During his long chat with reporters on his flight home, Pope Francis spoke about remarried divorced people whose “integration does not mean giving communion,” about abortion that “is not a lesser evil; it is a crime,” about the “monstrosity” of paedophilia, as well as about the fraternal meeting with Kirill, the reactions among Greek Catholics in Ukraine, his desire to visit China and that of meeting the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis gave a long press conference on the flight back from Mexico to Rome where he landed at 3 pm on Thursday. For more than an hour, the pontiff answered reporters’ questions on a number of topics.
Francis said that building bridges against immigrants is “not Christian;” remarried divorced people should be reintegrated in the life of the Church, but “integration does not mean communion;” abortion “is not a lesser evil; it is a crime,” and paedophilia is a “monstrosity”.
The Holy Father also talked about his fraternal meeting with Patriarch Kirill, and the reactions to it among Greek Catholics in Ukraine, as well as his desire to visit China, and that of meeting the Grand Imam of al-Azhar.
Paedophilia. "A bishop who moves a parish priest in cases of paedophilia is irresponsible! The best thing he can do is renounce." This is the pope’s answer to a question about paedophilia in Mexico and the Maciel case, a horrific affair that still affects many victims, in situations where far too often only the guilty priest is punished.
Still, Francis noted that it was Benedict XVI who, as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “handled everything” in the Maciel case, “and conducted the investigation." It was Cardinal Ratzinger, during the Via Crucis on Good Friday, ten days before the death of John Paul II, who spoke about “cleaning up the filth in the Church.” It was a brave Benedict XVI “who helped so many open that door.” The work goes on, said Francis, who has decided to appoint a third secretary at the Doctrine of the Faith "to handle only such cases”.
Francis thanked the Lord for “taking off the lid from this pot," which we must keep off. “This is a monstrosity,” he said, “because a priest is consecrated to bring a child to God, and then eats him in a devilish sacrifice, destroys him.”
The topic of immigration led to a discussion of a key issue in the US presidential race. Candidate Donald Trump not only called the pope a politician, but also said that he would take heavy measures against immigrants. “Thank God I am not a politician,” Francis said, “because Aristotle defines the humans as ‘political animals’. And this at least means that I am human. Am I a pawn? Mah! I’ll let you and the people judge. A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not of building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the Gospel. Should one vote for him or not? I am not going to get involved in that. I can only say that such a man is not Christian if he really spoke that way and said those things.”
The meeting with Kirill and the reaction of Ukraine’s Greek Catholics: The latter said they felt betrayed and described the Joint Declaration as a political, pro-Russian document. Do you think of going to Mosco or Crete for the pan-Orthodox Synod? “I shall be present, spiritually, in Crete with a message. I'd like to go but one has to respect the synod. Some Catholic observers will be in attendance, and I'll be there behind them, praying with my best wishes that the Orthodox move forward. Their bishops are bishops like us.
With Kirill, my brother, we hugged and kissed and then we had a two-hour meeting during which we spoke sincerely, as brothers. No one knows what we talked about. On the statement by the Ukrainians: When I read it, I was a bit worried because it was drafted by Major Archbishop of Kyiv–Halyč of the Ukrainians Sviatoslav Schevchuk. It is he who said that the people feel deeply disappointed and betrayed. I know Sviatoslav well. We worked together for four years in Buenos Aires.
When, at 42, he was elected Major Archbishop, he came to greet me and gave me an icon of Our Lady of Tenderness and told me: “It accompanied me all my life. I want to leave it with you who accompanied me in these four years. I have it in Rome, one of the few things I brought from Buenos Aires. I have respect for him. We address each other informally, and his statement seemed to me to be a bit strange. However, to understand a report or a statement, one must look at the overall hermeneutics.
Schevchuk’s statement is the last paragraph in a long interview. He calls himself a child of the Church, in communion with the Bishop of Rome, and speaks of the Pope and of his closeness with the Pope. On the dogmatic question, there are no difficulties. It is orthodox in the common sense of the word, that is, it is Catholic doctrine. Still, everyone has the right to express his opinions. Those are personal ideas. Whatever he said was about the document, not the meeting with Kirill.
The document is open for discussion, and we have to add the fact that Ukraine is in a time of war, suffering. So many times, I expressed my closeness to the Ukrainian people. It is understandable that a people in such situation might feel that way. The document is open for discussion on the Ukraine question, but in that section of the declaration, we call for an end to this war, that agreements be reached.
I personally expressed hope that the Minsk agreements go ahead and that what was agreed one way is not done away in another. I met both presidents. So when Schevchuk says that he felt this from his people, I can understand it. We should not be afraid for such sentence. The information must be interpreted with holistic hermeneutics, not from one side alone.”
Did Patriarch Kirill invite you to Moscow? "Did Patriarch Kirill invite me? I would prefer to stick with what we said in public. Private talks are private but I can tell you that I came away happy, and he was, too."
Zika virus and abortion. The Church, he said, cannot entertain the concept of a "lesser evil". "Abortion is not a 'lesser evil'; it is a crime. It is killing someone to save another. That is what the Mafia does, doesn’t it? It is a crime. It is an absolute evil." We must not confuse "the evil of avoiding pregnancy with abortion."
Abortion "is not a theological issue. It is a human problem; it is a medical problem. One person is killed to save another in the best of cases.” Still, “It is an evil in itself. It is not a religious evil; at the beginning no! It is a human evil.” Avoiding pregnancy is not an “absolute evil," he went on to say, noting what Paul VI said about some cases of violence, as was the case for some nuns in Africa who were allowed to use contraceptives.
The law on civil unions before the Italian Parliament. "The pope does not meddle in Italian politics,” he said, “because the pope is for everyone and cannot get involved in actual domestic politics of a country: that is not the pope’s role! And what I think is what the Church thinks. “A Catholic parliamentarian,” he added, “must vote according to his or her own, well formed conscience,” stressing the “well formed”. His thoughts about same-sex people is the one contained in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Refounding Europe. In response to a question about the prestigious Charlemagne Prize that will be awarded to him in a few weeks, the pope said he hoped to see what he called the “re-founding of the European Union, “because Europe is not unique, but has a strength, a culture, a history that it cannot be wasted. We must do everything so the European Union has the strength and also the inspiration to keep us going."
The family and remarried divorced people. Francis said that the post-synodal document, which should be releases shortly, perhaps before Easter, will report everything the Synod said. Francis noted how important preparing for marriage and raising children always are. Children are “the victims of a family’s problems, even when problems stem from external causes, like the need to work. Noting the meeting with families in Tuxtla, he reiterated the importance of "integrating wounded families, the families of remarried people, into the life of the Church”.
However, "Integration does not mean giving communion,” he explained. “I know remarried Catholics who go to church twice a year and want to take communion, as if it were some honorific deed. Working on integration with all doors are open cannot mean that they can take communion, because this would be a wound to marriages and will not open the path towards integration for them. A remarried divorced couple was happy. They used a very beautiful expression: we do not communicate with the Eucharist, but indeed, we are in communion when we visit hospitals and share things. This was their integration. If something more comes about, the Lord will tell. It is a path, a journey.”
The friendship with a woman is not a sin, he said, answering a question about the friendship and correspondence between John Paul II and American philosopher Anna Tymieniecka. "A man who does not know how to have a good friendship with a woman is a man who lacks something."
“A friendship with a woman is not a sin, [it is] a friendship. A loving relationship with a woman who is not your wife is a sin. The pope is a man; the pope also needs women's ideas. The pope too has a heart for a healthy and holy friendship with a woman."
China and al-Azhar. At the end, the pope mentioned his desire to meet the Imam of al Azhar, and to travel to China. “I’d love to go there!” He then went over the great richness, history, joy, and also the faith of the Mexican people, who can be understood through Guadalupe. “Our Lady is there,” the pope said. The pontiff prayed to her a lot, for the world, and to ask for peace.
"I asked for forgiveness; I asked for the Church to grow healthy; I asked the same for the Mexican people. One thing that I asked a lot is for priests to be true priests, for nuns to be true nuns, for bishops to be true bishops, as the Lord wants us to be”.
“Everything else remains secret,” he said at the end, “like the things a child tells his or her mum.”