In an hour-long, wide-ranging press conference on the plane back from South Korea, Pope Francis has said he favours UN-backed efforts to stop unjust aggression in Iraq, and plans on visiting the U.S. and U.N. headquarters in New York in 2015.
He also discussed Chinese relations, the Invocation for Peace for the Holy Land, and his upcoming encyclical on creation.
When asked by journalists about the Islamic State’s aggression against Christian minorities in Iraq and US air-strikes, the Pope responded: “In these cases where there is unjust aggression, all I can say is this: it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underline the verb ‘stop.'” He added, “I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means.”
“With what means can they be stopped?” he asked. “These have to be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit.”
Humanity has the right, the Pope said, “to stop the unjust aggressor,” as well as to ensure the aggressor is “stopped so that he does not do evil.”
He thanked the journalist for mentioning the minorities, who, he underlined, make up some of the many martyrs. “There are men and women, religious minorities, not all of them Christian, and they are all equal before God,” he said.
When asked about the possibility of visiting the Iraq war zone, he said he was “willing to [go there.]” He continued: “When we heard with my collaborators about the killings of the religious minorities, the problem at that moment in Kurdistan was that they could not receive so many people,” and we pondered “What can be done?”
In response, he said Fr. Lombardi issued the communiqué in his name, sending it to all the nunciatures, so it could reach governments. He added they also wrote a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, and, finally, decided to send a personal envoy there, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples.
He reiterated: “I said if it were necessary when we return from Korea, we can go there,” adding: “At the moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am ready for this.”
In response to whether the peace prayer meeting with Israeli and Palestinian presidents this June was a failure given the fresh fighting in Gaza, the Pontiff said it was “absolutely not” since “these two men are men of peace, they are men who believe in God and they have dialogue, negotiation, and peace.”
When asked about torture, he said: “Today, torture is almost the norm in intelligence operations and some judicial processes,” and added “torture is a sin against humanity, it is a crime against humanity.”
With regard to the Holy See’s relationship with China and the Pope possibly visiting the nation, he said: “If I want to go to China? For sure! Tomorrow!”
“We respect the Chinese people. The Church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work. There’s no other condition,” he continued. “The Holy See is always open to contacts. Always. Because it has a true esteem for the Chinese people.”
The Pope mentioned his September trip to Albania and said that next year he would like to go to Philadelphia, for the meeting of the families. “Then, I have been invited by the President of the United States to the American Congress. And also the Secretary General of the United Nations has also invited me to the Secretariat of the UN in New York. So maybe the three cities together.”
“Then there’s Mexico,” the Pope added, “The Mexicans want me to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, so we could take advantage of that too (during the US visit), but it’s not certain.”
When asked whether Spain can have hope that he will visit Avila in 2015, the Pontiff responded, “Yes” they can have hope, but there is not a definitive decision yet.
Francis spoke about his good relationship with Benedict XVI, and again inferring that he, too, would resign the papacy if he found himself unable to continue. “I would do the same! I would do the same,” he said. “I would pray, but I would do the same.”
Turning to the upcoming encyclical dedicated to the protection of creation, he said he has been talking a lot about it with Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and has asked him to gather all the input that has arrived.
“Four days before the trip,” he said, “Cardinal Turkson brought me the first draft. It’s as thick as this. I’d say it’s about a third longer than Evangelii Gaudium. It’s the first draft. It’s not an easy question because, on the custody of creation, and ecology, also human ecology, one can talk with a certain security up to a certain point, but then the scientific hypotheses come, some sufficiently secure, others not. “
“In an encyclical like this,” he said, “which has to be magisterial, one can only go forward on the things that are sure, the things that are secure. If the Pope says the centre of the universe is the earth and not the sun, he’s wrong because he says a thing that is scientifically not right. That’s what happens now. So we have to do the study now, number by number, and I believe it will become smaller. But going to the essentials, to that which one can affirm with security,” he said. “It has to be secure.”
The Pope also said the beatification process of the Salvadoran archbishop Oscar Romero is now “unblocked”, and reflected on his meeting with relatives of the Sewol ferry sinking in Korea.
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