The Argentine Pope is on this week’s cover of the famous magazine “Paris Match,” generally reserved for sports and stage celebrities. The magazine published a long interview with the Pope by Vatican expert Caroline Pigozzi, where such topics appear as poverty, human dignity, criticisms of capitalism and the environment. In sum, there is nothing new (there was thought of some revelation on an eventual trip to France, greatly desired by the country’s Catholics), or “scandalous,” (not even a reference to the question of the gay ambassador Laurent Stefanini or to Monsignor Charamsa’s outing), but only the topics dearest to him.
Striking, however, are the colorful personal details that the Argentine Pope reveals in every direct conversation with the press. For instance, his gratitude for his Jesuit formation which gave him “the discernment dear to Saint Ignatius, the daily search to know the Lord better and to follow him ever more closely.”
Or his devotion to Saint Therese of Lisieux, “one of the Saints that speaks to us most of the grace of God and how God takes care of us,” to whom he entrusts himself again today in moments of difficulty, or to her parents, Louis and Zelie, whom he will canonize next October 18, “a couple of evangelizers that witnessed the beauty of faith in Jesus, within the domestic walls and outside.”
Striking also are statements such as: “I have always been a priest of the street” and “now also I would like to walk through the streets of Rome, a very beautiful city.” Perhaps dressed “simply as a priest?”, he asks the journalist. “I haven’t abandoned altogether the clergyman’s black under the white cassock!” says Bergoglio, confirming once again his desire “to eat a good pizza with friends.”
“I know it’s not easy, in fact almost impossible. What is never wonting to me is contact with the people. I meet so many, many more than when I was in Buenos Aires, and this gives me much joy! When I embrace the persons I meet, I know that it is Jesus who holds me in his arms.”
Pope Francis also speaks of his choice of name, explaining, as he has in the past, that the moment of the election in the Sistine Chapel “the message of Saint Francis on Creation did not motivate me so much as did his way of living evangelical poverty.”
In connection with poverty, his criticisms of the present economic system are very harsh. An “unjust” system, he says, where capitalism and profit prevail, which in themselves aren’t diabolic if they are not transformed into idols. “They are not if they remain instruments,” he specifies. On the contrary, “if the common good and the dignity of human beings pass to the second, not to say to the third place, if money and profit become fetishes to adore, then our societies are going to ruin.”
Therefore, the Holy Father’s appeal is that “humanity and the whole of creation must cease to be at the service of money,” and instead, must put back at the center “the human person, his dignity, the common good, the future generations that will populate the earth after us,” who otherwise will end up living in a “cumulus of rubble and filth.”
“The Christian is inclined to realism, not to catastrophism,” he adds. Also, precisely for this reason, we cannot hide from the evidence: “the present system is unsustainable.”
As unsustainable also is the progressive degradation of the environment, lamented in the recent encyclical Laudato Si’. In this regard, the Pontiff states: ”Our common home is polluted, it does not cease deteriorating, there is need for everyone’s commitment, man must be protected from self-destruction.” He then looks to December, when the UN conference on climate will be held at Paris, the so-called Cop21, expressing the hope that the summit “will be able to contribute concrete, shared choices with objectives that point, long term, to the common good.”
Not lacking in the conversation is a reference to the conflicts that plague the territories of the Middle East, Syria and Iraq in particular. In this regard, Francis reminds of the “human duty to act in face of an emergency,” without neglecting the causes of what has happened. Because “we cannot be resigned in face of the fact that these communities, today minorities in the Middle East, are constrained to abandon their homes and their lands.” Moreover, “we don’t forget the hypocrisy of all the powerful of the earth who speak so much of peace but who, under the table, sell arms,” adds the Pope.
And he stressed that, at the level of the Vatican “through dialogue we try to encourage the solution of the conflicts and the building of peace. We seek tirelessly peaceful and negotiating voices to resolve the crises and conflicts.” “The Holy See — he asserts — doesn’t have its own interests to defend on the international scene, but tries through all possible channels to encourage meetings, dialogues and peace processes, and respect of human rights.” Also because “on the more delicate questions the action of the Pope and of the Holy See remains independent of the degree of liking or enthusiasm that some personalities arouse at one moment or another,” specifies Bergoglio.
Then he recalls his trip to countries such as Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, where “I tried to show examples of coexistence and collaboration between men and women that belong to different religions, so that they surmount the wounds still opened, caused by recent tragedies.” On the other hand, this is what the Gospel requests: “that we be builders of bridges and not of walls,” evidences the Pope.
“I don’t make plans, I don’t concern myself with strategies or international politics,” he clarifies. “I am conscious that in many circumstances the voice of the Church is a ‘vox clamantis’ in the desert.’” And, when a ‘big attempt’ succeeds, such as the US-Cuba thaw, “it is not necessary to exaggerate the role of the Pope and of the Holy See. We only tried to foster the dialogue of the countries’ leaders and, above all, we prayed.”