In a new in-depth interview, Pope Francis discussed details on his election, his relationship with the people, the challenges of being Pope and the centrality of poverty in the Gospel. The Pope was interviewed by journalist Juan Berretta of the Argentine newspaper La Voz del Pueblo (The Voice of the People).
Beretta began the interview by asking Francis whether he dreamed of becoming Pope, to which the Holy Father responded with a definitive “Never!” He also said that neither he nor any others at the time of the conclave saw him as a papabile. They also said that I was a kingmaker, that I could influence the Latin American cardinals on who they would vote for, he recalled. So much so that not one photo of me was published in the newspapers, nobody thought [that it would be me]. In the betting houses in London, I was number 46. I didn’t even think it would be me, it didn’t cross my mind.”
The Pope went on to say that given there were no strong candidates in this election compared to the 2005 conclave that elected Benedict XVI, he fully expected to return to Argentina. “I came to Rome […] with a return ticket on Saturday night so that I could be in Buenos Aires on Palm Sunday. I also had my homily ready on my desk. I never thought that it would happen.”
Regarding his feelings following his election, Francis said that he was in peace, and that his address to the faithful was natural to him. “I felt a lot of peace and I said what came from my heart.”
The Pope and the People
Berretta asked Francis if he realizes the magnetism that draws people towards him. While acknowledging it, the Holy Father said that what he has been told by cardinals is that people feel that they understand him when he speaks. “I try to be concrete and that is what you call magnetism, certain cardinals tell me that it has to do with the fact that people understand me,” he said.
The 78-year-old Pontiff said that he enjoys being with people in both a “human and spiritual sense” and that feeling led him to live at Casa Santa Marta. “Psychologically, I cannot live without people, I would be no good as a monk, that is why I stayed here in this house,” he said.
“This is a guest house, there are 210 rooms. We are 40 people who live here that work in the Holy See and the others are guests, bishops, priests, laity who pass by and stay here. To come here, eat at the dining room where there are people, to have the Mass in which four days of the week people from outside come, from the parishes… I like that a lot. I became a priest to be with the people. I give thanks to God that this has not left me.”
Among the things that he misses most is going out on the streets for a walk or “to go to a pizzeria and eat a good pizza.”
“You can ask for a delivery to the Vatican,” Beretta responded.
“Yes, but it isn’t the same, the point is to go there. I was always a person of the streets. As a cardinal I loved walking down the street, going by bus, subway. I love the city, I am a soulful citizen.”
The Holy Father admitted that his way of being sometimes went at odds with security protocols. While there are certain protocols that he abides, the Pope said that he is somewhat “undisciplined” when it comes to following protocol.
The Importance of Crying
The Argentine journalist asked Pope Francis on the importance of crying, something mentioned by the Holy Father during his visit to Manila. When asked if he cries, the Holy Father said that he does when he sees human tragedy. Among the examples was the plight of the Rohingyan people who are facing persecution. “They go up on these boats in Thai waters and when they approach land they are given a little bit of food, water and then thrown back at sea. This moves me deeply, these types of tragedies.”
The Jesuit Pope also said that he is moved by the sick, the suffering and the imprisoned, which he said makes him “think that I could also be here.”
“Publicly I do not cry. There were two occasions where I was at the limit, but I was able to stop on time. I was very moved, there were even some tears that escaped, but I just played dumb and after whiped my hand on my face. When asked what caused him to cry on those occasions, the Pope replied: “I remember one, the other I don’t. The one I remember was about the persecution of Christians in Iraq. I was speaking about it and I was deeply moved.”
Regarding fears on possible threats against his life, the Holy Father said that he is in God’s hands. “In my prayers I speak to the Lord and say: ‘Look, if this has to be, then let it be, I only ask for one grace: that it may not hurt”; because I am a coward regarding physical pain. Moral pain I can withstand, but physical, no. I am very cowardly when it comes to that. It’s not that I’m afraid of an injection, but I prefer not to have problems with physical pain. I am very intolerant; I assume that it is something that stayed with me after a lung operation when I was 19 years old.”
Francis also recounted the pressures of his daily work in governing the Church, among which is the intensity of the amount of work that he has. Recalling some of the problems that arise, the Pope said that one of the major ones is his words being taken out of context at times by the media.
“The other day in the parish of Ostia, near Rome, I was greeting the people, and they placed the elderly and the sick in the gym. They were seated and I passed by and greeted them. Then I said: ‘How amusing, the elderly and the sick are here where the young ones play. I understand you because I am also elderly and I also have my pains, I am a little sick.’ The next day, the headlines read ‘Pope admits he is sick.'”
The Pope of the Poor
After answering several questions on his native Argentina, the Holy Father was asked on his particular focus on the poor and world poverty. Berretta asked if he liked being known as “El Papa Pobre” (The Poor Pope).
“If they put a word after, yes; like ‘pobre tipo‘ (that poor guy)”, the Pope responded jokingly.
“Poverty is at the center of the Gospel. Jesus came to preach to the poor: if you take out poverty from the Gospel, you won’t understand anything.”
Berretta asked the Holy Father whether the ideal of eradicating poverty was a “utopian” goal. While acknowledging that it was, the Pope said however that “utopias push us forward.” He went on to say that there are three essential things needed in life: memory, the ability to see the present and utopia for the future.
“That is why the future of a people is manifested in its care for the elderly, who are the memory, and of children and youth, who are the ones that will bring it forward. We adults must receive that memory, work on it in the future and give it to the children.”
Concluding his interview, Pope Francis was asked what he hopes people will remember him as, to which he replied: “As a good guy. That they say: ‘This was a good guy who tried to do good.'”
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For the full interview with Pope Francis, in Spanish, go to: http://www.lavozdelpueblo.com.ar/nota-27095–aoro-ir-a-una-pizzera-y-comerme-una-buena-pizza