Returning from his visit to Peru and Chile, Jan. 15-22, 2018, Pope Francis held his traditional inflight “press conference” with journalists onboard the papal plane touching on a wide range of issues.
The first questions related to his just-concluded Apostolic Visit to South America, on his visit, the Holy Father reflected in Spanish on the fruits of the journey, its developments, and its difficulties.
When asked about the couple of flight attendants he married on the flight, the Pope responded, emphasizing that he had questioned them quite a bit before marrying them and that they had undergone the necessary courses of marriage preparation.
On the two-hour flight from Santiago to Iquique, Chile, on January 18, 2018, the Holy Father blessed the marriage of a Chilean couple: Paula Podesta Ruiz, 39, and Carlos Ciuffando Elorriaga, 41, who had been married civilly for eight years. In 2010 an earthquake destroyed the church where they intended to exchange their vows. Paula Podesta Ruiz and Carlos Ciuffando Elorriaga have two children: Rafaella, 6, and Isabella, 3.
According to the press on board the plane, the couple asked the Pope to bless their wedding rings. Francis asked them if they wished to be married religiously. “They were talking with the Pope. They told him they weren’t married in the Church. The Pope asked them if they wished to be married immediately. They said “yes,” said Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, who accompanies the Argentine Pontiff on all his trips.
The Holy See stressed that the Sacrament of Marriage is valid. “Everything is official. There are witnesses, there is a document,” said the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Greg Burke.
Many conservative Catholics have criticized the wedding, noting it would perpetuate couples wanting to get married in secular and unusual locations, and will leave pastors without grounds for suggesting Church weddings. The Pope said the new spouses were prepared and that he made a judgement call. “The sacraments are for people. All the conditions were clear,” he said.
Journalists asked the Pope about the earlier episode during the trip, when he said that until he sees proof that Bishop Juan Barros was complicit in covering up the sex crimes of the Fr. Fernando Karadima, such accusations against Barros are “all calumny.”
The sexual abuse scandals in the South American country had caused many to be very skeptical of the Catholic Church and had led to many protests, even violent ones, leading up to and during the Pontiff’s visit.
The Pontiff went on to apologize to victims of clerical sex abuse, acknowledging he had “wounded many” in his comments, noting having done so “pains” him.
While the Pontiff did note he saw the declaration of Cardinal O’Malley of Boston, who also leads the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, which noted the Pontiff’s response could be discouraging and could hurt victims, the Pope stressed that while he does believe in ‘zero tolerance,’ he also will not cast stones until there is evidence.
The Pope recognized how much victims of abuse must suffer when the Pope says, ‘Bring me a letter with the proof.’ The Pontiff said, “I now realize that my expression was an unfortunate one.”
While apologizing saying he made a poor choice of words, the Pope still stressed: “I can’t condemn him because I don’t have evidence and because I am convinced he is innocent.”
Unless ‘credible evidence’ is brought against him, Francis said, Barros would remain in his place.
The Holy Father also responded to an assortment of other questions ranging from the Amazon, the environment, and Archbishop of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga.
On Zenit’s Web page:
Full Text of Papal Flight Conference: to be made available as soon as possible