Peace, xenophobia, interfaith dialogue and globalisation are some of the issues Francis spoke about during a press conference on the flight home from Madagascar.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis gave a press conference on his flight back to Rome, where he arrived at 7 pm, touching several topics such as schism, wars, aging populations, xenophobia, interfaith dialogue and globalisation. More specifically, the pontiff said he prays that schism “do not happen”, but is “not afraid of them”. Wars destroy, “make us lose everything.” In Europe, “well-being is at the root” of its aging population. Xenophobia is a “human disease” that “enters a country, enters a continent, and we build walls. But walls leave only those who built them.” At the same time, “Differences between the religions are not to be cancelled out” in interfaith dialogue, and since “we are all brothers [. . .], everyone needs to speak.” Real globalisation is multifaceted in which “each people preserves their own identity but it united to all of humanity. Instead, ideological colonization seeks to cancel the identity of others to make them equal and they come at you with ideological proposals that are contrary to the nature of that people, the history of that people, against the values of that people.”
When a journalist asked Francis about an attack against him “by a segment of the American Church,” He said: “First of all, criticism always helps, always. When someone receives criticism, that person needs to do a self-critique right away and say: is this true or not? To what point? And I always benefit from criticism. Sometimes it makes you angry…. But there are advantages. Traveling to Maputo, one of you gave me that book in French on how the Americans want to change the Pope. I knew about that book, but I had not read it. Criticisms are not coming only from the Americans, they are coming a bit from everywhere, even from the Curia. At least those that say them have the benefit of the honesty of having said them.
“I do not like it when criticism stays under the table: they smile at you letting you see their teeth and then they stab you in the back. That is not fair, it is not human. Criticism is a component in construction, and if your criticism is unjust, be prepared to receive a response, and get into dialogue, and arrive to the right conclusion. This is the dynamic of true criticism. The criticism of the arsenic pills, instead, of which we were speaking regarding the article that I gave to Mgr Rueda, it’s like throwing the stone and then hiding your hand… This is not beneficial; it is no help. It helps small cliques, who do not want to hear the response to their criticism.
“Instead, fair criticism – I think thus and so – is open to a response. This is constructive. Regarding the case of the Pope: I don’t like this aspect of the Pope, I criticize him, I speak about him, I write an article and ask him to respond, this is fair. To criticize without wanting to hear a response and without getting into dialogue is not to have the good of the Church at heart, it is chasing after a fixed idea, to change the Pope or to create a schism. This is clear: a fair criticism is always well received, at least by me. Secondly, the problem of the schism: within the Church there have been many schisms.”
“In the Church there is always the option for schism, always. But it is an option that the Lord leaves to human freedom. I am not afraid of schisms, I pray that there will be none, because what is at stake is people’s spiritual health. Let there be dialogue, let there be correction if there is an error, but the schismatic path is not Christian. [. . .] A schism is always an elitist separation stemming from an ideology detached from doctrine. It is an ideology, perhaps correct, but that engages doctrine and detaches it… And so, I pray that schisms do not happen, but I am not afraid of them.”
Today “there’s the ideology of the primacy of a sterile morality regarding the morality of the people of God. The pastors must lead their flock between grace and sin, because this is evangelical morality. Instead, a morality based on such a Pelagian ideology leads you to rigidity, and today we have many schools of rigidity within the Church, which are not schisms, but pseudo-schismatic Christian developments that will end badly. When you see rigid Christians, bishops, priests, there are problems behind that, not Gospel holiness. So, we need to be gentle with those who are tempted by these attacks, they are going through a tough time, we must accompany them gently.”
Xenophobia “is a human disease, like measles… It is a disease that enters a country, enters a continent, and we build walls. But walls leave only those who built them. Yes, they leave out many people, but those who remain inside the walls will be left alone, and in the end, they will be defeated by great invasions. Xenophobia is a disease. It is a disease that is “justifiable”, for example, to maintain the purity of the race – just to mention a form of xenophobia from the last century. And very often, xenophobia rides the waves of political populism. I said last week, or the one before, that sometimes in some places I hear speeches being given that sound similar to those made by Hitler in ’34. It’s as if they wanted to return to the past in Europe.”
Speaking about the defence of nature, the Pope “said on another trip, within the collective unconscious, there is a motto: Africa can be exploited. We would never think: Europe can be exploited. We must free humanity from this collective unconsciousness. The area where the exploitation is strongest is on the environment, with deforestation, the destruction of biodiversity.”
This requires action. “We have banned plastic in the Vatican, we’re working on it. [. . .] We need to defend ecology, biodiversity, that is our life; to defend the oxygen, that is our life. It comforts me that carrying this struggle forward are young people who are, who have a tremendous conscience and who say: the future is ours, do what you want with yours, but not with ours! I believe that the Paris Agreement was a good step forward, and then the others as well… [. . .] These [. . .] meetings [. . .] help raise awareness. But last year during summer, when I saw that photo of the ship navigating the North Pole like nothing, I felt anguish, and just a little while ago all of us saw the photograph symbolizing a funeral for the glacier in Greenland that no longer exists. …
“All of this is happening quickly; we must become aware beginning with the little things. Are government leaders doing everything? Some more, others less. It is true that there is a word that I must say which is at the basis of environmental exploitation.” That “horrible word is corruption: I need to do this and in order to do it I need to cut down trees in the forest and I need the government’s or the state’s permission. I go to the people responsible – and here I am literally repeating what a Spanish entrepreneur told me – and the question that we hear when we want a project approved is: ‘How much am I getting out of it?’ said brazenly. This happens in Africa, in Latin America and also in Europe.
“Above all, when someone takes on social or political responsibility for personal gain, values, nature, people are exploited. Africa can be exploited…. But do we think of the many laborers who are exploited in our societies; we have people who recruit and benefit from cheap labor in Europe, the Africans did not invent it. The maid who is paid a third of what she is due was not invented by the Africans. Women deceived and exploited for prostitution in the centers of our cities was not invented by the Africans. Here too there is this type of exploitation, not only environmental, but also human. And this is corrupt. And when corruption is within the heart, get ready, because anything is possible.”