Pope during an interview, Photo: El País

Pope: 'President Trump?' Let's See What He Does. It's Too Early to Judge

Francis’ Interview with the Spanish Daily El Pais

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While Donald J Trump was being sworn in as the 45th President of the United States on Friday, Pope Francis was giving a long interview to the Spanish daily El Pais at Saint Martha’s House in the Vatican. The question, therefore, was inevitable, as to what the Pope thinks of the businessman’s election by journalists Antonio Cano and Pablo Ordaz. Francis chooses to be prudent and answers: “We’ll see what happens. To be frightened or to rejoice now would be a great imprudence; it would be to be prophets of calamity or well-being which might not be verified. We’ll see what he’ll do, and we’ll assess it.”
Decidedly clearer, instead, during an hour and a quarter of a conversation published unabridged on the Web yesterday evening, was the Pontiff’s judgment on populism and its dangers. “For me, a typical example of populism, in the European sense, is the Germany of ‘33,” he said. A “destroyed Germany sought to raise itself, sought its identity, sought a leader that would restore it to her, there was a young man called Hitler who said: ‘I can.’ And the whole of Germany voted for Hitler. A people in crisis, in search of identity, found itself before this charismatic leader who promised to give them an identity and gave them a ‘distorted identity.’ “This is the danger. In times of crisis, discernment doesn‘t function,” stressed the Pope. “We seek a savior that will restore our identity and we defend ourselves with walls, barbed wire, anything, from other people who can deprive us of such identity. All this is very grave, therefore, I always repeat: dialogue between you.”
In the context of dialogue, the Pontiff confirmed that “every country has the right to control its borders, who comes in and who goes out,” especially those victims of terrorism, however, “no country has the right to deprive its own citizens of dialogue with neighbors.” Then he confirmed his stance on the Mediterranean that “has become a cemetery” and he invited the Church and governments to reflect and act on such an emergency, in the wake of Italy and Greece that “have given a very great example.” “Despite the problems of the earthquake” Italy “continues to be concerned about them.” “First of all” migrants “must be saved,” added the Pope. Then they must be received in the best possible way – hence, <they must be> integrated.”
Moreover, during the interview the Bishop of Rome emphasized his mantra “build bridges, not walls,” which he also applies to Vatican diplomacy, as basic criteria. “I pray to the Lord for the grace never to do anything for an image but, rather, for honesty, for service – these are the criteria,” he explained. “I don’t think it does good to disguise oneself somewhat. Then, sometimes, errors can be committed and the image is resented, well, it’s a consequence, but at least it was done with good will. Then it will be up to history to judge things.” “Mediators and not intermediaries” is what Pope Francis asks of his diplomats. Understood by intermediary is he who “has done a good service, but always gains something,” whereas the mediator “is at the service of the parties and makes it such that the parties win even if he loses.” “Yes, in the course of history, Vatican diplomacy has done maneuvers or meetings and has filled its pockets, because it has committed a serious, a very serious sin. The mediator builds bridges, which are not for him, but so that others can walk <over them>. And a toll is not paid, added the Pope.
Understood thus, can Vatican diplomacy “be extended soon to China?” asked the interviewers. Pope Francis confirmed the existence of a Commission that for years has worked with the ex-Rising Sun and which meets every three months, one time at Rome and another at Beijing. “There is much dialogue with China,” he said, in the country that always keeps this aura of mystery which is fascinating,” he said. “The churches are full. Religion can be practiced in China.” The Pope says he is ready to go “when they invite me.”
Not lacking during the conversations was the recurrent topic of corruption, “the greatest sin” of the present and of the past committed also by some Popes of history; of the “god-money” at the center of the economic system and which “discards” the human person; of “clericalism” as “the worst evil of the Church” and of worldliness” that “anesthetizes” the Church, far from the problems of the people. “In the hierarchy of the Church, or among the agents of pastoral <care> (Bishops, priests, Religious, laymen …) I fear much more the anesthetized than the slumbering,” he confesses. “I (fear) those that are anesthetized with worldliness, they give up in face of worldliness. This worries me: everything is quiet, tranquil, with everything in place, too ordered […] In daily life nowadays there are different ways of anesthetizing oneself, no? And perhaps the most dangerous sickness that can strike a Pastor, caused by anesthesia is clericalism. I am here and the people are there. You are the Pastor of those people! If you are concerned about those people, and allow yourself to be served by those people, then close the door and retire.”
Francis also stigmatized “the third world war in pieces” and he confided: “In these last times there is also talk of a nuclear war as if it were a card game. And this worries me even more.” Then he addressed the drama of violence against women, a “scar” in Latin America but also in so many other places of the world. “The slavery of woman is one of the most disastrous things,” he affirmed and, in this connection, he recalled his visit to some organizations of Rome for the rescue of young prostitutes exploited by Europeans: “A beautiful thing!”
In the across the board interview a chink was also opened on his Predecessor, Benedict XVI. His health? “From here up, perfect. The problem is his legs. He walks with a support,” he revealed. But, he added, “ he has the memory of an elephant, even in details. Sometimes I say something to him and he answers me: ‘No, no, it wasn’t that year … it happened instead in the year …”
Speaking of himself he confirmed that he has not watched TV for 25 years, “simply because at a certain moment I felt that God was asking this of me. I made this promise on July 16, 1990.” However, this is not the only habit he keeps: The Argentine Pope said that he has not changed in fact since that March 13, 2013, of his election to the Throne of Peter. “My personality hasn’t changed. I don’t say it’s something I proposed to do. It happened spontaneously … No, one must not change here. It’s artificial to change. To change at 76 would be like disguising oneself. I certainly can’t do everything I wish to do, but my callejera [of the street] spirit remains, and it’s seen … no sooner I go out, on the street, I greet people, in the audiences and then I travel … “Don’t you feel uncomfortable with power?” asked his interlocutors. “It’s that I don’t have the power. It’s shared,” he answered, “it’s not power that makes me uncomfortable. Certain protocols annoy me. But it’s because I’m made like this, callejero.
The last question was on the Conclave that will elect his Successor. Bergoglio has only one wish: that it be a “catholic” Conclave. It’s not excluded that he will be able to ‘see’ it: “I don’t know. God will decide. When I feel I can’t anymore, my great teacher Benedict has already shown me what to do. And if God leads me forward, I’ll see him on the other side. I hope it’s not to hell …” A witty remark that is followed by that of the two journalists: “It’s obvious that you are very happy to be Pope.” And Francis replies with certainty: “The Lord is good and has not taken away my good humor.”
On the NET:
Full Text of Interview (English Translation on English website of El Pais): http://elpais.com/elpais/2017/01/21/inenglish/1485026427_223988.html

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Salvatore Cernuzio

Crotone, Italy Bachelor's degree in Communication Sciences, Information and Marketing (2008) and Master's degree in Publishing and Journalism (2010) from LUMSA University of Rome. Vatican Radio. Rome Seven. "Ecclesia in Urbe. Social Communications Office of the Vicariate of Rome. Second place in the Youth category of the second edition of the Giuseppe De Carli Prize for religious information.

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