Pope: "everything I have said is in the Church’s social doctrine"
On the plane taking him home from Asunción to Rome, Pope Francis answered reporters’ questions about Greece, religious freedom, the crisis of the family, support for grassroots movements (not anarchy), neo-colonialism and Vatican “mediation” between Cuba and the United States.

Rome (AsiaNews) – During the flight that took him from Asunción to Rome, Pope Francis answered reporters’ questions for about an hour. The issues raised included Greece, religious freedom, the crisis of the family, support for grassroots movements (not anarchy), neo-colonialism and Vatican “mediation” between Cuba and the United States. The upbeat pontiff also praised yerba “mate, which helps me,” but categorically said, “I did not chew coca, is that clear!” He also said he accepted the hammer and sickle crucifix that President Morales had given him.


Speaking "about Greece and the international system, [I must say that] I am allergic to economics because my father was an accountant and when he did not finish the books at work he brought them home, on Saturday, on Sunday, with books , in those years, with titles in Gothic [alphabet] . . . He worked and I would watch him. . . . I became allergic [to numbers].

“I don’t really understand it [the Greek crisis]. It would be simpler to blame one side. Greek leaders, who carried forward this situation of international debt, bear some responsibility. With the new Greek government, some changes were made in the right direction. I hope, and it is the only thing I can tell you because I am unfamiliar [with the issues] . . . [I hope] that they [the parties] find a way to solve the Greek problem, and find a path to avoid the same problem in other countries. Let us hope that this will lead us forward because in the end the path of lending and debt never stops.”

“A year or so ago, I was told but I am not [sure] . . . This is something I heard, that the United Nations had a plan – if some of you know about it, it would nice if you explained it. According to the plan, a country would be able to file for bankruptcy, which is not the same as default. I heard about this plan but I am not sure what happened to it, if it was real or not. I am saying this just to show something that I heard. If a company can file for bankruptcy, why can’t a country do the same and receive help from others? These are the bases of the plan, but I can’t say much more about it.”

The Synod on the family

A journalist asked Francis about what he said during the Mass in Guayaquil, when he called on people to pray that God may turn into a miracle what might seem to unclean to us, what might scandalise or frighten us.

"Let me interpret the text. I was talking about the miracle of the good wine and I said that the water jars were full, but they were for purification. This means that anyone who came to the celebration purified him or herself, and cleansed away their spiritual filth. Purifying oneself is a ritual executed before entering a house or even the temple. We have this ritual in the holy water. This is what is left of the Jewish ritual. I said that indeed Jesus makes the best wine with filthy water, and worst.

“In general, I thought to say that the family is in crisis. We all know that. All we have to do is to read the Instrumentum laboris, with which you all are familiar with because it has already been made public. It is available. . . . Broadly speaking I was referring to this. May the Lord purify us from this crisis, from the many things described in the book of the Instrumentum laboris. It was a general idea. I did not have anything in particular in mind. May it improve us, makes us more mature . . . better. The family is in crisis. May the Lord purify us so that we can go forward. All the elements of this crisis are in the Synod’s Instrumentum laboris, which is complete and which you have.”

Religious freedom

The pope spoke about religious freedom when a journalist asked him whether Havana would have to improve its human rights reputation, including in the area of freedom of religion as new relations develop between Cuba and the United States.

"Human rights are for everyone. Human rights cannot be respected only in one or two countries. [. . .] Many countries in the world do not respect human rights, [that is] many countries in the world! What does Cuba lose, what does the Unites States lose? Both will gain something and lose something. That is how negotiations go. But both will gain peace. That is certain. Meeting, friendship and cooperation will be gained. I can’t think what they might lose. Perhaps there are concrete things, but in negotiations, one loses something and gains something.

“Speaking about human rights and religious freedom, can you imagine that some countries in the world, even some in Europe, do not allow religious signs. No way! On a variety of grounds. No way! The same [happens] in other continents. This is it. Religious freedom is not respected everywhere around the world. In some countries, there is no such respect.”

Support for grassroots movements

The issue was mentioned several times in connection with neo-colonialism, money idolatry that rules the economy and US criticism.

"The issue is close to my heart because it is a world phenomenon. [It touches] also the East, the Philippines, India, Thailand. [Grassroots] Movements emerge, not only for protest, but also to advance and live. These movements are strong. Many people do not feel represented by trade unions because they believe that trade unions have become corporations that do not fight [for them]. I am simplifying a bit, but many people believe that they are not fighting for the rights of the poorest.

“The Church cannot remain indifferent. The Church has a social doctrine. It interacts with this movement, and does so well. You saw the enthusiasm people had; their feeling that the Church is not far from us, that the Church has a doctrine that helps the fight for this. This is dialogue. The Church has not opted for anarchy. They are not anarchists. They work; they try many jobs, even the worse. Things are going forward. They are real workers.

“As I said in Evangelii Gaudium: 'this economy kills'. I remember that sentence well. There is a context. As I said it in Laudato si’, criticism is not something new. I heard that criticism was voiced in the United States. That is what I heard. However, I have not read any critique. I have not had time to study it closely because each criticism must be heard and studied before we can engage in dialogue. You might ask what I think but without engaging the critics in dialogue I don’t have the right to think in isolation from dialogue.”

"The world of grassroots movements is real. It is a very large, worldwide. What have I done? What I have done is to give them the Church’s social doctrine. I did the same for the business world. The Church has its own social doctrine. If you read what I said about grassroots movements, which is relatively broad discourse. It is a summary of the Church’s social doctrine, applied to their situation. It is the Church’s social doctrine. Everything I have said is about the Church’s social doctrine . . . When I have to speak to the business world, I say the same thing, namely what the Church’s social doctrine says about the business world. For example in Laudato si’, there is one section about the common good and the social mortgage on private property that goes in the direction. It is about applying the Church’s social doctrine.

"Mediation" between Cuba and the US

What happened between Cuba and the United States was not mediation. It did not have the character of mediation. There was a wish that materialised. On the other hand, the wish . . . Let me tell you candidly. This whole thing happened in January of last year. For three months, I prayed about it. I did not make any decision. What can we do with these two [countries] after 50 years? The Lord made me think about a cardinal. He went there to talk. I did not hear anything about it.

“Months went by and one day the Secretary of State, who is here present, told me: ‘Tomorrow we are going to have our second meeting with the two teams.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Yes. The two groups are taking; they are at it . . .‘

“He had gone alone. There was no mediation. There was good will between the two countries. They deserve all the credit. They did it. We did almost nothing. Only small things. Then in mid-December came the announcement. This is the story, nothing more.

“At present, I am more concerned that the peace process does not stop in Colombia. I have to say this. It is my greatest wish that this process continue. In the sense, we are always willing to help, in many ways. It would really be bad if it did not continue. In Venezuela, the Bishops’ Conference is working a bit for peace, but there too there was no medication.

“In the US case, the Lord did it. Two things also happened by chance, and the process went ahead on its own. For Colombia, I hope and pray, and we pray, that the process does not stop. It is a process that has lasted for more than fifty years with so many dead! I heard millions. About Venezuela, I have nothing more to say to you. "

The Crucifix on the hammer and sickle

What did the pope feel when he saw Christ on the hammer and sickle, a gift offered by President Morale? "Oddly, I did not know about it. I did not really know that Father Espinal was a sculptor and a poet. Only recently did I find out about it. [When] I saw it, it was a surprise.

“Secondly, it [the crucifix] can be called protest art. For example, an exhibit was held a few years ago in Buenos Aires of the work of a very creative Argentinian sculptor. He has passed away since. His was protest art. I remember one piece showed the crucified Christ on a dive-bomber. It was a critique of Christianity allied with imperialism, i.e. the bomber.

“Thus, first point, [I must say] I did not know [about it]. Second, I call it protest art, which in some cases could be offensive. Third, in this particular case, Father Espinal was killed in 1980. That was the time when liberation theology had many strains. One of them saw reality through Marxist analysis. Father Espinal belonged to this one. I knew this because at the time, I was rector of the Faculty of Theology, and many discussions were held on this topic, on the many strains and their representatives.

“That same year, Father Arrupe, superior general of the Society of Jesus, wrote a letter for the whole congregation on Marxist analysis and theology, closing the door on it, saying: No, this does not work. These are different things. This does work; it is not right. Four years later, in 1984, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued its first booklet, the first, critical statement on liberation theology. A second one came later with a more Christian perspective.

“Am I simplifying [things], am I not? Let us look at that period hermeneutically. Espinal was enthusiastic about Marxist analysis of reality, but also of theology, through Marxism. This is where the work [of art] came from. Espinal’s poems were also a protest, but that was his life, his thoughts. He was a special man, brilliant, who struggled in good faith. Hermeneutically, I understand this piece. For me, it is not offensive. But I looked at it hermeneutically, to avoid wrong opinions. So I took it with me. [I thought] It is coming with me.

“You heard that President Morales gave me two awards: Bolivia’s highest decoration and the Father Luis Espinal Award, a new decoration. Now, I have never accepted an award. It is not in me . . . But he did it with so much good will and really wanted to please me. So I saw it as something coming from the people of Bolivia. I prayed on it and thought: If I take him to the Vatican, it will end up in a museum and no one will see it. So I thought I'd leave it at Our Lady of Copacabana, the Mother of Bolivia. It will go to the shrine. It will be in the Shrine of Our Lady of Copacabana with these two awards that I brought. By contrast, I am taking the Christ with me."