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Pope to Asia Times: Considering Cake Can Help Us Understand Dialogue

Interview With Asian Online News Source Marks Pope’s 1st Interview on China, Chinese People

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Pope Francis has released an interview to Asia Times, and used analogies involving cake, sport, and ostriches to make his point on various topics.
The hour-long, Jan. 28 interview was conducted by Francesco Sisci, Asia Times columnist and China Renmin University senior researcher, in the Vatican, and marks the Pope’s first-ever interview on China and the Chinese people.
In the interview, the Pontiff responds to questions about China, even sharing how and why he became ‘very emotional’ the first time he flew over China.
Another theme that echoes throughout the dialogue is the need for dialogue, in which he even uses cake as an analogy to say what proper dialogue is and is not.
The Holy Father also responds to what China means to him and particularly the missionary who converted the Asian nation Matteo Ricci. Even if when he was young and his basic impression was ‘the Great Wall,’ he explained how he got to learn about the nation and appreciate its wisdom and richness.
In another inquiry, the Pontiff also speaks about the aging population and commends the Asian nation’s having loosened it’s one-child policy.
“This is the impression I have, great respect,” he said, citing its great cultural history and wisdom. He admitted that when he crossed China for the first time, and was told in the aircraft: “within ten minutes we will enter Chinese airspace, and send your greeting,” he felt “very emotional,” which, he noted, doesn’t “usually happen to me.”

Don’t Be Afraid
The next question began by acknowledging how China, for the first time in its thousands of years of history, is emerging from its own environment and opening to the world, creating unprecedented challenges for itself and for the world.
Mentioning that the Pope has spoken about a ‘Third World War’ advancing, the journal asked, “What challenges does this present in the quest for peace?”
“Being afraid is never a good counselor.  Fear is not a good counselor,” the Pope said, noting that, “If a father and a mother are fearful when they have an adolescent son, they will not know how to deal with him well.”
“In other words, we must not fear challenges of any kind, since everyone, male and female, has within them the capacity to find ways of co-existing, of respect and mutual admiration.”
“Man tends to communicate, a civilization tends to communicate. It is evident that when communication happens in an aggressive tone to defend oneself, then wars result. But I would not be fearful. It is a great challenge to keep the balance of peace.”
Noting it is necessary to accept the challenge and to run the risk of balancing this exchange for peace, he stressed that the Western world, the Eastern world and China all have the ability and strength to maintain this balance.
On how this can be executed, he said, “We must find the way, always through dialogue; there is no other way. (He opens his arms as if extending an embrace.)”
‘Cake’ to Explain Dialogue
“Encounter is achieved through dialogue. The true balance of peace is realized through dialogue. Dialogue does not mean that we end up with a compromise, half the cake for you and the other half for me.”
“No, dialogue means: look, we have got to this point, I may or may not agree, but let us walk together; this is what it means to build.”
“And the cake stays whole, walking together. The cake belongs to everyone, it is humanity, culture. Carving up the cake, as in Yalta, means dividing humanity and culture into small pieces. And culture and humanity cannot be carved into small pieces. When I speak about this large cake I mean it in a positive sense. Everyone has an influence to bear on the common good of all. (The Pope smiles and asks: “I don’t know if the example of the cake is clear for the Chinese?”, I nod: “I think so”.)”
Accept Your Path, Move Forward
The Pope was then asked how should these challenges of families in China be faced, given that they find themselves in a process of profound change and no longer correspond to the traditional Chinese model of the family.
In the Pope’s detailed response, he stressed that the “history of a people is always a path.” For the good and bad that occurs on a given path, he noted, it should be used as an opportunity never to become bitter, but to move forward, especially with dialogue.
He then noted, “And I would go further: do not be bitter, but be at peace with your own path, even if you have made mistakes. I cannot say my history was bad, that I hate my history. (The Pope gives me a penetrating look.)
“No, every people must be reconciled with its history as its own path, with its successes and its mistakes. And this reconciliation with one’s own history brings much maturity, much growth.”
Feeling Like a ‘Mother in Law’
Sisci’s next question discussed how the country’s economic growth proceeded at an overwhelming pace, but this has also brought with it human and environmental disasters which Beijing is striving to confront and resolve, and how, at the same time, the pursuit of work efficiency is burdening families with new costs, such as parents and children being separated due to work demands.
Given these factors, the Asian journalist asked what message the Pontiff gives them.
Pope Francis replied, “I feel rather like a “mother-in-law” giving advice on what should be done (laughs). I would suggest a healthy realism; reality must be accepted from wherever it comes.”
“This is our reality; as in football, the goalkeeper must catch the ball from wherever it comes. Reality must be accepted for what it is. Be realistic. This is our reality.”
The Pontiff noted this involves two steps: first, being reconciled with reality, whether or not you like it; second, try to improve the reality and to change its direction.
“Now, you see that these are simple suggestions, somewhat commonplace. But to be like an ostrich, that hides its head in the sand so as not to see reality, nor accept it, is no solution. ”
It is necessary, the Pontiff stressed, “to accept reality as it is, without disguising it, without refining it, and to find ways of improving it.”
World Looks to Your Wisdom
Sisci then recalled the occasion of the upcoming Chinese New Year of the Monkey and asked the Pontiff if he’d like to send a greeting to the Chinese people, authorities and president.
“On the eve of the New Year,” Francis responded, “I wish to convey my best wishes and greetings to President Xi Jinping and to all the Chinese people. And I wish to express my hope that they never lose their historical awareness of being a great people, with a great history of wisdom, and that they have much to offer to the world.
“The world looks to this great wisdom of yours. In this New Year, with this awareness, may you continue to go forward in order to help and cooperate with everyone in caring for our common home and our common peoples. Thank you!”
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ON ZENIT’s Web page:
Full Text of Interview (Made available by website of Asia News): http://zenit.org/articles/pope-francis-interview-with-asia-times/
 

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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, at times from the papal flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio, Sky, and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, and EWTN. 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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