“The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps well and has friends like everyone else. He is a normal person.” This was the description given by Pope Francis in an in-depth interview published today in the Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera.

The Holy Father, who was interviewed by editor in chief Ferruccio de Bortoli, reflected on several themes of his pontificate which will celebrate its first anniversary on March 13th.

Among the questions asked by Bortoli was on the Pope’s relationship with his predecessor, Benedict XVI. “He is discreet, humble, he does not want to bother,” the Pope said. Many were surprised to see the Pope Emeritus, who said he would “take up a life of prayer and meditation”, at the recent Consistory of Cardinals. Pope Francis said he spoke with Benedict XVI and agreed together that it was best that people see him.

“His wisdom is a gift from God,” the Pope said. “Some would have wanted him to retire to a Benedictine abbey far from the Vatican. And I thought of grandparents, who with their wisdom and counsel give strength to the family and should not end up in a retirement home.”

On being the focus of the world's attention, the Pope dismissed what he described as “ideological interpretations” of himself, calling it a “mythology of Pope Francis.”

When someone says,for example, that I go out at night from the Vatican to give food to the beggars in Via Ottaviano...It never came to mind,” he said. “To paint the Pope as if he were some kind of Superman, a sort of star, is offensive. The Pope is a man who laughs, cries, sleeps well and has friends like everyone else. He is a normal person.”

The Holy Father says that while he doesn’t miss his homeland, he would like to visit his sister who has been sick. However, he noted, that it does not justify an apostolic trip just yet. The Pope confirmed that he doesn’t plan to visit Latin America before 2016. “Now I must go to the Holy Land, Asia and then Africa," he said.

The Holy Father once again addressed accusations that his views were Marxist. Upon the release of Evangelii Gaudium, American conservative media figure Rush Limbaugh said his views on capitalism and the plight of the poor were “pure Marxism". 

But the Pope told Corriere della Sera that he has "never shared the Marxist ideology because it is not true, but I know many good people who have professed Marxism."

Bortoli asked the Holy Father several questions regarding marriage and the family, which will be the central theme of the upcoming Extraordinary Synod of Bishops in October. Regarding marriage, the Holy Father reiterated the Church’s stance, saying that “marriage is between a man and a woman.”

Referring to the Pope's upcoming visit to the Holy Land, Bortoli wondered if it would bring about an agreement on intercommunion with the Orthodox Church. While acknowledging that everyone is anxious to obtain results, Pope Francis said the path to unity means to walk and work together.

“I’m not sure if the story is true, where it is said that Athenagoras suggested to Paul VI that they should walk together and send all theologians to an island to argue amongst themselves,” the Pope said. “It’s a joke but it is important to walk together. Orthodox theology is very rich. And I believe that they have at this moment great theologians. Their vision of the Church and of sinodality (collegiality) is wonderful.” (J.A.E.)


On the NET: Pope Francis' interview (Italian)

Pope's Ash Wednesday Homily

“Why do we have to return to God? Because there are things that are not well in us, in society, in the Church and we are in need of changing, of turning, of being converted!”