Vatican City, 20 September 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis has granted a
lengthy interview, published in the Italian Jesuit magazine "La Civilta
Cattolica" and simultaneously in another sixteen magazines linked to the
Society of Jesus throughout the world. The interview was the result of
three private meetings and more than six hours of discussion between the
Pope and the editor of "La Civilta Cattolica", Fr. Antonio Spadaro,
during the month of August at the Santa Marta guesthouse.
In the interview, more than thirty pages long, the Pope talks frankly
about himself, his artistic and literary tastes (Dostoyevski and
Holderlin, Borges and Cervantes, Caravaggio and Chagall, but also
Fellini's "La Strada", Rossellini, "Babette's Feast", Mozart, and
Wagner's "Tetralogy"), and his experience in the Society of Jesus and as
archbishop of Buenos Aires. He defines himself as "a sinner. This is the
most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary
genre. I am a sinner."
Referring to his period as Provincial in the Society of Jesus, he says,
"My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have
serious problems and to be accused of being ultraconservative". However,
as archbishop this experience helped him to understand the importance of
listening to the viewpoints of others. "I believe that consultation is
very important. The consistories, the synods are, for example, important
places to make real and active this consultation. We must, however, give
them a less rigid form".
He also talks about how his Jesuit training, and the process of
discernment in particular, have enabled him to better face his ministry.
"For example, many think that changes and reforms can take place in a
short time. I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations
for real, effective change. … The wisdom of discernment redeems the
necessary ambiguity of life and helps us find the most appropriate
means, which do not always coincide with what looks great and strong."
For the Pope, the Church nowadays is most in need of "the ability to
heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness,
proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is
useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and
about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then
we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. ...
And you have to start from the ground up. The church sometimes has
locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most
important thing is the first proclamation: Jesus Christ has saved you! …
Instead of being just a church that welcomes and receives by keeping the
doors open, let us try also to be a church that finds new roads, that is
able to step outside itself and go to those who do not attend Mass, to
those who have quit or are indifferent".
With reference to complex questions such as homosexuality or the
situation of divorced and remarried Catholics, he insists on the need to
"always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human
being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them,
starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with
The Pope added that "The dogmatic and moral teachings of the church are
not all equivalent" and "The church's pastoral ministry cannot be
obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to
be imposed insistently. … We have to find a new balance. … The proposal
of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this
proposition that the moral consequences then flow".
Reflecting on the role of women in the Church, he reiterated that "the
feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The
challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also
in those places where the authority of the church is exercised for
various areas of the church".
Another theme considered during the interview was the importance of the
Vatican Council II as "a re-reading of the Gospel in light of
contemporary culture," says the Pope. "Vatican II produced a renewal
movement that simply comes from the same Gospel. Its fruits are
enormous. Just recall the liturgy. The work of liturgical reform has
been a service to the people as a re-reading of the Gospel from a
concrete historical situation. Yes, there are hermeneutics of continuity
and discontinuity, but one thing is clear: the dynamic of reading the
Gospel, actualising its message for today – which was typical of Vatican
II – is absolutely irreversible".
In the final passages of the interview, Francis spoke of the "temptation
to seek God in the past or in a possible future", and remarked that "God
is certainly in the past because we can see the footprints. And God is
also in the future as a promise. But the 'concrete' God, so to speak, is
today. For this reason, complaining never helps us find God. The
complaints of today about how 'barbaric' the world is – these complaints
sometimes end up giving birth within the Church to desires to establish
order in the sense of pure conservation, as a defence. No: God is to be
encountered in the world of today".
The full text of the interview can be found the online editions of
American Magazine ( www.americanmagazine.org) and the UK-based Thinking
Faith ( www.thinkingfaith.org).