“I see clearly that the thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle.” This is one of the many insights given by Pope Francis in an 18 page rare in-depth interview with Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of the Jesuit Italian journal, La Civilta Cattolica,The interview was published in several Jesuit journals around the world simultaneously, including America magazine.
When asked by Fr. Spadaro, “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”, the Holy Father stated matter of factly that the most fitting description would be a sinner. “I am a sinner,” the Pope said. “This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”
The Pope explained that his motto, “Miserando Atque Eligendo”, (Because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him) fit his profile. The motto is taken from a homily by Saint Bede the Venerable regarding the calling of St. Matthew by Jesus. Pope Francis explains that the image of Christ calling St. Matthew in a painting by Caravaggio exemplifies his own calling.
“Here, this is me, a sinner on whom the Lord has turned his gaze. And this is what I said when they asked me if I would accept my election as pontiff: […] ‘I am a sinner, but I trust in the infinite mercy and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, and I accept in a spirit of penance,’” the Pope said.
Regarding the governance of the Church, Pope Francis said that discernment was crucial in guiding the right course of action. “Many think that changes and reforms can take place in a short time,” he said. “I believe that we always need time to lay the foundations for real, effective change. And this is the time of discernment.”
“Discernment,” he continued, “is always done in the presence of the Lord, looking at the signs, listening to the things that happen, the feeling of the people, especially the poor. My choices, including those related to the day-to-day aspects of life, like the use of a modest car, are related to a spiritual discernment that responds to a need that arises from looking at things, at people and from reading the signs of the times. Discernment in the Lord guides me in my way of governing.”
The Holy Father also pointed out that consultation is another important key in governing the Church. Speaking on his early experience as superior in the Society of Jesus, Pope Francis candidly spoke on his tenure, saying that at the time, his “style of government had many faults.”
“My authoritarian and quick manner of making decisions led me to have serious problems and to be accused of being ultra conservative. I lived a time of great interior crisis when I was in Cordova. To be sure, I have never been like Blessed Imelda [a goody-goody], but I have never been a right-winger. It was my authoritarian way of making decisions that created problems,” the Pope said.
A Healing Church
Pope Francis also spoke on complex moral issues such as homosexuality and divorce, saying that mercy is paramount in ministering to those who grapple with these issues.
“We need to proclaim the Gospel on every street corner preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing, even with our preaching, every kind of disease and wound,” the Pope said. “In Buenos Aires I used to receive letters from homosexual persons who are ‘socially wounded’ because they tell me that they feel like the church has always condemned them. But the church does not want to do this.”
The Holy Father emphasized the importance of the sacrament of penance in helping one in a difficult situation who is seeking God and His Grace. While acknowledging that he has not spoken much on issues of abortion and homosexuality, the Holy Father insisted that such issues must be spoken in context. “The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time,” he said.
Pope Francis went on to say that the proclamation of the Gospel must be simple and focus on the essentials rather than insistently imposing doctrine. “The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, profound, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow,” the Pope said.
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On the NET:
For the full text of Fr. Spadaro’s interview with Pope Francis, go to: http://www.americamagazine.org/pope-interview