Video: Pope looks ahead
updated 6/22/2005 4:35:09 PM ET 2005-06-22T20:35:09

Pope Benedict XVI announced Wednesday that he plans to call a special meeting of Roman Catholic bishops to discuss the church's role in solving the problems that plague Africa and has made news recently with the release of a new book critical of Europe.

MSNBC's Chris Jansing, who covered the inauguration of Pope Benedict XVI in April from Rome, joined MSNBC's Lester Holt on Wednesday to discuss the latest happenings at the Vatican.

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the link above.

Lester Holt:  One of the discussions after the passing of the last Pope, was, "Could there be an African pope?" because so much is centered on that part of the world.

Chris Jansing: Cardinal Arinze, who is still considered potentially a future pope, he is someone who has talked extensively about the issues of poverty and disease in Africa. A lot of people don't realize this, but Catholicism is growing faster in Africa than any other continent. It's a place where there is a lot of evangelization going on, where eventually from where the West -- Europe and the United States -- may get priests. The number of vocations is going up there

Benedict has shown that he is not going to shy away from political issues. The G-8 nations are politically looking at the issue, at their next meeting, a top priority will be poverty in Africa, so the bishops are going to focus on that as well. (They're) sort of seizing the opportunity in a place where Catholicism is growing so quickly.

Holt: (Benedict is) not shying away on political issues, and certainly on moral issues -- not a surprise -- he's right down the line with the previous pope. He's got a book that lays it out.

Jansing: He's been a prolific author, but his new book is called 'The Europe of Benedict: In the Crisis of Cultures.' It's not surprising that he writes in this book about abortion and his opposition to abortion. In this book, he writes:

"They (Europeans) become blind to the right to live of another, of the youngest and  weakest who don't have a voice."
-- 'The Europe of Benedict: In the Crisis of Cultures"

That is not surprising or controversial, but what is, is that the pope's vicar of Rome, the man that essentially leads the Roman diocese in his place, says that the Catholic Church is not going to mount a campaign against abortion, because he believes it's a futile campaign. It's very much entrenched, so they're going to focus elsewhere.

I think that has surprised a lot of people, given the stance of the church and this pope in particular.

Holt: It's interesting he singles out Europe, and his first big public appearance is going to be at his home in Germany.

Jansing: How interesting this has turned out to be. Pope John Paul II did a series of events called Youth Days, in fact several of them were believed to be some of the largest gatherings ever in human history. He had planned to go to Cologne, Germany, well over a year ago. Who knew at that time that he would pass away and that the new pope would be a German.

So the first huge appearance by Pope Benedict, who of course grew up in Bavaria, is going to be in Cologne, Germany. There is going to be a huge mass. In talking to people, I get estimates that it is going to be anywhere from a million to two million people they think will show up. And there will be people there from all over the world, including large church groups from the United States there.

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