During his visit to Poland for World Youth Day last week, Pope Francis had a private meeting July 27 with the bishops of the country. Instead of a formal address as originally scheduled, the Holy Father chose to have a more informal dialogue.
On Tuesday, the Vatican released a transcript of this dialogue. Here is a provisional ZENIT translation of the interchange.
Before beginning the dialogue, with the questions you have prepared, I would like to carry out a work of mercy with you all and suggest another. I know that in these days, with the Youth Day, many of you have been busy and have been unable to go to the funeral rites of dear Monsignor Zimowski. It’s a work of charity to bury the dead, and I would like us all together now to pray for Monsignor Zygmunt Zimowski and that this be a true expression of fraternal charity, to bury a brother that died. Pater noster … Ave Maria … Gloria Patri … Requiem aeternam …
And then, the other work of mercy I would like to suggest. I know that you are concerned about this: our dear Cardinal Macharski who is so sick … At least get close, because I believe one can’t enter where he is, deprived of consciousness, but at least go to the clinic, to the hospital, and touch the wall as if saying: “Brother, I’m close to you.” To visit the sick is another work of mercy. I will also go. Thank you.
And now, one of you has prepared the questions <or> at least had them arrive. I am at your disposition.
H.E. Monsignor Marek Jedraszewski (Archbishop of Lodz):
Holy Father, it seems that the faithful of the Catholic Church and in general all Christians in Western Europe are increasingly more a minority in the ambit of a contemporary atheist-liberal culture. In Poland we are witnessing a profound opposition, an enormous struggle between faith in God on one hand and, on the other, thought and lifestyles as if God didn’t exist. In your opinion, Holy Father, what sort of pastoral actions should the Catholic Church undertake in our country, so that the Polish people remain faithful to their now more than millenary Christian tradition? Thank you.
You are privileged!
It’s true, the de-Christianization, the secularization of the modern world is strong; it’s very strong. But some say: Yes, it’s strong but phenomenons of religiosity are seen, as if the religious sense is awakening, and this can also be a danger. I believe that we, in this very secularized world, also have the other danger of Gnostic spiritualization: this secularization gives us the possibility to have a somewhat Gnostic spiritual life grow. Let us remember that it was the Church’s first heresy: The Apostle John fought the Gnostics — and with what force! – where there is a subjective spirituality without Christ. For me, the most serious problem of this secularization is the de-Christianization: to remove Christ, to remove the Son. I pray, I know, … and nothing more. This is Gnosticism. There is another heresy that is also in fashion at this time, but I leave it to one side because your question, Excellency, goes in that direction. There is also Pelagianism, but we leave this to one side, to talk about it at another time. To find God without Christ: a God without Christ, a people without a Church. Why? Because the Church is Mother, the one that gives you life, and Christ is the elder Brother, the Son of the Father, who makes reference to the Father, who is the one who reveals to you the name of the Father. An orphan Church: today’s Gnosticism, because it is in fact a de-Christianization, without Christ, leads us to a Church, let’s say it better, to Christians, to an orphan people. And we must make our people feel this.
What would I advise? There comes to mind – but I believe it is the practice of the Gospel, where in fact the Lord’s teaching is <on> closeness. Today we, servants of the Lord – Bishops, priests, consecrated laity of conviction — must be close to the People of God. Without closeness there is only words without flesh. Let us think – I like to think this – of two pillars of the Gospel. What are the two pillars of the Gospel? The Beatitudes and then Matthew 25, the “protocol” with which all of us will be judged. Concreteness. Closeness. Touch — the works of mercy, whether corporal or spiritual. “But you say these things because it’s fashionable to speak of mercy this year …” No, it’s the Gospel! — the Gospel, works of mercy. There is that Samaritan heretic or miscreant that is moved and does what he should do, and also risks <his> money! Touch. There is Jesus who was always among the people or with the Father, or in prayer, alone with the Father, or among the people, there, with the disciples. Closeness. Touch. It’s Jesus’ life … When He was moved, at the gates of the city of Nain (cf. Luke 7:11-17), he was moved; he went and touched the coffin saying, “Do not weep …” Closeness, and closeness is to touch the suffering flesh of Christ.
And the Church, the glory of the Church is certainly the martyrs, but there are also so many men and women that have left everything and have spent their life in hospitals, in schools, with children, with the sick … I remember a little Sister in Central Africa, who was 83 or 84, thin, good, with a little girl. She came to greet me: “I’m not from here; I’m from the other side of the river, from the Congo, but always, once a week, I come here to do the shopping because it’s more convenient.” She told me her age: 83, 84. “I’ve been here for 23 years; I’m an obstetric nurse, I have helped two to three thousand babies be born …” “Oh, and you come here alone?” Yes, yes, we take the canoe …” She is 83! She was in the canoe for about an hour and arrived. This woman – and so many like her – has left her country – she is Italian, from Brescia — <so many> have left their country to touch Christ’s flesh. If we go to these mission countries, in the Amazon, in Latin America, we find in the cemeteries the tombs of many men and women religious who died young, because they didn’t have the antibodies for the diseases of that land, and they died young. The works of mercy: touch, teach, console, “spend time.” Spend time.
I was so pleased, once, when a man who went to confession and was in a situation whereby he couldn’t receive absolution. He came with some fear, because sometimes he was sent away: “No, no … go away.” The priest listened to him, explained the situation to him, <and> said to him: “But you, you pray. God loves you, I will give you a blessing, but you must come back, promise me?” And this priest “spent time” to draw this man to the Sacraments. This is called closeness.
And speaking to Bishops of closeness, I think I must speak of the most important closeness: that <closeness> with priests. The Bishop must be available for his priests. When I was in Argentina, I heard many, so many times from priests, when I went to give Exercises — I liked to give Exercises — I said: “Speak with the Bishop about this …” “But no, I called him <and> the secretary said to me: ‘No, he is very, very busy, but he will receive you in three months.’” But this priest feels himself an orphan, without a father, without closeness, and he begins to go down. A Bishop who sees calls on the form, in the evening, when he returns, <when he sees> the call of a priest, he must call him immediately that same evening or the next day. “Yes, I am busy, but is it urgent?” — “No. No, but let’s come to an agreement …” The priest must feel he has a father. If we take paternity away from priests, we cannot ask them to be fathers. And thus the sense of God’s paternity is removed. The Son’s work is to touch human miseries: spiritual and corporal. Closeness. The Father’s work: to be father, a Bishop-father.
Then, young people, because we must speak of young people in these days. Young people are “tedious”! Because they always come to say the same things, or “I think of this like this …” or “the Church should …”, and one needs patience with young people. As a boy, I knew some priests: it was a time when the confessional was more frequented than now; they spent hours hearing <their confessions>, or received them in the parish office, to listen to the same things … but with patience. And then, take young people to the countryside, to the mountains … But think of Saint John Paul II, what did he do with University students? Yes, he taught, but then he went to the mountains with them! Closeness. He listened to them. He was with the young people.
And I would like to stress one last thing, because I believe that the Lord is asking me this: grandparents. You, who endured Communism, atheism, know it: it was grandparents — it was grandmothers who saved and transmitted the faith. Grandparents have the memory of a people; they have the memory of the faith, the memory of the Church. Don’t discard the grandparents! In this throw-away culture, which is in fact de-Christianized, what is not useful, what doesn’t work is discarded. No! The grandparents are the memory of the people; they are the memory of the faith. And connect young people with grandparents: this, too, is closeness — be close and create closeness. This is how I respond to this question. There are no recipes, but we must go down to the field — if we wait for the call to ring or a knock on the door … No. We must go out to seek, as the shepherd, who goes in search of the lost <sheep>. I don’t know; this simply comes to me.
Monsignor Slawoj Leszek Glodz (Archbishop of Gdansk):
Dear Pope Francis, we are especially grateful that Pope Francis reflected further on the teaching of mercy, which Saint John Paul II began in fact here at Krakow. We all know that we live in a world dominated by injustice: the rich become even richer, the poor become miserable; there is terrorism, there is liberal ethics and morality, without God … And my question is the following: how can we apply the teaching of mercy, and to whom especially? The Holy Father has promoted a medicine that is called “mercy,” which I have taken with me: thank you for the promotion …
…but now “mercy plus” comes: it’s stronger!
H.E. Monsignor Slawoj Leszek Glodz:
… yes, and thank you for this “plus.” We also have the “plus” program promoted by the government for numerous families. This “plus” is in fashion. To whom and how, especially <should it be promoted>? In the first place, who must be the object of our teaching of mercy? Thank you.
Thank you. This <question> of mercy is not something that came to my mind. It is a process. If we think of Blessed Paul VI, he already had some reference to mercy. Then, Saint John Paul II was the giant of mercy, with the Encyclical Dives in Misericordia, the canonization of Saint Faustina, and then the Easter Octave: he died on the eve of that day. It has been a process, for years, in the Church. One sees that the Lord was asking for a reawakening in the Church of this attitude of mercy among the faithful. He is the merciful one who forgives everything. A Medieval capital affects me very much, which is found in the Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene at Vezelay, in France, where the Camino of Santiago begins. In that capital, on one side is Judas hanged, with his eyes open, his tongue out, and on the other side is the Good Shepherd who carries him <Judas> with him. And if we look well, with attention at the face of the Good Shepherd: on one side his lips are sad, but on the other they are smiling. Mercy is a mystery; it’s a mystery; it’s the mystery of God. I was interviewed and from there, a book then issued entitled The Name of God Is Mercy, but it’s a journalistic expression, I think it can be said that God is the merciful Father – at least in the Gospel Jesus has Him depicted like this. He punishes to convert. And then the parables of mercy, and the way He wished to save us … When the fullness of time arrives, He has His Son born of a woman: with flesh; He saves us with the flesh; not from fear but from the flesh. In this process of the Church we receive so many graces.
And He sees the world sick with injustice, sick with lack of love, with corruption. But this is true; this is true. Today, on the plane, speaking of this more than 80-year-old priest who was killed in France: for some time I’ve said the world is at war, that we are living the Third World War in pieces. We think of Nigeria … Ideologies, yes, but what is today’s ideology, which in fact is at the center and which is the mother of corruptions, of wars? <It is> the idolatry of money. Man and woman are no longer at the summit of creation, the idol of money is placed there, and everything is bought and sold for money. Money is at the center. People are exploited. And <what about> today’s traffic of persons? It has always been like this: cruelty! I spoke of this sentiment with a Head of government and he said to me: “There has always been cruelty. The problem is that now we see it on television, it has come close to our life.” But there has always been cruelty – killing for money — exploit the people, exploit creation. When a recently elected Head of an African government came for an audience, he said to me: “The first government act I did was to reforest the country, which was deforested and destroyed.” We don’t take care of creation! And this means more poor people, more corruption.
But what do we think when 80% — more or less, look well at the statistics and if not 80 it’s 82 or 78 – of the riches are in the hands of less than 20% of people. “Father, don’t talk like that, it makes you a Communist!” No, no, these are statistics! And who pays for this? The people pay, the people of God: exploited girls, youths without work. In Italy, from 25 years and younger, 40% are without work; in Spain, <it’s> 50%; in Croatia 47%. Why? Because there is a liquid economy that fosters corruption. Scandalized, a great Catholic, told me that he went <to see>an entrepreneur friend of his <who said>: “I’ll let you see how I earn 20,000 dollars without leaving my home.” And with the computer he made an acquisition from California, I don’t know of what, and sold it to China: in 20 minutes, in less than 20 minutes, he earned the 20,000 dollars. Everything is liquid! And young people don’t have the culture of work, because they don’t have work! The earth is dead, because it was exploited without wisdom. And so we go on. The world is warming, why? Because we must earn — have earnings. “We have fallen into the idolatry of money”: an Ambassador said this to me when he came <to present> the Letters of Credence. It’s idolatry.
Divine Mercy is the testimony, the testimony of so many people, of so many men and women, laymen, young people who engage in works: in Italy, for instance, the cooperative movement. Yes, there are some that are too cunning, but good is always done, good things are done. And then <there are> the institutions to care for the sick: <they are> strong organizations. <We should > go on that path, do things so that human dignity grows. But what you say is true. We are living a religious illiteracy, to the point that in some Shrines of the world things are confused: one goes to pray; there are stores in which one buys objects of piety, Rosaries … but there are some that sell superstitious things, because salvation is sought in superstition, in religious illiteracy, a relativism that confuses one thing with another. And catechesis is necessary there, the catechesis of life. Catechesis that is not only to give ideas, but to accompany on the journey. To accompany is one of the most important attitudes!” To accompany the growth of the faith; it’s a great work and young people expect this! Young people expect … “But if I begin to talk, they are bored!” But give them a job to do, such as those done, during their vacation for 15 days to help build dwellings for the poor, or have them do something else so that they can begin to feel that they are useful. And let God’s seed fall there, slowly. Things don’t work with words alone. We must address today’s religious illiteracy with three languages, with three tongues: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands – all three harmoniously.
I don’t know … I’m talking too much! They are ideas I give you. You, with your prudence, will know what to do, but <there must> always <be> an outgoing Church. Once I dared to say: there is that little verse in <the Book of> Revelation: “I am at the door and knock” (3:20): He knocks at the door, but I wonder how many times the Lord knocks on the door from within, so that we open to Him and He can come out with us to bring the Gospel outside. Not shut in, but out! Go out, go out! Thank you.
H.E. Monsignor Leszek Leszkiewicz (Auxiliary Bishop of Tarnow):
Holy Father, our pastoral commitment is based in the main on the traditional model of the parish community, imposed on the sacramental life – a model that continues to bear fruit here. However, we realize that, here also, the conditions and circumstances of daily life change rapidly and solicit the Church for new pastoral ways. Pastors and faithful are somewhat like those disciples that listen, give themselves a lot to do, but are not always able to bring to fruition the interior and exterior missionary dynamism of the ecclesial communities. Holy Father, in Evangelii Gaudium, you speak of missionary disciples that bring the Good News to today’s world with enthusiasm. What do you suggest to us? In what do you encourage us, so that we can build in our world the community of the Church in a fruitful, fecund way, with joy <and> with missionary dynamism?
Thank you! I would like to stress one thing: the parish is always valid! The parish must remain: it’s a structure we must not throw out the window! In fact, the parish is the house of the People of God, the one in which it lives. The problem is how to build the parish! There are parishes with parish secretaries that seem to be “disciples of Satan,” that frighten the people! <There are > parishes with closed doors. But there are also parishes with the doors open, parishes where, when someone comes to ask, one says: “Yes, yes … make yourself comfortable. What is the problem?” And one listens with patience, because to take care of the People of God is exhausting, it’s exhausting!
A good University Professor, a Jesuit, that I knew in Buenos Aires, asked the Provincial, when he retired, if he could go as parish priest to a district, to have this additional experience. He came to the Faculty once a week – he depended on that Community – and one day he said to me: “Tell your Professor of Ecclesiology that in his treatise two theses are missing.” “Which?” “First: the Holy People of God are essentially tiring. And the second: Ontologically, the Holy People of God do what they think is best. And this is tiring!”
Today it’s exhausting to be a parish priest: to bring a parish forward is exhausting, in this world of today with so many problems. And the Lord has called us so that we will get somewhat tired, to work and not to rest. The parish is tiring when it is well built. The renewal of the parish is one of the things that the Bishops must always have under their eyes: How is this parish doing? What does it do? How is the catechesis going? How is it taught? Is it open? — so many things. I am thinking of a parish in Buenos Aires, when engaged couples arrived: “We want to get married here …” “Yes, said the secretary, these are the prices.” This is not on, such a parish doesn’t work. How are persons received? How are they heard? Is there always someone in the confessional? In the parishes – not those that are in small districts, but parishes that are in the center, in the big streets, if there is a confessional with the light on, the people always go <to confession> — always! <It’s> a welcoming parish.
We Bishops must ask the priests this: “How is your parish doing? And do you go out? Do you visit prisoners, the sick, little old ladies? And what do you do with the children? How do you help them play and how do you carry forward the oratory? It is one of the great parish institutions, at least in Italy. The oratory: boys play there and they are given a word, some catechesis. They go back home tired, happy and with a good seed. The parish is important! There are those that say that the parish is no longer useful, because now is the time of Movements. This isn’t true! The Movements help, but the Movements must not be an alternative to the parish: they must help in the parish, carry the parish forward, as the Marian Congregation does, as Catholic Action does and as so many <other> realities do.
Should one seek novelty or change the parish structure? What I say to you might seem, perhaps, a heresy, but it’s the way I live it: I think that it’s something analogous to the episcopal structure: it’s different but analogous. The parish must not be touched: it must remain as a place of creativity, of reference, of maternity and all these things. And act out there that inventive capacity; and when a parish goes forward like this what is realized is what I call – in connection with the missionary disciples, an “outgoing parish.” For instance, I am thinking of a parish — a good example that later was imitated by many – in a country in which it was not usual for children to be baptized, because there wasn’t any money; however, for the patronal feast, the celebration was prepared 3-4 months before, with visit to homes and there one saw how many children weren’t baptized. The families prepare themselves and one of the acts of the patronal celebration is the Baptism of 30-40 children who otherwise would have remained without Baptism. Invent things of the sort.
People don’t get married in church. I’m thinking of a meeting of priests. One stood up and said: “Have you thought why?” And he gave so many reasons that we shared: the present culture, and so on. However, there is a good group of people that don’t get married because it costs today to get married! It all costs, the celebration … it’s a social event. And this parish priest, who was very inventive, said: “I await whoever wants to get married.” Because in Argentina there are two marriages: one must always go to the civil <authority>, and the civil marriage is done there, and then one goes to the church of one’s religion to get married. Some – many! – don’t come to get married because they don’t have the money to have a great celebration … But the priests who have some ingenuity say: “No, no! I expect you!” On that day, one is married civilly at 11:00-12:00-13:00-14:00: that day I can’t have a siesta! After the civil marriage they come to the church, get married, and go away in peace.
Invent, seek, go out, seek the people, engage in the people’s difficulties. But a parish-office does not work today because people aren’t disciplined! You have disciplined people, and this is a grace of God! But in general they aren’t disciplined. I think of my land: if you don’t go to seek the people, if you don’t approach them, they don’t come. And this is a missionary disciple, the outgoing parish. Go out and seek, as God did who sent His Son to seek us.
I don’t know if it’s a simplistic answer, but I don’t have another. I’m not an enlightened pastoralist; I say what comes to me.
H.E. Monsignor Krzysztof Zadarko (Auxiliary Bishop of Koszalin-Kolobrzeg):
Holy Father, one of the most anguishing problems that faces today’s Europe is the question of refugees. How can we help them, given that they are so numerous? And what can we do to overcome the fear of an invasion of them or aggression, which paralyzes the whole society?
Thank you! The problem of refugees … <In past> times refugees were not as they are now. Let’s say migrants and refugees — we will consider them together. My father was a migrant. And I was telling the President [of Poland] that in the factory where he worked there were so many Polish migrants after the War. I was a child, and I knew many. My land is a land of immigrants, all are … And there weren’t problems there; those were truly other times. Why is there so much migration today? I’m not talking about emigration from one’s homeland to go abroad: this is because of lack of work. It’s clear that they go to look for work outside. This is a home problem, of which you also have a bit … I’m speaking of those that come to us: they are fleeing from wars, from hunger. The problem is there. And why is the problem there? Because in that war there is exploitation of the people, there is exploitation of the land, there is exploitation to earn more money. Speaking with global economists, who see this problem, they say: we must make investments in those countries; by making investments they will have work and won’t need to migrate. But there is the war! There is the war of tribes, some ideological wars and some artificial wars, prepared by traffickers of arms who live from this: they give arms to you who are against them, and to them who are against you. And this is how they live! Corruption is truly at the origin of migration.
What to do? I believe that every country must see how and when: not all countries are the same; not all countries have the same possibilities. Yes, but they have the possibility to be generous! – generous as Christians. We can invest there, but for those that come … How many and how? A universal answer can’t be given, because the reception depends on the situation of every country and also on the culture. But certainly many things can be done. For instance prayer: once a week prayer before the Most Holy Sacrament, with prayer for those who knock at Europe’s door and can’t get in. Some succeed, but others don’t … Then one comes in and takes up a way that generates fear. We have countries that for years have been able to integrate migrants well! They have been able to integrate them well. In others, unfortunately, something like ghettos have been formed. A whole reform must be done at the global level, on this commitment, on hospitality. However, it is in any case a relative aspect: the heart that is open to receive is absolute. This is the absolute! — with prayer, intercession, I do what I can. The way in which I can do so is relative: not all can do it in the same way. But the problem is global! – exploitation of creation, exploitation of persons. We are living a moment of the annihilation of man as image of God.
And I would like to end here with this aspect, because behind this are ideologies. In Europe, in America, in Latin America, in Africa, in some countries of Asia, there are ideological colonizations. And one of these – I say it clearly with name and surname “ is gender! Today children, children are taught this in school that one can choose one’s sex! And why do they teach this? Because the books <used> are those of individuals and institutions that give money. They are ideological colonizations, supported also by very influential countries. And this is terrible. Speaking with Pope Benedict, who is well and has clear thinking, he said to me: “Holiness, this is the time of the sin against God the Creator!” He is intelligent! God has created man and woman; God created the world thus, and thus, and thus…, and we are doing the opposite. God has given us an “untilled” state, so that we can till it; and then, with this tilling, we are doing things that are taking us back to the “untilled” state! We must think about what Pope Benedict said: It’s the time of the sin against God the Creator!” And this will help us.
But you, Christopher, will say to me: “What does this have to do with migrants?” You know, it’s somewhat the context. In regard to migrants I will say: the problem is there, in their land. But how do we receive them? Each one must see how. But we can all have an open heart and think of spending one hour in the parishes, an hour a week, of Adoration and prayer for the migrants. Prayer moves mountains!
These were the four questions. I don’t know … Forgive me if I’ve talked too much, but my Italian blood betrays me …
Thank you so much for your hospitality and let’s hope that these days fill us with joy: with joy, with great joy. And let us pray to Our Lady, who is <our> Mother and who always holds us by the hand.
Salve Regina …
And don’t forget the grandparents, who are the memory of a people.
[Original text: Italian] [Translation by ZENIT]