Briefing at Papal flight. Nov. 2015


Pope’s Press Conference on Return Flight From Africa

“This is why I love Africa, because Africa was the victim of other powers”


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At the end of his Apostolic Journey to Kenya, Uganda and the Central African Republic, Pope Francis met with journalists for a press conference on board the plane, during the return flight from Bangui to Rome.

Here is a ZENIT translation of the Vatican transcription of the Pontiff’s conversation with the journalists.

* * *

Father Lombardi

Holy Father, welcome among us for this meeting, which now is a tradition that we all expect. We are very grateful that, after such an intense trip, you still find time for us, and therefore we understand very well how willing you are to help us.

However, before beginning with the series of questions I would like also, in the name of colleagues, to thank the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organized the live from Central Africa. The live television transmissions that went around the world from Central Africa were able to be made thanks to the European Broadcasting Union, and we have Elena Pinardi here. We thank her on behalf of all. The EBU is observing the 65th year of its activity, and we see that it still helps and, therefore, we are very grateful to you.

So now, as usual, we thought we would begin with our guests from the countries to which we went. As we have four Kenyans, two questions come now, at the beginning, from Kenya. The first is of Bernard Namuname, who is of the “Kenya Daily Nation.”

Barnard Namuname, Kenya Daily Nation

I greet you, Holiness. In Kenya you met with the poor families of Kangemi. You heard their stories of exclusion from fundamental human rights, such as the lack of access to potable water. On the same day, you went to the Kasarani Stadium where you met with young people. They also told you their stories of exclusion, due to the avarice of men and their corruption. What did you feel as you heard their stories? And what must be done to put an end to the injustices? Thank you.

Pope Francis

I have spoken at least three times strongly about this problem. In the first meeting of Popular Movements in the Vatican; in the second meeting of Popular Movements at Santa Cruz de la Sierra in Bolivia; and then two, two others: in Evangelium Gaudium, a bit, and then clearly and strongly in Laudato Si’.

I don’t remember the statistics and therefore I ask you not to publish the statistics I’ll give, because I don’t know if they are true, but I’ve heard … I believe that 80% of the world’s wealth is in the hands of 17% of the population. I don’t know if it’s true, but if it isn’t true it is striking, because things are this way. Do any of you know this statistic, I ask you to say it to be correct?

It is an economic system where money is at the center, the god money. I remember I once met a great ambassador, he spoke French, and he said this phrase to me — he wasn’t a Catholic –: “We have fallen into the idolatry of money.” And if things continue this way, the world will continue this way.

You asked me how I felt about the testimonies of young people and at Kangemi, where I also spoke clearly of rights. I felt pain. And I think of how the people aren’t aware of it … A great pain. Yesterday, for instance, I went to the paediatric hospital: the only one of Bangui and of the country! And in intensive care, they don’t have the instruments for oxygen. There were so many malnourished children, so many. And the doctor said to me: The majority of these will die, because they have malaria, a strong , and they are malnourished.

The Lord – but I don’t want to preach a homily! —  the Lord always rebuked, the people of Israel – but it’s a word we always accept and adore, because it is the Word of God – idolatry. And idolatry is when a man or a woman loses the “identity card,” of his/her being a child of God, and prefers to find a god to his/her own measure. This is the beginning. Beginning from there, if humanity doesn’t change, the miseries, the tragedies, the wars will continue and children dying of hunger, of injustice … What does this percentage think that has in its hands 80% of the world’s wealth? And this isn’t Communism, it’s truth. And it’s not easy to see the truth. I thank you for having asked this question, because it’s life ….

Father Lombardi

And now, the second question is also of another colleague of Kenya, Mumo Makau, who is of “Capital Radio” of Kenya. He is also asking his question in English and Matthew is translating.

Mumo Makau, Capital Radio of Kenya

Thank you so much for this opportunity, Holy Father. I would like to know what was the most memorable moment for you of this trip to Africa. Will you come back soon to this Continent? And what is your next goal?

Pope Francis

We begin from the end: if things go well, I think the next trip will be to Mexico. The dates are not certain yet. Second: will I go back to Africa? But, I don’t know … I’m elderly, and trips are tiring … And the first question: which was the moment [that struck me particularly] … I think of that crowd, the joy, the capacity to celebrate, to celebrate with an empty stomach. Africa was a surprise for me. I thought: God surprises us, but Africa also surprises us! So many moments … The crowd, the crowd. They feel visited. They have a sense of hospitality, because they were happy to be visited. Then, every country has its identity. Kenya is a bit more modern, developed. Uganda has the identity of martyrs: the Ugandan people, whether Catholic or Anglican, venerate the martyrs. I was in the two Shrines, the Anglican, first, and then the Catholic; and the memory of the martyrs is its identity card — the courage to give one’s life for an ideal. And in the Central African Republic: the desire for peace, for reconciliation, for forgiveness. Up to four years ago, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims lived like brothers. Yesterday I went to the Evangelicals, who work so well, and then I came for the Mass, in the evening. Today I went to the mosque; I prayed in the mosque; the Imam also got into the popemobile to go around the small Stadium … It’s this: the little gestures, this is what they want, because there is a small group that, I believe, is Christian or says it’s Christian, which is very violent. I didn’t understand this well … but it isn’t ISIS, it’s something else. And they want peace. Now, elections will be held; they have chosen a State of transition, they have chosen the Mayor [of Bangui], this lady as President of the Transition State, and she will hold elections, but they seek peace among themselves, reconciliation, no hatred.

Father Lombardi

Now we give the floor to Philip Pullella, who is a colleague of ours of Reuters, that we all know.

Philip Pullella, Reuters

Holiness, today there is much talk of “Vatileaks.” Without entering into the merit of the process underway, I would like to ask you this question. In Uganda you spoke off-the-cuff and said that corruption exists everywhere, and also in the Vatican. Now, my question is this: what is the importance of the free and secular press in the eradication of this corruption, wherever it’s found?

Pope Francis

The free, secular and also confessional press, but professional – because the professionalism of the press can be secular or confessional; what is important is that they are truly professionals, that the news is not manipulated – it’s important for me, because the denunciation of injustices, of corruption, is
a good endeavor because it states: “there is corruption there.” And then the one in charge must do something, make a judgment, set up a court. But the professional press must say everything, without falling into the three most common sins: disinformation – to say half and not say the other half –; calumny – the non-professional press: where there isn’t professionalism, the other is spoiled with or without truth –; and defamation, which is to say things that take away a person’s reputation, things that at this moment don’t harm, don’t add anything, perhaps things of the past … And these are the three defects that attempt against the professionalism of the press. But we are in need of professionalism. The right thing: the thing is thus, thus and thus. And on corruption, to study well the data and to say: yes, there is corruption here, because of this, this and this … Then, a journalist, who is a true professional, makes a mistake and apologizes: I thought, but then I realized it was not so. And thus things go very well. It’s very important.

<strong>Father Lombardi

Now, then, we give the floor to Philippine de Saint-Pierre, who is in charge of French Catholic television: so we go to France, to Paris. We are all very close to France at this time.

Philippine de Saint-Pierre, KTO

Holy Father, good evening. You paid tribute to the platform created by the Archbishop, the Imam and the Pastor of Bangui and today, more than ever, we know that religious fundamentalism threatens the whole planet: we saw this also in Paris. So, in face of this danger, do you think that religious dignitaries should intervene more in the political field?

Pope Francis

To intervene in the political field: if you mean to “engage in politics,” no. He must be a priest, Imam, Rabbi: this is his vocation. However, politics is engaged in indirectly by preaching values, true values, and one of the greatest values is fraternity among ourselves. We are all children of God; we have the same Father. And, in this connection, there must be a politics of unity, of reconciliation,  … – and a word I don’t like, but which I must use – tolerance, but not only tolerance, but also coexistence and friendship! It’s this way. Fundamentalism is a sickness that is in all religions. We Catholics have some, not some,  many, who believe they have the absolute truth and go around soiling the others with calumnies, defamation, and they do harm, they do harm. And I say this because it is my Church, we too, all of us! And it must be combated. Religious fundamentalism isn’t religious. Why? Because God is lacking. It’s idolatrous, just as money is idolatrous. To engage in politics in the sense of convincing these people that have this tendency, is a politics that we, religious leaders, must engage in. However, fundamentalism that always ends in tragedy or in offenses is a bad thing, but there is a bit of it in all religions.

Father Lombardi

Now we give the floor to Cristiana Caricato, who represents Tv2000, the Italian Catholic Television of the Bishops.

Cristiana Caricato, Tv2000

Holy Father, while we were in Bangui this morning, a new hearing was being held in Rome at the trial of Monsignor Vallejo Balda, of Chaouqui and of two journalists.. I ask you the question that has been posed to you by many persons: why these two appointments ? How was it possible that in the process of reform that you got underway, two persons of this sort were able to enter a Commission, the COSEA? Do you think you made a mistake?

Pope Francis

I think a mistake was made. Monsignor Vallejo Balda entered because of the office he held, which he had up to now. He was Secretary of the Prefecture of Economic Affairs, and he entered And then, as to how she entered, I’m not sure, but I don’t think I’m mistaken if I say – but I’m not sure – that it was he who introduced her as a woman who knew the world of commercial relations…. They worked, and when the work was finished the members of that Commission, which was called COSEA, remained in some posts in the Vatican. Vallejo Balda also did. And Mrs. Chaouqui did not stay in the Vatican because she entered through the Commission and then did not stay. Some said she was angry about this, but the judges will tell us the truth about the intentions, as they have done … For me [what came out] was not a surprise; it didn’t take away my sleep, because in fact they made one see the work that was begun with the Commission of Cardinals – the “C9” – to seek out corruption and things that weren’t right. And I want to say something here – it has not to do with Vallejo Balda and Chaouqui, but in general, and then, if you wish, I will go back –: the word “corruption” – One of the two Kenyans said it – thirteen days before the death of Saint John Paul II, in that Via Crucis, the then Cardinal Ratzinger, who was leading the Via Crucis, spoke of the “filth of the Church”: he denounced this, first! Then the Pope died in the octave of Easter – this was Good Friday –, Pope John Paul died and he became Pope. However, in the Mass “pro eligendo Pontifice”  — he was Dean – he spoke of the same thing, and we elected him because of his liberty to say things. It’s from that time that there is in the air of the Vatican, that there is corruption there, there is corruption. On this judgment, I have given the judges the concrete accusations, because what is important, for the defense, is the formulation of the accusations. I haven’t read them; concrete, technical accusations. I would have liked this to end before December 8 for the Year of Mercy, but I don’t think it can be done, because I want all the lawyers that defend to have the time to defend, that there be the whole freedom of defense. It’s like this: how they were selected and the whole story. But the corruption comes from long ago.

Cristiana Caricato

But what do you intend to do, how do you intend to proceed, as these episodes can no longer be verified?

Pope Francis

Ah, I thank God that there is no Lucretia Borgia! [They laugh} I don’t know, I will continue with the Cardinals, with the cleansing Commission … Thank you.

Father Lombardi

Thank you. So now it’s Nestor Ponguta’s turn. Nestor Ponguta is a Colombian. He works for “W Radio Colombia” and, I believe, also for “Caracol,” in any case, he is a dear friend …

Nestor Ponguta, W Radio Colombia

Holiness, first of all, thank you for all you have said in favor of peace in my country, Colombia, and for all that you have done in the world. However, on this occasion I would like to ask you a particular question. It’s a specific argument that has to do with political change in Latin America, including Argentina, your country, in which Mr. Macri is now there after 12 years of “Kirchnerism,” it’s changing somewhat … What do you think of these changes, of how Latin American politics, of the Continent of which you yourself come, is taking a new direction?

Pope Francis

I have heard some opinions, but truly of this geo-politics, I don’t know what to say at this moment, truly. I truly don’t know, because there are problems in similar countries on this line, but I truly don’t know, why or how it began, I don’t know why. Truly. That there are similar Latin American countries in this situation is somewhat of a change, this is true, but I don’t know how to explain it.

Father Lomb

Now we give the floor to Jurgen Baetz of the DPA, who works in South Africa.

Jurgen Baetz, DPS of South Africa

Holiness, AIDS is devastating Africa. Care helps many today to live a bit longer. However, the epidemic continues. Last year, in Uganda alone, there were 135,000 new infections of AIDS. In Kenya the situation is in fact worse. AIDS is the first cause of death among African young people. Holiness, you met HIV-positive children and heard a moving testimony in Uganda. Yet, you said very little on this issue. We know that prevention is fundamental. We also know that condoms are not the only means to halt the epidemic. We know, however, that it’s an important part of the answer. Isn’t it time, perhaps, to change the position of the Church for this purpose? To agree to the use of condoms in order to prevent further infections?

Pope Francis

The question seems to me too narrow and it also seems a partial question. Yes, it is one of the methods; I think that the morality of the Church finds itself on this point before a perplexity: is it the fifth or the sixth Commandment? To defend life, or that the sexual relation be open to life? But this isn’t the problem. The problem is greater. This question makes me think of that which was posed to Jesus once: “Tell me, Teacher, is it licit to cure on the Sabbath?” It’s obligatory to cure! This question, if it’s licit to cure … But malnutrition, the exploitation of persons, slave labor, the lack of potable water: these are the problems. Let us not ask ourselves if this or that band-aid can be used for a small wound. The great wound is social injustice, environmental injustice, the injustice I’ve mentioned of exploitation, and malnutrition. This exists. I don’t like to descend to such casuistic reflections, when people are dying from lack of water and from hunger, from a dwelling … When all are cured, or when there are no longer these tragic sicknesses caused by man, be it because of social injustice, be it to earn more money – think of the arms trade! – when these problems no longer exist, I believe the question can be asked: “Is it licit to cure on the Sabbath?” Why do arms continue to be produced and traded? The wars are the greatest cause of mortality … I would say forget about thinking if it’s licit or illicit to cure on the Sabbath. I would say to humanity: do justice, and when all are cured, when there is no longer injustice in this world, then we can speak of the Sabbath.

Father Lombardi

Marco Ansaldo of “La Repubblica,” is here, for the Italian group, who asks his question.

Marco Ansaldo, La Repubblica

Yes, Holiness, I want to ask you a question of this type, because in last week’s  newspapers there were two great events on which the media focused. One was your trip to Africa – and we are all obviously happy that it ended with great success, from every point of view. The other was a crisis, at the international level, which was verified between Russia and Turkey, with Turkey that shot down a Russian plane for a border violation of Turkish air space during 17 seconds; with accusations, apologies lacking on one side and the other, triggering a crisis of which frankly the need wasn’t felt, in this “third world in fragments,” of which you speak, in our world. Now my question is: what is the Vatican’s position on this? However, I would also like to go beyond and ask you if, per chance, you have thought of going for the 101 years of the events in Armenia. Which will be held in April of next year, as you did last year in Turkey …

Pope Francis

Last year I promised three [Armenian] Patriarchs that I would go: the promises existed. I don’t know if this will be able to be done, but the promise exists. Then, the wars: wars come because of ambitions, wars – I speak of wars, not to defend oneself justly from an unjust aggressor –, but wars, wars are an “industry”!

We have seen in history so many times that a country, if the balance-sheet isn’t right … , “let’s start a war!” and the “unbalance” ends. War is an affair, an affair of arms. Do terrorists make arms? Yes, perhaps some small ones. Who gives them the arms to engage in war? There is a whole network of interests, where behind there is money, or power: imperial power, or economic power. However, we have been at war for years, and every time more: the “fragments” are less fragments and become greater …And what do I think? I don’t know what the Vatican thinks, but what do I think? That wars are a sin and are against humanity, they destroy humanity, they are the cause of exploitations, of the traffic of persons, of so many things … It must stop. I have said this word twice to the United Nations, both here in Kenya and in New York: may your work not be a declaring nominalism, may it be effective: may peace be made. They do so many things: here in Africa, I have seen how the Blue Helmets work … But this isn’t enough. Wars are not of God. God is the God of peace. God made the world, He made everything beautiful, everything beautiful and then, according to the biblical account, a brother murdered another brother: the first war, the first world war, between brothers. I don’t know. This is how I think of it. And I say it with much sorrow … Thank you.

Father Lombardi

Now then we give the floor to Beaudonnet, who represents France Televisions: we are in France again.

Francois Beaudonnet, FranceTelevisions

Holy Father, today the Conference on Climate Change begins in Paris. You have already made a great effort so that all will go well. However, we expect more, from this world summit. Are we sure that the Cop21 will be the beginning of the solution? Thank you so much.

Pope Francis

I’m not sure, but I can say to you that it is either now or never! From the first, which I believe was in Tokyo, up to now, little has been done, and every year the problems are graver. Speaking at a meeting of University on what sort of world we want to leave our children, someone said: “But are you sure that there will be children of this generation?” we are at the limit! We are at the limit of a suicide, to use a strong word. And I am sure that almost the totality of those who are in Paris at the Cop21, have this awareness and want to do something. The other day I read that in Greenland thousands of tons of ice have been lost. In the Pacific, there is a country that is buying land from another country to relocate the country, because in 20 years that country will no longer exist … No, I have confidence. I have confidence in these people, who will do something because, I would say, I’m sure that they have the good will to do so, and I hope that this is so. And I pray for this.

Father Lombardi

Thank you for this note of optimism. And now, the floor goes to Delia Gallagher of CNN.

Delia Gallagher, CNN

Thank you. You have carried out many gestures of respect and friendship in regard to Muslims. I wonder: what does Islam and the teachings of the prophet Mohammad have to say to today’s world?

Pope Francis

I don’t quite understand the question … One can dialogue; they have values, so many values. They have so many values, and these values are constructive. And I also have the experience of friendship – “friendship” is a strong word – with a Muslim: he is a world leader … We can speak: he has his values and I have mine. He prays, I pray. So many values … Prayer, for
instance, fasting, religious values and also other values. A religion can’t be cancelled because there are some groups – or many groups – in a certain moment of history, of fundamentalists. It’s true, in history, there have always been wars between religions, always. We must also ask for forgiveness. Catherine of Medici wasn’t a saint! And the Thirty Years War, and Saint Bartholomew’s night … We must also ask for forgiveness from extremist fundamentalists for the wars of religion. However, they have values, one can dialogue with them. Today I was in a mosque; I prayed. The Imam also wanted to come with me to do a little tour of the Stadium where there were so many who were unable to come in … And the Pope and the Imam were in the popemobile. One could speak. As everywhere, there are people with values, religious [people], and there are people who aren’t like this … But how many wars, not only of religion, have we Christians engaged in? The sacking of Rome wasn’t done by Muslims! They have values; they have values.

Father Lombardi

Thank you. Now, then, we invite Marta Calderon of the Catholic News Agency.

Marta Calderon, Catholic News Agency

Holiness, we know you will go to Mexico. We would like to know something more about this trip and also if within this line of visiting countries that have problems, you are thinking of visiting Colombia or, in the future, other countries of Latin America, such as Peru …?

Pope Francis

You know, at my age, trips don’t do one good. One can undertake them, but they leave a mark … Nevertheless, I shall go to Mexico — first of all, to visit Our Lady, because she is the Mother of America. This is why I’m going to Mexico City. If it wasn’t for the Virgin of Guadalupe, I wouldn’t go to Mexico City, given the criteria of the trip: to visit three or four cities that have never been visited by Popes. But I will go to Mexico, because of Our Lady. Then I will go to Chiapas, in the South, on the border with Guatemala; then I will go to Morelia and, almost certainly, on the way back to Rome I will stop for a day or less at Ciudad Juarez.

In regard to a visit to other Latin American countries: I have been invited to go in ’17 to Aparecida, the other Patroness of Portuguese-speaking America – because there are two – and from there another country could be visited, have the Mass at Aparecida and then … But I don’t know, there are no plans … Thank you.

Father Lombardi

Now we turn to Kenya, with another of our colleagues who came to travel with us to Kenya: his name is Mark Masai and he is of Kenya’s National Media.

Mark Masai, National Media Group of Kenya

First of all, thank you for visiting Kenya and Africa, and we expect you again in Kenya, but to rest, not to work. Now, this was your first visit and everyone was worried about security. What do you say to the world that thinks that Africa is only lacerated by wars and full of destruction?

Pope Francis

Africa is a victim. Africa has always been exploited by other powers. From Africa, slaves were sold that came to America. There are powers that seek only to take away the great riches of Africa. I don’t know; it’s the richest continent, perhaps … But they don’t think of helping the country to grow, that be able to work, that everyone have work … Exploitation! Africa is a martyr. It is a martyr in history of exploitation. Those who say that all the calamities and all the wars come from Africa, don’t understand well, perhaps, the damage that certain forms of development do to humanity. This is why I love Africa, because Africa was the victim of other powers.

Father Lombardi

Good. I think we have practically reached an hour; hence, we end the questions here.

There was a gift they wanted to make to you, on the occasion  — now – of the Cop21: it is a book produced by Paris Match for the Heads of State. It is a book of photographs made for Heads of State on problems of the environment.

Caroline Pigozzi, Paris Match

1,500 professional and non-professional photographs, chosen for this book of photographs. All Heads of State are receiving it today, you also, Holiness.

Father Lombardi

Well, thank you, Holy Father, for the time you have given us despite the exhaustion of the trip. We wish you a happy return to Rome and a happy taking up of your normal activities.

Pope Francis

I thank you for the work. Now comes lunch, but they say that you are fasting today, that you have to work on this interview! Thank you so much for your work and for your questions, for your interest. I say to you that I answer only what I know, and what I don’t know I don’t discuss, because I don’t know it. I don’t invent. Thank you so much. Thank you.

[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]

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