What follows is an English translation of Pope Francis’ now famous papal plane interview on the way back from Rio in which he took questions, in John Allen’s words, “on every topic under the sun with no filters and no limits, speaking without notes and delivering straight answers.” (As Allen later told CNN: “you sometimes sit around late at night dreaming of moments like this, but you never really think you’ll live to see them happen.”)
Although John Paul II once gave a TV interview, and Benedict XVI became the first pope to publish a book-long interview (and once answered pre-submitted questions from the public on Italian TV), there has never been anything quite like this before. Francis has set a new standard in papal transparency and accountability.
Although it was his words on homosexuality which caught the media’s imagination — they were surprising to those who wrongly see the Church’s teaching as homophobic — the 10,000-word interview is endlessly newsworthy. Topics include the Vatican Bank, curial reform, synodal government, episcopal collegiality, what Francis carries in his black bag, the Church and women (twice), his relationship with Pope Emeritus Benedict, whether divorced and remarried Catholics should receive the Eucharist, whether he still feels a Jesuit, what his travel plans are, relations with the Orthodox Church, how he assesses his papacy so far, why he feels ‘trapped’ in the Vatican, why he didn’t mention abortion or gay marriage in Brazil, what he feels about Charismatic Renewal and other movements — among many others.
NB This is a working (ie not official) English translation of the official transcript in its original Italian and Spanish. It is based on a translation originally made by Zenit and modified by Dr Robert Moynihan.)
Father Federico Lombardi, S.J, Director of the Vatican Press Office: Now, dear friends, we have the joy of having with us on this return trip, the Holy Father Francis. He has been kind enough to give us a good long time to evaluate the trip with us and answer your questions in total liberty. I give him the floor for a brief introduction and then we will begin with the list of those who registered to talk and we will take them from different national and linguistic groups. Now the floor is yours, You Holiness, to begin.
Pope Francis: Good evening and thank you so much. I am happy. It has been a good trip; it has done me good spiritually. I’m quite tired, but with a joyful heart, and I am well, well: it did me good spiritually. It does one good to meet people, because the Lord works in each one of us; He works in the heart, and the richness of the Lord is such that we can always receive many good things from others. And this does me good. This, as a first evaluation.
Then I would say that the kindness, the heart of the Brazilian people is great, is true: its great. They are such kind people, a people that loves celebration, that even in suffering always finds a way to seek the good anywhere. And this is good: they are a happy people, a people who have suffered so much! The joy of Brazilians is contagious, it’s contagious! And these people have a great heart.
Then I would say of the organizers, from our part as well as that of the Brazilians – but I felt I was in front of a computer, an incarnated computer… But truly, everything was absolutely punctual, no? But good.
Then we had problems with security theories: security here and there; there wasn’t an incident in the whole of Rio de Janeiro in these days, and everything was spontaneous. With less security, I was able to be with the people, to embrace and greet them, without armored cars.
It’s the security of trusting people. It’s true that there is always the danger that there is a madman … alas, yes, that there is a madman who does something; but there is also the Lord! But, to make an armored space between the Bishop and the people is madness, and I prefer this madness: [to be] outside and run the risk of the other madness. I prefer this madness: outside. Closeness does good to all.
Then, the organization of the Day, not something specific, but everything: the artistic part, the religious part, the catechetical part, the liturgical part… it was very beautiful!
They have a capacity to express themselves in art. Yesterday, for instance, they did very beautiful things, very beautiful!
Then, Aparecida. For me Aparecida is an intense religious experience. I recall the Fifth Conference. I was there to pray. I wanted to go alone, somewhat hidden, but there was an impressive crowd! It wasn’t possible [to be hidden], I knew that before arriving. And we prayed, we did.
I don’t know… one thing… but also from your part. Your work was, I’m told — I didn’t read the newspapers during these days, I didn’t have the time, I did not watch the TV, nothing — but I’m told that it was good, good, good work! Thank you, thank you for the collaboration, and thank you for having done this.
Then the number, the number of young people. Today — I can’t believe it — but today the Governor spoke of three million. I can’t believe it. But from the altar — that’s true! — I don’t know if you, some of you were at the altar: from the altar, at the end, the whole beach was full, up to the curve, more than four kilometers. But so many young people.
And they say, Archbishop Tempesta told me, that they were from 178 countries: 178! The Vice-President also gave me this number: that’s certain. It’s important! Intense!
Question 1: on the Reform of the Curia and Vatican Bank
Father Lombardi: Thank you. Now we give the floor first to Juan de Lara, who is from Efe, a Spaniard, and it’s the last trip he makes with us; so, we are happy to give him this possibility.
Juan de Lara: (Speaking in Spanish) Good evening, Holiness. On behalf of all our companions we want to thank you for these days you have given us in Rio de Janeiro, the work you have done, and the effort it implies and also in the name of all Spanish journalists, we want to thank you for the prayers and the praying for the victims of the train accident of Santiago de Compostela. Thank you very much. And the first question — it doesn’t have much to do with the trip, but we take advantage of the occasion that gives us this possibility and I wanted to ask you: Holiness, in these four months of pontificate, we see that you have created several commissions to reform the Vatican Curia. I would like to ask you: What type of reform do you have in mind? Do you contemplate the possibility of doing away with the IOR, the so-called Vatican Bank? Thank you. [Repeated in Italian].
Pope Francis: The steps I have taken in these four and a half months, come from two sources: the content of what had to be done, it all comes from the source of the General Congregations that we Cardinals had. They were things that we Cardinals asked for to the one who’d be the new Pope. I remember that I asked for many things, thinking of someone else.
That is, we asked, this has to be done… for instance, the Commission of eight Cardinals, we know that it’s important to have an outside consultation, not the consultations that take place, but from the outside. And this is in line — here I make a sort of abstraction, thinking, however, to explain it — in the line increasingly of the maturation of the relation between the Synodality and the Primacy.
That is, these eight Cardinals favor Synodality, they help the different episcopates of the world to express themselves in the government itself of the Church. Many proposals were made, which have not yet been put into practice, such as the reform of the Synod’s Secretariat, the methodology; such as the Post-Synodal Commission which has a permanent character of consultation; such as the Cardinals’ Consistories with topics that aren’t so formal, such as, for instance, canonization, but also subjects, etc. Well, the source of the contents comes from there.
The second source is the opportunity. I’ll tell you, it wasn’t hard for me, at the end of the first month of pontificate, to create the Commission of the eight Cardinals, which is one thing…
The financial part I thought I’d address next year, because it’s not the most important thing to address. However, the agenda was changed due to the circumstances that you know, which are of the public domain; problems appeared which had to be addressed.
The first, the problem of the IOR, namely, how to direct it, how to delineate it, how to reform it, how to heal what has to be healed, and there is the first Commission of Reference, that’s its name. You know the… what is requested, those who make it up, and everything.
Then we had the meeting of the Commission of the 15 Cardinals who are concerned with the economic aspects of the Holy See. They are from all parts of the world.
And there, while preparing that meeting, the need was seen to establish a same Reference Commission for the whole economy of the Holy See.
That is, the economic problem was addressed outside the agenda, but these things happen when in the office of government, no? One goes here but a goal is kicked from over there and one must intercept it, isn’t that right?
Then, life is like this and that is what is lovely about life also. I repeat the question you asked me about the IOR, sorry, I’m speaking in Spanish. Sorry… the answer came to me in Spanish. [Repeated in Italian]
With reference to that question you asked me about the IOR, I don’t know how the IOR will end; some say that, perhaps, it’s best if it’s a bank, others that it be an aid fund, others say to close it. Alas!
These voices are heard.
I don’t know. I trust the work of the people of the IOR, who are working on this, also of the Commission.
The President of the IOR remains, the same one who was there before; instead the Director and the Vice-Director have resigned.
But this, I cannot tell you how this story will end, and this is good also because one finds, one seeks; we are human, in this; we must find the best.
But, this yes; but the characteristics of the IOR — whether a bank, an aid fund, whatever it is — must be transparent and honest. This must be so. Thank you.
Father Lombardi: Many thanks, Your Holiness. So we now pass to a person of the representatives of the Italian group, and we have one whom you know well: Andrea Tornielli, who comes to ask you a question on behalf of the Italian group.
Andrea Tornielli: Holy Father, I have a question that is, perhaps, somewhat indiscreet: the photograph has gone around the world of you, when we left, going up the steps of the plane carrying a black bag, and there were articles throughout the world that commented on this novelty: yes, of the Pope going up … it never happened, we said, that the Pope went up with his baggage in hand. So, there were even theories about what the black bag contained. Now, my questions are: one, why did you carry the black bag and why was it not carried by a collaborator, and two, can you tell us what was inside? Thank you.
What is inside? There is my razor, there is the Breviary, there is the agenda, there is a book to read — I took one on St. Teresina to whom I am devoted. I have always carried the bag when I travel: it’s normal. But we must be normal…
I don’t know… what you are saying is a bit strange to me, that that photo has gone around the world. But we must get used to being normal, the normality of life. I don’t know, Andrea, if I’ve answered you…
Question 3: on why the Pope asks so often for prayers
Father Lombardi: So now we give the floor to a representative of the Portuguese language, Aura Miguel, who is from Radio Renascença.
Aura Miguel: Holiness, I want to ask you why you ask so insistently that we pray for you? It’s not normal, usual, to hear a Pope ask so much to pray for him.
Pope Francis: I’ve always asked for this. When I was a priest I asked for it, but not so frequently. I began to ask for it with a certain frequency in my work as Bishop, because I feel that if the Lord doesn’t help in this work of helping the People of God to go forward, one can’t… I truly feel I have so many limitations, so many problems, also being a sinner — you know it! — and I must ask for this. But it comes from within!
I also ask Our Lady to pray for me to the Lord.
It’s a habit, but it’s a habit that comes from the heart and also from the need I have for my work. I feel I must ask… I don’t know, it’s like this…
Question 4: on whether there is resistance to reform in the Curia, and whether the austere communal life of the Domus Santa Marta is meant to become a model for others in the Curia.
Father Lombardi: Now we pass to the group of the English language, and we give the floor to our colleague Pullella of Reuters, who is here before you.
Philip Pullella: Holiness, thank you, on behalf of the English group, for your availability. The colleague from Lara has already asked the question we wanted to ask, so I’ll proceed somewhat on those lines, however: in the search to make these changes, I remember that you said to the group of Latin America that there are so many saints that work in the Vatican, but also persons who are somewhat less saintly, no? Have you met with resistance in your desire to change things in the Vatican? Have you found resistance? The second question is: you live in a very austere world, you have stayed in St. Martha’s, etc. Do you want your collaborators, also the Cardinals, to follow this example and perhaps live in community, or is it something for you only?
Pope Francis: The changes… the changes come also from two sources: what we Cardinals requested, and what comes from my personality.
You were speaking of the fact that I have stayed at St. Martha’s: but I couldn’t live alone in the Palace, and it’s not luxurious. The papal apartment isn’t so luxurious! It’s ample, big, but not luxurious, but I can’t live alone and with a small tiny group! I need people, to meet people, to talk with people…
And because of this, the boys of the Jesuit school asked me: “Why do you do it?” Out of austerity? Poverty? No, no. Simply for psychiatric reasons, because I can’t cope psychologically.
Everyone must carry his life forward, his way of living, of being. The Cardinals who work in the Curia do not live richly and magnificently: they live in an apartment, they are austere, they are austere. Those that I know, the apartments that APSA gives the Cardinals.
Then it seems to me there is something else I would like to say. Each one must live as the Lord asks him to live. But austerity — a general austerity — I think is necessary for all of us who work in the service of the Church.
There are so many shades of austerity… each one must find his way.
In regard to the saints, this is true, there are saints: Cardinals, priests, bishops, Sisters, laymen: people who pray, people who work so much, and also who go to the poor, in a hidden way. I know of some who are concerned with feeding the poor and then, in their free time, go to do their ministry in one or another church… They are priests.
There are saints in the Curia. And there are also some who aren’t so saintly, and these are those who make more noise.
You know that a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that grows. And this grieves me when there are these things.
But there are some who give scandal, some. We have this Monsignor in jail, I think he’s still in jail; he is not in jail because he resembled Blessed Imelda in fact, he isn’t a Blessed.
These are scandals that cause grief.
Something — I have never said this, but I recall — I think the Curia has fallen somewhat from the level that it had some time ago, of those old Curia men… the profile of the old Curia man, faithful, who did his work. We are in need of such persons.
Do I find resistance? Alas! If there is resistance, I haven’t seen it yet.
It’s true that I haven’t done so many things, but I can say yes, I have found help, and I have also found loyal people. For instance, I’m pleased when a person says to me: “I’m not in agreement,” and I have found this. “But I don’t see this, I don’t agree: I say it, you do it.” This is a true collaborator. And I’ve found this in the Curia. And this is good.
But when there are those who say: “Ah, how good, how good, how good,” but then say the opposite on the other side… Now I can’t remember.
Perhaps there are some, but I can’t remember. Resistance: in four months one can’t find so much….
Question 5: on why the Pope did not speak about abortion or gay marriage while in Brazil.
Father Lombardi: Well then, we now go to a Brazilian, it seems right to me. Then there is Patricia Zorzan, perhaps Izoard is coming so then we also have a Frenchman.
Patricia Zorzan: Speaking on behalf of Brazilians. The society has changed, young people have changed, and we see many young people in Brazil. You have spoken to us about abortion, matrimony between persons of the same gender. In Brazil a law has been approved which extends the right of abortion and has allowed matrimony between persons of the same gender. Why didn’t you speak about this?
[Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: The Church has already expressed herself perfectly on this. It wasn’t necessary to go back to this, nor did I speak about fraud or lies or other things, on which the Church has a clear doctrine. [Repeated in Italian]
Patricia Zorzan: But it’s an issue that interests young people…[Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: Yes, but it wasn’t necessary to talk about that, but about positive things that open the way to youngsters, isn’t that so? Moreover, young people know perfectly well what the position of the Church is. [Repeated in Italian]
Patricia Zorzan: What is the position of Your Holiness, can you tell us? [Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: That of the Church. I’m a child of the Church. [Repeated in Italian]
Question 6: on why the Pope refers to himself as “Bishop of Rome”
Father Lombardi: Now we return to the Spanish group: Dario Menor Torres … ah, sorry, Izoard, whom we already called, so we have one of the French group … and then, Dario Menor.
Antoine-Marie Izoard: Good day, Your Holiness. On behalf of colleagues of the French language on the flight — we are nine on this flight; for a Pope who is not keen on interviews, we are truly grateful to you. Since March 13, you have introduced yourself as the Bishop of Rome, with very great and strong insistence. So, we would like to understand what the profound meaning is of this insistence, if perhaps more than collegiality there is talk perhaps of ecumenism, for the case of being primus inter pares in the Church? Thank you.
Pope Francis: Yes, on this we must not go beyond what is said. The Pope is bishop, Bishop of Rome, because the Bishop of Rome is the Successor of Peter, Vicar of Christ. There are other titles, but the first title is “Bishop of Rome,” and everything stems from there. To speak, to think what this means to be primus inter pares, no, this isn’t a consequence of that. It’s simply the Pope’s first title: Bishop of Rome. But there are also others … I think you said something about ecumenism: I believe this favors ecumenism somewhat. But, this alone…
Question 7: on how the Pope feels about being Pope.
Father Lombardi: Now Darío Menor of La Razón of Spain.
Darío Menor Torres: A question about your feelings. You commented a week ago on the child who asked you how you felt, if someone could imagine how he could be Pope and if he could wish for it. You said one had to be mad to do it. After your first multitudinous experience, such as these days in Rio have been, can you tell us how you feel about being Pope, if it’s very hard, if you’re happy being so and, in addition, if in some way it has enhanced your faith or on the contrary, if you have had doubts. Thank you. [Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: To do the work of a bishop is a good thing, it’s good. The problem is when one seeks that work: this isn’t so good, this isn’t from the Lord. But when the Lord calls a priest to become bishop, this is good.
There’s always the danger of thinking oneself superior to others, not as others, somewhat as a prince. These are dangers and sins.
But the work of a bishop is good: it’s to help brothers to go forward. The bishop in front of the faithful, to show the way; the bishop in the midst of the faithful, to aid communion; the bishop behind the faithful, because the faithful so many times have the scent of the way. The bishop must be like this.
The question was if I like it? I like being bishop, I like it. I was so happy at Buenos Aires, so happy! I have been happy, it’s true. The Lord has helped me in that. But I was happy as a priest, and I’ve been happy as a bishop. In this regard I say: I like it!
Question off-screen: And being Pope?
Pope Francis: Also! Also! When the Lord puts you there, if you do what the Lord wants, you are happy. This is my sentiment, what I feel.
Question 8: on the Pope’s upcoming schedule of trips
Father Lombardi: Now another of the Italian group: Salvatore Mazza of Avvenire.
Salvatore Mazza: I can’t even get up. I’m sorry, I can’t even stand up because of the many wires I have at my feet. We saw in these days, we saw you full of energy even late in the evening. We are seeing it now with the plane that shakes, that you are standing calmly, without an ounce of hesitation. We wish to ask you: there is much talk of forthcoming trips. There’s talk of Asia, Jerusalem, Argentina. Do you already have a more or less definite calendar for the coming year, or is it all still up in the air?
Pope Francis: As for “definite-definite” there is nothing yet. But I can say something to which thought is being given. It is definite — sorry — a September 22 trip to Cagliari. Then, on October 4 to Assisi.
In my intentions, within Italy, I would like to meet my own relatives (in northern Italy) one day: go by plane in the morning and return that night, because they, poor things, call me and we have a good relationship. But only one day.
Outside of Italy: Patriarch Bartholomew wants to have a meeting to commemorate the 50 years of Athenagoras and Paul VI at Jerusalem. The Israeli government has also extended a special invitation to go to Jerusalem. I believe the government of the Palestinian Authority has done the same. Thought is being given to this: it’s not certain whether one will or will not go…
Then, in Latin America, I don’t think there is the possibility to return because the Pope is Latin American, the first trip was in Latin America… goodbye! We must wait a bit!
I think we can go to Asia, but this is all in the air. I received an invitation to go to Sri Lanka and also to the Philippines. But we must go to Asia. Because Pope Benedict did not have the time to go to Asia, and it’s important. He went to Australia and then to Europe, America, but Asia…
To go to Argentina: at present I think we can wait a bit, because all these trips have a certain priority. I would like to go to Constantinople, on September 30 [Note: the Pope meant November 30, as he stated a few seconds later], to visit Bartholomew I, but it’s not possible, it’s not possible because of my agenda. If we meet, we’ll do so at Jerusalem.
Questions off-screen: Fatima?
Pope Francis: Fatima, there is also an invitation to Fatima, it’s true, it’s true. There’s an invitation to go to Fatima.
Questions off-screen: September 30 or November 30?
Pope Francis: November, November: Saint Andrew.
Question 9: on why he told young Argentine pilgrims in Rio that he sometimes feels caged.
Father Lombardi: Well then, now we go back to the United States and we call on Hada Messia of CNN to ask you a question.
Hada Messia: Hello… you are holding up better than me… No, no, no: ok, ok. My question is: when you met with Argentine young people, somewhat jokingly, perhaps somewhat seriously you said to them that you, also, sometimes feel caged: we would like to know what you were referring to, exactly.
Pope Francis: You know how many times I wish to go on the streets of Rome, because in Buenos Aires I used to go on the street, I liked it so much! In this connection, I feel a bit caged.
But I mustn’t say this because those of the Vatican Gendarmerie are so good; they are good, good, good and I’m grateful to them.
Now they let me do a few more things. I believe… their duty is to guard the security. Caged, in that sense. I would like to go on the street, but I understand it’s not possible: I understand it. I said it in that sense. Because my habit was — as we say in Buenos Aires — I was a street priest…
Question 10: on whether the Charismatic Renewal in Brazil can help the Church keep Catholics from leaving the Church
[Note: It is on this occasion that the Pope for the first time breaks in and suggests that the interview should draw to a close by asking if the journalists are hungry and would like their dinner to be served, and then, a moment later, says he is tired.]
Father Lombardi: Now we call on a Brazilian again: it’s Marcio Campos, and I also ask Guenois to come close for the next turn, for the French.
Pope Francis: I was asking the time, because they must serve supper, but are you hungry?
Off-screen: No, no…
Marcio Campos: Your blessing, Holy Father. I want to say to you when you feel longing for Brazil, for the joyful Brazilian people, embrace the flag that they gave you. I want to say also that I want to thank my colleagues of the newspapers Folha de Sao Paulo, Estado, Globo and Veja for representing them with a question. Holy Father, it’s very difficult to accompany a Pope. We are all tired. You are fine and we are tired. In Brazil, the Catholic Church has lost faithful over the years. Is the Charismatic Renewal Movement a possibility to avoid the faithful joining the Pentecostal churches? Thank you very much for your presence, and thank you very much for our being on your flight. [Repeated in Italian]
You asked about the Charismatic Renewal Movement. I’ll tell you something. In the years, at the end of the 70s, beginning of the 80s, I couldn’t stand them. Once, speaking of them, I said this phrase: “They confuse a liturgical celebration with a samba school!” I said this.
But I repented. Then, I got to know them better. It’s also true that the Movement, with good advisers, has gone on a good path. And now I think this Movement has done so much good to the Church in general.
At Buenos Aires, I met with them often and once a year had a Mass with all of them in the Cathedral. I’ve always favored them, after I was converted, when I saw the good they do. Because at this moment of the Church — and here I lengthen the answer a bit — I think the Movements are necessary. The Movements are a grace of the Holy Spirit. “But how can one stop a Movement that is so free?” The Church is also free!
The Holy Spirit does what He wishes. Then He does the work of harmonizing, but I think the Movements are a grace, those Movements that have the spirit of the Church. Because of this, I think that the Charismatic Renewal Movement not only serves to avoid some going to join Pentecostal confessions. But no! It serves the Church! It renews us. And each one seeks his Movement according to his charism, where the Spirit takes him.
Pope Francis: I’m tired. I’m tired.
Question 11: The Pope’s vision for the role of women in the Church
Father Lombardi: Well then, Guénois of Le Figaro for the French group.
Jean-Marie Guénois: Holy Father, a question with my colleague of La Croix, also: You said that the Church without women loses fecundity. What concrete measures will you take? For instance, a feminine diaconate or a woman head of a dicastery? And a very small technical question: You said you were tired. Do you have a special preparation for the return? Thank you, Holiness.
Pope Francis: We begin with the last. This plane doesn’t have special preparations. I’m in front, in a nice armchair, but ordinary, not special, such as everyone has. I had a letter written and a telephone call made to say that I didn’t want special preparations on the plane: is it clear?
Second, women. A Church without women is like the Apostolic College without Mary. The role of women in the Church is not only maternity, the mother of the family, but it’s stronger: it is, in fact, the icon of the Virgin, of Our Lady, the one who helps the Church grow!
But think that Our Lady is more important than the Apostles! She is more important!
The Church is feminine: she is Church, she is spouse, she is Mother.
But women in the Church, not only must… I don’t know how it’s said in Italian… a woman’s role in the Church must not end only as mother, as worker, limited. No! It’s something else!
But the Popes… Paul VI wrote a very beautiful thing on women, but I think we must go further in making the role and charism of women more explicit. A Church without women can’t be understood, but active women in the Church, with their profile, which they carry forward.
I’m thinking of an example that has nothing to do with the Church, but it’s an historical example: in Latin America, in Paraguay. For me, the Paraguayan woman is the most glorious of Latin America. Are you Paraguayan? After the war, there were eight women for every man, and these women made a rather difficult choice: the choice of having children to save the homeland, the culture, the faith and the language.
In the Church, it must be made more explicit. I think we have not yet made a profound theology of woman in the Church. She can only do this or that, now she is an altar server, then she does the Reading, she is president of Caritas. But there is more! A profound theology must be made of woman. This is what I think.
Question 12: on the Pope’s relationship with Emeritus Pope Benedict.
Father Lombardi: Now for the Spanish group, we have Pablo Ordaz of El País.
Pablo Ordaz: We wanted to know your relation of work, not so much as friend, of collaboration, with Benedict XVI. There’s never been a circumstance like this before, and if you have frequent contacts, and if he is helping you with this burden. Thank you very much. [Repeated in Italian].
Pope Francis: I believe the last time there were two Popes, or three Popes, they didn’t speak to one another; they were fighting to see who was the true one. There were three in the Western Schism. There is something that… [Repeated in Italian]
There is something that qualifies my relation with Benedict: I love him so much. I’ve always loved him.
For me he is a man of God, a humble man, a man who prays. I was so happy when he was elected Pope. Also when he gave his resignation, it was for me an example of greatness! A great man. Only a great man does this!
A man of God is a man of prayer. He now lives in the Vatican, and some say to me: but how can this be? Two Popes in the Vatican! But, doesn’t he encumber you? Doesn’t he make a revolution against you? All these things that are said, no?
I’ve found a phrase to say this: “It’s like having a grandfather at home,” but a wise grandfather. When a grandfather is at home with a family, he is venerated, loved, listened to. He is a man of prudence! He doesn’t meddle. I’ve said to him so many times: “Holiness, you receive, make your life, come with us.” He came for the inauguration and blessing of the statue of St. Michael.
There, that phrase says everything. For me he is like having a grandfather at home: my father. If I had a difficulty or something I didn’t understand, I would telephone him: “But, tell me, can I do that?”
And when I went to talk about that big problem of Vatileaks, he told me everything with a simplicity… at the service. It’s something I don’t know if you know, I think so, but I’m not sure: when he spoke to us, in his farewell address on February 28, he said to us: “The next Pope is among you: I promise obedience to him.” But he’s a great man, he is a great!
Question 13: on the ordination of women
Father Lombardi: Well now we give the floor again to a Brazilian, Anna Ferreira; and now Gian Guido Vecchi is also coming for Italian.
Anna Ferreira: Holy Father, good evening. Thank you. I would like to say “thank you” so many times: thank you for having brought so much joy to Brazil, and thank you also for answering our questions. We, journalists, are so fond of asking questions. I would like to know, why, yesterday, you spoke to the Brazilian Bishops about women’s participation in our Church. I’d like to understand better: how should this participation be for us, women in the Church? If you … what do you think of the ordination of women? What should our position in the Church be?
Pope Francis: I would like to explain a bit what I said on the participation of women in the Church. It can’t be limited to being altar servers or presidents of Caritas, catechists … No! It must be more, but profoundly more!
Even mystically more, with what I’ve said of the theology of woman.
And, with reference to the ordination of women, the Church has spoken and she said : “No.”
John Paul II said it, but with a definitive formulation. That is closed, that door is closed.
But I’d like to say something about this. I’ve said it, but I repeat it. Our Lady, Mary, was more important than the Apostles, than bishops, deacons and priests.
In the Church, woman is more important than bishops and priests; how, it’s what we must seek to make more explicit, because theological explicitness about this is lacking. Thank you.
Question 14: on divorced and remarried persons receiving the sacraments
Father Lombardi: Gian Guido Vecchi, of Corriere della Sera: I ask Mrs. Pigozzi and Nicole then, to come after.
Gian Guido Vecchi: Holy Father, during this trip you have spoken many times about mercy. In regard to access to the sacraments of divorced persons who have remarried, is there a possibility that something will change in the discipline of the Church? That these sacraments be an occasion to bring these people closer, rather than a barrier that separates them from the other faithful?
Pope Francis: This is a subject that is always asked about.
This change of era, also so many problems of the Church — such as the witness that’s not good of some priests, also problems of corruption in the Church, also the problem of clericalism, to give an example — have left so many wounds, so many wounds.
And the Church is Mother: she must go to heal the wounds with mercy.
But if the Lord does not tire of forgiving, we have no other choice than this: first of all, to cure the wounds. The Church is Mother and must go on this path of mercy. And find mercy for all.
But I think, when the Prodigal Son returned home, his father didn’t say: “But you, listen sit down: what did you do with the money?” No! He had a feast! Then, perhaps, when the son wished to speak, he spoke.
The Church must do likewise. When there is someone… not just wait for them: go to find them! This is mercy. And I believe that this is a kairos: this time is a kairos of mercy.
But John Paul II had this first intuition, when he began with Faustina Kowalska, the Divine Mercy… he had something, he had intuited that it was a necessity of this time.
With reference to the problem of Communion, it’s not a problem, but when they are in a second union, they can’t. I think that it’s necessary to look at this in the totality of matrimonial ministry. And because of this it’s a problem.
But also — a parenthesis — the Orthodox have a different practice. They follow the theology of the economy, as we call it, and give a second possibility, they allow it. But I think this problem — close the parenthesis — must be studied in the framework of matrimonial ministry.
And because of this, two things: first, one of the subjects to be consulted with these eight of the Council of Cardinals, with whom we will meet, the 1st, 2nd and 3rd of October, is how to go forward in matrimonial ministry, and this problem will arise there.
And, a second thing: Fifteen days ago, the secretary of the Synod of Bishops was with me, for the topic of the next Synod. It was an anthropological topic, but speaking and speaking again, going and returning, we saw this anthropological topic: how faith helps the planning of the person, but in the family, and to go, therefore, to matrimonial ministry.
We are on the way for a somewhat profound matrimonial ministry.
And this is everyone’s problem, because there are so many, no? For instance, I’ll mention only one: Cardinal Quarracino, my predecessor, said that for him half of all marriages are null. Why did he say this? Because they get married without maturity, they marry without remembering that it’s for the whole of life, or they marry because socially they must marry.
And the matrimonial ministry also comes into this. And also the judicial problem of the nullity of marriages, this must be reviewed, because the Ecclesiastical Tribunals are not enough for this. The problem of the matrimonial ministry is complex. Thank you.
Question 15: on whether the Pope still feels himself a Jesuit
Father Lombardi: Thank you. Now, then, we have Mrs. Pigozzi who is of Paris Match, and again of the French group.
Caroline Pigozzi: Good evening, Holy Father. I would like to know if you, since you’ve been Pope, still feel yourself a Jesuit.
Pope Francis: It’s a theological question, because Jesuits take the vow of obedience to the Pope. But if the Pope is a Jesuit, perhaps he should take a vow of obedience to the General of the Jesuits… I don’t know how this is resolved…
I feel myself a Jesuit in my spirituality, in the spirituality of the Exercises, spirituality, the one I have in my heart. But I feel so much like this that in three days I’ll go to celebrate with Jesuits the feast of St. Ignatius: I will say the morning Mass.
I haven’t changed my spirituality, no. Francis, Franciscan: no. I feel myself a Jesuit and I think like a Jesuit. Not hypocritically, but I think as a Jesuit. Thank you.
Question 16: on how the Pope evaluates his pontificate thus far
Father Lombardi: If you can still bear it, there are still some questions. Now, Nicole Winfield, who is from Associated Press, and there are … but he wasn’t … but, I had a list and I really believed that you were organized … So, ok, Elisabetta, join the list also, sorry.
Nicole Winfield: Holiness, thank you again for having come “among the lions.” Holiness, at the fourth month of your pontificate, I would like to ask you to make a small evaluation. Can you tell us what was the best thing of being Pope, an anecdote, and what was the worst thing, and what was the thing that surprised you most in this period?
Pope Francis: Well, I don’t know how to answer this, really. Big thing, big things didn’t happen.
Beautiful things, yes, for instance, the meeting with Italian Bishops was so good, so good. As Bishop of the capital of Italy, I felt I was at home with them. And that was lovely, but I don’t know if it was the best.
Also a painful thing, which affected my heart a lot, the visit to Lampedusa. But that’s something to weep about, that did me good. But when these boats arrive they leave some thousands there before the coast and they must arrive alone with the boat. And this makes me grieve because I think that these persons are victims of a global socio-economic system.
But the worst thing — I’m sorry — that happened to me was sciatica — truly! — I had that the first month because to do the interviews I sat in an armchair, and this gave me some grief. It’s a very painful sciatica, very painful! I don’t wish it on anyone!
But these things: to talk with people; the meeting with seminarians and women religious was very lovely, was very lovely. Also the meeting with the students of the Jesuit colleges was very lovely, good things.
Question: What is the thing that surprised you most?
Pope Francis: The people, the people, the good people I’ve met. I’ve met so many good people in the Vatican. I thought what I should say, but that is true. I do justice, saying this: so many good people. So many good people, so many good people, but good, good, good!
Question 17: on how the Pope reacted to the Vatileaks report he received from Emeritus Pope Benedict
Father Lombardi: Elisabetta [Piqué of La Nación], but you know her, and also Sergio Rubín [of Clarín], perhaps is coming close, so we have the Argentines.
Elisabetta Piqué: Pope Francis, first of all on behalf of the 50,000 Argentines that I met there and who said to me: you are going to travel with the Pope? Please, tell him he was fantastic, stupendous, ask him when he is going to travel, but you already said you aren’t going to travel … So I’m going to ask you a more difficult question. Did you get scared when you saw the “Vatileaks” report? [Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: No. I’m going to tell you a story about the “Vatileaks” report. When I went to see Pope Benedict, after praying in the chapel, we went to his study and I saw a big box and a thick envelope. Benedict… [Repeated in Italian]
Benedict said to me: “All the statements, the things that the witnesses said are in this big box, all are there. But the summary and the final judgment are in this envelope. And it says this and this and this…” He had everything in his head! But what intelligence! Everything memorized everything!
But no [words in Spanish], I didn’t get scared, no. No, no. But it’s a big problem, alas. But I didn’t get scared.
Question 18: on whether the Brazil trip will help people to return to the Church, and on whether the Pope misses Buenos Aires
Sergio Rubín: Holiness, two little things. This is the first one: You have insisted a lot on halting the loss of faithful. In Brazil, it’s been very strong. Do you hope that this trip will contribute to having many people return to the Church, to feel closer to her? And the second, the more personal: you like Argentina a lot, and you have Buenos Aires very much in your heart. Argentines are wondering if you miss that Buenos Aires, the Buenos Aires you went around in a bus, on the streets. Thank you very much. [Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: I think a papal trip always does one good. I believe this will do good to Brazil, but not only the presence of the Pope, but what was done in this World Youth Day, they mobilized and they will do so much good, perhaps they will help the Church a lot. But these faithful who have gone away, so many aren’t happy because they feel they belong to the Church. I believe this will be positive, not only because of the trip, but above all because of the Days, the Day was a wonderful event.
And of Buenos Aires, yes, at times I miss it. And that I’ve felt.
But it is a serene missing, a serene missing, it is a serene missing. But I think that you, Sergio, know better than all the others, you can answer this question, with the book you’ve written!
Question 19: on what the Pope thinks about the celebration of the 1025th anniversary of the baptism of the Rus’, the origin of the Christian faith in Ukraine, Russia and Belarus
Father Lombardi: Now we have the Russian and then Valentina, who was the dean, who wanted to close.
Alexey Bukalov: Good evening Holy Father. Holy Father, returning to ecumenism: today the Orthodox are celebrating 1,025 years of Christianity. There are great celebrations in many capitals. Would you like to comment on this event, I would be happy if you did. Thank you.
Pope Francis: In the Orthodox Churches they have conserved that pristine liturgy, no? So beautiful. We [i.e., the Latin Christians] have lost a bit the sense of adoration, they conserve it, they praise God, they adore God, they sing, time does not count. The center is God and that is a richness that I would like to emphasize on this occasion as you ask me this question.
Once, speaking of the Western Church, of Western Europe, especially the Church that has grown most, they said this phrase to me: “Lux ex oriente, ex occidente luxus.” [“Light from the East, from the West, luxury.”]
Consumerism, well-being, have done us so much harm. Instead you keep this beauty of God at the centre, the reference.
When one reads Dostoyevsky — I believe that for us all he must be an author to read and reread, because he has wisdom – one perceives what the Russian spirit is, the Eastern spirit. It’s something that will do us so much good. We are in need of this renewal, of this fresh air of the East, of this light from the East. John Paul II wrote it in his Letter. But so many times the luxus of the West makes us lose the horizon. I don’t know, it came to me to say this. Thank you.
Question 20: on the canonisation of John XXIII & John Paul II
Father Lombardi: And now let’s close with Valentina who, as she began on the outbound trip, now may close on the return trip.
Valentina Alazraki: Holiness, thank you for keeping the promise to answer our questions on the way back… [Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: I delayed your supper … [Repeated in Italian]
Valentina Alazraki: It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter… well, the serious question on behalf of all the Mexicans: When are you going to Guadalupe? But that one is of the Mexicans. Mine is: you are going to canonize two great Popes, John XXIII and John Paul II. I would like to know, in your opinion, what is the model of holiness that issues from one and the other and the impact they’ve had on the Church and on you. [Repeated in Italian]
Pope Francis: John XXIII is somewhat the figure of the “country priest,” the priest who loves each one of the faithful, who knows how to care for the faithful and he did this as bishop as well as nuncio. But how many testimonies of false Baptism he did in Turkey in favour of the Jews!
He was a courageous man, a good country priest, with such a great sense of humor, so great, and great holiness. When he was nuncio, some didn’t like him so much in the Vatican, and when he arrived to bring things or ask for things, in certain offices they made him wait. He never, never lamented it: he prayed the Rosary, read the Breviary.
Also he was one who was concerned for the poor. When Cardinal Casaroli returned from a mission — I believe in Hungary or in what was Czechoslovakia at that time, I don’t remember which of the two — he went to him to explain how the mission was, in that period of diplomacy of “small countries.” And they had the audience — 20 days later John XXIII was dead — and while Casaroli was going, he stopped him: “Ah, Eminence (no, he wasn’t Eminence, Excellency), a question: are you still visiting those juvenile offenders?” Because Casaroli had made a habit of visiting the juvenile offenders imprisoned at Casal del Marmo to spend time with them. And Casaroli said: “Yes, yes!” “Don’t ever abandon them.” This to a diplomat, who had just come back from an important diplomatic journey, a very demanding trip. John XXIII said: “Don’t ever abandon the boys.”
He was a great man, a great man! Then there is the question of the Council: he was a man who was docile to the voice of God, because what came to him from the Holy Spirit came to him and he was docile. Pius XII thought of doing it, but the circumstances weren’t ripe to do it. I think that he [John XXIII] didn’t think of the circumstances: he felt that and he did it. A man who let himself be guided by the Lord.
Of John Paul II I wish to say he was “the great missionary of the Church”: he was a missionary, a missionary, a man who took the Gospel everywhere, you know it better than me. But how many trips did he make? But he went! He felt the fire of taking forward the Word of the Lord.
He is a Paul, he is a St. Paul, he is such a man; for me this is great.
And to do the ceremony of canonization of the two together I believe is a message for the Church: these two are brave, they are brave, they are two brave men. But there is underway the cause of Paul VI and also of Pope Luciani: these two are on the way.
But, again something that I believe I said, but I don’t know if here or elsewhere: the date of canonization. We thought December 8 of this year, but there’s a big problem; those who come from Poland, the poor, because those who have means can come by plane, but those who come, the poor, come by bus and in December the roads already have ice and I think the date must be thought out again. I spoke with Cardinal Dziwisz and he suggested two possibilities: either Christ the King of this year or the Sunday of Mercy of next year. I think Christ the King is too short a time for this year, because the Consistory will be on September 30 and at the end of October there is little time, but I don’t know, I must speak with Cardinal Amato about this. But I don’t think it will be December 8.
Question: But will they be canonized together?
Pope Francis: Together, the two together, yes.
Question 21: Mgr Ricca and the ‘gay lobby’ in the Vatican
Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. Who is there still? Ilze? Then we will have given everyone a chance, even more than were registered first …
Ilze Scamparini: I would like to ask permission to ask a somewhat delicate question: another image has also gone around the world, which is that of Monsignor Ricca and news about your privacy. I would like to know, Holiness, what do you intend to do about this question. How to address this question and how Your Holiness intends to address the whole question of the gay lobby?
Pope Francis: Regarding Monsignor Ricca: I did what Canon Law mandates to do, which is the investigatio previa. And from that investigatio there was nothing of that which they accuse him of, we did not find anything of that. This is the answer.
But I would like to add something else on this: I see that so many times in the Church, outside of this case and also in this case, they go to look for the “sins of youth,” for example, no? And this is published. Not the crimes. Crimes are something else: the abuse of minors is a crime. No, the sins.
But if a person, lay or priest or Sister, has committed a sin and then has converted, the Lord forgives, and when the Lord forgives, the Lord forgets and this is important for our life. When we go to confession and truly say: “I have sinned in this,” the Lord forgets and we don’t have the right not to forget, because we run the risk that the Lord won’t forget our [sins]. That’s a danger.
This is important: a theology of sin. I think so many times of St. Peter: he committed one of the worst sins, which is to deny Christ, and with this sin he was made Pope. We must give it much thought.
Then you spoke of the gay lobby. Goodness knows! So much is written of the gay lobby. I still have not met one who will give me the identity card with “gay.” They say that they exist.
I think that when one meets a person like this, one must distinguish the fact of being a gay person from the fact of doing a lobby, because not all lobbies are good. That’s bad.
If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge him? The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in such a beautiful way, it says, Wait a bit, as is said, and says: “these persons must not be marginalized because of this; they must be integrated in society.”
The problem isn’t having this tendency, no. We must be brothers, because this is one, but there are others, others. The problem is the lobbying of this tendency: lobby of the avaricious, lobby of politicians, lobby of Masons, so many lobbies. This, for me, is the more serious problem. And I thank you.
Father Lombardi: Thank you. It seems to me we could not have done much more. We have even abused a little the Pope, who told us earlier he was already a little tired, and we hope now he will have a bit of rest.
Pope Francis: Thanks to all of you. Good night, good journey, and rest well.