Pope Francis has confirmed that he will visit South America and hopes to visit Africa this year. The Holy Father gave an in-depth press conference for almost an hour during his return flight from Manila to Rome.
When asked regarding his visit to the Philippines, the Holy Father said he was moved by their heartfelt gestures, especially their joy even in the midst of a tropical storm. “It is joy, not a fake joy. It wasn’t a painted-on smile…” he said. “And behind that smile there is a normal life, there is pain, there are problems.”
Speaking on their paternal, maternal, enthusiastic and joyful gestures, the Pope said that there is a word that is often misunderstood by many, but that is understood by the Filipino people: resignation. The Holy Father gave the example of the father of Krystel Padasas, the 27 year old volunteer who died after a piece of scaffolding fell on her shortly after the Pope left Tacloban.
“Yesterday, in the conversation I had with Krystel’s father, the young volunteer who died in Tacloban, I was edified (by what he told me): ‘She died in service.’ and he looked for words to conform to this, to accept this. A people who know how to suffer. And this is what I saw, how I interpreted the gestures.”
Upcoming Apostolic Visits
Pope Francis was asked regarding Catholics in Africa, many of whom suffer due to poverty, war, as well as the rise in Islamic fundamentalism and their desire for him to visit. .
The Holy Father said that hypothetically, his plan is to visit the Central African Republic and Uganda at the end of 2015.
“This trip is a bit late because their was the Ebola problem,” he said. “It is a great responsibility, especially having a big meeting with the risk of contamination, no. But in these countries, there is no problem. These are the two [countries] proposed for this year.”
The Holy Father was also asked on his upcoming visit to the United States, where he confirmed that he will only visit Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, the United Nations in New York and Washington, D.C.
While saying that he would like to visit California to canonize Blessed Junipero Serra, the Pope said that due to time constraints, he would celebrate the canonization at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
He also confirmed his visit to South America this year. “The three Latin American countries that are foreseen for this year are: Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay,” the Pope said. “Next year, God-willing, I would like to visit – although nothing is confirmed yet – Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Peru is still not certain. We don’t know when to fit that [visit] as well.”
The Ideological Colonization Explained
The 78 year old Pontiff was also asked to elaborate on his words during the Meeting of Families, where he warned of an “ideological colonization” in today’s world.
The Pope began by giving an example in which a Minister of Public Works requested a loan in 1995 to build a school for the poor. The person was given the loan on the condition that she distribute books that taught ‘gender theory’.
“This is the ideological colonization: they enter into a people with an idea that has nothing to do with the people; yes, with a group of people, but not with the people, and they colonize the people with an idea that changes or that wants to change a mentality or a structure.”
The Pope recalled that the Bishops of Africa recounted the same problems in their countries during the Synod of Bishops in October 2014. The Pope compared those who push their ideologies to those of the dictatorships of the last century.
“Think of the Balilla (Fascist youth organization), think of the Hitler youth. They colonized the people, they wanted to do it. But how much suffering! The people should not lose their freedom. The people have their culture, their history; each people have their own culture. “
Paul VI & ‘Responsible Parenthood’
In two separate questions regarding his defense of Paul VI and the Church’s stance on contraception, the Holy Father said that his predecessor was “a prophet” who foresaw a coming wave of Neo-Malthusianism, or the belief that population control would ensure resources for future generations. The Pope said that such an ideology, exemplified in low birth rates in countries like Italy and Spain, “seeks to control humanity.”
However, the Pope noted that responsible parenthood doesn’t mean that “a Christian must have children serially.” He recalled an example of meeting a woman who had 7 children through Cesarean section and expecting an eighth. “This is to tempt God. We are talking about responsible parenthood. That is the path: responsible parenthood.”
“Some believe – and pardon me for my words – that to be good Catholics we should be like rabbits, no? No, responsible parenthood. This is clear and for this reason in the Church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this, there are pastors.”
The Pope’s words echo Blessed Paul VI’s 1968 Encyclical Letter “Humanae Vitae” which states that for “well-grounded reasons”, such as physical or psychological conditions of the husband or wife, couples can “take advantage of the natural cycles immanent in the reproductive system during those times that are infertile.”
“In doing this,” the encyclical states, “they certainly give proof of a true and authentic love.”
Pope Francis also highlighted the importance of children, especially in poor families who are often targeted by groups to be closed to life.
“For the poorest people, a child is a treasure,” he said. “God knows how to help them. Maybe some are not prudent in this, it’s true. Responsible parenthood but look also at the generosity of that father and that mother who see in each child a treasure.”
After landing in Rome’s Ciampino airport, Pope Francis stopped at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome. Presenting a small bouquet of flowers in front of the Salus Populi Romani image, the Holy Father spent several moments in prayer to thank the Virgin Mary for her protection during his apostolic trip.