Here is a ZENIT translation of the press conference Pope Francis gave Sunday on his return flight from Armenia.
Thank you so much for being here, at the end of this quite brief but very intense trip. We were happy to accompany you and now we would like to ask you, as usual, a few questions, taking advantage of your kindness. We have a prepared list of people here who wish to speak, and we can begin, as usual, with the colleagues of Armenia, to give them the priority. The first is Arthur Grygorian, of Armenian Public Television.
Good evening! I thank you very much for your help on this trip and for all your work that does good to people: to communicate things well means good news, and good news always does one good. Thank you so much, thank you.
Arthur Grygorian, Armenian Public Television:
(In English) Holy Father, it’s known that you have Armenian friends. You already had contacts with the Armenian community in Argentina. In the course of the last three days, you, so to speak, you were able to touch the Armenian spirit. What are your feelings, your impressions, and what is the message for the future, your prayers for us Armenians?
Well, we’ll think of the future and then we’ll go to the past. I hope for justice and peace for this people. And I pray for this, because it is a courageous people. And I pray that it will find justice and peace. I know that many work for this. And, last week, I was very happy when I saw a photograph of President Putin with the two Presidents, Armenian and Azerbaijani – at least they speak to one another. And also with Turkey: in his welcome address, the President of the [Armenian] Republic spoke clearly, and he had the courage to say: “Let us agree, forgive one another and look to the future.” This is great courage <for> a people who have suffered so much!
The icon of the Armenian people – and this thought came to me today while I was praying a bit – is a life of stone and a mother’s tenderness. It has carried crosses, but crosses of stone – they are also seen [the characteristic stone crosses called khachkar] –; but it hasn’t lost the tenderness, the art, the music, those “quarter-tones” so difficult to understand, and with great ingeniousness … A people who have suffered so much in history, and only faith, faith has kept it standing. Because the fact that it was the first Christian nation isn’t sufficient; it was the first Christian nation because the Lord blessed it, because it has Saints, it has had holy Bishops, martyrs … And because of this in its resistance that “skin of stone” was formed – let’s say it thus — but it hasn’t lost the tenderness of a maternal heart; and Armenia is also mother.
This was the second question. And now we come to the first. Yes, I had many contacts with Armenians, I often went to them for Masses; <I have> so many Armenian friends; I did something that I usually don’t like to do, in order to rest, but I went to dinner with them, and you make heavy dinners! But I’m very friendly, very friendly be it with Archbishop Kissag Mouradian, of the Apostolic Church, be it with Boghossian, of the Catholic <Church>. But among you, more important than belonging to the Apostolic Church or to the Catholic Church, is your “Armenianness,” and I understood this at that time. Today an Argentine of an Armenian family greeted me who, when I went to the Masses, the Archbishop made him sit next to me so that he could explain to me some ceremonies and some words that I didn’t understand.
Thank you so much, Holy Father. Now we give the floor to another Armenian representative who is Mrs Jeannine Paloulian of “Nouvelles d’Armenie.”
Jeannine Paloulian, “Nouvelles d’Armenie”:
(In French) Thank you, Holy Father. Yesterday evening, at the ecumenical prayer meeting, you asked young people to be architects of the reconciliation with Turkey and with Azerbaijan. I would like to ask you simply – given that in a few weeks you will go to Azerbaijan – what do you, what can the Holy See do concretely to help us, to help us proceed. What are the concrete signs. You made them in Armenia. What are the signs you’ll do next, in Azerbaijan?
I will speak to the Azerbaijanis of the truth, of what I have seen, of what I feel, and I will also encourage them. I met with the Azerbaijani President and I spoke with him. And I will also say that not to make peace over a small piece of land – because it’s not a great thing – means something dark … But I say this to all: to the Armenians and to the Azerbaijanis. Perhaps they don’t agree on the way to make peace, and they must work on this. But I don’t know what else to say. I’ll say what comes to my heart at the moment, but always positive, trying to find solutions that are <possible and> that lead forward.
Thank you so much. And now we give the floor to Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere, of “France Presse.” I believe it’s the last trip he makes with us, so we are happy to give him the floor.
Jean-Louis de la Vaissiere, “France Presse”:
Holy Father, first of all I would like to thank you on my part and on the part of Sebastian Maillard of “La Croix.” We are leaving Rome and want to thank you from the heart for this “breath of spring” that blows on the Church. Then I have a question: why did you decide to add openly the word “genocide” in your address at the Presidential Palace? On a painful subject such as this, do you think it’s useful for peace in this complicated region?
Thank you. In Argentina, when there was talk of the Armenian extermination, the word “genocide” was always used. I didn’t know another. And in the Cathedral of Buenos Aires, on the third altar at the left we placed a cross of stone in memory of the “Armenian genocide.” The Archbishop, and two Armenian Archbishops, the Catholic and the Apostolic, came and inaugurated it. Moreover, in the Catholic church of Saint Bartholomew – another [church], the Apostolic Archbishop made an altar in memory of Saint Bartholomew [evangelizer of Armenia]. But always … I don’t know another word. I came with this word. When I arrived in Rome, I heard the other words, “the Great Evil” or “the terrible tragedy,” in the Armenian language [Metz Yeghern], which I don’t know how to pronounce. And I was told that the <word> genocide was offensive, that this <other one> must be said. I’ve always spoken of three genocides of the last century – always three. The first, the Armenian; then Hitler’s, and the last Stalin’s – the three. There are others that are smaller. There was another in Africa [Rwanda]. However, in the orbit of the two Great Wars, there are these three. And I asked, because some say: “Some think it’s not true, that it wasn’t a genocide.” Someone else said to me — a lawyer said this to me, which interested me very much –: The word genocide is a technical word; it’s a word that has a technicality, which isn’t a synonym of extermination. One can say extermination, but to declare a genocide entails actions of compensation and things of that nature.” A lawyer said this to me.
Last year, when I was preparing the address [for the celebration of April 12, 2015 at Rome] I saw that Saint John Paul II used the word, he used both words: “the Great Evil” and “genocide.” And I quoted this one between quotation marks. And it didn’t sit well. There was a statement of the Turkish government; in a few days, Turkey recalled its Ambassador to Ankara – who is a good man, Turkey sent us a “luxury” Ambassador! He returned two or three months ago… It was a “diplomatic fast” … But <Turkey> has the right: we all have the right to protest.
And in this address [in Armenia] at the beginning the word wasn’t there, this is true; and I answer why I added it. After having heard the tone of the President’s address, and also with my past regarding this word, and after having said this word publicly last year in Saint Peter’s, it would at least have sounded very strange not to say the same one. But there I wished to underscore something else, and I believe – if I’m not mistaken – that I said: “In this genocide, as in the other two, the great international powers looked elsewhere.” And this was the accusation. In World War II, some powers had photographs of the railways that took <people>to Auschwitz: they would have had the possibility of bombing, and they didn’t do it. It’s an example. In the context of World War I, where there was the problem of the Armenians, and in the context of the Second War, where there was the problem of Hitler and Stalin, and after Yalta the lagers and all this, no one spoke? This must be underscored, and the historical question asked: why didn’t you do this? You powers – I don’t accuse, but ask a question. It’s interesting: they did look at the War, at many things, but those people … And, I don’t know if it’s true, but I would like to find out if it’s true, that when Hitler persecuted the Jews so much, one of the things he <supposedly> said is: “But who remembers the Armenians today? Let’s do the same with the Jews!” I don’t know if it’s true, perhaps it’s a saying, but I heard this said. Historians should research it and see if it’s true. I believe I’ve answered <your question>. However, I never said this word with an offensive spirit, <but> rather objectively.
Thank you so much, Holiness. You have touched upon a delicate argument with great sincerity and profundity. Now we give the floor to Elisabetta Pique who, as you know, is from Argentina, <and> of “La Nacion.”
Elisabetta Pique, “La Nacion”:
(In Spanish) Congratulations first of all, for the trip. I would like to ask you: we know that you are the Pope, there is also Pope Benedict, the Pope Emeritus. Lately there have been voices, a statement of the Prefect of the Papal Household, Monsignor Georg Ganswein, who said that there could be a shared Petrine ministry – if I’m not mistaken – with an active Pope and a contemplative one. Are there two Popes?
(In Spanish) There was a time in the Church in which there were three! (he repeated this in Italian. In a certain period, there were three in the Church! I didn’t read that statement because I didn’t have the time. Benedict is Pope Emeritus. On that February 11 he said clearly that he was handing his renunciation beginning February 28; that he would retire to help the Church with prayer. And Benedict is in the convent and he prays. I’ve gone to meet him many times, or <spoken> with him on the telephone … The other day he wrote me a little letter – he still signs with his signature – wishing me well for this trip. And once – not once, several times – I’ve said that it’s a grace to have at home the wise “grandfather”; he is the man who protects my shoulders and back with his prayer. I never forget that address he gave to the Cardinals on February 28: “One of you will surely be my Successor. I promise obedience.” And he has done so.
Then I heard – but I don’t know if this is true – I stress: I heard, perhaps they are sayings, but they are in keeping with his character, that some went there to complain because “this new Pope …”, and he sent them away! With the best Bavarian style: polite, but he sent them away And if it’s not true, it’s well founded, because this man is like this: he is a man of his word, a correct, correct, correct man! — <is> the Pope Emeritus.
Then, I don’t know if you remember, that I thanked Benedict publicly — I don’t know when, but I believe during a flight – for having opened the door to Popes Emeritus. Seventy years ago, Bishops Emeritus didn’t exist; today there are some. But with this lengthening of life, can one rule a Church up to a certain age with infirmities or not? And he, with courage – with courage! – and with prayer, and also with knowledge, with Theology, decided to open this door. And I believe this is good for the Church, but there is only one Pope. The other … or perhaps – as for the Bishops Emeritus [– I don’t say many, but perhaps there could be two or three<that> will be Emeritus. They were [Popes], [now] they are Emeritus.
Observed day after tomorrow is the 65th anniversary of his priestly Ordination. His brother Georg will be there [this presence hasn’t been confirmed], because both were ordained together. And there will be a small ceremony, with heads of Dicasteries and a few people, because he prefers … He has accepted, but very modestly; and I will be there also. And I’ll say something to this great man of prayer, of courage that is the Pope Emeritus – not a second Pope – who is faithful to his word and who is a man of God. He is very intelligent, and for me he is the wise grandfather at home.
Now we give the floor to Alexey Bukalov, he is one of our deans and, as you well know, represents Itar-Tass, and therefore Russian culture among us.
Did you speak Russian in Armenia?
Alexey Bukalov, “Itar-Tass”:
Yes, with great pleasure. I always thank you … Thank you, Holiness, thank you for this trip, which is the first trip in former Soviet territory. It was very important for me to follow you … My question is somewhat outside of this argument: I know that you very much encouraged this Pan-Orthodox Council, actually the meeting with Patriarch Kyrill at Cuba was mentioned as a hope. Now what is your judgment — let’s say — on the forum? Thank you.
A positive judgment! A step forward was taken: not one hundred per cent, but a step forward. The things that justified, between quotation marks, [the absences] were sincere for them, they are things that can be resolved with time. They wanted – the four that didn’t attend – to do it a bit before. But I think the first step is taken as one can. Like children, when they take their first steps, they do so as they can: the first they do like cats and then they take the first steps. I’m happy. They spoke of so many things. I believe the result is positive. The sole fact that these auto-cephalous Churches met, in the name of Orthodoxy, to look at one another in the face, to pray together and perhaps say some phrase, but this is very positive. I thank the Lord. There will be more the next time. Blessed be the Lord!
Thank you, Holiness. Now we pass the microphone to Edward Pentin, who represents to a degree the English language: this time, the National Catholic Register.
Edward Pentin, “National Catholic Register”:
Holy Father, as John Paul II you seem to be a supporter of the European Union: you praised the European project recently when you received the Charlemagne Prize. Are you worried about the fact that Brexit could lead to the disintegration of Europe and eventually to war?
There is war in Europe already! Then there is an air of division, and not only in Europe, but within the countries themselves. Remember Catalonia, last year Scotland — I’m not saying that these divisions are dangerous, but we must study them well and, before taking a step forward towards division, to speak well among ourselves and seek possible solutions. I really don’t know; I haven’t studied the reasons why the United Kingdom wished to take this decision. But there are decisions — and I believe I already said this once, I don’t know where, but I said it – of independence, which is done for emancipation. For instance, all our Latin American countries, also the countries of Africa have been emancipated from the crowns of Madrid, of Lisbon; also in Africa: from Paris, London; from Amsterdam, Indonesia especially …
Emancipation is more understandable, because there is a culture behind, a way of thinking. Instead, the secession of a country – again I’m not speaking of Brexit –, we think of Scotland, it something that has taken the name – and I say this without offending, using that word that politicians use – of “Balkanization” – without speaking of the Balkans!
It’s to a degree secession, it’s not emancipation, and there are stories behind, cultures, misunderstandings, also much good will in others. We must have this clear. For me unity is always superior to conflict, always! But there are different forms of unity; and also brotherhood – and here I come to the European Union – it’s better than enmities and distances. In regard to the distances – let’s say – fraternity is better. And bridges are better than walls. All this must be reflected upon. It’s true, a country [says]: I’m in the European Union, but I want to have certain things that are mine, of my culture …” And the step – and here I come to the Charlemagne Prize – that the European Union must take to rediscover the strength it had in its roots is a step of creativity and even of “healthy disunion” – that is, give more independence, give more freedom to the countries of the Union. To think of another form of union, to be creative, creative in regard to places of work, the economy. There is a “liquid” economy in Europe today that makes — for instance in Italy – that young people 25 years old and younger don’t have work: 40 per cent! There is something that’s not right in that massive Union … But let’s not throw the baby and the bath water out the window! Let’s try to rescue things and re-create … because the recreation of human things – even of our personality – is a journey, and must always be done. An adolescent isn’t the same as an adult person or an elderly person: it’s the same and it’s not the same, it’s recreated continually. And this gives them life and the desire to live, and it gives fecundity. And I underscore this: today the two key words for the European Union are creativity and fecundity. It’s the challenge I don’t know, it’s how I think of it.
Thank you, Holiness. Now we give the floor to Tilmann Kleinjung, who is from Ard, the German National Radio. I think that also for him, it’s his last trip … So we are happy to give him this possibility.
Tilmann Kleinjung, “Ard”:
Yes, I’m also leaving for Bavaria. Thank you for being able to ask this question. “Zu viel Bier, zu viel Wein.” Heiliger Vater, I would like to ask you a question: today you spoke of shared gifts of the Churches, together. Given that you will go – in four months – to Lund to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, I think that perhaps this is the right moment to remember not only the wounds of both sides, but also to recognize the gifts of the Reformation and, perhaps, also — and this is a heretical question – to annul or withdraw Martin Luther’s excommunication or have some rehabilitation. Thank you.
I believe Martin Luther’s intentions weren’t mistaken: he was a reformer. Perhaps some methods weren’t right but at that time, if we read the story of the Pastor, for example – a German Lutheran who then converted when he saw the reality of that time, and became a Catholic – we see that the Church in fact was not a model to imitate: there was corruption in the Church; there was worldliness; there was attachment to money and power, and he protested about this. Then he was intelligent, and he took a step forward justifying why he did so.
And today Lutherans and Catholics, with all Protestants, agree on the Doctrine of Justification: on this very important point he wasn’t mistaken. He offered a “medicine” for the Church, then this medicine was consolidated in a state of things, in a discipline, in a way of believing, in a way of doing, in a liturgical way. But he wasn’t alone: there was Zwingly, there was Calvin … And what was behind them? The principles, “Cuius regio eius religio.” We must put ourselves in the history of that time. It’s not an easy history to understand, not easy. Then things went ahead. Today the dialogue is very good and I believe that Document on Justification is one of the richest, the richest and most profound ecumenical documents. Do you agree? There are divisions, but they also depend on the Churches. There were two Lutheran Churches in Buenos Aires: one thought in one way, and the other in another. Also in the Lutheran Church itself there isn’t unity. They respect one another, they love each other … Diversity is perhaps that which has done so much evil to all of us and today we seek to take up the path again to encounter one another after 500 years.
I believe we must pray together, <we must> pray. Prayer is important for this. Second: To work together and to pray together. And that theologians study together, seeking … But this is a long, very long path. Once I said jokingly: “I know when the day of full unity will be” – “What <day>?” “The day after the coming of the Son of man!” Because it’s not known … The Holy Spirit will give this grace. However, in the meantime, it’s necessary to pray, to love one another and to work together, especially for the poor, for people that are suffering, for peace and for other things, against the exploitation of people … So many things for which we are working jointly.
Thank you. Now then we give the floor to Cecile Chambraud of “Le Monde,” who again represents the French language.
Cecile Chambraud, “Le Monde”:
(Question in Spanish) Holy Father, a few weeks ago you spoke of a Commission to reflect on the subject of women deaconesses. I would like to know if this Commission exists already and what will be the questions on which it will reflect to be resolved? And, finally, sometimes a commission serves to forget the problems: I would like to know if this is the case?
There was a President of Argentina who said, and advised other Presidents of other countries: when you don’t want something to be resolved, create a commission! I was the first to be surprised by this news, because the dialogue with women religious, which was recorded and then published in L’Osservatore Romano,” was something else, on this line: “We have heard that in the first centuries there were deaconesses. Can this be studied? Can a commission be created? …”
Nothing else. They asked, they were educated and not only educated, but also lovers of the Church, consecrated women. I said that I knew a Syrian, a Syrian theologian who is dead <now>, who did the critical edition of Saint Ephrem in Italian. Once, speaking of deaconesses – when I came I used to lodge in Via della Scrofa and he dwelt there – at breakfast he said to me: “yes, but we don’t know well what they were, if they had Ordination …” There certainly were these women who helped the Bishop, and they helped him in three things: the first, in the Baptism of women, because there was the Baptism of immersion; the second, in the pre and post baptismal anointing of women, and third – this makes one laugh – when a wife went to the Bishop to complain because her husband beat her, the Bishop would call one of these deaconesses, who looked at the woman’s body to find bruises that proved these things.
I said this. “Can it be studied?” – “Yes, I will say to the [Congregation for the] Doctrine of the Faith that this Commission be created.” The next day [the papers <reported>]: “The Church Opens the Door to Deaconesses!” I really was a bit angry with the media, because this is not to tell people the truth.
I spoke with the Prefect of the [Congregation for the] Doctrine of the Faith, who said to me: “Look, there is a study that the International Theological Commission did in the 80s.” Then I spoke with the President [of the Superiors General] and I said to her: “Please, send me a list of persons that you believe can be chosen to form this Commission.” And she sent me the list. The Prefect also sent me the list and now it’s there, on my desk, to create this Commission. I think there was so much study on the topic in the 80s and it won’t be difficult to throw light on this subject.
However, there is something else. A year and a half ago, I formed a commission of women theologians who worked with Cardinal Rylko [President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity] and they did good work, because woman’s thought is very important. For me a woman’s function isn’t as important as woman’s thought; women think in a different way from us men. And a good and correct decision cannot be made without hearing women. Sometimes in Buenos Aires I would hold a consultation with my advisers, I would listen to them on the subject, then I would have some women come and they saw things in another light, and this enriched <things> so much, so much, and then the decision was very, very fruitful, very beautiful. I must meet these women theologians, who did a good job, but which, however, stopped. Why? Because now the Dicastery for the Laity is changing, it’s being restructured. And I expect this to happen to continue with this second work, that of the deaconesses. Something else about women theologians – and I would like to underscore this — : women’s way of understanding, of thinking, of seeing things is more important than woman’s functionality. And then I repeat what I always say: the Church is woman: “she” is Church, and she is not a “spinster” woman; she is a married woman with the Son of God, her Spouse is Jesus Christ. Think about this, and then tell me what you think …
Now, given that you have talked about women, we will have a last question from a woman; then I’ll ask one and we conclude … So, after an hour, we’ll leave you in peace. Cindy Wooden, who is responsible of CNS, which is the Catholic Agency of the United States.
Cindy Wooden, “CNS”
Thank you, Holiness. In past days, German Cardinal Marx, speaking at a large, very important Conference in Dublin on the Church in the modern world, said that the Catholic Church must apologize to the gay community for having marginalized these people. In subsequent days after the slaughter of Orlando, many said that the Christian community had something to do with this hatred toward these individuals. What do you think?
I’ll repeat the same thing that I said on the first trip, and I also repeat what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: that they must not be discriminated against, that they must be respected, supported pastorally. What can be condemned – not for ideological reasons but for – let’s say – reasons of political behavior, are manifestations that are too offensive for others. But these things have nothing to do with the problem, the problem of a person that has that condition, who has good will and who seeks God, <and> who are we to judge him? We must accompany him well, according to what the Catechism says. The Catechism is clear!
Then there are traditions in some countries, in some cultures that have a different mentality on this problem. I believe that the Church not only should apologize – as that “Marxist” Cardinal [Cardinal Marx] said to a person who is gay, that she has offended, but she must also apologize to the poor, to women and children exploited in work; she must apologize for having blessed so many weapons … The Church must apologize for not having behaved so many, so many times – and when I say “Church” I understand Christians; the Church is holy, we are sinners! Christians should apologize for not having accompanied many choices, many families … I remember as a child the culture of Buenos Aires, the closed Catholic culture – I come from there!: you couldn’t go into the home of a divorced family! I’m speaking of 80 years ago. The culture has changed, thank God.
We must apologize so much as Christians, not only for this. Forgiveness, and not just apologies! “Forgive us, Lord!” it’s a word we forget – now I’m being a Pastor and I give a sermon! No, this is true, many times <there is > the “priest boss” and not the priest father, the priest “that beats” and not the priest that embraces, forgives, consoles … But there are so many! So many chaplains of hospitals, chaplains of prisons, so many saints! But they are not seen, because sanctity is “modest” [has modesty], hides itself. Instead, shamelessness is somewhat shameless: it’s shameless and makes itself seen. So many organizations, with good people and not so good people, or people to whom you give a rather large “purse” and they look elsewhere, like the international powers with the three genocides. We Christians – priests, Bishops –have also done this; but we Christians also have a Teresa of Calcutta and so many Teresas of Calcutta! We have so many Sisters in Africa, so many lay people, so many couples of holy spouses! — the wheat and the weeds, the wheat and the weeds. Jesus says that the Kingdom is like this. We must not be scandalized about being like this. We must pray so that the Lord sees that the weeds come to an end and that there is more wheat. But this is the life of the Church. No limit can be put. We are all holy because we all have the Holy Spirit within, but we all are sinners, I for starters, agreed? Thank you. I don’t know if I’ve answered … Not only apologies but forgiveness!
Holy Father, allow me to ask one last question and then we’ll let you go in peace.
Don’t get me into trouble …
It’s to do with the forthcoming trip to Poland, for which we are already beginning to prepare. And you will dedicate this month of July to prepare for it. Can you tell us something about the feelings with which you are going to this World Youth Day, in this Jubilee of Mercy. And another point, somewhat specific, is this: we visited the Memorial of Tzitzernakaberd with you, during the visit to Armenia, and you will also visit Auschwitz and Birkenau, during the trip to Poland. I’ve heard that you wish to live these moments more in silence than with words, to be as you were here, perhaps also at Birkenau. Therefore, I would like to ask you if you would like to give an address there or if, instead, you would prefer to have a moment of silent prayer with a specific reason of yours.
Two years ago, at Redipuglia, I did the same to commemorate the centenary of the Great War. I went to Redipuglia in silence. Then there was the Mass and I preached at the Mass, but it was something else. Silence. Today, this morning, we witnessed silence … Was it today? [Father Lombardi: No, yesterday] I would like to go to that place of horrors without speeches, without people, only the few necessary ones … But, undoubtedly the journalists will be there! — but without greeting this one, that one …No, no. Alone, to go in and pray … And may the Lord give me the grace to weep.
Thank you, Holiness. Now we’ll also accompany you in the preparation of this forthcoming trip and we thank you so much for the time you’ve dedicated to us. Now rest a while, eat also … And then, rest also in the month of July.
Thank you so much! Thank you again, thank you for your work and for your benevolence.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]
Here is a ZENIT translation of the press conference Pope Francis gave Sunday on his return flight from Armenia.