The following is a translation of the transcript of the Pope’s conversation with journalists on board the plane, introduced by the Director of the Press Office, Father Federico Lombardi:
Text of the meeting
Father Lombardi: Holy Father Francis, welcome amid this flying community of journalists, and communications agency employees. We are very moved to be accompanying you on your first intercontinental, international trip after having already followed you to Lampedusa with great emotion! Among other things, it is the first trip in your continent, at the ‘end of the world’. It is a trip with young people. Hence, there is great interest. As you can see we have taken up all the available seats for journalists on this flight. We are more than 70 persons, and this group is made up with criteria of great variety, that is, there are representatives of the televisions stations – be it reporters, be it cameramen – there are representatives of the written press, of the press agencies, of radio, operators of the Internet. Hence, practically all the media is represented in a qualified way. And there are also representatives of culture and different languages. We have, on this flight, a good group of Italians, then, of course, there are Brazilians who have come also from Brazil to fly together with you: there are ten Brazilians who came precisely for this. Then there are ten from the United States of America, nine from France, six from Spain; then there are English, Mexicans, Germans; also representatives from Japan, Argentina – of course –, Poland, Portugal and Russia. Hence it is a very varied community. Many of those present often follow the Pope’s trips abroad, therefore it isn’t their first experience, in fact, some have traveled a lot, they know these trips much better than you. For others, instead, it’s the first time because, for instance, the Brazilians follow this trip specifically. So we thought of welcoming you in this group, also with the voice of one of us, or better one of us, who was chosen – I believe without particular problems of concurrence – because she is certainly the person who has made more trips abroad with the Holy Father: and competes with doctor Gasbarri also for the number of trips made. Then, she is a person – among other things – who is a woman; hence it is right that we let her speak. I now give the floor immediately to Valentina Alazraki, who has been the correspondent of Televisa for many years, and yet is always youthful, as you can see and who, among other things, we are happy to have with us because, a few weeks ago, she fractured a foot and we were afraid she would not be able to come. Instead, it was repaired in time, the plaster cast was removed two-three days ago and she is now on the flight. Therefore, it is she who interprets for you the sentiments of our flying community.
Valentina Alazraki: [in Spanish] Pope Francis, good morning! The only merit I have to have the privilege of welcoming you is the very high number of flight hours. I took part in John Paul II’s first flight to Mexico, my country. Then I was the mascot, now I am the dean: 34 and a half years later! It is because of this that I have the privilege of welcoming you. We know from your friends and collaborators in Argentina that journalists are not exactly “saints of your devotion.” Perhaps you thought that Father Lombardi had taken you to the lions’ enclosure. But the truth is that we are not so ferocious and have great pleasure in being able to be your traveling companions. It would please us if you saw us this way, as traveling companions in this and in so many others to come. Obviously we are journalists and if today, tomorrow and in subsequent days you wish to answer questions we won’t say no, because we are journalists. Having seen that you entrusted this trip to Mary, going to Saint Mary Major, you will go to Aparecida, I thought of giving you a small present, a very small pilgrim Virgin, to accompany you on this pilgrimage and on many others yet to come. By chance, it is the Virgin of Guadalupe, but not because she is Queen of Mexico, but because she is the Patroness of America, so that no Virgin will resent her, not that of Argentina, or Aparecida or any other. I give her to you with so much affection on behalf of all of us and with the hope that she will protect you on this trip and in so many others yet to come.
Father Lombardi: And now we give the floor to the Holy Father, of course, so that he can give us at least some words of introduction to this trip.
Pope Francis: Good morning. Good morning to you all. I have heard some strange things said: “You are not saints of my devotion,” “I’m here among lions …” but not so ferocious, ah? Thank you. Truly I don’t give interviews, but why I don’t know, I can’t, it’s so. For me it’s somewhat of an effort to do so, but I’m grateful for this company. This first trip is in fact to meet young people, but to meet them not isolated from their life. I would like to meet them, in fact, in the social fabric, in society. Because when we isolate young people, we do an injustice: we take away their belonging. Young people have a belonging, a belonging to a family, to a homeland, to a culture, to a faith. They have a belonging and we must not isolate them! But, above all, we must not isolate them from the whole of society! They are – truly – the future of a people: this is true! But not only them: they are the future because they have the strength, they are young, they will go forward. But also the other extreme of life, the elderly, are the future of a people. A people has a future if it goes forwards with the two points: with the young, with strength, because they lead it forward; and with the elderly because they are those who give the wisdom of life. And I often think that we do an injustice to the elderly, we leave them aside as if they had nothing to give us; they have wisdom, the wisdom of life, the wisdom of history, the wisdom of the homeland, the wisdom of the family. And we are in need of this! That is why I say that I am going to meet young people, but in their social fabric, mainly with the elderly. It’s true that the global crisis doesn’t do good things for young people. I read last week the percentage of young people without work. Think about the fact that we run the risk of having a generation that has not had work, and from work comes a person’s dignity of earning his bread. At present, young people are in crisis. We are somewhat used to this culture of discarding: it’s done too often with the elderly! But now also with these many young people without work, to them also comes the culture of discarding. We must cut this habit of discarding! No. we must have a> culture of inclusion, a culture of encounter, make an effort to bring everyone into the society. I thank you so much, beloved, “saints of non-devotion” and “not so ferocious lions!” But thank you so much, thank you so much. And I would like to greet each one of you. Thank you.
Father Lombardi: Many thanks, Holiness, for this very expressive introduction. And now all will come to greet you: they will come by here , so that they can come and each one of them can meet you, introduce himself; each one must say from what headline, from what television, newspaper he comes, So the Pope meets and greets him …
Pope Francis: We have ten hours …
The journalists came one by one to meet the Holy Father.
Father Lombardi: Have you all really finished? Yes? Very good. We really thank Pope Francis from our heart because it was, I believe, for all of us an unforgettable moment and I believe that it’s a great introduction to this trip. I think that you have earned somewhat the heart of these “lions,” so that during the trip they will be your collaborators, namely, understand your message and spread it with great efficacy. Thank you, Holiness.
Pope Francis: I truly thank you and ask you to help me and to collaborate in this trip for the good, for the good, the good of society: the good of young people, and the good of the elderly; all and two together, don’t forget! And I remain somewhat as the prophet Daniel: somewhat sad, because I saw the lions weren’t so ferocious! Thank you so much. Thank you so much. I embrace you all! Thank you