, good morning. I can't imagine there's much foot traffic in the middle of the night there, waiting to hear the new pope speak, but was there any sense late last night about the reaction to his election after that initial excitement had worn off?

DAVID SHUSTER, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, Keith, there's still literally thousands of people who hung around St. Peter's Square simply to sort of take in the fact that they had witnessed history for the first time in 26 years.

And remember, a lot of the people - the pictures that you see of the people in St. Peter's square, I would estimate that 90 percent of them are people who are not 26 years or older. These were people who had never seen anything like this, and they were simply so excited to be witnessing this rather mystical sort of experience unfolding before their eyes.

When you started talking with them, they did acknowledge that one of the things that was so apparent to them, even as they saw the new pope emerge on the balcony, is that, when you look at Pope John Paul II, one of the attractions that he had for younger people, despite the sort of strict doctrinal path that he followed, is that Pope John Paul II had a certain twinkle in his eye, a sort of mischievous kind of smile. He seemed very approachable.

A number of people we spoke with tonight suggested that Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, he starts at a disadvantage simply because he's 78-years-old. A number of people said, "Look at him. He doesn't look like the sort of person a young child would be willing to walk up to and give a hug." So that's the disadvantage that he has right from the start.

OLBERMANN: The papacy in the age of mass information and mass entertainment. What is the rest, David? Walk us through. What's the rest of the process from here? When does he officially become pope and how? And what is this mass that will be celebrated once the sun comes up?

SHUSTER: Well, the mass tomorrow is a traditional one where he will give the homily. There has been a mass every morning. And tomorrow's will just happen to be led by the new pope.

His official installation mass comes on Sunday. There'll be another speech, one that will be closely analyzed and scrutinized by Vatican watchers.

But, Keith, according to Catholic traditions, Vatican experts say that the very moment that this new pope said that he accepts - "accepto," as he said - that I accept the election as the supreme pontiff, at that very moment, he is given the official ring, and he technically is the new pope.

So according to Catholic traditions, that moment happened in the Sistine Chapel. It is the Sistine Chapel where all of the cardinals will return tomorrow for the day after mass.

OLBERMANN: So returning to today, it's been noted in report after report that for every person in St. Peter's who were elated by the news and leapt up and applauded so staggeringly loudly, as we saw in all the tapes, that for each person there, there was somebody, as this videotape was shot, who seemed to be filing out of the square silently.

Is there any overall gauge yet to the reaction? Is there anything in the Italian newspapers for the morning that suggests how he was, in fact, received by that crowd? Was there widespread disappointment? Or is this an exaggeration?

SHUSTER: Well, Keith, I think it's something mixed. I mean, there was general excitement that papers are going to report on, that this throngs - tens of thousands of people were gathered here and witnessed something that people in Rome have not seen for 26 years.

But when you peal off those people who were there because they simply wanted to see something historic, and you start looking at the record that Joseph Ratzinger had, and the disconnect that so many people may feel with that record, that's where you start to see some of the ambivalence and some of the questions about, well, is this just a placeholder for Pope John Paul II? Will he follow the same, strict doctrinal path? And will Rome and will the Vatican be going through this process again seven or eight years from now, given the fact this guy is 78-years-old?

OLBERMANN: NBC's David Shuster, on the swing shift at the Vatican.

As always, sir, great thanks.

SHUSTER: You're welcome.

OLBERMANN: In some ways, he may not prove to be a popular choice. And in some others, Joseph Ratzinger was clearly the safe one, providing a smooth transition from one pontificate to the next, his own.

Closely aligned with John Paul II, Ratzinger was seen as his natural successor in the waning days, months and years of John Paul's tenure, and wielding enormous power during that time as the Vatican's theologist-in-chief.

But papal elections are not known for following convention. The Conclave that brought us Benedict XVI, obviously, the exception to that rule. For more now on the links between the last pope and the new one, we're joined once again by Carl Bernstein, author of "His Holiness: Pope John Paul II and the Hidden History of his Time."

He's been kind enough to be with us often during these past few weeks.

It is so again.

Carl, good evening.


OLBERMANN: The favorite wins? I thought that was an impossibility?

BERNSTEIN: I was surprised, but I always get elections wrong.


OLBERMANN: The new pope, obviously, completely linked to Pope John Paul, yet seemingly utterly different in personality, at least on the surface. What can you tell us of their relationship? How would you characterize it?

BERNSTEIN: Extremely close, a great friendship, a theological kinship, a belief in the future of the church that was very similar. But Pope John Paul II had incredible gifts that probably one would not think his successor will have, that his successor will choose his own path.

This is a very smart, able man. He said to the cardinal electors in his homily just as they went in to the election process, more or less, "If you want me to be your pope, here are the rules." And it is going to be an assertion of the perennial theology, including questions that will not be up for much dissent involving gender, sexuality, abortion, women priests, celibacy, et cetera, et cetera.

But it'd be a great mistake to look at this in conventional, Western, liberal-conservative terms. Anyone who takes office, whether it's a judge, a king, a queen or a pope, for life has a kind of ability to mold the future of the institution that electoral officials do not have. So we don't know where he's going to go, but we do know that he's drawn a line about the theology.

And there is one group of people with great reason to be concerned, unhappy. And certainly, that would be gay people, because he has made it clear he believes that homosexuality is a sin, that there is no room in the church for sanction of homosexual choosing, as a way of life, that he regards it in church teaching, regards homosexuality as abhorrent and something in need of some kind of correction.

So that is the one group of people, it seems to me, that is going to be terribly concerned about this, beyond the other questions of gender and sexuality.

But also, keep in mind that the perennial theology of this church is really as much about the protection of the vulnerable as it is about anything else. And it is an institution committed, as Pope John Paul II made it, to social justice in the world. It is not a capitalist institution. It helps those in need who are poor.

But in these questions having to do with gender and sexuality, that is going to disappoint a lot of people.

OLBERMANN: How does he balance, then, the two things that you've cited here? How does he balance protecting the vulnerable with this issue of AIDS, which is of such concern to the gay community, and obviously is at epidemic levels in Africa, which was the area of the greatest growth for the church?

There's almost three issues going on there. How does he deal with them?

BERNSTEIN: Well, one, I don't think all these issues are separable. I think that they all seem to come together. The church takes care of more refugees, more sick people, educates more people than any institution in the world.

The sad part, certainly, from the way I look at it is that it's the one institution in the world that could prevent the spread of AIDS through accepting the use of condoms to save lives. It has an infrastructure that could do that.

The past pope and this pope again obviously is not going to tell the priests in Africa, "Hand out condoms." It's not going to happen. I think, you know, from my point of view, that that's a sad thing.

At the same time, it is a merciful mission that this church has. And this pope will see these questions in terms of conventional theology and questions of mercy. But I'm not sure that's going to satisfy a lot of people.

The other thing is that, you know, the church is in schism in America, in the West. I would think that he is more than smart enough to know that he has got to build some bridges to the western church.

He's from Germany where Catholics barely go church on Sunday. In his old archdiocese of Munich, the churches are empty for the most part. In America, he regards so many American Catholics as cafeteria Catholics who take what they want and leave the rest.

But he also knows that bridges need to be built. How he's going to do that, I expect - I wouldn't be a bit surprised if he came to the United States quite soon, if he toured Europe quite soon, Western Europe, especially, and tried to establish a better relationship, early on in his pontificate, with the churches in those two places.

OLBERMANN: My time flees, but I must ask you one more question, and it has to be brief, both my question and your answer.

BERNSTEIN: I'm never brief.

OLBERMANN: I've been accused of the same thing. Drawing on your experience on the book on John Paul, did he, in fact, want this man to be his successor?

BERNSTEIN: I really don't know. And I don't think he disclosed it to anyone. And I think that John Paul II believed that the Holy Spirit is responsible for the choice of a pope.

Would he be pleased with this? I'm certain that would. He asked Cardinal Ratzinger to stay on when Ratzinger wanted to go back home to Germany. But I don't think the pope believed in thinking that one person ought to be his successor.

OLBERMANN: The Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and author, Carl Bernstein. Great thanks, sir.

BERNSTEIN: Good to be here.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, great contrasts. The previous Polish Pope evaded and fought the Nazis. This new German pope joined them, even if only briefly and under coercion. Does that matter? And if it does, what does he do about it?

And you don't have to be a religious scholar to understand this. But you don't have to be a Catholic to have your life changed by a pope. What that could mean in material terms, when Countdown's special coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI continues.


OLBERMANN: The moment he said "accepto," Pope Benedict XVI became the first German pope since the 11th century, a distinction that will not necessarily endear this conservative theologian to his fellow countrymen.

A recent poll by "Der Spiegel," the German newspaper, found that 36 percent of Germans opposed the idea of Ratzinger becoming pope. Only 29 percent supported it.

But as our correspondent Martin Savidge reports, most of those would have seemed to have been in his hometown today.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: As they have for centuries, the bells of St. Oswald spread the news. But this time, the village of Marktl and its 2,800 people would never be the same. That's because the man born in the yellow and white house on the edge of the town's square had just become pope.

HUBERT GSCHWENDTNER, MAYOR OF MARKTL, GERMANY: It was a great surprise when he came out and when they said, "It's Cardinal Ratzinger, the new pope."

SAVIDGE: People poured into the village. Men in traditional dress added to the clamor, firing ancient guns into the air.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm also very proud of this, yes. He'll be a fine papa.

SAVIDGE: As darkness set in here in Marktl, the streets became quiet and empty, for good reason. Everyone is here.

This small Catholic church was filled to the bursting point with people and pride. But not everyone in Germany is celebrating. Ratzinger has alienated some German Catholics here with his tough conservative views.

He has openly feuded with prominent liberal theologian Hans Kung, whose license to teach was revoked by the Vatican and who has said of this new pope, "His ideology is an medieval, anti-Reformation, anti-modern paradigm of the church and the papacy."

But the divisions were ignored, at least for a day, as all of Germany celebrated the election of a pope from this tiny Bavarian town.

Martin Savidge, NBC News, Marktl, Germany.


OLBERMANN: Germany, part of the problem, perhaps. As John Paul II's right-hand man in charge of enforcing conservative papal policy, Cardinal Ratzinger earned a very unfortunate nickname from his more progressive peers, the Panzer Cardinal. Particularly unfortunate given the church's history with the Holocaust, even more so given Ratzinger's own personal experience within the Nazi war machine.

When he was 14, membership in Germany's Hitler Youth became mandatory. So Joseph Ratzinger enrolled, but did manage to get out early so he could study for the priesthood. Two years later, when he was 16, he was drafted, this time as a helper in an antiaircraft brigade.

In 1945, he went through basic training and was stationed near his hometown in Bavaria. But as the Allied forces advanced, he deserted the German army, risking death by that act alone. On his way to his home, he was picked up by American soldiers and he spent the rest of that war in a POW camp.

We spoke last night about the impact of all this with Monsignor Thomas McSweeney, the former director of The Christophers, a Catholic outreach program in New York, and now a MSNBC analyst.

And guess what? We're going to do it again.

Monsignor, thanks again for your time.


OLBERMANN: You said last night that the man who did the most to expose Joseph Ratzinger's tentative connection to the Hitler Youth was Joseph Ratzinger. But that fact not withstanding, is this still going to be an issue now that he is, indeed, pope?

MCSWEENEY: Well, again, he did very specifically and thoroughly expose the fact that he had been with the Hitler Youth. And he put it in his memoirs. And had a whole series of subsequent interviews in the papers and as well as on television in which he offered basically the story of anybody that was conscripted into service at that time. This is the most tragic period of the 20th century.

And there he was in Nazi Germany, as Karol Wojtyla was in Poland, resisting as best he could, through his involvement and underground theater and so forth, Nazism. And here is, you know, Ratzinger there, as well, trying to do the best he can. His family moved several times around out of Bavaria and so forth, so they wouldn't be suspected of not cooperating with Nazism in every way.

The problem with the media, though, Keith, is that they're going to fuel this controversy in this way. Karol Wojtyla did, in fact, resist in very meaningful ways in the underground and so forth. But Joseph Ratzinger at that time as a young man didn't appear to resist as heartily and as vigorously.

And so they'll make much of this, I suppose. But the bottom line of this thing is, as I believe, as Father Figueiredo was mentioning a little earlier in the program, that the new pope can make a strength out of this. He was grounded in the same horrible experiences of war during a terrible, bleak period. And somehow he managed to find a light in that darkness.

OLBERMANN: The only way John Paul could have more deeply embraced the victims of that time of darkness, and Judaism and the Jewish people, would have been to convert. Does Pope Benedict now have to make some sort of grand gesture in Israel, somewhere else perhaps, quickly a statement saying, "I know I wasn't a Nazi, but I want you to know it, too. I don't want you to have to take my word for it"?

MCSWEENEY: Well, that is, indeed, a very interesting question. Joseph Ratzinger as cardinal worked very, very closely with John Paul II in crafting all manner of statement and doctrinal approach to ask for forgiveness, especially of the Jews, for what had happened during that period.

You'll remember, of course, that the Holy Father went into synagogues. He went to the Wailing Wall and placed right in there a document that, "Please, please, God forgive me. And Jewish people, please forgive myself."

And the Catholic Church, in many ways, had much to answer for in it's, not complicity, but perhaps in its negligence relative to that war. And I believe you can look for a sign from Benedict XVI, to give some kind of signal that, indeed, we all need forgiveness for that horrific chapter in our lives.

OLBERMANN: There a lot for him to do on the early part of his pontificate. We'll see how it turns out.

Monsignor Thomas McSweeney, former national director of the Christophers, a pleasure, as usual, sir.

MCSWEENEY: Thank you, Keith.

OLBERMANN: Also tonight, his reaction to the American church sex scandal was not what most of American's seemed to be. He considered it media exaggeration, although he may have modified that position later on. Is there a clash potentially coming between American Catholics and their new Holy Father?

Our coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI continues after this.


OLBERMANN: The last, perhaps even the fondest, memory of Pope John Paul was of the day he let the doves of peace fly free from the window of his apartments. And they flew right back in and nearly hit him in the head. And he laughed like a child.

This has been dreadful, painful, serious stuff for weeks now. Yet for the last two days, what became the election of Pope Benedict XVI was not without an undertone of continuing and unrestrained humor. The means by which the cardinals have told the breathless public whether or not there is a new pope, the means they have used for centuries, collapsed completely both days of the Conclave.

We recreate today's calamity, tongue firmly planted in cheek, with the second and final edition of Papal Conclave Puppet Theater.


OLBERMANN: Twenty-six years, you got nothing but days off, and you can't get the smoke right two straight days? White smoke, white smoke! That's better. Wait a minute, why is it so quiet in here? The bells, ring the bells!



OLBERMANN: Time for the Vatican to go wi-fi.

It is now next time for the American Catholic Church. And a pope clean slate after the priest abuse scandals or messes to be swept under rugs?

And the "Who Cares?" factor. You're not Catholic, then this doesn't matter, right? Perhaps wrong. We'll explain that, as Countdown's special coverage continues.


OLBERMANN: Benedict XV was one of the first popes to push for real interaction with the United States.

Coming to Vatican just a month after the beginning of the first World War, he reached out directly to the leaders of all the nations involved to plead for peace. Only the American president, Woodrow Wilson, even replied. And that was negatively.

Now there's a Pope Benedict XVI. And how he handles the United States may make or break whatever he hopes to do worldwide. His record so far doesn't seem to offer much room for hope of a great relationship. Cardinal Law of Boston, who helped shuttle abusive priests from diocese to diocese, was very much a part of the farewell ceremonies for Pope John Paul and for those election ceremonies of Benedict.

And, in 2002, the new pope had given an interview in Spain which seemed to dismiss as exaggerations the painful and pervasive priest abuse scandals in this country, seemed to say that some pedophilia was OK, but focusing excessively on it was not.

In the church, the then cardinal said: "Priests also are sinners, but I'm personally convinced that the constant presence and the press of the sins of the Catholic priests, especially in the United States, is a planned campaign, as the percentage of these offenses among priests is not higher than in other categories, and perhaps it is even lower. In the United States, there is constant news on this topic, but less than 1 percent of priests," he said, "are guilty of acts of this type. The constant presence of these news items does not correspond to the objectivity of the information, nor to the statistical objectivity of the facts. Therefore, one comes to the conclusion that it is intentional, manipulated, that there is a desire to discredit the church. It is," he concluded, "a logical and well-founded conclusion."

Joining me now is Jason Berry, co-author of "Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of Pope John Paul II."

Mr. Berry, good evening. Thank you for your time.

JASON BERRY, AUTHOR, "VOWS OF SILENCE": It's been my pleasure.

OLBERMANN: Are Cardinal Ratzinger's comments for 2002 on the abuse scandal as bad as they seem? Was there something in there I missed? Did he mitigate them later, as was suggested by one of our earlier guests?

BERRY: Well, they're as bad as they seem on the face of it.

And I think he's been a little more conciliatory in the last couple of years. I think it's important to understand the odyssey that he's gone through on this issue. In 1998, nine men filed a Canon Law case in the tribunal of Cardinal Ratzinger's congregation requesting in effect a prosecution of Father Maciel, the head of the Legionaries of Christ, one of the most powerful priests in Rome.

Ratzinger sat on it for a year and a half and then tabled pretty much without explanation, although he told a Mexican bishop that it was a delicate situation. Then, in 2001, Pope John Paul II gave him the responsibility for defrocking all the pedophile priests whose files were sent to Rome. They went to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

By the end of the 2002, with the scandal spreading internationally, he was faced with a serious dilemma. How could he remove many of these pedophile priests and, at the same time, continue to shelter Father Maciel, who had been accused by nine men going back to the 1970s. Maciel is pretty much the living symbol of the scandal today. And he's still in his position.

Interestingly, in December, just a few months before Pope John Paul II died, Cardinal Ratzinger quietly reopened the investigation against Maciel. And so, in the coming days, I think he's really at a kind of crossroads. Who does he stand with, St. Augustine, who said, justice is that virtue which gives everyone his due, or Father Maciel, this most discredited priest.

OLBERMANN: So, is the handling of the case of Father Maciel the - conceivably the first thing we should look for in this papacy in terms of how Benedict is going to respond to the American scandal? Is it a bellwether for that?

BERRY: Oh, I think it's more than a bellwether, Keith. He cannot respond credibly to this crisis within the Catholic Church unless he makes a definitive and public move on Maciel.

And the interesting thing about it is that there has been pressure put upon Cardinal Ratzinger before he became pope by Cardinal Sodano, the secretary of state, who had befriended Maciel in Chile when he was papal nuncio there during the Pinochet regime. So, I think, in a sense, Benedict XVI is now sort of freed of the pressure from the secretary of state's office.

It's a very interesting tension, when you think about it. As a theologian, Benedict XVI is an absolute fundamentalist. A diplomat, Cardinal Sodano, the secretary of state, is not - diplomats in general aren't interested in moral truth and high points of theology. They're interested in advancing the interests of the given state they represent, in this case, the Holy See. And I think Sodano probably thought it would be a scandal if Maciel were removed.

OLBERMANN: So, is that - does that make this for this new pope and his hope for achievements in this country and in others, where this issue has reared its head, does that make it an opportunity for him or is it some sort of impediment to his papacy?

BERRY: Well, that's a very good question, because it can go either way. It either becomes an albatross around his neck, if he doesn't do something with it, which is certainly an impediment, or indeed he can show himself to be something of a reformer on an issue that's haunted many Americans.

But the most important thing he can do, besides resolving this case with Maciel, is to sit down and meet with an international delegation of these abuse survivors. The reform group Voice of the Faithful has asked for this; 23,000 signatures they got for a "New York Times" ad, a very reasonable request.

And, you know, however conservative he is - and there's been a great deal of talk about that in the press and media today - he's also a man who has a pastoral sensitivity. And he has that background in the darkness of Nazism, just as John Paul did. And I think the idea of a meeting, a reconciliation with a number of these people who have been so terribly harmed would stand him well in the court of public opinion.

OLBERMANN: Jason Berry, co-author of "Vows of Silence: The Abuse of Power in the Papacy of Pope John Paul II," an extraordinary story and obviously something to look for here in the early stage of the papacy of Pope Benedict XVI. Our great thanks for your time tonight.

BERRY: Much obliged.

OLBERMANN: These events are primarily about the world's one billion, 700 million Catholics. But it's not just about them. To paraphrase an old commercial for rye bread, you don't have to be Catholic to have your life changed by a pope.

And if you missed it live, upcoming, your chance to see how it all unfolded early this historic morning.

You are watching Countdown on MSNBC.


OLBERMANN: At the news of the passing of Pope John Paul II, the entire planet seemingly went into mourning. Kings, queens, presidents, prime ministers all came to the Vatican to pay homage to the pope. Perhaps more impressive, still, more than the list of dignitaries was the turnout of the ordinary people.

Millions walked passed the pope's body, waited for that honor in line, for an entire day, in many cases. That line, in fact, could be seen from satellites in outer space. Countless times, we've heard the stories related to us of not just Catholics in that waiting procession, but of all Christian faiths, of Jews, Muslims, Mormons,even agnostics, all there to honor a man of religion who led a life of example, seemingly, for all.

And now with his successor picked, Pope Benedict XVI, what does it mean for the future of unity among the differing religions? And for those who do not belong to an organized religion, what impact will this pope have on the world society at large?

Joining us from New York, Steve Waldman, editor in chief of the Web site BeliefNet.com, a leading multifaith Web site and Internet newsletter.

Mr. Waldman, thank you for your time tonight.


OLBERMANN: Big picture, how does his selection affect not just Catholics, not just the religious, but everybody?

WALDMAN: Well, certainly, we're able to see from the last pope that the papacy now affects well beyond just Catholics. Anyone who was living in a communist country fell the touch of John Paul II. And I think it even affected the American presidential election, in the sense that you had the formation of a political alliance between conservative Catholics and conservative Protestants that John Paul paved the way for. So, anyone in the United States felt that touch as well.

The pope now is a moral leader on the world stage that affects public discourse on homosexuality, on women's role, on bioethics, meaning euthanasia, on genetic testing, things like that.

OLBERMANN: Can you reduce that even to the more practical?

Obviously, he's influential on those questions of great import and moment. And perhaps he can revitalize the Third World and improve the horrible conditions in Africa. But can he affect the price of gas? Does he work his way directly into somebody's life, whether they're Catholic or not, their day-to-day, on-the-street-kind of life?

WALDMAN: Well, he certainly affects something like - if you were like a parent who's having to decide whether to pull the tube on your ailing niece or parent or something like that, the whole question of what our responsibilities to the dying are and what the right to die is, the Catholic Church and the pope is going to be one of the leading voices in determining that in the next few years.

OLBERMANN: We've raised interfaith relations earlier in this hour on a couple of occasions and mentioned that, his fault or not, the new pope is a former Hitler youth who also five years ago was very critical of the non-Catholic Christian faiths. He called them deficient.


OLBERMANN: Can anybody overcome that kind of combination in terms of trying to recreate that outreach that Pope John Paul II had to all other faiths?

WALDMAN: Well, I think the second point you mentioned is really going

to end up being the more important one, is that, theologically, he's said -

· and, in some ways, this is not a big surprise - that the way to salvation is through the Catholic Church. Implicit in that is, if you're not following the Catholic Church, you're going to go hell.

And even though it's somewhat of a stylistic thing, it is a big departure from the path toward better interfaith relations that had been growing over the past few decades. So, that's one where he's going to really have to show that he's very much continuing in the tradition of John Paul II.

OLBERMANN: And, yet, oddly, just before that, those statements in 2000, he had been largely responsible for holding together essentially a philosophical agreement with the Lutheran Church that called off the war - essentially the war that started when Martin Luther nailed his complaints to the wall of the church. Did he not? Was that not seemingly an overture at that point?

WALDMAN: Yes. And that's why it was so surprising and led to such a firestorm when he then, a couple years later, authored this other document.

The other issue that is out there has do with Islam. He opposed the entry of Turkey into the economic union in Europe on the grounds that Europe was a - had Christian foundations. So, people of Islamic faith may be concerned about his role.

OLBERMANN: How about the broader questions, as we've discussed? At the beginning of this hour, I read these quotes from the nun in Maryland who had been ordered by the then Cardinal Ratzinger not to tend to gays and lesbians. She had been punished for doing so.

Is there a potentiality here that, if a pope takes a strong enough line now in terms of religious - he would bristle at the word fundamentalism, but religious strictness, that you might see some sort of realignment in terms of where people of faith go? Someone suggested earlier in our broadcast tonight that there might be massive departures from the Catholic Church in this country as the scope of this new pope's philosophies become evident.

_Is that possible? And where will those people go? _

WALDMAN: Well, there's two completely different arguments here.

One argument is that he's a very divisive figure. And, yes, absolutely, he could drive people away from the church. The other argument, though, is that the reason people have been leaving the church is its wishy-washiness, is the fact that the church and Christianity and religion in general has become vague and morally relative, no such thing as right, no such thing as wrong, and that, really, what the church needs is clarity, and that is what is going to draw people back to the church.

OLBERMANN: And I guess they'll find out which one of them is right in those arguments in the immediate future.

Steve Waldman, editor in chief of the multifaith Web site BeliefNet.com, we thank you for your time tonight, sir.

WALDMAN: Thank you.

OLBERMANN: From the first puffs of smoke to the introduction of Pope Benedict XVI, the pageantry, the ceremony of the latest in the now all but completed series of historic days in this extraordinary month of April 2005. We'll capsulize it for you in a moment.


OLBERMANN: It was such an unexpectedly quick decision that even the commentators from the Vatican's own radio station said - quote - "It's only been 24 hours," surprising how fast he was elected.

Just before noon Eastern time today, 6:00 p.m. in Rome, the same man charged with enforcing the papal message of Pope John Paul II and later with delivering his funeral homily was selected to take his chair as the vicar of Christ. But thanks to confusing signals from the Sistine chimney and the initial silence from St. Peter's bells, it took several minutes for the world to realize that a pope actually had been chosen. An omen? Who can say.

But then, finally, those bells rang. That smoke billowed unmistakably white. And the official announcement of "Habemus papam" sounded out across St. Peter's Square. And the world finally met the first new pope of the third millennium, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We want to go now to the Vatican. And there you can see the Sistine Chapel, and smoke billowing once again from that chimney.

Let's bring in Chris Jansing. She's in Vatican City now, watching it, probably from a better vantage point than we can see.

But, again, Chris, I will leave it in your capable hands to determine.

JANSING: This is a tough call, although it looks like it's turning darker to us. There, it looks definitely dark.

_What is your take on this gentlemen, Monsignor? _

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, you need an eye test almost to - before you could decide whether that is white or black.

_JANSING: No bells are tolling. Would they have tolled by now? _

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No bells are tolling. They might have. That's maybe them beginning now.

_JANSING: Steven (ph)? _

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. The timing is what might make us think that they have a winner.


JANSING: Vatican Radio is saying black, but the people outside are cheering. And, in fact, we are one level above a group of nuns who are jumping up and down. They are clapping and screaming in St. Peter's Square. The flags are flying, but we have not got a tolling bell.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are the bells.

JANSING: On the second day of the first conclave of the 21st century, the bell is tolling. The smoke is white. We have a new pope.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cardinal Ratzinger.




JANSING: He has taken the name of Benedict.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And, of course, we will see that it will still be the coat of arms of John Paul II, which is a bit nostalgic. This is a perfect example of the phrase, Simon may die, but Peter lives on.


POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): Dear brothers and sisters.


POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): After the great Pope John Paul II, the cardinals have elected me, a simple and humble worker, in the vineyard of the lord.

In the joy of the resurrected lord, trust in his path. God will help us. And Virgin Mary will be on our side.

Thank you.




JANSING: And the final wave from the former Joseph Ratzinger of Germany. The dean of the College of Cardinals is now Pope Benedict XVI.


OLBERMANN: And with that final wave, thus begins the 265th papacy of the man who was John Paul's confidante, the man who led a world in mourning for the pope's passing, now himself in the shoes of the fisherman.

This has been Countdown's special coverage of the election of Pope Benedict XVI.

I'm Keith Olbermann. Good night and good luck.