Pope Francis’ conversation with journalists, on his return from his latest international trip, was not only about topics connected with his trip to Egypt but also topical issues.
Russia’s commitment to persecuted Christians, the North Korean and Venezuelan crises, relations with Donald Trump, immigration, the French elections, the UN, which has become “somewhat wishy washy”: Bergoglio spoke freely, satisfying the curiosity of journalists on the flight.
The first question, which has captured the attention of the Italian media in past months, had to do with Giulio Regeni, a young researcher from Friuli found dead in Cairo in February 2016. The youth’s parents, supported by some international organizations, asked the Pope to make himself the interpreter of their quest for the truth about what happened. The spokesman of Egyptian President al-Sisi said yesterday that the two Heads of State did not talk about this issue. Francis specified that his meeting with al-Sisi must remain private, but he also added: “In regard to Regeni: I am worried, and I moved on this issue from the Holy See, because the parents also requested it.”
Staying with Egypt, the question could not be lacking regarding the Joint Declaration signed by the Bishop of Rome and the Coptic-Orthodox Pope, Tawadros II. Francis described the latter as “a great man of God” and “a great Patriarch.” He considers him “one of the most fanatical” to find a common Easter date for all Christians.
In regard to the eleventh point of the Declaration, the most important, the Holy Father affirmed: “The unity of Baptism goes forward, the fault is something historical: It was clear in the first Councils, then Christians baptized children in Shrines and when they wished to get married, Baptism was repeated under conditions. It started with us, not with them. We are on a good path to overcome this.
A common Baptism that is already a reality between Rome and the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate. The Holy Father underscored the good relations with Patriarch Kirill and with Archbishop Hilarion, but also those with the Russian State. “I know that the State speaks of the defense of Christians in the Middle East; I think this is a good thing: to speak against persecution. Today there are more martyrs than in the past,” he said.
So many martyrs, many are also those fleeing from their land in desperate conditions. Bergoglio spoke again of the migratory crisis. In recent days he compared the refugee reception centers in Europe to “concentration camps,” an approach that raised some controversy. Francis stressed that “it was not a lapsus” and confirmed: “there are refugee camps that are true concentration camps.”
Immigration is one of the issues of the French Presidential election campaign. Next Sunday, May 7, the second round will be held, which will decree the next resident in the Elysee Palace. The Bishop of Rome disassociated himself from questions about the two candidates. He said he did not know them, and therefore was “unable to give an opinion,” either on Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front, or Emmanuel Macron, former scion of high finance, former dependent of Rothschild & Co Bank, and former Minister of the Economy from 2014 to 2016.
The winner between the two challengers will succeed Francois Hollande, about whom the Pope had the following to say: “I tried to have good relations also with the current President, with whom there was once a conflict but later I was able to talk clearly about things.” His reference, more than to homosexual marriage (approved definitively at Paris in April 2013), was probably the diplomatic crisis between France and the Holy See linked to the name of the new ambassador d’Oltralpe.
In addition to the French President, the Holy Father also talked about U.S. President Donald Trump. In past weeks the press speculated about a possible meeting with him. This is what Bergoglio had to say about it: “I have not yet been informed about requests on the part of the State Secretariat, but I receive every head of State who asks for an audience.”
The Pope specified that he appeals to every Head of State to resolve the existing crises through diplomacy. He could not escape from a question on the turbulence in the Korean Peninsula: U.S. military ships are threatening North Korea while the Pyongyang regime carries out missile tests and states that it might strike South Korea.
“There has been talk of Korean missiles for a year, but now it seems that things are getting too heated. I call for negotiation because it has to do with the future of humanity. A wider war today would destroy a good part of humanity and it is terrible!”
The Pontiff invited to look at what is happening “in the middle East, in Yemen <and> in Africa. “Let us stop <and> seek diplomatic solutions, and I think that there the United Nations have the duty to take up again to a degree their leadership because it has become somewhat ‘wishy washy.’”
Discussing conflicts, the Pope also talked about Venezuela. “There was an intervention by the Holy See on the request of four Presidents who were working as facilitators, but the thing wasn’t successful because the proposals weren’t accepted or were diluted.”