La mia porta e sempre aperta (My door is always open). These simple words are the title and theme of the Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro’s new book on his historical interview with Pope Francis.
Fr. Spadaro presented the book alongside Cardinal Oscar Andres Rodriguez Maradiaga, Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and member of the Council of Cardinals assisting the Holy Father in the governance of the Church. Also presenting were Ferruccio de Bortoli, director of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, and Giuseppe de Rita, an Italian sociologist.
Among those present at the conference were the remaining members of the Council of Cardinals, as well as Archbishop Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, and Archbishop Georg Ganswein, Prefect of the Papal Household.
Fr. Spadaro’s interview took place on August 19th, 23rd and 29th, following the Holy Father’s visit to Brazil for World Youth Day and during the time he was beginning to write his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, which was released last month.
Journalist Elisabetta Pique, who moderated the presentation, described the interview as an “antipasto”, an appetizer of Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation. Fr. Spadaro echoed this sentiment, expressing his amazement that many things mentioned in the interview were also written in Evangelii Gaudium.
De Bortolli described the Pope’s words in the new book as “a return to the simplicity of the Gospel.”
“I am struck by what the Pope calls ‘the first reform’: the attitude that each one of us has for the other,” he said. The director of the Corriere della Sera went on to say that the Holy Father’s thoughts are “a great understanding and education for civil society.”
For his part, Cardinal Maradiaga said the title, much like Blessed John Paul II’s famed motto “Be not afraid”, defines the papacy of Francis. “There is no doubt that the theme of the “open door” is central to Pope Francis’ preaching,” he said.
The introduction of the book, he continued, whets the appetite in getting to know the thoughts of the Holy Father. The cardinal agreed with Fr. Spadaro’s description of speaking face to face with the Pope as a ‘truly spiritual experience.”
“When you are with him, you get to know Christ personally,” he said, adding that the Holy Father has “an open personality willing to listen to opposing opinions.”
Cardinal Maradiaga noted that Pope Francis, as a Jesuit, brings a particular emphasis to the missionary role of the Church in reaching those who are far away. The Holy Father’s devotion to St. Joseph as a paternal guardian is a reminder of this dimension that the Pope wishes to bring to the Church.
The Honduran prelate, who also serves as President of Caritas Internationalis, said that the interview shows Pope Francis’ closeness to Christians who may live in irregular situations. The Church, he stressed, must “live with its eyes open, attentive to that which surrounds it.
“The Church is above all a mother that takes care of the people,” the Cardinal said. “The announcement of the Gospel requires an opening of the doors; to allow people to enter and allow the Gospel to go out to the world.”
Cardinal Maradiaga concluded his remarks by thanking Fr. Spadaro for “this treasure that you have placed in our hands.”
A Human and Spiritual Experience
“It is difficult to read this as just an interview,” Fr. Spadaro said. “It was more than an interview. It was a human and spiritual experience.”
The human experience, he explained, was that he felt he “spoke freely to a resolved man”. Regarding the spiritual experience, the Jesuit priest said that the Holy Father is someone who is “immersed in God.”
Explaining the reasons as to why he decided to write a book, Fr. Spadaro said that publishing it in a simple question and answer format would not do it justice.
Fr. Spadaro recalled an anecdote, which is described in the book, in which he and Pope Francis were reviewing the interview, reading each others words out loud.
“At a certain point, he realized that my throat was dry. He asked, ‘Are you thirsty? I have apricot juice and lemonade.’ Although I never liked apricot juice, I chose it. I thought he would call somebody. Instead, he got up, grabbed a bottle of apricot juice and served me himself.”
“Since then,” he said laughingly, “I drink apricot juice.”
Concluding the presentation, Fr. Spadaro told those present that there is one goal in publishing the book: to give everyone a glimpse of “our humble Pope.”