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.
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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
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.
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
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 ….
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
To intervene in the political field: if you mean to “engage in politics,”
Now we give the floor to Cristiana Caricato, who represents Tv2000, the Italian Catholic Television
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
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
But what do you intend to do, how do you intend to proceed, as these episodes can no longer be verified?
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.
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,
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.
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?
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
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
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 …
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.
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
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?
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
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 …?
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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]