Text of Pope's Press Conference en Route to Manila

On Questions Regarding Ecology Encyclical, St. Joseph Vaz, Freedom of Speech, Children as Suicide Bombers, Truth Commissions, Etc.

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Here is a ZENIT translation of the transcription of the press conference Pope Francis gave on his flight Thursday from Sri Lanka to the Philippines.

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Father Lombardi:

As you see, on this intermediate trip we are all ready to listen to your words. And congratulations for the first part of the trip, which was carried out so brilliantly. As usual, we will now ask you a certain number of questions. When you are tired, and want to finish, just say so and go with tranquillity. Are you already tired now?

Well, to begin, as I know that there is something that you have very much at heart and that you want to say to us about this trip, and it is the meaning of the canonization of Saint Joseph Vaz, then I ask you to say it right away at the beginning, in such a way that we will then have received your important message.

Then we will pass to the questions. We have several persons who are already registered. Look here.

Pope Francis:

First of all, good morning, and also a to a doubt of Carolina: it’s true, the image of Our Lady of Lujan has arrived, thank you so much.

These canonizations were made with the methodology – it is foreseen in Church Law – which is called an equipollent canonization. It’s used when a man or a woman has been Blessed for a long time, and has the veneration of the People of God, in fact is venerated as a Saint, and the process of the miracle is not done. There are persons who have been like this for centuries. The process of Angela of Foligno was carried out like this; she was the first. Then I chose to do this for persons who were great evangelizers.  First of all, Peter Favre, who was an evangelizer of Europe: he died at 40, one can say, on the street; he travelled evangelizing. And then the others, the evangelizers of Canada, Francis of Laval and Mary of the Incarnation: these two were practically the founders of the Church in Canada; he as Bishop and she as a Sister, with all the apostolate they did there. Then the other is Joseph of Anchieta of Brazil, the founder of Sao Paulo, who was Blessed for a long time and now is a Saint. Here, Joseph Vaz, as evangelizer of Sri Lanka. And now, God willing, in September, I will canonize Junipero Serra in the United States, because he was the evangelizer of the West of the United States. They are figures who engaged in intense evangelization and are in tune with the spirituality and the theology of Evangelii Gaudium. I chose these figures because of this. It was this.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you. So now we pass to the questions for which our colleagues registered. The first is Jerry O’Connell of America Magazine, whom you know well. We give him the floor.

Gerard O’Connell

First of all, Holy Father, I agree with Father Lombardi. Congratulations for the good outcome of the visit to Sri Lanka. I am asking a question for the English group. We agreed to make a bridge question, which connects the visit to Sri Lanka with that to the Philippines. We saw the beauty of nature in Sri Lanka, but also the vulnerability of that Island: from climate changes to the sea, etc. We are going to the Philippines and you will visit an area already stricken. For a year or more you have been studying the question of ecology and the care of creation. My question, therefore, regards three aspects. First: is climate change due in the main to the work of man, to his lack of care of nature? Second: when will your Encyclical come out? Third: As we saw in Sri Lanka, you insist a lot on cooperation between religions. Do you intend to invite other religions to meet to address this problem? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

The first question: you said a word that spares me a specification: “in the main.” I don’t know if all together, but mainly, to a large extent it’s man that slaps nature’s face continually.  We have taken somewhat possession of nature, of sister earth, of Mother Earth. I remember – you have already heard this – what an old peasant once said to me: “God forgives always, we – men – forgive sometimes, nature never forgives.” If you slap her on the face, she does so in turn. I think we have exploited nature too much – deforestation, for example. I remember at Aparecida — at that time I didn’t understand this problem well, when I heard Brazilian Bishops speak of the deforestation of Amazonia, I did not understand well. Amazonia is a problem of the world. Then, five years ago, with a commission of human rights I appealed to the Supreme Court of Argentina to halt in the north of the country — in the northeast, Salta, Tartagal — to halt at least temporarily a terrible deforestation. This is one aspect. Another is one crop-cultivation. For instance, peasants know that if one cultivates corn for three years, one must then stop and cultivate something else for one or two years, to return nitrogen to the earth, so that the earth can grow. For example, only soya is cultivated, and we continue with soya until the earth is exhausted. Not everyone does this, but it is an example, as are many others. I think man has gone too far. Thank God, today there are voices, so many voices that speak about this. At this moment I would like to recall my beloved brother Bartholomew, who for years has preached about this subject. And I read so many things to prepare this Encyclical.

I can return to this, but I don’t want to be long. Guardini – I’ll only say this – has a word that explains it well enough. He says: the second way of lack of culture is the bad one. The first is the lack of culture that we receive with creation to make it culture, but when one takes too much possession and goes beyond, this culture goes against one. We think of Hiroshima. A lack of culture is created that is the second.

The Encyclical: the first draft was made by Cardinal Turkson with his team. Then with a few others I took it and worked on it. Then with some theologians I made a third draft, and I sent a copy to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to the Second Section of the Secretariat of State and to the Theologian of the Papal Household, so that they could study is thoroughly and so that I wouldn’t say “rubbish.” Three weeks later I received the answers, some very considerable, but all constructive. And now I will take a whole week in March to finish it. I believe that at the end of March it will be finished and will be sent for translations. I think that, if the work of translation goes well, – Monsignor Becciu is listening to me – he must help with this — if it goes well, it will be able to come out in June or July. What is important is that there be some time between the issue of the Encyclical and the meeting at Paris, so that it is a contribution. The meeting in Peru was not that much. I was disappointed by the lack of courage: they stopped at a certain point. Let’s hope that at Paris the representatives will be more courageous to go forward with this.

For the third question, I believe that the dialogue between the religions is important on this point. The other religions have a good vision. On this point there is also agreement to have the same vision – not yet in the Encyclical. In fact, I have spoken with some of the other religions on the subject and I know that Cardinal Turkson has also done so and at least two theologians have done so. This has been the path. It will not be a joint declaration. The meetings will come later.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you, Holy Father. And now we give the floor to Pia of the group of the Philippines.

Ana Patricia Hontiveros Pagkalinawan:

Holy Father, the Filipinos are very, very happy to welcome you in a few hours. My question is: what is your message for those thousands of people who could not [come to] meet you, and won’t be able to meet you in person, even if they wished to do so
? I’m sorry, I don’t speak Italian.

Pope Francis:

I risk being too simple in answering this, but I’ll say a word. The center, the core of the message will be the poor, the poor who want to go forward, the poor who suffered because of Typhoon Yolanda and who still suffer the consequences; the poor who have faith, hope in this commemoration of the fifth centenary of the preaching of the Gospel in the Philippines. The People of God in the Philippines, the poor, also the exploited poor, exploited by those who carry out so many social, spiritual and existential injustices. I think of them. Going to the Philippines, I think of them. The other day, January 7, in our house, at Saint Martha’s, was the celebration of Christmas of the Eastern Churches, and there were three persons of Ethiopian nationality there, and also some Filipinos who work there. And the Ethiopians did the celebration: they invited all the dependents, some 50, to lunch. I was with them and looked at the dependents of the Philippines, who have left their homeland, seeking greater wellbeing, leaving father, mother, children, to go … The poor. I don’t know … this will be the core.

Father Lombardi:

Juan Vicente Boo is coming and he will ask the question for the Spanish group

Juan Vicente Gonzalez Boo:

Holy Father, first of all I must say that, though being tired you look well.  I would like to ask you a question, on behalf of the Spanish group, on the history of Sri Lanka and its contemporary history. In the years of the civil war in Sri Lanka, there were more than 300 kamikaze attacks, suicide attacks, carried out by men, women, boys and girls. Now we are witnessing suicide attacks of boys, girls and even children. What do you think of this way of making war? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

Perhaps, what I am about to say is a lack of respect, but I think it. I believe that behind every suicide attack there is an imbalance, a human imbalance. I don’t know if it’s mental, but human. Something that’s not right in that person. He lacks balance on the meaning of his life, of his own life and of that of others. He fights for … yes, gives his life, but he doesn’t give it well. So many people, so many people work – we think of missionaries, for instance – giving their life, but to build. Here one gives one’s life in self-destruction and to destroy. This is not right; there is something that’s not right.

I accompanied the thesis, not for a Doctorate but for a Licentiate, of a pilot of Alitalia who did it in Sociology on the Japanese kamikaze. I heard something from him, but this is difficult to understand. When I corrected it, it was more the methodological part. But this can’t be understood … It’s not only something of the East. There are investigations at present on a proposal that came to Italy during World War II, a proposal made to Fascism in Italy. There are no proofs, but this is being investigated. There is something there that is very much connected to dictatorial or totalitarian systems – to totalitarian systems. It is very connected to them. A totalitarian systems kills, if not life it kills possibilities, it kills the future, it kills so many things – and also life. And this is so, but it isn’t a finite problem; it’s not only Eastern; it’s important. I can’t think of anything else.

On the use of children, what I said in general applies to all but, leaving this, let’s take children. Children are used everywhere for so many things: exploited in work, exploited like slaves, exploited also sexually. Some years ago, with some members of the Senate in Argentina, we wished to carry out a campaign in the most important hotels, to say publicly that children must not be exploited by tourists there. We were unable to do so – there are hidden resistances. I don’t know if they are exploited or not; it was a preventive measure. Then, once, when I was in Germany, some newspapers fell into my hands featuring the tourist area. Tourism in that South-East Asian region which is also erotic tourism, and there were children involved. Children are exploited, but child slave labor is terrible. They are exploited also for this, but I don’t say any more.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you, Holiness. Now we give the floor to Ignazio Ingrao for the Italian group.

Ignazio Ingrao:

Good morning. …. Holiness, there is great concern in the world over your safety. According to the American and Israeli Secret Services, the Vatican is in the sights of the Islamic terrorists. On fundamentalist sites, the Islamic flag has appeared flying over Saint Peter’s. There is fear also for your security in trips abroad. Look, we know that you do not want to give up direct contact with the people, but at this point, do you think that it is necessary to modify something in your conduct and in your programs? There is also fear for the safety of the faithful taking part in celebrations in case of attacks. Are you worried about this? And, more in general, in your opinion, what is the best way to respond to the threat of Muslim fundamentalists? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

For me, the best way to respond is always meekness. To be meek, humble – as bread – without being aggressive. I stand here, but there are people who don’t understand this. Then, in regard to worries: I’m worried about the faithful, and this really worries me. And I have talked about this with the Vatican Security: here, on this flight is Dr. Giani who is in charge of this; he is updated on this problem. This worries me somewhat. Am I afraid? You know that I have a defect: a good dosis of carelessness; I’m careless about these things. Sometimes I’ve asked myself: if this happened to me? And I’ve said to the Lord: Lord, I ask you only for one grace, that it not harm me, because I’m not courageous in face of pain; I am very, very fearful, but not of God. However, I know that security measure are taken, prudent but secure. Then, we’ll have to see.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you, Holiness. And we hope that we too will have that same serenity, always.

So now, it’s Christoph Schmidt for the German group, who is coming quickly. Then I will tell Sebastien Maillard to be ready, and then we will ask the Pope if he wishes to continue or if he prefers a break.

Christoph Schmidt:

Good morning, Holy Father. Could you tell us about your visit to the Buddhist temple yesterday, which was a great surprise. What was the reason for such a spontaneous visit? Do you get inspiration from this religion? We know that Christian missionaries were convinced up to the 20thcentury that Buddhism was a scam, a religion of the devil. Third, what could be important in Buddhism for the future of Asia?

Pope Francis:

How was the visit, why did I go? The head of that Buddhist temple succeeded in having himself invited by the government to go to the airport and – he is very good friends with Cardinal Ranjith – he greeted me there and asked me to visit the temple – he also asked Ranjith to take me there. Then I spoke about it with the Cardinal, but there wasn’t any time because, when I arrived, I had to suspend the meeting with the Bishops, because I didn’t feel well; I was tired – those 29 kilometers of greeting of the people left me like a rag – and so there was no time. And yesterday, returning from Madhu, there was the possibility: he telephoned and we went. In that temple there are relics of two of Buddha’s disciples. They are very important for them. These relics were in England and they succeeded in having them returned: good. And thus he came to meet me at the airport and I went to meet him at his home. First.

Second. Yesterday at Madhu [Shrine of Our Lady] I saw something I would never have thought: they were not all Catholics, not even the majority! There
were Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and all went there to pray; they went and said they received graces! It is in the people – and the people are never mistaken – the sense of the people was there; there was something that united them. And if they are like this so naturally united as to go together to pray in a temple  — which is Christian but not only Christian, because they all want it – why should I not go to the Buddhist temple to greet them? This testimony yesterday at Madhu is very important. It makes us understand the meaning of inter-religiosity that is lived in Sri Lanka: there is respect between them. There are small fundamentalist groups, but they are not with the people; there are ideologues, but they are not with the people.

Then, there was the idea that they [Buddhists] would go to hell, but also the Protestants. When I was a child, at that time, 70 years ago, all Protestants were going to hell, all. This is what was said. And I remember the first experience I had of ecumenism. I recounted it the other day to directors of the Salvation Army. I was four or five years old – but I remember it, I still see it – and I was going on the street with my grandmother, who held my hand. On the opposite sidewalk two women of the Salvation Army were coming with that hat they wore before, with the bow, or some such thing. Now they no longer wear it. I asked my grandmother: “Tell me, grandmother, are they Sisters?” And she said this to me: “No, they are Protestants, but they are good.” It was the first time I heard someone speak well of a person of another religion, of a Protestant. At that time, it was said in catechesis that all were going to hell. However, I think the Church has grown much in the awareness of respect of values – as I said to them during the inter-religious meeting at Colombo. When we read what Vatican Council II says on values in other religions – respect – the Church has grown so much in regard to this. And yes, there are dark times in the history of the Church, we must say it, without embarrassment, because we are also on a path of continuous conversion: always from sin to grace. And this inter-religiosity as brothers, respecting one another always, is a grace. I don’t know if there was something else that I’ve forgotten Is that all? Vielen danke.

Father Lombardi:

Sebastien Maillard for the French group.

Sebastine Maillard:

Holy Father, yesterday morning, during the Mass, you spoke of religious freedom as a fundamental human right. However, in respect of the different religions up to what point can one go in freedom of expression, which is also a fundamental human right? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

Thank you for the question, it’s intelligent. I think that both are fundamental human rights: religious freedom and freedom of expression. One cannot …. Let’s think … you are French, we go to Paris. We speak clearly. One cannot hide the truth that each one has the right to practice one’s religion freely, without offending. So we do this, we all want to do this. Second, one cannot offend, make war, kill in the name of one’s religion, that is, in the name of God. What is happening now makes us somewhat astounded. However, we always think of our own history: how many religious wars we have had! Think of the “night of Saint Bartholomew” … How can this be understood? We have also been sinners in this. But one cannot kill in the name of God. This is an aberration; to kill in the name of God is an aberration. I think this is the main thing in regard to freedom of religion: it must be done with freedom, without offending, without imposing and killing.

Freedom of expression. Each one not only has the freedom, the right, but he also has the obligation to say what he thinks to help the common good. The obligation. We think of a Deputy or a Senator: if he does not say what he thinks is the true way, he does not collaborate for the common good — and not just these, so many others. We have the obligation to speak openly, to have this freedom, but without offending. Because it’s true that one cannot react violently; however, if Dr. Gasbarri, my great friend, says a bad word against my mother, he will get a punch! It’s normal! It’s normal. One cannot provoke, one cannot insult others’ faith, one cannot tease about faith. In a speech – I don’t quite remember where – Pope Benedict talked about the post-positivist mentality, about post-positivist metaphysics, which in the end leads to believe that religions and religious expressions are a sort of sub-culture, which are tolerated, but are of little consequence, they are not part of the enlightened culture. And this is a legacy of the Enlightenment. So many people who run down religions, tease about them, let’s say they “giocattolizza” others’ religion, they provoke, and what can then happen is what would happen if Dr. Gasbarri said something against my mother. There’s a limit. Every religion has dignity, every religion that respects human life, the human person. And I cannot joke about it. And this is a limit. I have taken this example of a limit to say that there are limits in freedom of expression, such as that about my mother. I don’t know if I’ve succeeded in answering your question. Thank you. 

Father Lombardi:

Thank you, Holiness. Now it’s already more than half an hour that we are here and have given all the groups a first turn. You have also said that you are  somewhat tired. We give you freedom. Are you still willing to continue? Tell us truthfully, however, when you wish to finish. Now we have on the list Joshua McElwee of National Catholic Reporter.

Joshua McElwee:

Holy Father, thank you again for your time. You have spoken so many times against religious extremism. Do you have some concrete idea how to involve other religious leaders to combat this problem? Perhaps a meeting at Assisi, as Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI had?

Pope Francis:

Thank you. This proposal was also made. I know that some are working on this. I spoke with Cardinal Tauran who is in inter-religious dialogue, and he heard this. I know that the desire did not just come from me; it came more from others, it came out of the other religions and it’s in the air. I don’t know if there is something that is being organized, but the desire is in the air. Thank you.

Father Lombardi:

Well then, one last question again from the Filipino group. We have Lynda Jumilla Abalos, who asks us something again, and then we leave the Pope free.

Lynda Jumilla Abalos:

Good morning, Holy Father, I regret my Italian is not very good. Holiness, you have called to truth, to reconciliation in Sri Lanka. I would like to ask if you will support the Commission for Truth in Sri Lanka and in other countries with internal conflicts.

Pope Francis:

I don’t know these Commissions very well. I know how the one in Argentina worked, at the time, after the military dictatorship, and I supported it because it was on a good path. Specifically, I cannot comment on these because I don’t know them concretely. Yes, I support all efforts to find the truth and also balanced efforts, not as revenge, but balanced, to come to an agreement. And I heard something from the President of Sri Lanka – I would not like this to be interpreted as a political comment – I repeat what I heard and with what I am in agreement. He said this to me: he wants to go ahead with the work of peace – first word – of reconciliation, first of all. Then he went ahead with another word. He said that harmony must be created in the people. Harmony is more than peace and reconciliation. It’s more. It’s even more beautiful. Harmony is also musical. And then he went on with another word, because this harmony will give us happiness and joy. Peace, reconciliation, harm
ony, happiness and joy. I was astounded and I said: I like to hear this, but it’s not easy. Fifth word: yes, we must go to the heart of the people. And this last, very profound word, made me think, to respond to your question: only by reaching the heart of the people, who know what suffering is, who know what injustices are, who have suffered so many things in the wars and also in dictatorships – so many things. Only by reaching there – the people also know about forgiveness – can we find just paths, without compromises, just paths to go forward in what you say. The Commissions of Investigation on the Truth are one of the elements that can help, at least I think of those of Argentina: an element that has helped. One, but there are other elements that we must use, so that we can attain peace, reconciliation, harmony, happiness and reach the heart of the people. This comes to mind, and I take the words of the President, which seemed to me well said.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you, Holy Father, I think that you have given us more than sufficient material to work on now for the next hours of this trip.

One last very small thing. Today, in fact, Ansa Agency, which is the main agency of Italian news, is 70 years old. Faithfully, we always have someone here from Ansa coming, and also now Giovanna Chirri is here. If you would say a word of good wishes to Ansa for its 70 years …

Pope Francis:

The first time I met Ansa was when I met Francesca Ambrogetti in Buenos Aires. Francesca was the president of the group, of the team of foreign journalists in Buenos Aires. I came to know Ansa through her, and she represented Ansa very well at Buenos Aires. I wish you the best. 70 years aren’t a joke! To persevere in the service for 70 years is a great merit. I wish you the best, I wish you the best always.

When I don’t know how things are going, I have the habit of asking one thing of Saint Therese of the Child Jesus: that if she takes a problem in hand, that she send me a rose, and she does so sometimes, but in a strange way. And so I also asked her to take this trip in hand and that she send me a rose but, instead of a rose, she herself came to greet me.

Thank you, Carolina. Thank you so much to little Therese and to you. Thank you. Good day.

Father Lombardi:

Thank you, Holiness and bon voyage. Rest a bit now, to prepare yourself for the next three days. Thank you all.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
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