Pope Francis' Press Conference on Flight from Turkey (Part II)

“On the issue of Primacy we must go to somewhat to the first millennium for inspiration”

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Here is Part II of the transcript of the Holy Father’s press conference with journalists aboard his flight from Apostolic Visit to Turkey. 

Part I was published on Tuesday, December 2nd. 

* * *

(Father Lombardi)

Thank you very much. So, now we call Mimmo Muolo, for the Italian group, the journalist of “Avvenire.”

(Mimmo Muolo)

Good evening, Your Holiness.

(Pope Francis)

Are you all right?

(Mimmo Muolo)

I am well, thank you. Your Holiness, I am honored to ask you this question on behalf of the Italian journalists. I was struck by a phrase you said this morning during the Divine Liturgy: “I wish to assure each one of you that to attain the longed-awaited goal of full unity, the Catholic Church does not intend to impose any requirement.” We would like you to explain this phrase to us a bit more, it it’s possible, and if it concerns the problem of the Primacy to which you referred to earlier.

(Pope Francis)

That is not a requirement: it’s an agreement, because they also want it. It is an agreement to find a way that is more in keeping with that of the first centuries. Between parenthesis, what I feel most profoundly in this path of unity is the homily I gave yesterday on the Holy Spirit. Only the way of the Holy Spirit is the right way, because He is a surprise, He will make us see where the point is; He is creative … The problem is that – and this, perhaps, is a self-criticism, but it is more or less what I said in the General Congregations before the Conclave  — the Church has the defect, the sinful habit, to look at herself too much, as if she believed she has her own light. But look: the Church doesn’t have her own light. She must look at Jesus Christ! The Church, as the early Fathers called her, is the “mysterium lunae,” the mystery of the moon, why? Because it gives light, but not its own, it is the light that comes from the sun. And when the Church looks at herself too much, divisions follow. And this is what happened after the first millennium. Today, […] we were talking about the moment, about a post – I don’t remember which – where a Cardinal went to give the Pope’s excommunication to the Patriarch: at that moment, the Church looked at herself! She did not look at Jesus Christ. And I think that all these problems that happen between us, between Christians — I speak at least of our Catholic Church — happen when she looks at herself: she becomes “self-referential.” Today, Bartholomew used a word that is not “self-referential” but is quite similar, very beautiful … I don’t remember it now, but it was very beautiful, very beautiful [the term, translated into English, was “introversion”]. They accept the Primacy; in today’s Litany they prayed for the “Shepherd and Primate.” As they said, “he who presides …”” They recognize him, they said so today, in front of me. However, on the issue of Primacy we must go to somewhat to the first millennium for inspiration. I am not saying that the Church was wrong, no. She followed her historic way. However, now the historic way of the Church is what Saint John Paul II asked for: “Help me to find a point of agreement in the light of the first millennium.” This is the key point. When the Church reflects herself, the Church gives up being Church and becomes a theological NGO.”

(Father Lombardi)

Thank you, Your Holiness. Now we invite our friend Irene Hernandez Velasco, who is from “El Mundo,” and who is on her last trip, because she will later be transferred to Paris, so we give the floor to her.(Irene Hernandez Velasco)

Thank you, Your Holiness. I would like to ask you about the historic bow you made yesterday before the Patriarch of Constantinople. Above all, I would like to know how you think you will address the criticisms of those who perhaps did not understand these gestures of openness, especially those of the area that is somewhat ultra-conservative, who always see with a bit of suspicion your gestures of openness.

(Pope Francis)

Allow me to say that this is not just our problem: it is also their problem [of the Orthodox]. They have the problem of some monks, of some monasteries that follow this line. For instance, a problem that has been discussed since the time of Blessed Paul VI is the date of Easter. And we don’t come to an agreement! Because to observe it on the date of the first moon after the 14 of Nisan has the danger that with the years it goes forward , and we will run the risk  — our great grandchildren will – of celebrating it in August! And we must continue to seek … Blessed Paul VI suggested a fixed date, a Sunday in April, to be agreed.  Bartholomew was courageous, for instance, in two cases – I remember one, but there is another. He said in Finland, to the small Orthodox community: “Celebrate Easter with the Lutherans, on the date of the Lutherans,” because in a country of Christian minority there are not two Easters. But the Eastern Catholics also … I heard it once at table, in Via della Scrofa …Easter was being prepared in the Catholic Church, and there was an Eastern Catholic who said: “O no, our Christ resurrected a month later! Your Christ resurrected today?” And the other answered: “your Christ is my Christ.” The date of Easter is important. There are resistances to this, on their part and on our part. These conservative groups … we must be respectful of them and not tire to explain, to catechize, to dialogue, without insulting, without sullying them, without slandering them. Because you cannot cancel a person saying: “This is a conservative.” No. He is a child of God as much as I am. But come, we’ll talk. If he doesn’t want to talk it’s his problem, but I have respect for him. Patience, meekness, dialogue.

(Father Lombardi)

Thank you, Your Holiness. And we invite Patricia Thomas of AP, who asks her question on behalf of the American group. She is a great traveller with the Pope; she represents the pool of American television channels.

(Patricia Thomas)

Hello. I would like to ask a question on the Synod, if you allow me. During the Synod there was some controversy over the language, over how the Church should treat homosexuals. The first document spoke of receiving gays and it spoke very positively of them. Are you in agreement with this language?

(Pope Francis)

I will say something first: I would like the main topic of your news to be this trip. However, I will answer, I will answer, be calm. But this might not be, perhaps, the most striking thing: people need to be informed about the trip. But I will answer you. The Synod is, first, a course, it is a path. Second: the Synod is not a Parliament. It is a protected space so that the Holy Spirit can speak. Every day a briefing was held with Father Lombardi and other Synodal Fathers, who said things that were discussed that day. Some of them were contrasting things. Then, at the end of these interventions, that sketch was made, which was the first report. Then this was the working document for the linguistic groups who worked on this, and then they gave their contributions which were made public: they were in the hands of all the journalists. That is, as this linguistic group – English, Spanish, French, Italian – saw every part of that [first report]. Among which was also that part that you mentioned. Then all went to the writing commission and this commission sought to insert all the amendments. What was essential stayed, but everything must be reduced, everything, everything. And what remained essential is in the final report. However, it doesn’t end there: this is also a provisional writing, because it became the “Lineamenta” for the next Synod. This document was sent to the Episcopal Conferences, which must discuss it, send their amendments; then another “Instrumentum laboris” will be made and then the other Synod will do its own. It is a course. Therefore, an opinion cannot be had of a person or of a sketch. We must see the Synod in its totality. I am not even in agreement – but this is my opinion; I don’t want to impose it – I am not in agreement that it be said: “Today this Father has said this, today this Father has said that.” No, one must say what was said, but no who said it because – I repeat – it’s not a Parliament; the Synod is a protected ecclesial space, and this protection exists so that the Holy Spirit can work. This is my answer. 

(Father Lombardi)

Thank you, Your Holiness. Well then, now we give the floor to Antoine-Marie Izoard of the French group.

(Antoine-Marie Izoard)

Your Holiness, first of all I would like to say that the families of France, the faithful, await you with much joy.

You were able to spend little time with the refugees this afternoon. So, why was it not possible during this trip to visit a camp? And again, if you think kindly that you can tell us if you think you will go soon to Iraq?

(Pope Francis)

Yes. I wanted to go to a camp, and Dr. Gasbarri made all the calculations, he did everything, but an additional day was needed, so it was not possible. It wasn’t possible for many reasons, not only personal ones. And then I asked the Salesians who work with refugee youth to bring them. And I was with them before going to visit the Armenian Archbishop who is sick in the hospital and finally, then to the airport. And I had a conversation with them. And here I want to take the opportunity to thank the Turkish government: it is generous, it is generous. I forget the number of refugees there are …

(Alberto Gasbarri)

There are about one million in the whole country.

(Pope Francis)

One million! But do you know what it means for a million people who come to you there, and you must think of their healthcare, their food, give them a bed, a house …It has been generous. And I want to thank them publicly. And then, the other question? …

(Antoine-Marie Izoard)

Iraq.

(Pope Francis)

Yes. I want to go to Iraq. I had spoken with Patriarch Sako, I have sent Cardinal Filoni, and for the time being it isn’t possible. Not only because I don’t want to. If I were to go at this time, it would create quite a serious problem of security for the authorities … But I would so like to go and I want to go. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

We still have two questions before concluding. Thomas Jansen, for the German group, and Hiroshi Isida, for the Japanese. I invite Thomas to come.

(Thomas Jansen)

Holy Father, a few days ago you visited the European Parliament at Strasbourg. Did you also speak with President Erdogan about the European Union and Turkey’s entrance?

(Pope Francis)

No. We did not speak about this subject with Erdogan. It’s curious: we spoke about so many things, but we didn’t speak about this.

(Father Lombardi)

Now, Hiroshi Ishida: so we go to Asia.

(Hiroshi Ishida)

Holiness, I am happy to ask the question in representation of the Japanese journalists. For me, this is the last trip in which I will be able to follow you, because I will return to Japan in January. However, I will await you with joy next year at Nagasaki with the faithful. Therefore, I would like to ask you, in connection with the “Third World War” and nuclear arms: during the ceremony held in September at Redipuglia, you said that that the Third World War has already been fought “in pieces” in the whole world. Next year will mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, as well as of the tragedy of the atomic bomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. However, there are many nuclear arms in the world. What do you think of the tragedy of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and how do you think we, human beings, should behave with these nuclear arms and with the threat of radiation? Thank you.

(Pope Francis)

I must say two things.

First: it’s a personal opinion, but I’m convinced that we are living a Third World War in pieces, in chapters, everywhere. Behind this there are enmities, political problems, economic problems  — not only, but there are so many, to save this system where the god of money is at the center, and not the human person – and businesses. The traffic of arms is terrible, it is one of the strongest matters at this moment. And, therefore, I believe that this reality is multiplied, because arms are given. I think of last year in September, when it was said that Syria had chemical arms. Who sold them to her? Perhaps some of the same ones that accused her of having them? I don’t know. But on this matter of arms there is so much mystery.

Second. Atomic energy. It’s true: the example of Hiroshima and Nagasaki … Humanity has not learned, it has not learned. It is incapable of learning what is elementary in this argument. God has given us creation so that from this primordial “in-culture” we would make a “culture.” We can bring it forward. And man has done this, and he has even discovered nuclear energy, which can be useful for so many things, but he uses it also to destroy creation and humanity. And this becomes a second way of “in-culture”: that primordial in-culture that man should transform into culture becomes another in-culture, the second. And this is an in-culture – I don’t want to say the end of the world –, but it is a terminal in-culture. Then we will have to begin again afresh, and it is terrible how your two cities had to begin afresh.

(Father Lombardi)

Then we have a last question with [Franca] Giansoldati, who was registered for the Italian group, and then we will conclude.

(Franca Giansoldati)

Your Holiness, you are returning from this trip to Turkey. I haven’t heard anything about the Armenians. Next year will be the centenary of the genocide of the Armenians and the Turkish government has a position of denial. I would like to know what you think about this. And you earlier spoke also of the martyrdom of blood, which recalls directly what happened here and which cost the life of one and a half million people.

(Pope Francis)

Thank you, Today I went to the Armenian hospital to visit the Armenian Archbishop who has been there, sick, for some time, for some time … On this trip, I had contacts with the Armenians. The Turkish government made a gesture last year: at the time Prime Minister Erdogan wrote a letter on the date of this occurrence; a letter that some judged to be too weak, but it was — in my judgment — whether great or little, I don’t know, an extending of the hand. And this is always positive. I can extend my hand this way or I can extend my hand that way, waiting to see what the other says to me, so as not to be embarrassed. And what the Prime Minister did then was positive. Something that I had very much at heart was the Turkish-Armenian border: if that border could be opened, it would be something good! I know that there are geo-political problems in the region, which do not facilitate the opening of that border. I also know that there is good will on both sides — so I believe – and we must help so that this is done. Foreseen for next year are so many commemorative ceremonies of this centenary but we hope that they will agree on the way of little gestures, little steps of approach. This is what comes to me to say at this moment. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

Thank you very much, Your Holiness. Thank you for this very ample conference, for this extremely serene conversation, which, I must say, has given us all great joy and great peace. To conclude, I would like to ask you to say only two words of congratulations to KTO, which is the French Catholic Television channel that is celebrating 15 years of life

(Pope Francis)

To KTO … a cordial greeting, a cordial greeting and my best wishes for it to go forward to help people understand w
ell the things that happen in the world. Best wishes, and may the Lord bless you.

And I thank you for your kindness and, please, don’t forget to pray for me. I need it. Thank you.

(Father Lombardi)

Truly, thank you very much, Your Holiness, for this gift.

[Translation by ZENIT]
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