In an interview with Argentina’s FM Milenium, Pope Francis had a wide-ranging discussion on the importance of friendship, the causes of fundamentalism and defending creation.
The Holy Father granted the interview with journalist Marcelo Figueroa, a longtime friend from Buenos Aires who is a member of the Evangelical Church.
The interview, which seemed more like a friendly discussion, began with the subject of friendship. The Pope said that friendship is something very sacred to him, admitting that he “never had as many quote-unquote ‘friends’, as I do now.” However, the Holy Father admitted that he has been hurt by those who have used their friendship with him for their own personal gain.
“A friend out of interest, as [Argentinian poet] Martin Fierro, would say: ‘Be friends with the judge, don’t give him something to complain about because it's always good to have a post where to scratch your back.” But the utilitarian sense of a friendship, to see what I can take from being close to that person and becoming a friend; that hurts me.”
“And I have felt used by people who have presented themselves as friends and who I haven’t seen more than one or two times in my life, and used that to their advantage. But it is an experience that we all go through, the utilitarian friendship.”
A Culture of Enmity and Fundamentalism
When asked by Figueroa on the importance of dialogue in the world and between religions, the Holy Father warned of a “culture of enmity” that exists today.
“Men, because of our sin, our weakness, foment a culture of enmity. From war to gossip in the neighborhoods or in the workplace. Where one degrades, slanders or defames the other with a lot of freedom, as if it were the most natural thing, even if it isn’t true, just to have a stronger position or something,” he said.
The Pope stressed the importance of confronting enmity with a culture of encounter and friendship, that ceases judgements between others.
Turning the discussion towards those who use the name of God to justify violence, Figueroa asked the Pope for his thoughts on the responsibility of people of faith “to build peace.”
“No religion is immune to their own fundamentalisms,” the Pope said. “In every confession there will be a group of fundamentalists, whose job is to destroy for the sake of an idea, not of a reality. And reality is superior to the idea. God, be it in Judaism, Christianity or Islam, in the faith of those three people, accompanies his people, He is an accompanying presence. We see it in the Bible, the Muslims in the Koran. Our God is a close God, who accompanies. Fundamentalists take God away from the company of his people, they disembody Him, they transform Him into an ideology. Then, in the name of that ideological God, they kill, attack, destroy, slander. Simply put, they transform that God into a Baal, into an idol.”
‘Jesus Embraces Me’
Figueroa also asked Pope Francis on his thoughts when meeting with countless people. The Holy Father said that it was he who needed to be close to the people. He recalled one moment when he greeted an elderly woman in St. Peter’s Square.
“One of the last times at the square, I passed and saw an elderly woman with beautiful eyes. So I stopped and went down and asked her: ‘Abuela [grandmother], how old are you? 92. She was strong, there, standing. I ask her: “Abuela, give me your secret?” “I eat ravioli and I make it myself!” A sense of humor, of beauty!”
The Pope said that he was touched by the elderly woman’s words because she taught him to have a sense of humor.
“Jesus embraces me through her,” he said. “It is not only I who am giving, I am receiving. Not only the recipe of the ravioli, but to receive a life that is happy, joyful, a witness of life.”
“I need the faithful,” he said. “The faithful give to me, they give me from their lives.”
The discussion then turned to the Pope's recent encyclical on the care of creation, Laudato Si'. Figueroa asked the Pope how to confront the current system that contributes more and more to the degradation of both creation and mankind.
“Evidently by becoming aware, first of all. It is a system that is to make money, because ultimately there is money, the 'calf' is always golden, the idol is gold and it is in the center,” he said.
“Creation is not taken into account, which includes man. Slavery, slave work, to not care for creation, to care for the king of creation. That is, we have a bad relationship with creation at this moment.”
The Jesuit Pope also decried the hydroelectric installations in the Amazon as just such an example of money being placed over creation. The hydroelectric dams, he said, “mean a total imbalance in the ecosystem.”
Concluding his interview, Pope Francis said that if things continue along this path, there will be no world for the coming generations.
“We are on the verge of the irreversible, this is tragic,” he said.
“On the other hand, it is not invincible because, even if a catastrophe comes, I believe in a new earth and the new heavens. I have hope and I know that creation will be transformed.”