Below is a ZENIT working translation of Pope Francis’ latest interview which was granted to the Belgian weekly newspaper “Tertio.” The interview was done on the occasion of the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and published yesterday:
Here is a translation of the Holy Father Francis’ interview with the Belgian Catholic weekly “Tertio,” on the occasion of the conclusion of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy.
[Interlocutor) Representative of the Bishops for the media … (Pope Francis) You already brought me some youngsters who asked good questions … (Interlocutor) There is a Pope who gives good answers … (Pope Francis I will wait a little … I would like to see the questions, which I haven’t seen …]
–Q: We are living a period in our country in which national politics wants to separate religion from public life, for instance, in the educational curriculum. It is the opinion that, in times of secularization, religion must be reserved to private life. How can we be at the same time a missionary Church, going out to society, and live the tension created by such public opinion?
–Pope: Well, I don’t want to defend anyone but this is an antiquated position. This is the legacy the Enlightenment left us, no? Where every religious event is a sub-culture. It’s the difference between secularism and laicism. I’ve talked about this with the French. Vatican II speaks to us about the autonomy of things or of processes or of institutions. There is a healthy laicism, for instance, the State’s laicism. In general the secular State is good. It’s better than a confessional State, because confessional States end badly.
However, laicism is one thing, and secularism is another. And secularism closes the doors to transcendence: to a twofold transcendence, both transcendence towards others, especially transcendence towards God or towards what is Beyond. And openness to transcendence is part of the human essence; it’s part of man. I’m not talking about religion. I’m talking about openness to transcendence. So a culture or system that doesn’t respect openness to the transcendence of the human person, prunes, trims the human person, namely, doesn’t respect the human person. This is more or less what I think. Then, to send any act of transcendence to the sacristy is an asepsis, which doesn’t go with human nature; a good part of life, which openness is, is removed from human nature.
–Q: You are concerned with inter-religious relations. In our times we coexist with terrorism, with war. Sometimes it’s said that the root of the present wars lies in the difference between the religions. What should be said about this?
–Pope: Yes, I believe the comment exists. However, no religion as such can foment war, because in that case it’s proclaiming a god of destruction, a god of hatred. War can’t be carried out in the name of God or in the name of a religious position. War can’t be carried out by any religion. Therefore, terrorism, war, are not related to religion. Religious deformations are used to justify them, that’s true. You are witnesses of this; you have lived it in your homeland. But they are religious deformations, which do not make up the essence of what is religious. <What is> religious, rather, is love, unity, respect, dialogue, all those things, but not in that aspect. In other words, one must be specific, namely, no religion given the religious fact, can proclaim war. Religious deformations exist. For instance, all religions have fundamentalist groups –all of them. We do as well. And they destroy from their fundamentalism. But those small religious groups that deformed, that “infected” their religion, fight from there, or engage in war, or create divisions in the community, which is a form of war. However, those are the fundamentalists groups that all religions have. There is always a small group …
–Q: Another question regarding war. We are commemorating the 100 years since World War I. What would you say to the European Continent regarding the post-War motto “Never again war”?
–Pope: I have spoken three times to the European Continent: twice in Strasbourg and once last year or this year – I can’t remember – at the time of the Charlemagne Prize [May 6, 2016]. I think that “Never again war” was not taken seriously, because after the first <War> the second came and after the second this third <war> which we are now living in pieces, in little pieces. We are at war. The world is engaged in World War III: Ukraine, the Middle East, Africa, Yemen …
It’s very serious. Then, “never again war” <comes> out of the mouth but in the meantime we manufacture weapons, and sell them, and sell them to our adversaries, because the same manufacturer of weapons sells to this one, to that one, who are at war with one another. It’s true. There is an economic theory, which I never tried to verify, but which I have read about in several books: that in the history of humanity, when the State saw that its balance sheets weren’t right, it created war and righted its balances. That is, it’s one of the easiest ways of creating wealth. Of course the price is very dear: blood.
I believe that “Never again war” is something that Europe said sincerely; it said it sincerely. Schumann, De Gasperi, Adenauer … they said it sincerely. But then … Today leaders are lacking; Europe needs leaders, leaders that go forward … Well, I’m not going to repeat what I said in the three addresses.
–Q: Is there a possibility that you will come to Belgium for this commemoration?
–Pope: No, it’s not planned, no. It’s not foreseen. I used to go to Belgium every year and a half when I was Provincial [Superior], because there was an Association there of Friends of the Catholic University of Cordoba. I was Chancellor … So I went there to talk to them. They were engaged in their [Spiritual] Exercises. And I went to thank them. And I took a great liking to Belgium. For me, Belgium’s most beautiful city is not yours but Bruges …[he laughs].
Interviewer: I have to tell you that my brother is a Jesuit. Pope: O, really? I didn’t know that! Interviewer: So, besides being a Jesuit he is a good person. Pope: I was going to ask you whether he was Catholic … (he laughs and laughs)]
Q: We are finishing the Year of Mercy. Can you say how you have lived the year and what you expect when the year is over?
–Pope: The Year of Mercy was not an idea that I had all of a sudden. It came from Blessed Paul VI. Paul VI had already taken some steps to rediscover God’s mercy. Then Saint John Paul II settled this with three events: the encyclical Dives in Misericordia, the Canonization of Saint Faustina, and the Feast of Divine Mercy in the Octave of Easter, and he died on the eve of this Feast.
And so he already set the Church on that path. And I felt that the Lord wanted this. It was, it was … I don’t know how the idea was formed in my heart, but one good day I said to Monsignor Fisichella, who came <to see me> for matters of his dicastery. I said to him: “How I would like to hold a Jubilee, a Jubilee Year of Mercy.” And he said to me: “And why not?” And so the Jubilee Year of Mercy began. It’s the best guarantee that it wasn’t a human idea but that it came from above. I believe the Lord inspired it. And, evidently, it did much good. On the other hand, the fact that the Jubilee was not only in Rome but in the whole world, in all the dioceses and moved within each diocese, it moved and people mobilized a lot. They mobilized a lot and felt called to be reconciled with God, to encounter the Lord again, to feel the Father’s caress.
–Q: German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer made the distinction between cheap and precious grace. What does cheap or precious grace mean to you?
–Pope: Mercy is precious and cheap. I don’t know Bonhoeffer’s text, I don’t know how he explains it. But … it’s cheap because one doesn’t have to pay anything; indulgences don’t have to be bought; it’s a pure gift, a pure gift, and it’s precious because it is the most precious gift. There is a book that was made on the basis of an interview I had, whose title is ”God’s Name Is Mercy,” and it’s precious because it’s God’s name: God is mercy.
It reminds me of that <priest> I had in Buenos Aires – who continues celebrating Mass and works and who is 92! — when beginning a Mass he always gives some advice. He is very energetic, at 92; he preaches very well; people go to listen to him. “Please, silence your telephones” … and the Mass was on-going and the Offertory was beginning and a telephone <rang>. He stopped and said: “Please, shut off the telephone.” And the acolyte who was beside him said: “Father, it’s yours.” And then he took it out and said: “Hello” (They laugh).
–Q: It seems to us that you are indicating Vatican II in today’s times. You are indicating paths of renewal in the Church. The Synodal Church … In the Synod you explained your vision of the Church of the future. Can you explain it to our readers?
–Pope: The “Synodal Church,” – I’ll take this word. The Church is born of communities, it’s born of the grass-roots, of the community, it’s born of Baptism and is organized around a Bishop who convokes her, gives her strength – the Bishop, who is a successor of the Apostles. This is the Church. However, there are many Bishops in the whole world, many organized Churches, and there is Peter. Then, either there is a pyramidal Church, where what Peter says is done, or there is a Synodal Church, where Peter is Peter, but he accompanies the Church and makes her grow, he listens to her; more than that, he learns from that, and goes harmonizing, discerning what comes from the Churches, and he gives it back. The richest experience of this was the two last Synods. With the preparation, all the Bishops of the world were heard there – all the Churches of the world: the dioceses worked. All that material arrived. Then it was returned. And it came back a second time to the second Synod to be completed. From there Amoris Laetitia issued. The richness of the different hues is curious. It’s proper to the Church. It’s unity in difference. That is synodal. Not to go from above down, but to listen to the Churches, to harmonize them, to discern. Then there is the Post-Synodal Exhortation, which is Amoris Laetitia, which is the result of two Synods, where the whole Church worked, and which the Pope made his own. He expresses it in a harmonious way. It’s curious: everything that’s there [in Amoris Laetitia] was approved in the Synod by more than two-thirds of the Fathers, which is a guarantee. A Synodal Church means that there is this movement from above to below, from above to below. The same <thing happens> in the dioceses. However, there is a Latin formula that says that the Churches are always cum Petro e sub Petro (with Peter and under Peter). Peter is the guarantor of the Church’s unity – the guarantor. So this is the meaning. And there must be progress in Synodality, which is one of the things that the Orthodox have kept, and also the Catholic Eastern Churches. It’s one of their riches; I acknowledge it in the encyclical.
–Q: It seemed to me that that passage that the second Synod made of the method to “see, judge and act” in order to “listen, understand and accompany” is very different. It’s what I say constantly to people. The passage the Synod gives is to “see, judge and act,” in order to listen to the people’s reality, to understand it well and then to accompany the people in their journey.
–Pope: Because each one said what he was thinking, without fear of being judged. And all were in an attitude of listening, without condemning. Then discussions were held as brothers in groups. However, one thing is to be as brothers and another is to condemn a priori. There was very great freedom of expression, and that’s lovely.
–Q: You gave lovely impulses to young people in Krakow. What would be your special message for the young people of our country?
–Pope: That they be not afraid; that they be not ashamed of the faith, that they not be ashamed to look for new ways. There are young people who aren’t believers: don’t worry; look for the meaning of life. I would give two <pieces> of advice to a youth: “look for horizons” and “don’t retire at 20.”It’s very sad to see a youth retired at 20-25. Look for horizons, go forward and continue working in this human task.
–Q: One last question, Holy Father, an opinion on the media.
–Pope: The media has a great responsibility. In their hands today is the possibility and capacity to form opinions. They can form a good or bad opinion. The media are builders of a society. On their own, they exist to build, to exchange, to fraternize to make one think, to educate. In itself <the media> is positive. Of course, as we are all sinners, the media can fall — those of us who are engaged in the media, I’m here, using a means of communication — can do damage. And the media has its temptations. It can be tempted to calumny (used, then, to calumniate and soil people), especially in the world of politics: it can be used for defamation (every person has the right to a good reputation, but perhaps in their previous life, or in their past life, or ten years ago, someone had a problem with justice, or a family problem …then, to bring that to light today is grave, it causes harm, a person is annulled). In calumny a lie is said about a person. In defamation a file is taken out, as we say in Argentina, it is shelved and they come up with something that is true, but that has passed. And perhaps the crime was already paid with prison, or a fine, or whatever. There’s no right to that. It’s a sin and it does harm. And something in the media that can cause great harm is disinformation, namely, in face of a situation to say a part of the truth and not the other. No! That is to disinform, because one gives the television viewer half the truth. Therefore, he can’t make a serious judgment on the complete truth. Disinformation is probably the greatest harm the media can do, because it orients opinion in a direction, taking away the other part of the truth. And then, I believe the media must be very clean, very clean and very transparent. And must not fall –please, without offending – into the sickness of coprophilia: which is always looks to communicate scandal, to communicate ugly things, even if they are true. And as people have the tendency to coprophagy, much harm can be done. So I would say those four temptations. However, they are opinion builders and can edify, and do immense, immense good.
–Q: To end, a word only for priests. Not a speech, because I’m being told I must finish … What is the most important thing for a priest?
–Pope: It’s a somewhat Salesian answer. It comes from my heart. “Remember that you have a Mother who loves you. Do not cease to love your Mother the Virgin. “ Second: Let Jesus look at you. Third: look for the suffering flesh of Jesus in your brothers. You will encounter Jesus there — that as the basis. Everything stems from there. If you are an orphan priest, who have forgotten that you have a Mother; if you are a priest who are disengaged from the One who called you, who is Jesus, you will never be able to take the Gospel. What is the way? Tenderness. Be tender. Priests, don’t be ashamed to be tender. Caress Jesus’ suffering blood. A revolution of tenderness is necessary today in this world that is suffering the sickness of cardio-sclerosis.
–Q: Cardio …?
–Pope: Cardio-sclerosis.[Original text: Spanish] [Working Translation by ZENIT]
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