October 7th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

Scalia says atheism 'favors the devil's desires'

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

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(CNN) - As the Supreme Court begins its new term Monday, the devil is not on the docket - but the Evil One apparently is on the mind of Justice Antonin Scalia.

New York magazine has published a fascinating new interview with Scalia in which the outspoken jurist tackled a number of topics. But none seemed to surprise Scalia's interviewer, Jennifer Senior, more than his views on Satan.

The interview was conducted on September 26, the 27th anniversary of Scalia's swearing-in as a justice on the high court. He is one of a record six Catholic justices on the Supreme Court.

After Scalia and Senior discussed heaven and hell (he believes in them; she doesn't), the justice said in a stage whisper, "I even believe in the devil."

"You do?" Senior replied.

"Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, come on, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that," Scalia said.

Senior asked Scalia if he's seen evidence of Satan's work recently.

"You know, it is curious," Scalia answered. "In the Gospels, the devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore. ... It’s because he’s smart."

MORE FROM CNN: How to argue about religion online

Scalia said the Devil has gotten "wilier" and convinced people that he and God don't exist. The justice added that he doesn't think that atheists are Satan's minions, but that disbelief in God "certainly favors the devil's desires."

Senior asked if it's "frightening" to believe in the devil, which seemed to annoy Scalia.

"You’re looking at me as though I’m weird," he answered. "My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the devil! Most of mankind has believed in the devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the devil."

Scalia, whose son, Paul, is a Catholic priest in Arlington, Virginia, also said Pope Francis is "absolutely" right about the church needing to concentrate more on mercy and outreach than on fighting the culture wars.

MORE FROM CNN: American Catholics agree with Pope Francis on ending culture wars

"But he hasn’t backed off the view of the church on those issues," Scalia said. "He’s just saying, 'Don’t spend all our time talking about that stuff. Talk about Jesus Christ and evangelize.' I think there’s no indication whatever that he’s changing doctrinally."

Finally, Scalia said he has not "softened" his views on homosexuality.

"I still think it’s Catholic teaching that it’s wrong. OK? But I don’t hate the people that engage in it. In my legal opinions, all I’ve said is that I don’t think the Constitution requires the people to adopt one view or the other," Scalia said.

MORE FROM CNN: Church and state, executive power on Supreme Court docket

- CNN Religion Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Catholic Church • Courts • Culture wars • Devil • Pope Francis

soundoff (3,730 Responses)
  1. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    "It's in the Gospels"
    "Jesus believed in the Devil".

    Imagine if we applied that logic to all literary works. I'd sh!t my pants every time I left the house in case a Dementor would come up and suck out my soul.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:51 am |
  2. Traffic

    Why is this front page news? So Scalia believes in his faith? Obama believes that Jesus loves us.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:47 am |
  3. NotNews

    Obama is a Christian which means he does too. Why is this news?

    October 8, 2013 at 9:47 am |
    • Traffic

      exactly. you beat me to it

      October 8, 2013 at 9:48 am |

      lberals will not accept the fact obama is christian, they consistantly say he is a pretend christian to get votes.

      though they offer no proof.

      and obama went to a christian church for 20 years before he got elected, that quite a ruse he put on huh?? according to liberals

      October 8, 2013 at 9:49 am |
  4. Ray Smith

    Scalia has the finest legal mind I've ever known - of the 14th century!

    October 8, 2013 at 9:46 am |
  5. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    This is what Scalia believes:


    October 8, 2013 at 9:46 am |

      so does born again christian obama

      October 8, 2013 at 9:51 am |
      • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

        Good for him.


        October 8, 2013 at 9:54 am |
  6. james

    I thought Flip wilson was the Devil! No wait, I mean all women are the Devil, wait I mean aint the Pope the anti-Christ? I am so confused! what I do know is, if there is a Devil then he is Jesus's older brother. Food for thought.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:43 am |
  7. Tim

    Is a human person simply a material being? Is there nothing immaterial about us? I have a "will." I can move my body and objects if I choose to or if I choose not to. I can think about great ideas. I can create music that has never existed before. Words convey meaning and I am moved by great speeches such as Martin Luther Jr.'s "I have a dream." If I analyze the chemical makeup of the paints and canvas used to create the Mona Lisa, have I understood it truly. If I know the light frequency of a color, but am blind, do I truly know the color? If I know the sound frequency of every note used in a symphony, but am deaf, have I truly captured what a symphony is? Science only measures material objects interacting with other material objects. Science is wonderful but will never answer all things.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:42 am |
    • Anonymous

      Well said Tim!

      October 8, 2013 at 9:45 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      " Science is wonderful but will never answer all things."

      I take it as a rule to never trust somebody who claims to know what the limitations of potential scientific achievement are.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:48 am |
      • Traffic

        Are you aware of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle? Probably not.

        October 8, 2013 at 9:50 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          I wasn't aware of it, but having looked at it, I fail to see a connection.

          October 8, 2013 at 9:53 am |
        • Traffic

          The Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle says that we can never know the momentum and position of a subatomic particle. We can accurately measure one or the other but not both simultaneously. It's impossible. Science has its limits.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:13 am |
      • UncleBenny

        And that doesn't give people the right to plug their favourite supernatural being in wherever science does not currently have an answer.

        October 8, 2013 at 9:52 am |
      • Anonymous

        Tim is actually quite right, but he is not attacking or deriding science. Science does have its limitations, science is also capable of a lot! Science is capable of much corectness and much incorrectness. Let's not forget that it was once science that said the Earth was flat, but it was also science the proved the Earth was a sphere, but that science also proved the Earth was moreo f a wierd oblong shape lol. Science is merely the study of the material world via physical experimentation to create physically replicable results. This is not a bad thing, science is not a bad thing. It is not an allmighty or infallible thing either, and science has a knack for disproving last year's science.

        Tim's comment illustrates this in a very good way. I especially liked the Mona Lisa reference. Science can tell us what paint makes up the Mona Lisa, what it looks like, how big it is, of what material the frame and parchment are made, science (plus history) might be able to tell us a lot about Da Vinci too, but science can never decode the mystery of the Mona Lisa smile.

        October 8, 2013 at 9:57 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          What are science's limitations?

          October 8, 2013 at 9:58 am |
        • Traffic

          Thanks Anonymous.Scientific theories are built on a limited number of experiments. You can never have an infinite number of experiments. Therefore, science will never cross the threshold of absolute knowledge.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:04 am |
        • ME II

          Are you saying that there is a source for "absolute" knowledge? If so, please specify and provide examples of the knowledge it has provided. Bonus for knowledge that can not be gained via any other source.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:19 am |
        • Anonymous

          Science's limitations are the Material World by the definition of science. Which don't get me wrong, materialism is a huge subject, but it is finite in the end. Science's limitations are even itself. If one were to hold science as the only possible belief system and looked at it for all answers, then you would have to conclude that science is habitually incorrect. As I said, scientists once held that the Earth was flat, that the Earth was the center of the solar system, and even the much treasured atheist theory of evolution put forth by Darwin has proved to be improbable and in need of re-theorizing. Lol Darwin himself actually said near the end of his life that evolution was probably wrong.

          Science is also limited by the physical and technological capabilities of the current era. For instance we theorize scientifically that other planets might have life, but until you provide the physical proof you cannot verify this theory and technology currently is not at a level capable of proving or disproving this theory. Though in fairness, since technology can increase it is fair to say that the potential to conduct science can also increase. On that same coin though technology and knowledge can be totally deleted from the human consciousness for instance with the Dark Ages humanity lost something like 99% of all knowledge it had on the ancients. Most of the knowledge that was preserved was ironically preserved by the monks of the dark ages.

          Science is also limited by the current understanding of the Material World. Just like the ancient scientists like Ptolmey theorized a geocentric solar system, they therefore could not have the same understanding of the solar system as you and I have today. For a more modern example people think many star systems have life and civilization upon them, but thanks to Albert Einstein's theories on the speed of light we can correctly theorize that much the observable Universe was destroyed long ago and that the light from those dead stars is still travelling to Earth giving an illusion of a full Universe when in fact the Universe is probably quite empty or at least radically different looking then we can ever percieve here and now on Earth.

          Like I said science isn't a bad thing. It is not however infallible and it does have its limits, some temporary such as the current level of techology, some more permanant such as the limits of materialism.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:19 am |
        • ME II

          "Lol Darwin himself actually said near the end of his life that evolution was probably wrong."

          What a crock. Where'd you dig up that falsehood?

          October 8, 2013 at 10:30 am |
        • ME II

          "...thanks to Albert Einstein's theories on the speed of light we can correctly theorize that much the observable Universe was destroyed long ago and that the light from those dead stars is still travelling to Earth giving an illusion of a full Universe when in fact the Universe is probably quite empty ..."

          lol, where do you get this stuff?

          October 8, 2013 at 10:34 am |
        • WASP

          @an: " but science can never decode the mystery of the Mona Lisa smile."

          of all things animals on earth possess only humans possess "imagination", the ability to think of something that DOES NOT exsist and make it real.
          science can explain mona lisa's smile, it's an impulse that was inside di vinci's mind. something he may have found entertaining or simply a fluke.
          the true tragedy in his story is he had to hide everything he knew, all he had learned from the terror of the catholic church. all the great things he could have done if he was simply allowed to shine in the sun, instead of hide in the shadows.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:34 am |
        • LeRoy_Was_Here

          Scientists NEVER said the Earth is flat.

          Sheesh. Americans REALLY need to take a history of science course at some point in their life, so that they don't write idiotic statements like this.

          October 8, 2013 at 11:03 am |
        • Anonymous

          Ok lots to reply to lol.

          Darwin claimed many times throughout his life that facets of his theory were probably wrong. Darwin even said it would be up to the future to decide what was wrong with his theories and what is not. I think Darwin was a much more open-minded thinker than his supporters and opponents nowadays give him credit for. The man was all about scientific theory, and like any theory, bits or all of it can be wrong, and Darwin knew this full well and admitted it. There is a very good pro-Darwin article which supports much of this on the Smithsonian Magazine website (most credible in my opinion), as well as anti-Darwin articles that of coruse highlight this too lol.

          On the subject of the Dead Universe theory. Lol I admit that is one of my own machinations, glad it amused you. Think about it though Einstein proved that light has a speed. We know that most of the observable Universe lies thousands to billions to trillions of light years away from us. Literally billions of years that it takes for those stars' light to reach our eyes on Earth. It is not a very far reach to suggest that most of those stars exploded long ago or fundamentally changed in ways that we won't be able to percieve on Earth until millions to billions of years into the future (or until the warp speed engine is invented lol.)

          To WASP– I liked your theories on what Mona Lisa's smile is, but you yourself just proved me correct as you cannot scientifically prove what exactly is the mystery of her smile, plus the fact tyour theories conflict with one another. A fluke, a joke, or a sensation in Da Vinci's mind. It could be one, but it cannot be all. So Mona's smile is still a mystery 🙂

          Leroy– yes actually scientists of the ancient age did say the Earth was flat. Acquaint yourself with Democritus just to name one. Though this was a popular theory that many other ancient scientists worldwide, not just in the West, ascribed to and many others were ridiculed for not believing in a flat earth. In fact scientists and philosophers in Colombus' day thought he would fall off the edge of the world on his voyage to America. I mean come on Plato thought Atlantis real (though Plato actually believed in round earth.) Lol the ancients, even their scientists, believed some crazy stuff man.

          October 8, 2013 at 11:46 am |
    • OKfine

      Why do you bother coming on this blog spouting your silly sermons that have absolutely nothing to do with the topic. Be relevant.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:48 am |
      • Traffic

        Because I love you and want you to know that life is full of surprises

        October 8, 2013 at 9:54 am |
        • OKfine

          Traffic. I would greatly prefer you love Tim and offer him whatever surprise you have in mind. Thanks anyway.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:01 am |
        • Traffic

          And God loves you!

          October 8, 2013 at 10:06 am |
        • OKfine

          I am a deist my idea of god is an unloving and a none judgemental god. Again thanks anyway.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:17 am |
        • Traffic

          OK fine!

          October 8, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      “Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?” Your point is well-taken; science can tell us a lot but it doesn't tell us why we are more than just the sum of all our knowledge. Why do you go clubbing while I wander lonely as a cloud? Why does one person see a howling wilderness where another sees sermons in stones, books in the running brooks, and good in all things? Like the toad, ugly and venomous, which carries a jewel in its head, humans are more than they should be.

      October 8, 2013 at 10:49 am |
  8. Wyatt Buchanan

    "Atherist can't find God for the same reasons a thief can't find a policeman".

    October 8, 2013 at 9:40 am |
    • noone

      Atheists can't find god for the same reason children can't find Santa.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:47 am |
      • UncleBenny

        And a great many of them have looked. For God, that is ... and found evidence for Him to be lacking.

        And what's this BS about Santa?

        October 8, 2013 at 9:53 am |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          It's not really a difficult analogy to comprehend.

          October 8, 2013 at 9:57 am |
        • UncleBenny

          You really don't recognize a joke when you see one, do you?

          October 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
      • krivka

        nice riposte

        October 8, 2013 at 10:01 am |
    • ME II

      @Wyatt Buchanan,
      "Atherist can't find God for the same reasons a thief can't find a policeman".

      ... because God is in the doughnut shop?

      October 8, 2013 at 10:27 am |
  9. Bible Clown©

    Scalia is one of the most insane people in public life in this entire country. Maybe he'll start raving and we can get him off the bench before he does more harm? Devils running pigs off cliffs? Most people believe in the Devil? Please; I have a pretty dim view of the religious but most of them are just not that dumb.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:37 am |
    • sam stone

      u tell em bozo. u no somethin about insanity. prison sambo

      October 8, 2013 at 10:08 am |
    • Normal Guy

      You got him buddy! Great job! You're smart!

      October 8, 2013 at 10:25 am |
  10. mattwest2342

    Seriously? This man sits on the highest court in the most powerful country in the world in the twenty-first freakin century and he actually literally believes in a big demon running around trying to make people do bad things.

    Stuff like this makes me want to grab this country and shake it till it starts making sense.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:36 am |

      obama is a born again christian and believes the same thing.
      should obama be president?

      October 8, 2013 at 9:47 am |
      • noone


        October 8, 2013 at 10:02 am |
      • Bible Clown©

        "obama is a born again christian" Nice of you to admit that. The whole "he's a secret muslim bla bla bla" thing is awfully boring and silly. And get back to us when Obama holds a press conference about 900 ft Jesus.

        October 8, 2013 at 10:05 am |

          In an interview with the evangelical periodical Christianity Today, Obama stated: "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life.

          October 8, 2013 at 10:07 am |
  11. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    The greatest trick the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist.



    October 8, 2013 at 9:27 am |
    • Anonymous

      Psht, that's a british hoax right there. If I knew how to post youtube videos I would show you the real proof; The Night of the Leapus!

      October 8, 2013 at 9:40 am |
  12. Oh Dear

    Yes he is a person and is currently a justice of the supreme court

    October 8, 2013 at 9:26 am |
  13. WS

    Even though I am a religious individual, I disagree with Justice Scalia. I don't feel that atheism is from the devil.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      How ridiculous to believe in devils in the age of computers. Someone show that old fool how to Google things on his phone, please.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • Doc Vestibule

        And invite The Devil into my phone and computers! No way!
        Next you're going to suggest I look in the mirror and say "Candyman" three times!

        October 8, 2013 at 9:34 am |
        • WASP


          October 8, 2013 at 9:38 am |
      • fumota68

        it is true that the smarter technology gets, man grows dumb and stupid, just because you have an i-phone doesn't mean your brain is growing or improving, devil is a liar XD.

        October 8, 2013 at 10:10 am |
        • Yahweh

          Did you ever consider that maybe Yahweh is really the devil and has "lied" to you all these years to make you believe that the true god, Lucifer, is really the devil and the bad one?

          Let's see, which one is actually guilty of genocide and eternal torture? Which one freely admitted to killing a few dozen children for taunting a man? Which one encouraged slavery and set a few ground rules for slavery?

          October 8, 2013 at 10:29 am |
  14. noone

    This is just sad. This man hold a seat on the highest court in the land. And he believes in an imaginary Evil One running around tricking people into doing bad things. How is this OK? If he said he believed in The Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, or some other childish nonsense he'd be laughed off the bench. He should be for this as well.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:22 am |
    • kahnkeller

      well... he also "believes" the world is flat....

      October 8, 2013 at 9:32 am |
    • ed dugan

      I am an athiest and have learned that you have to cut these people some slack. He was brain-washed by the catholic church since he was a toddler so what do you expect. If we're lucky his misplaced beliefs won't affect his decisions but if a case comes up with an athiestic theme he should recuse himself. We don't need his kind of ignorance affecting important decisions.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  15. Farrok

    The Devil is the evil part of Man's nature. If you as a human want to see the "Devil" just look in the mirror.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:20 am |
    • ed dugan

      I did what you suggested and I really can't believe anyone that good look8ing could h ave an ounce of evil in him. God is he hot!!! No pun intended.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:36 am |
  16. zaphed

    supreme court justice my foot. GOP sucks doodle.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:14 am |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      To be fair, so do the Dems.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:17 am |


    October 8, 2013 at 9:13 am |

      Tags: Possession, Devil, Toaster, Florida

      October 8, 2013 at 9:19 am |
  18. joeknockz


    October 8, 2013 at 9:12 am |
  19. august43

    There is not a shred of evidence for the existence of supernatural beings. It is people who have made up these stories in order to pretend to understand what happens in the world. We have since developed science and reason to figure out why things happen. The more we discover, the less we accept the often lunatic propositions of various religions. Think not? You yourself are most likely a nonbeliever about all but one of the religions on earth. I just go one step further. It is all fiction.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:12 am |
    • sam stone

      good point. hundreds of millions cannot have a clue. no why. i said so

      October 8, 2013 at 9:21 am |
    • Rob-Texas

      Right. You understand everything. How do people get so full of them selves. If you accept the Eve DNA, based on science, then we all decend from one women in Africa 200,000 years ago. Yet we only know about the last 8-9,000 years of human history. It is very stupid and ignorant on our part to think we know it all and have all the answers. There are many people who have had personal experainces with God and Satan. You may not see that as proof but to them it is very real. Similar to being at a ball game and hearing about one. The recap is often very different to the person who was actually there and saw the game.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am |
      • august43

        You do not understand the mitochondrial Eve hypothesis. At any given time in the past, a number of people are born. Each got their mitochondrial DNA from their mother. Some of these had no children. Every generation several lines of mitochondrial DNA are snuffed out. Eventually every line of those inheriting their mitochondrial DNA will end. Today, we all trace our mitochondrial DNA to a single woman from a population that lived in Africa about 200000 years ago. When we go extinct, none will be left. As for your other claims, see my reply to another commenter.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:35 am |
    • Really

      Really ?? Not a shred ?? You are hanging around the wrong circles. If you hang out with the people I spend time with, you'll experience God, and you'll never be able to deny it. For any true Christian, it would be dishonest to state there isn't a supernatural being at work in this world. I would have to deny experiences that were effectual in my life. I've been healed, on the spot ! I was delivered from depression instantly ! I felt the tangible presence of God. Am I a lunatic ? No ! I'm an honest intellectual. I consider all sides, but how could I deny what I've seen !! . . . and yet you say. . .after book after book about people experiencing the supernatural. . .and yet you say ,"Not a shred." Read about Smith Wigglesworth or Edgar Cayce. DO NOT do a GOOGLE SEARCH !!!! Actually read a book about them and the people that were eye witnesses to these things. Catherine Kuhlman. Read about William Branham. And yet you say. . ."Not a shred." Seriously ?

      October 8, 2013 at 9:29 am |
      • august43

        You need to understand what evidence is, i.e., facts witnessed by two people and that could with high probability be witnessed by anyone on earth.The supposed supernatural events you claim to have experienced do not fit in this category. Whereas, the charge on the electron can be measured in an ordinary college physics laboratory and replicated anywhere on earth by anyone. Your claims for your religion have no more validity than a Muslim for his religion, or a Hindu for his. It is all fiction. Your good feelings, your cure, etc., all could be explained rationally with reference to psychology or medicine, which are to a large extent dependent on evidence-based inquiry.

        October 8, 2013 at 11:10 am |
        • Really

          Please explain it then ? Go ahead. By the way, I'm not ignorant to what you call "evidence." I love the fact that as long as someone defines the evidence, it's completely subjective to begin with !

          I only wanted you to know how foolish you appear to people that experience these things. I don't deny science. I love it, as a matter of fact. There is no contradiction, but an honest person cant' deny something because he doesn't like it. By the way, why doesn't science have to explain the supernatural ? All the doctors ever say is that it's an enomaly. The scientific world is not accountable to the supernatural and the supernatural should not be accountable to science. BUT DON'T DENY THE FACTS. Until science explains it, you have no right to assume and be presumptuous that it will.

          October 8, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • John

      August – research the Marian apparitions at Fatima and Medjugorje. You will find proof.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • august43

        Proof of mass hallucination perhaps...Easier to believe than to accept that dead people or imaginary people come to life...

        October 8, 2013 at 11:27 am |
  20. CamDen1

    Yeah, Scalia, it's a clever devil. Not the age of reason, not the age of science, not the age of communication and knowledge. The reason religious fervor is fading in America is totally because the devil got wilier. And this is the guy making major judicial decisions for us? Scary.

    October 8, 2013 at 9:07 am |
    • Frank

      Yet the devil isn't clever enough to pick up a Bible, read Revelation, and come up with a better strategy.

      October 8, 2013 at 9:19 am |
      • CamDen1

        Not much for the age of reason, are you? What's more likely? The unbelievable accounts of possession and miracles don't really happen in an age that has psychological diagnoses and science or that the horned beast, the Devil, put on his spectacles, picked up his favorite copy of the bible, read revelations, and revised his master plan for dominance. You are so wrapped up in your own delusion, only the delusion itself can be used to riddle away any logic. That is called being willfully ignorant. You go on and enjoy your delusion.

        October 8, 2013 at 10:10 am |
    • Jim Rock


      October 8, 2013 at 9:24 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.