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60 Minutes goes inside the Vatican with Pope Francis

Inside the Vatican with Pope Francis
60 Minutes goes inside the Vatican with Pope Francis 05:58

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Norah O'Donnell sat down with Pope Francis for a historic interview. The head of the Catholic Church for more than a decade, Francis had previously never spoken at length with an English-language American broadcast network.

In a wide-ranging conversation lasting more than an hour, O'Donnell spoke with the pontiff about such topics as the wars in Ukraine and in Israel and Gaza; the Church's handling of its sexual abuse scandals; and the conservative backlash against the pope's more progressive approach.

O'Donnell interviewed Francis at Casa Santa Marta, the Vatican guest house where he has lived since his election in 2013, rather than the papal apartments in the Apostolic Palace, where popes have historically resided. Born Jorge Mario Bergoglio in Argentina, Francis is the first Jesuit pope in papal history.

O'Donnell said the pontiff was generous with his time and asked to greet the whole production crew before beginning the interview.

"I think what you see in the interview with Pope Francis is just how warm he is, engaging," O'Donnell said. "He's funny. He's very thoughtful on a number of issues."

One issue Francis stays informed on is the war in Gaza. There is one Catholic church in the Gaza Strip, the Holy Family Church, and the pontiff told O'Donnell he calls there every evening at 7 p.m. and speaks with the priest, Father Youssef Asaad. Some 600 Gazans — Catholic and non-Catholic alike — have taken shelter in the church compound, which is in the north of Gaza City.

"I listen," the pope told O'Donnell through an interpreter. "The other day they were happy because they managed to eat some meat. The rest of the time they eat flour, things made of flour. Sometimes they go hungry. And they tell me things. And the other people there also speak to me at times. There is a lot of suffering."

CBS News' O'Donnell, who was raised Catholic and attended the Jesuit-founded Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., said her background was helpful in understanding the language, teachings, and doctrine of the Catholic Church, including those that are controversial or unpopular.

"The Catholic Church is at a crossroads, no doubt, because of the sex abuse scandal and because many people think that the Catholic Church is out of touch with modern times," O'Donnell said.

During the interview, she asked Francis about the state of the Catholic Church and the fact that many Catholics in the U.S. don't attend mass anymore regularly on Sunday.

"I would tell them that there is always a place, always," Francis answered. "If in a certain parish, the priest is not accessible, I understand. Let them find another. But there is always a place in the Church for each and every one."

During his papacy, Francis has tried to be more inclusive while not changing the doctrine of the church. Under his leadership, the church has welcomed same-sex couples and divorced Catholics, a departure from the traditional teachings of the church. The pontiff has also spoken out on issues such as climate change.

Because this more progressive approach has created a division with traditionalists, O'Donnell asked him how he saw his legacy.

"Church is the legacy, the Church not only through the pope, but through you, through every Christian, through everyone…" Francis answered. "We all leave a legacy, and institutions leave a legacy. It's a beautiful progression. I get on the bandwagon of the Church's legacy for everybody."

The video above was produce by Brit McCandless Farmer and edited by Scott Rosann.  

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