Here below is an English translation of the transcript of Pope Francis’ press conference given on the flight back from Strasbourg yesterday afternoon.
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Father Lombardi: Here we are. Well then, we are already returning from this brief but very intense trip. We are in admiration of the two long and demanding addresses you made. You have already said many things. However, journalists always still have some questions to ask. We have prepared five: you will decide if you wish to respond to all five. Well, we have two Frenchmen – given that we are in France, – and we give the floor immediately to Renaud Bernard, who is of France Television.
Renaud Bernard: Your Holiness, good evening. I am happy to ask this question on behalf of the French journalists. This morning, before the European Parliament, you gave an address with pastoral words, but with words that can be heard as political words, and which can come close – in my opinion – to a social-democratic sentiment. I can give a brief example. When you say that we must avoid removing the real expressive force of peoples in face of multi-national powers — can we say that you are a social-democratic Pope?
Pope Francis: My dear, this is reductionism! I felt there that I was in a collection of insects: “This is a social-democratic insect …” No, I would say no: I don’t know if there is a social-democratic Pope or not … I don’t dare qualify myself on one side or the other. I dare to say that this comes from the Gospel: This is the message of the Gospel, a matter of the Social Doctrine of the Church. In this, concretely, and in other things – social or political – which I said, I did not detach myself from the Social Doctrine of the Church. The Social Doctrine of the Church comes from the Gospel and from the Christian Tradition. What I said – the identity of peoples – is an evangelical value, no? I say it in this sense. But you have made me laugh, thank you!
Father Lombardi: Thank you very much, Holiness. And now we give the floor to Jean-Marie Guenois of “Le Figaro.” He also represents the French.
Jean-Marie Guenois: Your Holiness, there was almost no one on the streets of Strasbourg this morning. It was said that people were disappointed. Do you regret that you did not go to the Cathedral of Strasbourg, which is celebrating its millennial this year? And when will you make your first trip to France and where — perhaps to Lisieux?
Pope Francis: No, it is not planned yet, but one must certainly go to Paris, no? Then, there is a proposal to go to Lourdes … I have asked for a city where no Pope has ever gone, to greet the citizens. However, the plan has not been made. No, the thing was thought out for Strasbourg, but to go to the Cathedral would already have been a visit to France, and this was the problem.
Father Lombardi: In any case, the Bishop of Strasbourg says that he gave the Pope two very beautiful volumes on the Cathedral, which you will thus be able to study and see personally.
Well, now we give the floor to Giacomo Galeazzi of “La Stampa,” who represents, to an extent, the Italian journalists present on the flight.
Giacomo Galeazzi: Holiness, good evening. I was struck, in your address to the Council of Europe, by the concept of transversality, which you recalled, and in particular you made reference to the meetings you have had with young politicians of several countries. In fact, you have spoken of the need for a sort of pact between the generations, of an inter-generational agreement, on the margin of this transversality. Then, if you allow me — a personal curiosity: is it true that you are a devotee of Saint Joseph?
Pope Francis: … of course!
Giacomo Galeazzi: …and that you have a statue in your room?
Pope Francis: Yes! Whenever I have asked Saint Joseph for something he has always given it to me.
The issue of “transversality” is important. I have seen in conversations with young politicians, in the Vatican, especially of different parties and nations, that they speak with a different tone, that is conducive to transversality: it’s a value! They are not afraid to come out of their own membership, without denying it, but to come out to dialogue. And they are courageous! I think we must imitate this, and also the inter-generational dialogue. This going out to find persons of other memberships and to dialogue: Europe is in need of this today.
Father Lombardi: Now we give the floor to Javier Maria Alonso Martinez for whom, if I’m not mistaken, this is also the first international trip he is on. He represents the Spanish and we give him the honor to ask the Pope a question.
Javier Maria Alonso Martinez: Good evening, Holiness. This is a question on behalf of the Spanish journalists, who are interested. In your second address, that to the Council of Europe, you spoke of the sins of the children of the Church. I would like to know how you received the news on what occured in Granada, which you in some way brought to light …
Pope Francis: I received it, as it was sent to me, I read it, I called the person and I said: “Tomorrow, you go to the Bishop”; and I wrote to the Bishop to begin the work, to do the investigation and to go ahead. How did I receive it? With great pain, with very great pain, but the truth is the truth, and we must not hide it.
Father Lombardi: Well, one last question will be asked by Andreas Englisch, on behalf of journalists of other linguistic groups.
Andreas Englisch: Your Holiness, I have the honor to ask the question for the group of international journalists. In your addresses now at Strasbourg you spoke often be it of the terrorist threat be it of the threat of slavery: these are also typical attitudes of the Islamic State, which threatens a great part of the Mediterranean, they even threaten Rome and you also, in your person. Do you think that there can also be dialogue with these extremists, or do you believe that this is something wasted?
Pope Francis: I never consider something wasted, never. Perhaps there can’t be dialogue, but a door must never be closed. It’s difficult, I can say “almost impossible,” but the door must always be open. You used the word “threat” twice: it’s true, terrorism is a reality that threatens … But slavery is a reality inserted in today’s social fabric, and has been for a long time! Slave labor, the traffic of persons, the commerce of children … it’s a tragedy! Let’s not close our eyes in face of this! Today, slavery is a reality, the exploitation of persons … And then there is the threat of the terrorists. Another threat is also State terrorism. When things come up, come up, come up and every State on its own feels it has the right to kill the terrorists and with the terrorists so many fall who are innocent. And this is a high-level anarchy that is very dangerous. We must fight terrorism, but I repeat what I said in the previous trip: when unjust aggression must be stopped, it must be done with international consensus.
Father Lombardi: Well, there is still another question, a last one.
Caroline Pigozzi: Your Holiness, good day. I would like to know if, when you travel to Strasbourg, you travel in your heart as Successor of Peter, as Bishop of Rome, or as Archbishop of Buenos Aires …
Pope Francis: Caroline is very sharp! I don’t know, truly, I don’t know. But … I travel, I believe, with the three things, because I’ve never asked myself this question. You’re realy making me think now!
Caroline Pigozzi: It’s a woman’s question …
Pope Francis: No, but truly … The memory is of Archbishop of Buenos Aires, but this is no longer. Now I am Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter, and I believe that I travel with that memory but with this reality: I travel with these things. For me, at this moment, Europe is my concern and, to help, it is good that I go forward, and this as Bishop of Rome and Successor of Peter: there I am Roman.
Thank you so much for your work! It was truly an intense day. Thank you, thank you so much. Don’t forget to pray for me. Thank you.
Father Lombardi: Thank you. Have a good lunch.[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]