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Without A Pope, Cardinals Are Running The Vatican


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep. Good morning. In Italy the papacy is officially vacant. The Vatican is now under the control of the cardinals who will elect a new leader of the Catholic Church. Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI gave up his ring, his cape and red papal shoes to become Pope Emeritus. Cokie Roberts was there, joins us from Rome. Hi, Cokie.


INSKEEP: What was it like being there in Rome on that day that has not happened in centuries, Cokie?

ROBERTS: It was really remarkable. I find myself saying the words Vatican and brand-new in the same sentence and that doesn't happen very often. But the pope came out of the palace. The entire household was there, and of course everybody in sort of festive dress. He gets in this helicopter, this modern thing, and of course he is a helicopter pilot himself but he didn't fly it.

And then does these circles of Saint Peter's and of the city. So you know, it was really kind of looking at his diocese and then leaving, going to the beautiful Castel Gondalfo up in the mountains. Just a gorgeous, gorgeous site. And as he left, the sun set behind St. Peter's. So it was really a dramatic, dramatic moment.

And then later in the evening we saw the Swiss Guard closing the door at Castel Gondalfo, the summer residence, right at 8:00, the moment when his papacy ended. And then leaving, because they would no longer guard him because he was no longer pope.

INSKEEP: OK. So that was outside choreography. Then there's the interior choreography of arranging for a new pope. What happens next?

ROBERTS: Well, the cardinals will meet officially on Monday. And they are really very puzzled, Steve. You know, when John Paul was dying, for a long period of time they had a lot of opportunity to think about the next pope. And at that point there were really two candidates - Joseph Ratzinger, who became pope, and not Joseph Ratzinger.

But this time there is no obvious person. And so they are really quite puzzled. And 57 percent of them were appointed by Benedict. So they've never been in a conclave before. So what they're telling me is that they really need to meet. They need to get to know each other. They need to get to understand the rules of the conclave. And they need to get to know some of who might be the people who could be pope.

They really are in a process of learning right now.

INSKEEP: Some people are wondering if they'll be listening to Benedict.

ROBERTS: Well, he says absolutely not. And he couldn't have been clearer on that over the last couple of days. Very clear that he will be praying and that will be his role for them. But the truth is, is what they are curious about is who they can choose who will have absolutely no scandal connected to him.

I mean they have had enough with that. And so that's going to require some vetting. As they start to think about certain names, they're going to want to know more about that guy. And as they start asking around, I think we'll start getting a few leaks.

INSKEEP: What does this process mean for the American Catholic Church, Cokie?

ROBERTS: Well, they talk about wanting someone who can communicate, and part of that does have to do with communicating with American Catholics who have not been feeling positive toward the hierarchy and have not agreed on some key issues like married priests or women in the priesthood. Americans should not look for any changes in doctrine but they might find a pope who is more open to the new world.

INSKEEP: That's Cokie Roberts speaking to us from Rome as we await the selection of a new pope. Cokie, thanks very much.

ROBERTS: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Steve Inskeep
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Cokie Roberts was one of the 'Founding Mothers' of NPR who helped make that network one of the premier sources of news and information in this country. She served as a congressional correspondent at NPR for more than 10 years and later appeared as a commentator on Morning Edition. In addition to her work for NPR, Roberts was a political commentator for ABC News, providing analysis for all network news programming.