Pope Francis during the general audience in the Saint Peter Square - 26 August 2015


Pope in Interview With Portuguese Radio Speaks on Migrants, Annulments, 'Grandmother Europe'

Francis Responds to Questions on Corruption, Encyclical, Synod and Family Crisis, as Well as What Keeps Him Up at Night

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Pope Francis has reaffirmed the family is in crisis and the Church is committed to helping. The Pontiff said this in an in-depth interview released this morning, which he granted to Portuguese broadcaster Radio Renascenca, following the Portuguese bishops’ ad Limina visit last week.

The interview, available in English, touches on various themes including the migrant situation in different continents, whether he’ll visit Fatima, the need to care for creation, and how political corruption continues to disappoint people. In addition to discussing the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, Dec. 8 – Nov. 20, 2016, he speaks about the challenges facing the family, his recent move to streamline the annulment process, and the upcoming Synod of Bishops on the Family in Rome this October.

‘Tip of the Iceberg’

Responding to several questions on the surge of migrants, particularly in Europe, fleeing from persecution, the Pontiff stressed they should be welcomed.

With regard to this migration, Francis said, “It is the tip of an iceberg. We see these refugees, these poor people, who flee from war, from hunger. … But behind this, there is the cause, and the cause is an unfair socio-economic system”. He adds, “Speaking of the ecological issue, within our socio-economic structure, within politics, at the center there must always be the person. And today’s dominant economic system has replaced the person at the centre with the god of money, the idol”.

Given this, he stressed, the root causes must be examined. “When the cause is hunger, create jobs and invest. When the cause is war, seek peace, work for peace. Today the world is at war; it is at war against itself”. The Pope went on to reaffirm the importance of acceptance. “Accepting people, and welcoming them as they come”.

Recent Appeal

In last Sunday’s Angelus address, Sept. 6, Francis made an appeal to all parishes in Europe to host a family of refugees and said that the Vatican will participate in this hosting. On this exhortation, the Pope said, “When I talk about a parish welcoming a family, I do not mean that they should go and live in the parish house, but rather that the parish community seek a place, a corner where they can make a little apartment or, if there is no other option, rent a modest apartment for this family. These families, he said, “should be provided with a roof, welcomed and integrated into the community.”

Grandmother Europe

Francis observed that the birthrate is very low in many countries such as Italy, Portugal and Spain. “When there is an empty space, people seek to fill it. If a country has no children, migrants come to occupy that space. … Not wanting children is, in part – and this is my interpretation, I don’t know if it is correct – it is linked to the culture of comfort, isn’t it?” He also lamented that then the elderly “are left alone.”

“I think that the great challenge facing Europe is to become once again Mother Europe, rather than Grandmother Europe,” he said. While noting he does not reproach Europe for having made mistakes, he did urge it to recover its Christian roots and stressed it is never too late to change.

Outbound Church

The Church, the 78-year-old Pope underscored, must be outbound and willing to take risks. “If a church, a parish, a diocese, an institute, lives closed up in itself, it comes to a halt. It is the same thing that happens to a closed up home. We end up with an unhealthy Church, with fixed rules, without creativity, ‘insured’ but not safe.

“Instead, if a church or a parish goes out and evangelizes, the same thing happens that can occur to any person who goes out into the street – accidents can befall them. So, between a sickly Church or an accident-prone one, I would prefer an accident-prone Church as at least she reaches out.”


In his response to a question regarding an eventual visit to Portugal to commemorate the centenary of the apparitions of the Virgin at Fatima, Francis expressed, “I said I want to go, I’d like to go. It is easier to get to Portugal, we can go and return on the same day or, at the most, go for a day and half or two days. To go and see the Blessed Virgin.”

Annulment, Synod, Family in Crisis

When asked his reason behind the motu proprio for declarations of nullity, Francis responded, “[to] expedite the processes in the hands of the bishop.”

“One judge, one defender of the bond, one sentence, because up until now you needed two sentences. No, now it’s just one. If there is no appeal, it’s done. If there is an appeal it goes to the metropolitan, but expedite, yes. And also making the processes free.”

Responding to whether, when he decided this, he was thinking of the Synod on the Family in October in Rome and the Jubilee year, he said, ‘It is all related.”

The journalist then asked: “I know you don’t want to talk about the synod, but in your heart of Universal Pastor, what are you asking?” Francis responded: “I ask that people pray a lot. As for the synod, you journalists are already familiar with the Instrumentum Laboris. We are going to speak of that, of what is in there. It’s three weeks, one theme, one chapter, for each week. And we have high expectations because, obviously, the family is in crisis. Young people no longer get married. They don’t get married. Or then, with this short term culture, they say “I’ll either move in with her or I’ll get married, but only for as long as love lasts, then bye-bye…”

The next question asked the Holy Father to comment on those who are living in situations counter to Church teaching and “who are thirsting for forgiveness.”

“At the synod we will be speaking about all the possible ways to help these families,” Pope Francis said. “But one thing,” he went on to underscore, “should be very clear – something Pope Benedict left quite clear: people who are in a second union are not excommunicated and should be integrated into Church life. This was made crystal clear. I also said this quite clearly: Drawing closer to the mass, to catechesis, their children’s education, charity… There are so many different options.”

Turning to the upcoming Jubilee Year of Mercy, which the Pope announced on March 13th, he noted his hope that “everyone will come. May they come and experience God’s love and forgiveness.”

In the interview, the Holy Father also gives some details about his personal life, speaking about his vocation and what he misses now that he is Pontiff.

“What keeps you awake at night?,” he is asked. “The truth? I sleep like a rock,” he responds with laughter. “And what motivates you?” “Having lots of work to do.” […] “How often do you go to confession?” “Every fifteen or twenty days. I confess to a Franciscan priest, father Blanco, who is kind enough to come here and confess me. And I never had to call an ambulance to take him back, in shock over my sins! [laughs]”


On the NET:

To read the full interview, click here: http://rr.sapo.pt/noticia/34088/pope_i_trust_the_young_politicians_corruption_is_a_global_problem

On ZENIT’s Web page:

Pope Francis Reforms Annulment Process article: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/vatican-pope-francis-reforms-marriage-annulment-process

Pope Francis’ Letter to Archbishop Fisichella for Jubilee Year: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-s-letter-as-jubilee-year-of-mercy-approaches

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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': http://www.gracewing.co.uk/page219.html or https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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