Returning from his visit to Fatima, May 12-13, 2017, Pope Francis held his traditional inflight “press conference” with journalists onboard the Papal plane touching on a wide range of issues. His pilgrimage to the Portuguese town for the centenary of the Marian apparitions marks Francis’ 19th Apostolic Visit abroad and his 28th country visited.
Please find below an unofficial translation of the Pope’s inflight press conference, translated by Catholic News Agency (CNA), and referenced by Vatican Radio:
The following is an unofficial transcript of the in-flight press conference on the papal plane returning from Fatima to Rome on May 13, 2017.
Greg Burke: Thank you Holiness, they were 24 very intense hours, as you said, for the Lord, 24 hours for Our Lady. It’s apparent that the Portuguese felt very touched when you said, “We have a Mother,” that they feel this in a special way. 100 years ago Our Lady didn’t appear to three important journalists, she appeared to three shepherds, but we’ve seen how they with their simplicity and sanctity were able to make this message reach the entire world. The journalists make the message arrive – it is seen from the number of nations from which they come – and they’re very curious about this trip of yours. If you’d like to say something first, great…
Pope Francis: First of all, good evening. Thanks. And, I’d like to respond to the first of the possible questions, so we can do things a bit more quickly. I’m sorry when we’re at the halfway point and they come to tell me that it’s snack time… let’s do them all together. Thanks.
Greg Burke: Good, let’s begin with the Portuguese group, with Fatima Ferreira of the Portuguese TV Radio
Fatima Campos Ferreira (RTP): I don’t know what I think about sitting in front of the Holy Father. Well, first, many thanks for this trip. Holy Father, you came to Fatima as a pilgrim, to canonize Francisco and Jacinta in the year that the apparitions mark their 100th year. From this historical point of view, what is left now for the Church, for the entire world? Also, Fatima has a message of peace. Holy Father, you are going to receive in the Vatican in the coming days, the 24th of May, the American president Donald Trump. What can the world expect and what does the Holy Father expect from this encounter? Many thanks.
Pope Francis: Thanks. Fatima certainly has a message of peace. It’s brought to humanity by three great communicators that were less than 13 years old, which is interesting. Yes, I came as a pilgrim. The canonization was something that wasn’t planned from the beginning, because the process of the miracles was in progress but the all of a sudden the export reports were all positive, and it was done – that’s how the story was told – for me was a very great joy. What can the world expect? Peace. And what am I talking about from now on with whomever? Peace.
Ferreira: And what remains now of this historic moment for the Church?
Pope Francis: A message of peace. And I’d like to say one thing … before disembarking I received scientists from all religions who were doing studies in the Vatican Observatory at Castel Gandolfo, including agnostics and atheists. And an atheist said to me, “I’m an atheist.” I won’t tell you from what ethnicity or place of origin he was – he spoke in English. And at the end, he asked me, ‘I ask you a favor: tell the Christians that they should love their message of peace more.”
Aura Miguel (Radio Renascença): Your Holiness, in Fatima you presented yourself as the “bishop dressed in white.” Up to now, this expression applied rather to the vision of the third part of the secret, St. John Paul II, the martyrs of the twentieth century. What does it mean now, your identification with this expression?
Pope Francis: The prayer, that, I did not write it… the sanctuary wrote it… but also I have tried because they said this, and there is a connection with the white. The bishop of white, Our Lady of white, the white glow of the innocence of children after Baptism and innocence… there is a connection to the color white in that prayer. I believe – because I did not write it – but I believe that literally they have tried to express with white that desire for innocence, for peace… innocence: to not hurt the other … to not create conflict, the same.
Miguel: Is it a revision of the interpretation…
Pope Francis: No, but that vision … I believe that then Cardinal Ratzinger, at that time prefect of the Doctrine of the Faith, explained everything clearly. Thank you.
Claudio Lavanga (NBC News): Thank you. Holy Father, yesterday you asked the faithful to break down all the walls, yet on May 24 you meet a head of State who is threatening to build walls. It is a bit contradictory to your word, but he also has – it seems – opinions and decisions different from you in other topics, such as the need to act to confront global warming or the welcoming of migrants … Thus, in light of this meeting: what is your opinion of the politics that President Trump has adopted so far on these topics and what do you expect from a meeting with a Head of State who seems to think and act contrary to you?
Pope Francis: The first question … I can respond to both… I never make a judgment of a person without listening to them. I believe that I should not do this. In our talk things will come out, I will say what I think, he will say what he thinks, but I never, ever, wanted to make a judgment without hearing the person. The second…
Claudio Lavanga: What do you think about the reception of migrants?
Pope Francis: But this you all know well…
Claudio Lavanga: The second instead is what you expect from a meeting with a head of state who thinks contradictory to you?
Pope Francis: Always there are doors that are not closed. Look for the doors that are at least a little bit open, enter and talk about common things and go on. Step by step. Peace is handcrafted. It is made every day. Also friendship among people, mutual knowledge, esteem, is handcrafted. It’s made every day. Respect the other, say that which one thinks, but with respect, but walk together … someone thinks of one way or the other, but say that …. Be very sincere with what everyone thinks, no?
Claudio Lavanga: Do you hope to soften his decisions after the meeting?
Pope Francis: This is a political calculation that I do not permit myself to make.
Greg Burke: Thank you Holiness, now there is a change of places, Elisabetta Piqué is coming.
Elisabetta Piqué (La Nacion): Thanks first of all for this brief and very intense trip. We wanted to ask you, today is the centenary of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima, but is is also the important anniversary of a fact of your life that took place 25 years ago, when the Nuncio (Archbishop) Calabresi told you that you would become the Auxiliary Bishop of Buenos Aires, something that meant the end of your exile in Cordoba and a great change in your life. Have you every connected this fact that changed your life with Our Lady of Fatima? And in these days that you’ve prayed before her have you thought about this and what did you think about? Can you tell us about that? Thanks.
Pope Francis: Women know everything, eh! No, I didn’t think about the coincidence, only yesterday while I was praying before Our Lady I realized that one May 13th I received the phone call from the nuncio 25 years ago. I don’t know… I said, well look at that. I spoke with Our Lady a little about this. I asked her forgiveness for all of my mistakes, also of a bit of bad taste for choosing people… but yesterday I realized this.
Greg Burke: Nicolas Seneze of La Croix is coming.
Nicolas Seneze (La Croix): Thanks, Holy Father. We’re returning from Fatima for which the Fraternity of St. Pius X has a great devotion and much is said about an agreement that would give an official statute to the Fraternity in the Church. Some even imagined that there would be an announcement today… Holiness, do you think that this agreement is possible in a short timeframe? And, what are the obstacles still? And what is the sense of this reconciliation for you? And, will it be the triumphant return for faithful who have shown what it means to be truly Catholic or what?
Pope Francis: I would toss out any form of triumphalism. None. Some days ago, the Feria Quarta of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, their meeting – the call it the Feria Quarta, because it’s the fourth Wednesday – studied a document and the document still hasn’t reached me, the study of the document. This is the first. Secondly, the current relations are fraternal. Last year, I gave a license for confession to all of them, also a form of jurisdiction for marriages, but even before the problems, the cases they had, for example, had to be resolved by the Doctrine of the Faith. The Doctrine of the Faith carries them forward. For example, abuses. The cases of abuse, they brought them to us, also to the Penitentiary. Also the reduction to the lay state of a priest, they bring to us. The relations are fraternal. With Msgr. Fellay I have a good rapport. I’ve spoken many times… I don’t like to hurry things. Walk. Walk. Walk. And then we’ll see. For me, it’s not an issue of winners and losers, it’s an issue of brothers who must walk together, looking for a formula to make steps forward.
Tassilo Forcheimer (ARD): Holy Father, on the occasion of the anniversary of the Reformation, Evangelical Christians and Catholics are able to walk another stretch of road together. Will there be the possibility to participate in the same Eucharistic Mass? Some months ago, Cardinal Kasper said: A step forward could take place already this year.
Pope Francis: There have been great steps forward, eh … we think of the first statement on justification, from that moment the journey has not stopped… the trip to Sweden was very significant because it was just the beginning and also a commemoration with Sweden… also there is significance for the ecumenism of the journey… that is, to walk together, with prayer, with martyrdom, with works of charity, with works of mercy. And there, Lutheran Caritas and Catholic Caritas have made an agreement to work together. This is a great step. But steps are always awaited. You know that God is the God of surprises. But we must never stop. Always go on. To pray together, to give testimony together and to do works of mercy together, that announce the charity of Jesus Christ, to announce that Jesus Christ is Lord, is the only Savior, and that grace only comes from Him. And on this path the theologians they will continue to study, but the path must proceed. And (with) hearts opened to surprises.
Mimmo Muolo (Avvenire): Good evening Holiness. I’m asking you a question in the name of the Italian group. Yesterday and today at Fatima, we saw a great witness of popular faith together with you. The same that is found, for example, also in other Marian shrines like Medjugorje. What do you think of those apparitions, if they were apparition, and of the religious fervor they have aroused seeing that you have decided to appoint a bishop delegate for the pastoral aspects? And if I can permit myself a second question I know is very close to your heart besides that of us italians… I would like to know, the NGOs were accused of collusion with the boat traffickers of men. What do you think of this? Thanks.
Pope Francis: I’ll start with the first. I read in the papers that I peruse in the morning that there was this problem, but I still don’t know how the details are and because of this I can’t give an opinion. I know there is an issue and the investigations are moving ahead. I hope that they continue ahead and that the whole truth comes out. Medjugorje, all the apparitions, or the presumed apparitions, belong to the private sphere, they aren’t part of the public, ordinary magisterium of the Church. Medjugorje. Medjugorje. A commission was formed, headed by Cardinal Ruini. Benedict XVI made it. I, at the end of 2013 the beginning of 2014, I received the result from Cardinal Ruini. It was commission good theologians, bishops, cardinals, but good. Very good. And the commission. The Ruini report was very, very good. Then there were some doubts in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and the Congregation judged it opportune to send each one of the members of this Feria quarta (Editor’s note: “Feria Quarta” is a once-a-month meeting in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith during which current cases are examined) all the documentation, even those that seemed to be against the Ruini report. I received a notification – I remember it was a Saturday evening, late evening… and it didn’t seem right. It was like putting up for auction – excuse me the word – the Ruini report which was very well done. And Sunday morning the prefect received a letter from me that said that instead of sending them to the Feria Quarta, they they would send the opinions to me personally.
These opinions were studied and all of them underscore the density of the Ruini report. Principally, three things must be distinguished: the first apparitions, that they were kids. The report more or less says that it must continue being studied. The apparitions, the presumed current apparitions: the report has its doubts. I personally am more nasty, I prefer the Madonna as Mother, our Mother, and not a woman who’s the head of a telegraphic office, who everyday sends a message at such hour. This is not the Mother of Jesus. And these presumed apparitions don’t have a lot of value. This I say as a personal opinion. But, it’s clear. Who thinks that the Madonna says, ‘come tomorrow at this time, and at such time I will say a message to that seer?’ No. The two apparitions are distinguished. The third, the core of the Ruini report, the spiritual fact, the pastoral fact. People go there and convert. People who encounter God, change their lives…but this…there is no magic wand there. And this spiritual and pastoral fact can’t be ignored. Now, to see things with all this information, with the answers that the theologians sent me, this good, good bishop was appointed because he has experience, to see the pastoral part, how it’s going. And at the end he’ll say some words.
Muolo: Holiness, thank you, also for the blessing of my fellow citizens who thank you, they saw it and are very happy…
Greg Burke: Holiness, now if I can be the nasty one, we have done all of the language groups and…
Pope Francis: Time is up already?
Greg Burke: There’s a question, they tell me.
Pope Francis: One or two more.
Joshua McElwee (National Catholic Reporter): Thank you, Holy Father. The last member of the Commission for the Protection of Minors, who was abused by a priest, resigned in March. She, Ms. Marie Collins, said that she had to resign because the officials in the Vatican did not implement the recommendations of the commission that you, the Holy Father, approved. I have two questions: who is responsible, and what are you doing, Holy Father, to ensure that the priests and bishops in the Vatican implement the recommendations suggested by your commission?
Pope Francis: Marie Collins explained the matter to me well, I spoke with her, she is a good woman, but she continues to work in the formation of priests on this point… she is a good woman who wants to work … but she made this accusation, and she has a bit of reason… why? Because there are so many late cases, then in this period of lateness, because they accumulate there, you have to make legislation for this… what should the diocesan bishops do? Today in almost all the dioceses there is the protocol to follow in these cases: it is a great improvement. This way the dossiers are done well. Then there are the accusations…this is a step. Another step: there are few people, there needs to be more people capable in this area, and the Secretary of State is looking for, even Monsignor Mueller (Editor’s Note: Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith), to present new people. The other day two or three more were approved… the director of the disciplinary office changed, who was good, eh, he was very good but he was a bit tired… he returned to his home country to do the same with his episcopate. And the new one is an Irishman, Msgr. (John) Kennedy, he is a very good person, very efficient, prompt, and this helps a lot.
Then there is another thing: Sometimes the bishops send – if the protocol is okay, it goes right away to the Feria Quarta and the Feria Quarta studies and decides. If the protocol is not okay, it must go back to be redone. That’s why you think of continental help or in a continent or two … in Latin America, one in Colombia, another in Brazil, as pre-tribunals or continental tribunals… this is in the planning… but then it’s fine, they study it at feria quarta and they take away his clerical status. This goes back to the diocese, and the priest makes recourse. First, the application was studied by the same Feria Quarta that had given the sentence, and this is unfair. I created another tribunal and I put an indisputable person as the head, the Archbishop of Malta, Msgr. (Charles Jude) Scicluna, who is one of the strongest against abuses, and this second – because we must be just – the one who makes recourse is entitled to have a defender. If he (the defender) approves the first sentence, the case is over.His only option is a letter asking the Pope for pardon. I have never signed a pardon. I believe, I do not know, another question. This is how things are. We’re going forward. If Marie Collins was right on that point, we were also on the way. But there are 2000 cases piled up.
Portuguese journalist: I’m going to ask a question about the case Portugal, but I think that it can be applied to many of the Western societies. In Portugal, almost all of the Portuguese say they identify themselves as Catholics. But the way the society is organized, the decisions that we make, often are contrary to the indications of the Church. I refer to marriage between homosexuals, the legalization of abortion, now we’re going to begin discussing euthanasia. How do you see this?
Pope Francis: I think it’s a political problem. And that also the Catholic conscience isn’t a catholic one of total belonging to the Church and that behind that there isn’t a nuanced catechesis, a human catechesis. That is, the Catechism of the Catholic Church is an example of what is a serious and nuanced thing. I think that there is a lack of formation and also of culture. Because it’s curious, in some other regions, I think of the south of Italy, some in Latin America, they are very Catholic but they are anti-clerical and ‘priest-eaters’, that … there is a phenomenon that exists. It concerns me. That’s why I tell priests, you will have read it, to flee from clericalism because clericalism distances people. May they flee from clericalism and I add: it’s a plague in the Church. But here there is a work also of catechesis, of raising awareness, of dialogue, also of human values.[Courtesy of Catholic News Agency]