Pope Francis was interviewed by journalist Valentina Alazraki, correspondent of Televisa News in the Vatican, just days before his second anniversary as Pontiff. During the interview, the Pope spoke about the reactions unleashed by the e-mail sent to an Argentine friend where he advised “avoiding the Mexicanization of Argentina.”
The Pope also makes reference to the violent events that have affected the country in the last years, but he affirms that it is not the first difficult moment the country has gone through in the course of history and that it will be able to surmount it. During the interview the Pope remembered the day of his election as Successor to Peter, the peace that he felt that day and that he still feels to this day. He also commented on the reform of the Curia, the Synod on the family, and the scandal of sexual abuse by priests.
In regard to what a visit to Mexico means and its border with the United States, the Holy Father explains that “today emigration is the fruit of unease in the etymological sense of the word, fruit of hunger, of seeking new frontiers.” However, evidently — he points out – migration today is very related to hunger, to the lack of work. “This tyranny of an economic system that has the god money at the center and not the person, no? Then people are discarded,” says the Pontiff. In this connection, he is pleased that Europe is revising its migratory policy. “Italy was very generous and I want to say this,” said Francis, referring to the situation of Lampedusa. However, returning to the concrete situation of the border of Mexico and the United States, the Pope points out that “in addition it is an area of much fighting with problems of drug trafficking.” And he speaks of Morelia, that whole area, “it’s an area of very much suffering where there are also organizations of drug traffickers who don’t go small, no? That is, they are able to do their works of death, no? They are messengers of death, be it because of drugs, or to cleanse, in quotation marks, those who are opposed to drugs. The 43 students , are asking in some way – I’m not saying for revenge, but for justice, that they be remembered.” In this connection, Francis said that he wanted to make the Archbishop of Morelia a Cardinal ”because he is in the frying pan.” That is, he explains, he is a man who is in a very hot area, and he is a witness of a Christian man, a great priest.
Speaking about the difficult moment Mexico is going through, the Pope indicated that it’s not the first time it is experiencing this. ”I think that the devil punishes Mexico with much anger, because of this: I believe the devil doesn’t forgive Mexico, for the fact that She showed her Son there. My interpretation,” states the Pope.
In so far as responsibility is concerned, Francis noted that not all the blame should be pinned on the Government. “I know it’s very difficult to denounce a drug trafficker. Because his life goes, it’s a sort of martyrdom, no? It’s hard, but I think everyone in situations like this, whether in Mexico or not, we must all put our shoulder to the wheel. That is, to blame one sector, one person, one group is infantile.”
The Pope also answered a question on the “Mexicanization” of Argentina, which he mentioned in a private e-mail to a friend of his and , in certain sectors, that expression was wounding. “Evidently it is, allow me the word, technical term. It has nothing to do with Mexico’s dignity. As when we speak of Balkanization, neither the Serbs, nor the Macedonians, nor the Croats get angry. Now there is talk of Balkanizing something. It’s used technically and the media have used it many times, no?, he explains. And he specified that he read statistics that state that 90% of the Mexican people were not offended by it. “Which makes me happy. It would have been very painful for me had it been interpreted that way.”
Referring to this event, that a private e-mail ends up being public, the journalist asked him if he has not thought of saying to people, when he calls or writes, “this is private.” Francis explained that he generally does “but sometimes people don’t; they can’t keep it to themselves.” The Pope affirmed that “at times I have felt used by the politics of the country. Argentine politicians who have requested an audience.” So, he points out, “of course Argentines when they saw an Argentine Pope forgot all those who were in favor or against the Argentine Pope.
The interview coincides with the second anniversary of Francis’ Pontificate, hence the question on the day of the election.
“It was very simple. I came with a small suitcase because I calculated and said the Pope will never assume office in Holy Week. Therefore, I can return calmly and be in Buenos Aires on Palm Sunday. I left the homily for Palm Sunday ready on my desk and I came with what was necessary for those days, although I thought it could be a very short Conclave, no? In regard to the Conclave, the Pope said that the phenomenon of the voting is a very interesting phenomenon. ”There are already very strong candidates. Then it elects six, seven which are the deposit votes. Then I deposit my vote in you and when I see who is going I give it to him. That is, they are … it’s like something provisional. This is general in the voting of large groups, not certain. That is, yes, I had some votes, but I deposit,” Francis explained in the interview.
In the first round of voting in the afternoon – continues the Pope – when I saw that that could be irreversible, I had him next to me, and I want to tell this because it has to do with my friendship with Cardinal Hummes, which for me is very great, who said to me: “Dont’ worry, the Holy Spirit works this way.”
Moreover, the Pope also said that during the voting, he was praying the Rosary, “I used to pray the three Rosaries daily, I had much peace. I would say even unawareness; the same when the thing happened, and for me it was a sign of God that He wanted that. Peace – up to today I haven’t lost it.”
And that day he had his first “problem with protocol,” when he asked the Vicar of Rome and Cardinal Hummes to accompany him at that moment, something that wasn’t foreseen. In regard to the concrete moment at the central window of the Basilica, Francis recalls that he felt profoundly that a minister needs God’s blessing, but also that of the people.In addition, he answered questions about what he likes most and doesn’t like about being Pope. He likes everything, but “the only thing I would like is to be able to go out one day, without anyone recognizing me and go to a pizzeria to have a pizza.”
He also explains that it’s not that he didn’t like coming to the Vatican; what the Pope doesn’t like is to travel. “I’m very attached to my habitat, it’s a neurosis,” he jokes. In regard to living at Saint Martha’s, he explains that “it’s simply because there are people there. I, over there by myself, I wouldn’t have endured it. Not because it’s luxurious, as some say, no. It’s not luxurious. The apartment is not luxurious. It’s big. But I wouldn’t have tolerated that solitude.
Francis said in the interview that his Pontificate “will be brief” but “I have the feeling that the Lord has me for something brief, no more, but it is just a feeling.” Regarding the possibility of resigning, he noted his belief that “what Pope Benedict did was open a door.” He added that it is not the idea of placing an age limit on emeritus bishops but rather what Benedict did. He remembered seeing him at the recent Consistory, saying that he was “happy, content. He is respected by the whole world. I go to visit him. Sometimes I speak to him over the telephone. As I said, it is like having a wise grandfather at home.”
During his first meeting with Benedict XVI on March 23rd, 2013, “There I felt as if my father was taking me and teaching me and made me sit. He was the host in the most human sense of the word.”
Another issue that was discussed in the interview was the reform of the Curia. And Francis spoke on the conversion of the heart. “It has to leave what it may have of the court still and become a working group at the service of the Church. At the service of the bishops. Evidently that shows a personal conversion”, he explained.
He also spoke concretely on the symbols: the car, the clothes…
“I try to be me, as I like, and sometimes I exaggerate in some things that might offend someone. I don’t know if in that I have to be careful.” At the same time, he explained his address to the Curia on Christmas and the sicknesses that he spoke to them about. The theme of what he said was “that we are at the end of the year, let us do an examination of consciences.” But –he noted- it does not mean that the Curia is falling into pieces because of all those complications and sicknesses. Regarding the resistance in the Curia, the 78 year old Pontiff affirmed that he has never punished someone for telling him things to his face: “Those are the collaborators that I want.” Regarding his preference for the poor, the Holy Father said that what always attacks him is the “the security in wealth. Don’t put your security there. In the Gospel, Jesus is radical on this point.” He also confirmed that he is shocked “by unjust salaries. Because one becomes rich at the cost of the dignity deprived to someone.”
Another important point that is spoken of in the interview is on the Synod of the Family. The Pope believes that there are “unmeasured expectation” and clarified that the Synod of the Family was “not desired by me. The Lord wanted it. And it is something that is his.” The Pope noted that “there is a crisis within the family” and from that point of vew, he believes that what the Lord wants confronted is “the preparation to marriage, accompanying those who live together, accompanying those who marry and carry their families forward well, accompanying those who have failed, in the family and have made a new union, preparation for the Sacrament of marriage, not all are prepared.” And regarding to the way the Synod developed, the Pope said that he is opposed to publish everything that each one says with first and laast name, “that it is known what was said, I have no problem. But not who said it. That way they can feel free to say what they want.” The issue of pedofilia and Marcial Maciel was also one of the points of the interview. “When I found out about that “great scandal” I was truly hurt, I was scandalized. How can this person do this?, the Pope asked. And he explained that “here, when we realized what happened, strong action took place. And he made clear that the then Cardinal Ratzinger and Saint John Paul II were aware and said: forward. One, with the investigation. The other who gave the green light.
Regarding the problem of the abuse of minors, he recognized that it is a serious problem, “the majority of abuses occur with family or someone close.” But, “one single priest who abuses a minor, is enough to move the entire structure of the Church and confront the problem.” We must go forward, and not turn back, the Pope assured. The journalist also asked the Holy Father if at any time he thought to “bite his tongue” for his spontaneous and at times, unconventional way of speaking. “I have also spoken that way. Always. It might be a fault, I don’t know. But I believe the people understand me,” the Pope said.