It was natural in the interview, on the return flight from Lesbos, that journalists’ questions were catalyzed on the culminating news of the whole trip: the 12 refugees that Francis decided to bring with him on the plane to receive them in the Vatican. Several questions were focused on the topic during the 25 minutes of conversation that the Pontiff, as usual, granted some 50 journalists, who accompanied him during the visit.
Refugees to Rome: “They had their papers in order. They are children of God. The Vatican’s Costs”
First of all, the Pope clarified that the criteria with which the three Syrian families (all Muslims) were chosen, were not determined by religious factors. “I didn’t choose between Christians and Muslims,” he explained. “These three families had their papers in order, their documents in order and it could be done. There were, for instance, two Christian families in the first list that didn’t have their papers in order.” ‘It’s not a privilege – added Bergoglio – all 12 are children of God. The “privilege” is to be children of God.”
At the “technical” level, continued the Pope, “everything was done in order”: Vatican City State, the Italian Government and the Greek Government – all inspected everything , saw everything and gave their consent. They are being received by the Vatican: it will be up to the Vatican, with the collaboration of Sant’Egidio Community, to find a place of work for them, if there is one, and their maintenance.” The costs for the support of the refugees, therefore, are the Vatican’s and the 12 refugees, among which six are minors, are added to the two Syrian families already received in the parish of Saint Anne and of Saint Peter.
Bernie Sanders: “If someone thinks that to greet someone is to meddle in politics, I suggest he find a psychiatrist”
Another clarification Pope Francis wished to make was his meeting that morning with the candidate in the Democratic primaries for the US Presidential election, Bernie Sanders. “This morning, when I was leaving, Senator Sanders was there, who had come to the congress of the Centesimus Annus Foundation. He knew that I was leaving at that time, and he had the politeness to greet me. I greeted him, shook his hand, his wife’s, and that of a couple that was with him, who were lodging at Saint Martha’s, because all the members taking part, except the two presidents (Correa and Morales), who I believe were lodging in their embassies, all were staying at Saint Martha’s. And when I came down, he introduced himself, he greeted me; we shook hands and nothing more. This is politeness; it is called politeness and not meddling in politics,” clarified the Pope. “And if someone thinks that to greet someone is to meddle in politics, I suggest he find a psychiatrist!”
Trip to Lesbos: “No political speculation”
Francis then reflected on the nature of his trip to Lesbos, explaining that he did not want to express a criticism by it to the recent agreement between the European Union and Turkey. “There is no political speculation, because I didn’t know well these agreements between Turkey and Greece; I saw it in the newspapers and I can’t say anything,” he stressed, describing his trip as “a humanitarian trip, born of the “inspiration” of one of his collaborators. “I accepted immediately, because I saw that it was the Spirit speaking.”
Europe: “Ghettos exist today. There must be education to integration”
The Pope then spoke of “integration,” recalling a word “that in our present-day culture seems to have been forgotten after the War: ghettos exist today!” Therefore, he requested Europe “to take up this capacity today, which it always had, of integration, .” “Some of the terrorists that committed terrorist acts – some – were sons and grandsons of persons born in the country, in Europe. And what happened? There was no policy of integration,” he said and reminded that having received nomad populations in the past “enriched the culture” of the Old Continent.
To close borders doesn’t solve anything”
According to the Pontiff, there is need of “teaching and education to integration.” At the same time, it is necessary to exercise “great responsibility in the [refugees’] reception.” “I understand governments, also peoples, who have a certain fear,” he admitted; however, it is necessary to understand how to “integrate these people to the North.” Also because “to build walls is not a solution. We saw one fall last century. It doesn’t solve anything. We must build bridges. But bridges are built intelligently; they are made with dialogue and integration.” To close borders doesn’t solve anything because, in the long run, that closure harms the people themselves,” asserted Pope Francis. Therefore, Europe must “urgently engage on policies of hospitality and integration, of growth, of work, of reform of the economy.” All of these are the bridges needed today.
“The children suffer. Today, at the camp, one could weep …”
It is necessary to give hope to people as those found today in the Moria refugee camp. The Pope confessed he was overwhelmed when witnessing certain scenes: “One could weep,” he said, showing journalists some drawings given to him by children through which they expressed their desires. “What do the children want?” They want peace, because they suffer.” They suffer for having experienced tragedies such as seeing their contemporaries drown: “The children have this in their heart! They have this in their memory ….”
Francis showed them [the journalists] a drawing in particular of a weeping sun: “But if the sun is able to weep, so we should weep; a tear will do us good,” he said.
It would be salutary for the manufacturers of arms to go among the refugees”
Pope Francis would send to that camp, which brings together so many human tragedies, the manufacturers of arms. : “It would be salutary for them.” Asked about the causes of the migrations’ emergency, he lamented the wars and the hunger, both the “effect of the exploitation of the land.” Explaining, instead, the concept of “austerity,” he clarified that it has several meanings: economically it means a chapter of a program, politically something else, and spiritually yet something else. When I speak of austerity, I speak of austerity in contrast with waste. I heard it said at a meeting that with the waste of food all hunger could be placated — and we, in our home, how much waste there is without meaning to do so. So, “let us pause here and live somewhat austerely.
Amoris Laetitia: “The media are not aware of the real problems”
Two questions were not lacking during the interview on Amoris Laetitia, the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation published on April 8. The conversation turned obviously to the discordant opinions about access to the Sacraments by divorced and remarried persons, between those who hold that everything has changed and those that affirm that nothing has changed. Recommending that they read the presentation of Cardinal Shönborn, “a great theologian,” who knows well the Doctrine of the Faith,” Francis quoted Benedict XVI when, speaking of Vatican Council II, he affirmed that two Councils existed: that which was held in Saint Peter’s Basilica and the other that was held by the media.”
Remarried divorced persons: “I don’t remember any note”
The same fate happened to the two Synods. “When I convoked the first Synod – he said – the great preoccupation of the majority of the media was: will they be able to give Communion to the divorced that have remarried? And, as I’m not a saint, this annoyed me a bit, and it also made me somewhat sad.” “The media that says this doesn’t realize that this isn’t the important problem,” added the Pontiff. They don’t realize that “the family, basis of society, is in crisis throughout the world,” that “young people don’t want to marry,” that that there is a drop in the birth rate in Europe, which makes one “weep,” that work is lacking to the point that parents are constrained to have two jobs and have their children grow up on their own. No, what the media is aware of is a note on the divorced that have remarried – a note that the Pope doesn’t even remember: “I don’t remember that note,” he said, “but surely if a thing of that nature is in a note it’s because it was said in Evangelii Gaudium. It surely must be. I don’t remember the number, but it surely must be there.”