Rome (AsiaNews) - A visibly moved pope spoke to reporters on the papal plane about the visit to the Philippines he just completed. Francis said that tears filled his eyes as a result of the heartfelt gestures he witnessed, deeds that swept aside the protocol, like when fathers raised the children for the pontiff to bless.
"They raised their children, when we went by the street," he said, "as if they were saying: This is my treasure, this is my future, this is my love, this is why it is worth working, why it is worth suffering."
Although yesterday's Mass of six or seven million people broke all records, for the Holy Father the highpoint came when he met Typhoon Yolanda survivors in Tacloban.
"Seeing all the people of God give offerings, praying after this catastrophe. . . . thinking about my sins and all those people . . . It was a high, a very high point. When the time came for the Mass, I felt crushed; I had almost lost my voice."
"Yet, the people of God [was there], the Lord was there," he said. "God's joy and presence told us: Keep in mind that you are the servants of these [people] . . . They are the protagonists."
When he talked about an exchange he had with a teenage girl who did not manage to finish her question on the suffering of children, victimised by drugs and prostitution, Francis spoke about the "gift of tears".
"This is one of the things that is lost when we are too well-off, or when we do not really understand values, or we get accustomed to injustice and the throwaway culture. The ability to cry is a grace that we must ask for . . . We Christians must ask for the grace of crying, especially wealthy Christians, crying for injustices, crying for sins, because crying helps me understand new realities, new dimensions."
During the flight home, Francis answered many questions from reporters for more than an hour.
Poverty was one of the issues that defined the papal visits to Sri Lanka and the Philippines. The pope said that "the poor" were the message he wanted to bring to these two countries.
"The message that the Church gives today" is centred on "the poor, on the victims of a throwaway culture." For him, "Nowadays we do not only throw away paper, what is left over; we also throw away people. Throwing away people . . . is discrimination."
Even an excessively "worldly" Church could get used to such a lifestyle, whereby "we are here, and the throwaway are there".
To illustrate his point, the pontiff mentioned the case of homeless man who was turned away from a Rome hospital. For him, this is an example of "state terrorism" when public institutions adopt a throwaway culture.
When a reporter asked him to explain the concept of "ideological colonisation" on the family (which he discussed during the meeting with families in Manila), he related an example from his own life, when development agencies pledged aid in exchange for the spread of the gender ideology.
"In the [last] synod," the pope added, "African bishops complained about it. Certain loans are given "under certain conditions." For the pope, "the needs of a people" are exploited to manipulate for power reasons, in order to change the way of thinking of a people, starting with children.
"This is nothing new," he said. "Last century's dictatorships did it. They began with their doctrines: Remember the Balilla youth league [in Fascist Italy] and the Hitler Youth [in Nazi Germany's] with which they colonised people . . . How much suffering [did that cause!]" In order to understand better the concept of "ideological colonisation", he urged reports to read Lord of the World, a novel by Robert Hugh Benson (1903).
The pope also turned to Paul VI's Humanae Vitae, once criticised even among Catholics. Even though the encyclical was open to mercy in individual cases, it targeted "universal Neo-Malthusianism".
He gave as example of the problem countries like Spain and Italy, where the birth rate has plummeted to under one child per woman.
Concern for this problems "does not however mean that Christians must have children like rabbits," he said.
Instead, he reiterated his stance on "responsible fatherhood and motherhood," a practice needed to correct the West's demographic imbalance. At the same time, if "Responsible fatherhood" is needed, we also need to learn from the poor because "for poor people, a child is a treasure."
Another issue addressed in the trip was corruption, which means "taking from the people." Corruption "steals", "kills" and "can easily find a niche in institutions". The pope insisted that corruption is "a global problem," and can exist even within the Church.
"We are all sinners," he noted. "Yet, when we talk about corruption, we are talking about corrupt people or church institutions that fall into corruption. There are cases . . . Yet there are so many saints, many saints who are sinners, but not corrupt. "
Francis sought to clear up any misunderstandings concerning what he said during his flight from Sri Lanka to Manila when he talked about punching and the difficulty in reconciling freedom of expression and the right not to be offended in one's beliefs.
"There should be . . . no violent reaction," the pope said. However, "I cannot provoke, continuously insult someone, because there is a risk I could upset him or her." For Francis, "freedom [of expression] must be accompanied by prudence."
As the plane flew over China, a reporter asked a question about the meeting he did not have with the Dalai Lama and about relations with Beijing.
The pope said that he did turn down a meeting with the Tibetan Buddhist leader, but "that it is customary, according to the Protocol of the Secretariat of State, not to receive heads of state of that level when they are attending international meetings in Rome."
The Dalai Lama was in Rome for a meeting of Nobel Prize laureates. Hence, "The reason" for not meeting him, the pope explained, "was not a rejection of the person or fear of China."
On relations with Beijing, he said, "The Chinese government is polite and we are polite. We do things step by step, as it ought to be. Things are still unclear . . . but they know that I am willing to receive [them] or go [anywhere]. It is still unclear."
When a journalist asked him some questions about the responses of leading Islamic leaders to calls for action against the Islamic State terrorism, the pontiff mentioned his repeated requests for a shared condemnation, especially on the part of Muslim leaders and intellectuals. He noted that "even ordinary moderate Muslims want their leaders to do that."
"Some have done something," he said, "and I think we should give them more time since their situation is not easy. I am hopeful because there are a lot people of good will among them; a lot of people, many good leaders."
Finally, Francis spoke about his future trips. This year, he plans to travel to the Americas - United States (Philadelphia, New York, Washington), Ecuador, Bolivia, and Paraguay as well as Africa (Central African Republic and Uganda). In 2016, he should visit a number of Latin American countries, but that "is still in the planning stage."