How will Pope Francis' age impact his papacy?

Reaction from Ray Flynn, former ambassador to the Vatican


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 13, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: This is a great shot.

I bet you that was taken right after Cardinal Ratzinger became pope. And so that would be about seven, eight years ago. And that fellow there is the cardinal who finished second to him and today finished first, became pope.

So the old pope greeting the man who would become the future pope. But, for now, a lot of Americans might be looking at this saying, well, I guess no American pope.

Ray Flynn joins us right now, the former ambassador to the Vatican.

And on that short list of possible American cardinals, Sean O'Malley, of course, of the Archdiocese of Boston. And that didn't happen, Ambassador.

Do you think because in his case he came in to clean up post-abuse scandals and financial irregularities, sold his own residence to raise money and all that, do you think that whole issue hurt the three or four Americans or three, more to the point, who might have been considered for the papacy?

RAY FLYNN, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE VATICAN: Well, I made a couple of predictions, Neil.

One, I predicted that some day soon there would be an American pope. I also predicted that there would be a Latin American pope or a pope from Africa. Those are the growing areas of the Catholic Church. So, in my book, all I have to do is change -- just add the word Latin, and we have got -- then Ray Flynn was absolutely right.


FLYNN: But, you know, it's -- by the way, I want to pick you up, pick on something. Don't underestimate what a man in his 70's can do.

CAVUTO: I hear you.

FLYNN: All right?

CAVUTO: Hey, look, the closer I get, the less I mock.


FLYNN: I walk eight miles a day, so I resent that comment, that implication.


CAVUTO: And you're absolutely right to. You're absolutely right to.

But, you know, that does -- and I've got to be very honest. That was the first thing that hit me when I heard about his being chosen. And I remembered that last time, how close he came, according to the reports. These things are never confirmed.

But then he was chosen this time. I'm thinking 76. And you and I know over the years popes who have been chosen and their age being considered, maybe that they would play an interim role. The conventional wisdom, as you know, Ambassador, is that the church has a loss of messes on its hands. You need to get somebody to come in there, clean house, clean up, and then set the stage for the next guy.


FLYNN: Well, I will tell you what I like. What I like about this appointment, this election, one, it's a great tribute to the Latin American Catholic community across the world, particularly in Latin America, but also in the United States.

That's the fastest growing religion.

CAVUTO: Right.

FLYNN: So it's a great tribute, a great honor for them and their family who have been loyal to the Catholic Church over these many, many years.

And the devotion that they have is absolutely extraordinary. And also the philosophy that he brings to the table, you know, he's nobody's -- he doesn't -- nobody owns him. So he is a real outsider. He's not wedded to these Curia policies and bureaucracy. And that's where the church is having a lot of problems is internally.

So, he's an outsider coming in to reform the system. And I will bet you a dollar to a doughnut there that that's what the cardinals, the College of Cardinals were thinking bringing in an outsider who can really clean up the bureaucracy and deal with those systemic problems that really have embarrassed the church worldwide.

CAVUTO: Do you think -- now, he was chosen on the fifth vote. And so we don't know how this all went about.

We do know, looking back in 1978, with Cardinal Wojtyla, who ultimately became Pope John Paul II, is that the Italian contenders sort of divided the vote. They split up. And then he kind of moved up in the middle and emerged as the first non-Italian in better than 500 years.

We won't know for a while, if ever, how this all transpired. But maybe it wasn't as orderly as you laid out, that maybe this was sort of like, I don't want to call it an accident, but it was like an unusual confluence of events that led to this. What do you...


FLYNN: Well, you could call it an accident because that was the name of my book, "The Accidental Pope."


FLYNN: But you know, think about what outsiders have done coming into the church and the impact that they have had on the world.


FLYNN: Look at Karol Wojtyla, John Paul II. He came in, in 1978 after really -- and then led the effort for the eradication of communism in Poland, Eastern Europe, across the world.

So, he's liberated to do what he wants, to do what he thinks is in the best interest of the church. And I think that even though he's 76 years of age, that doesn't mean he can't be a reformer. He can be a reformer, because he's not obligated or wedded to any special interest group within the Curia, within Rome. He actually can act independently.

Take my word for it. Being a smart, observant politician is as important as being a spiritual leader. Now, to be a smart politician, you have to have that independence. So, you can't be obligated to any party, Democratic Party or a conservative party as we know in the United States.

You have to act independently and do what is in the best interest of the common good. I think that that's what Francis has, because he is coming from a place that is not part of the European tradition. He's not part of the Italian tradition. He is his own person. He brings his own set of rules and his own set of standards, without compromising the traditional values of the Catholic faith.

CAVUTO: We will watch closely. But, you know, you're not exactly perfect with your prescient predictions here.


FLYNN: Did you ever see me play basketball?

CAVUTO: I do remember your predictions about the Boston Red Sox first winning and that a dynasty would set hold. So, let's just say a pope you are not, young man.

But, Ambassador, you were great. And I appreciate it. Thank you very much.

FLYNN: Thanks, Neil. Good to talk to you.

CAVUTO: And I do want to stress to our older viewers, myself included, 76 really is the new 56. So we will keep an eye on that.

Content and Programming Copyright 2013 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2013 CQ-Roll Call, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of CQ-Roll Call. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.