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OTR Interviews

What sets Pope Francis apart from predecessors?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 23, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

 

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Just a short time ago, Pope Francis canonized the first Hispanic saint and a first to be canonized here in the United States. Now Pope Francis has often been described as the People's Pope. Many people Catholic and otherwise have praised the Pope for being different than his predecessors. So how different is he?

Greg Burke, the senior communication adviser for the Vatican Secretariat of State goes ON THE RECORD.

Nice to see you, Greg. It's been a long time.

GREG BURKE, SENIOR COMMUNICATION ADVISER, VATICAN SECRETARIAT OF STATE: Greta, good to be back. Thanks.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, Greg. So tell me about how do you compare and contract Pope Francis with his two predecessors.

BURKE: Well, I started covering John Paul II in 1992. I was at "Time" magazine. "Time" magazine made Pope Francis -- John Paul II, man of the year, a few years later in 1995. He was certainly out of the box as well.

I remembered traveling to the Philippines with John Paul, him wading into the crowds, driving security crazy. So similar to Francis in that way. Obviously, Benedict, a little bit different.

I started working in the Vatican under Benedict, but I covered him a long time as cardinal. Much more reserved as a figure, and, yet, revolutionary. Revolutionary in the fact that he set this revolution in motion by resigning. No doubt about that. And a couple other things about Benedict. His first encyclical message we have heard a lot from Pope Francis, God is love.

And also, Pope Benedict was known as the Green Pope. Now, having said all of that, Pope Francis is certainly broken the mold anew.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. And Pope Francis is a Jesuit, which is, this is the first Jesuit pope. What do you take away from that? Because, you know, that means for many Catholics in the United States, I mean, around the world, that was a huge big deal.

BURKE: Well, it's a monstrous deal as the first Jesuit. The Jesuits were often on the front lines in the course of the church histories and great defenders of the faith. Basically, great missionaries as well.

Pope Francis essentially wanted to go to Japan. He became a Jesuit hoping he could become a missionary. His health didn't allow him to do that, but it was great training. Very rigorous training on the Jesuits. Many of us have studied on Jesuits schools in this country and certainly admire that rigor. And I think that's part of it.

It's also -- he is a very free man. The Jesuits are very big on discernment. Praying a lot and then acting and he obviously does that.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, there is some criticism from some that he is political. Let me take the issue of immigration for instance. Does he raise immigration as, quote, "a political issue" or is it a "moral issue?"

I mean, I'm sort of struggling with myself as I try to decide is he political or these are really deeply held moral issues from which you look at it that way?

BURKE: Well, Greta, I think it's a moral issue, which obviously has political implications. But, in the end, you know, read the gospel and it's feed the hungry and clothe the naked, right?

Essentially, it is the Pope taking the gospel into action. People who are starving, people who are suffering persecution, giving them a hand. It has political implications. There is no doubt about it. But, essentially, it is a moral issue.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is he a simple man? I mean, I see he is not living in a Vatican apartment. That he serve -- you know, he seems to be, and I say that in a respectful way.

BURKE: No, and I answer in a respectful way saying, yes. I think essentially very, very simple before simple became cool. Sort of getting, you know, in -- everybody made a big deal about the Fiat here. But in Rome, it's a Ford Focus which is even a much more modest car. A Fiat is sort of a cool car to tell you the truth. The small Fiat is sort of what cool, young, rich kids run around in. But, a Ford Focus, nobody is going to say that's a cool car.

VAN SUSTEREN: Greg, indeed. Greg, thank you. Always nice to see you. It's been a long time as I said.

(CROSSTALK)

BURKE: Thanks, Greta.