Whenever there was a sentence, I never gave a pardon or reprieve…
Pope Francis during his return flight from his 25th Apostolic Visit to the Baltic States, Sept. 22-25, 2018, made this definitive statement when asked about the abuse scandals in the Church. Zenit was aboard the papal flight, covering his four-day trip to Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.
While during his aboard press conference he initially reminded journalists that the questions ought to be related to the trip, he also touched on other topics later on, such as the report published today in China and the abuses.
The Pope stressed that the Church, while having certainly made its mistakes, has been “sparing no effort” to work to combat the abuses and cover-ups.
The Pope acknowledged that the abuses are “monstrous” and reaffirmed his commitment to zero-tolerance. To illustrate that the Church has effectively dedicated itself to combatting the crisis, the Pontiff pointed out that the actual number of cases “has diminished because the Church has realized that it must fight in a different way.”
The Pontiff lamented that in the past, particularly the last century, there was cover up due to shame.
“The Church,” Francis noted, “has become aware of this and has spared no effort” to combat it recently, he suggested.
“Even if it’s one single priest who abuses a child,” the Pontiff noted, “this is monstrous, because that man was chosen by God to lead the child to Heaven.”
“Never, never, did I sign a request for a pardon after a sentence has been made,” the Pontiff emphasized when responding about sex abuse, despite his initial insistence to keep the press conference questions on the topic of the trip, rather than to deviate to other themes.
“There is no negotiating on that,” he underscored.
Regarding the China-Holy See Agreement published Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018, and the accusation of Cardinal Joseph Zen, Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, that you have ‘sold out the Church to the Chinese government,” the Pope stressed this decision was not an improvisation, but something that has been long in the making.
“It is I who signed the agreement,” said Francis, “I’m in charge. The others have worked for ten years. It’s not an improvisation. It’s a journey.”
The Holy Father reminded the journalists before him of the roles of President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli; Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin; and Roman Curia official, Father Rota Graziosi.
The Holy Father told the press that Cardinal Parolin “studies all of the documents down to the period, comma, notes,” and that this “gives me a great assurance.”
“You know that when you make a peace agreement or a negotiation, both sides lose something,”the Holy Father stated, expressing that it is normal to make little steps back and forth, in order to move forward.
The Holy Father reflected substantially on the trip and his observations, denouncing ‘hate for religion’ and communism.
“I am aware that the situation of the three Baltic countries is always in danger, the fear of invasion, because history itself reminds you of this. And you are right to say that it is not easy, but it is a game to be played every day, with culture, with dialogue. All of us are obliged to help you and be close to you with the heart.”
Another journalist recalled the Pope’s insistence during the trip that the Baltic Countries retain their roots and identity, but recognizing the vast number from those nations that emigrate abroad, he asked what can be done to help them.
“What can be done to defend it?” the Pope reflected, answering: “The memory of the roots, this is important and must be transmitted. Identity is part of belonging to a people and that belonging to a people must be passed on, the roots must be passed on to the new generations, through education and dialogue, especially between the elderly and the young. And you must do so because your identity is a treasure.”
He praised grandparents for their intricate role, in transmitting the faith, noting they are responsible for transmitting the faith. The Holy Father also lamented in his remarks about the persecution in Lithuania. Discussing the cruelty of the past, and how this remains current, the Pontiff decried terrorism, persecutions, and the death penalty. He also pointed out that when euthanasia is administered, that is “a modern-day death penalty.”
Zenit, whose Vatican Correspondent Deborah Castellano Lubov, was on the papal flight to cover the Pope’s trip to the Baltic Countries, may be updating this article and will be working to offer our readers a final transcript and will bring it to you as soon as possible.