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Special Report

Who Is Pope Benedict XVI?

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," April 19, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH CARDINAL RATZINGER, FUTURE P OPE BENEDICT XVI (through

translator): We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism, which does not recognize anything as for certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

JIM ANGLE, GUEST HOST: That is Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, opening the conclave at which he was elevated to pope after only two days of voting. In his homily opening the conclave, he warned the cardinals that the church cannot follow waves of fashion or ideological currents of the moment, but rather must be true to its fundamental faith. Joining me now to take a closer look at the new pope is Monsignor William Kerr, executive director of the Pope John Paul II Cultural Center here in Washington, D.C.

Good to see you again.

MSGR. WILLIAM KERR, EXEC. DIR., POPE JOHN PAUL II CULTURAL CENTER: Jim, it's good to be here again.

ANGLE: Let me ask you first, this was not the quickest selection of a pope ever, but it was among the fastest. What does that suggest to us about him and about where the cardinals want the church to go?

KERR: Jim, I think it suggests that there was a bloc of cardinals who had made their minds up that this was the man who should lead the church. I don't think it was any kind of a political conspiracy, but I think there was a widespread appreciation of this particular person, among a whole group of cardinals. And I think it didn't take them long to assert themselves in the conclave.

ANGLE: Now, he has been a leading figure in the church, a long-time adviser to Pope John Paul II. Everyone knew — and especially from that homily, going into the conclave, everyone knew exactly where he stood.

KERR: Absolutely. He has never left anybody at any time in his life confused about where he stands. He is a person who does adhere to absolutes, clearly. And he understands the church as being grounded in revelation. It's not a matter of polls. It's not a matter of, well, let's try this today and that tomorrow. It's grounded from his perspective in revelation. It's God's word. And God has given us the kinds of, if you will, absolutes that we must adhere to and not vote on, but accept.

ANGLE: Now his selection would seem to point to a certain continuity in philosophy, him having been so close to Pope John Paul II, but one of John Paul II's great attributes was his style, his ability to communicate, his ability to go places and draw crowds to him. What do we know about the new pope's personal style?

KERR: We don't know a great deal about his style. And that's one of — the reason we don't is because he has not been the kind of person who has gone out a lot.

ANGLE: Not an evangelical.

KERR: He is not an evangelical type. No, he's not. He is very scholarly. He's going to be a scholar pope, a pope scholar, however we want to put that. He is very much interested in the realm of ideas. He interacts with people well. But he is not the kind of evangelist that goes out and really works a crowd, if I may say that.

ANGLE: Now, he is almost 78 years old. He looks vital, as you see him here, looks healthy. But he is one of the oldest popes in almost 300 years, the oldest man to be chosen as pope. Does that suggest that people, aside from his other attributes, they might have seen him as a transitional figure? Clearly he won't be pope for a quarter of a century.

KERR: No. Clearly he won't be, Jim. I would say that they did not vote on that basis. I think they were certainly aware of the fact that this would be a shorter pontificate then that of John Paul II, because a quarter of a century is not going to be his to have perhaps. And I think that was something.

But he is such a presence in the Roman Catholic Church, has been for so long, by reason of his role in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, that he has interacted with cardinals, they have interacted with him. And I think he is such a powerful presence, if I may use that expression, that I'm not sure the age was really brought into much consideration.

ANGLE: Now every pope chooses his own name. He chose Benedict XVI. What is the significance of that>

KERR: Well, of course, St. Benedict is one of the real, if you will, beginning persons of Christianity. He was responsible in large measure for the monastic movement within the church, a movement that saved the scholarly traditions, perhaps, of the Roman Empire in the early, early, early civilizations in the monasteries. They were responsible for education. I think that had something to do with it.

I think also the fact that other popes who have been Benedict, have been scholars. I don't mean to keep emphasizing the scholarship, but I think that's where this pope is going to be, in the realm of ideas. He certainly is aware of the fact that Pope Benedict XV, the Benedict who preceded him, was there during World War I. He played a decisive role in many things but was not successful in many other things. He was very focused on Europe.

And I think this man is also going to be focused on Europe. He is going to be someone who is concerned that Europe is losing its religious roots and that Europe is moving away from the traditional Christian heritage that it has had and upon which it has built its civilization.

ANGLE: And as the first German pope in 1,000 years he is in good position to do that. One last thing for you, though one doesn't want to take divine guidance out of the process, these are men, men of God, but me, and politics always plays a role, has often played a role at the Vatican. How much do you see there in terms of political currents, in terms of where people wanted the church to go to, what kind of leadership they wanted?

KERR: Well, Jim, I think the political currents, whatever you call them, were certainly evident in this election. I think, as you said earlier, this man has firm convictions. They knew exactly where he would go tomorrow after he was elected today. And they know where he will go for the rest of his pontificate. And there were many in the church who feel that's the way we should go.

So I think the currents were there. There were those who wanted a little bit of a Third World outlook, there were those who wanted a little bit, if you will, progressive or loosening kind of approach. These men knew exactly where they wanted to go and they talked to each other about it.

ANGLE: Monsignor Kerr, thanks for joining us again.

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