[Austen Ivereigh] Pope Francis yesterday warned that the choice facing the world on climate change was stark, but that he was confident that the United Nations meeting of nations in Paris known as COP21 has the will to take decisive action.
“We’ve reached the limit,” he told journalists on the flight back to Rome from Bangui in the Central African Republic. “We’re on the verge of suicide, to use a strong word. And, I’m sure that nearly the entirety of all of those in Paris for the COP21 have this awareness and want to do something.”
The Paris talks, involving 200 nations, are intended to agree a plan to avoid the worst impacts of climate change such as severe droughts, floods and storms, by curbing carbon emissions. The talks began at the weekend and go on until 11 December.
In the in-flight interview — transcript here, video here — Pope Francis also reflected on his trip to Africa, saying it held many surprises for him. He said he had been deeply struck by the crowds and their “great sense of welcome”, but he had also been pained by the poverty and exclusion he had found there — and wondered how the world could let it happen.
I thought, how is it that people do not notice? I felt great pain. Yesterday, for example, I went to a pediatric hospital, the only one in Bangui and maybe in the country, and in the intensive care unit they do not have instruments of oxygen. There were many malnourished children there, many of them, and doctor told me that the majority of them will die soon because they have a very bad malaria and are seriously malnourished …. If mankind does not change we will continue to have more miseries, tragedies, wars, children who die of hunger, of injustice. What does one think of those who have 80 percent of the world’s wealth in their hands? And this is not communism. This is the truth. But the truth is not easy to see.
Asked if the Church should change its position against allowing condoms to prevent AIDS, Pope Francis said the question was both too limited and too partial. He said that Catholic moral theology was faced with an apparent contradiction between preventing death and closing the sexual act to life, but that the question in reality was a much bigger one that required looking at the context of poverty in which Aids spreads. “I would say not to think about whether it’s lawful or not to heal on the Sabbath, I would say to humanity: ‘make justice,’ and when all are cured, when there is no more injustice, we can talk about the Sabbath.”
Asked about the arrests and trial of Mgr Vallejo Balda and Francesca Chaouqui, Pope Francis said that “mistakes were made” in appointing them to his reform commission in 2013. But he said that the leaking of documents had not surprised him and that he had lost no sleep over it “because it showed the work that had begun with the commission of cardinals, the C9, of seeking out corruption and dysfunction.”
He added that Benedict XVI had first brought the matter into the open in 2005 when, in a Via Crucis meditation at the Coliseum two before St John Paul II died, then then Cardinal Ratzinger had referred to “so much filth in the Church”. Cardinal Ratzinger, then the Dean of the College of Cardinals, had referred to the issue again in the Mass he celebrated at the start of the conclave. “He spoke about the same thing, and we elected him for that freedom in saying things,” Pope Francis said. “Since then, it’s been in the air that in the Vatican there is corruption. There is corruption there.” Later, he added: “Corruption has been around for a long time.”
Pope Francis also addressed war and religious fundamentalism. On war he said:
Wars happen for ambitions. Wars, I speak of wars not for defending oneself against an unjust aggressor but wars are an industry. In history, we’ve seen so many times that in a nation, the balance sheets aren’t going well, “Ah, let’s fight a war” and the offset is over. War is a business, a business of weapons. Terrorists, do they make weapons? Yeah, maybe just little ones. Who gives them to them to make war? There an entire network of interests where there is money or power behind, either imperial or joint power. But we have been at war for years and more all the time. The pieces are fewer and bigger. What do I think? I don’t know what the Vatican thinks, but what do I think? (laughs) That wars are a sin. They are against humanity. They destroy humanity. They are a cause of exploitation, of human trafficking, of so many things. They must be stopped. At the United Nations, twice I said this word, both in Kenya and in New York, that your work not be a “declarationist” nominalism, that it be effective, that they make peace. They do so many things. Here in Africa, I saw how the “Blue helmets” work. But this isn’t sufficient. Wars don’t come from God. God is a God of peace. God made the world. God made everything beautiful and then, according to the Biblical account, one brother kills another. It’s the first war, the first world war, between brothers. That’s what comes to me and it pains me greatly.
And on fundamentalism:
Fundamentalism is a sickness that exists in all religions. We Catholics have some, not just some, so many, who believe they have the absolute truth and they move forward with calumnies, with defamation and they hurt, they hurt. And, I say this because it’s my Church, also us, all of us. It must be combatted. Religious fundamentalism isn’t religious. Why? Because God is lacking. It’s idolatrous, as money is idolatrous. Making politics in the sense of convincing these people who have this tendency is a politics that we religious leaders must make, but fundamentalism that ends up always in tragedy or in crime, in a bad thing comes about in all religions a little bit.
He said that Muslims had many constructive virtues, including prayer, fasting and religious values, and that a religion could not be held responsible because “there are some, or even many, fundamentalist groups at a certain point in history.” He said Christians, too, needed to ask forgiveness for the religious wars carried out in their name.
But they have virtues, one can dialogue with them. Today I was at a mosque, an Imam prayed with me, he wanted to go around the small stadium with me in the popemobile, where there were many who couldn’t enter, and in the popemobile there was the Pope and an Imam. It was possible to speak. As everywhere, there are people with religious values, there are people who don’t…how many wars, not only religious, wars we Christians have made. It wasn’t the Muslims who did the Sack of Rome. They have virtues.
Asked about future trips, he said February’s to Mexico had not been finalised but would involve going to the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City, before going south to Chiapas and then to Morelia and Ciudad Juárez.
He added that trips at his age were not “healthy”.
“One can survive them but they are leaving their mark,” he said.