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Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Pope's interview with La Croix

Pope Francis has granted an exclusive interview to the French Catholic newspaper La Croix.  The interview took place at the Santa Martha residence at the Vatican on Monday, May 9, 2016.  A variety of themes were discussed, including Europe's Christian roots, migrations, Islam, the laity, his ideas about France and the pedophilia scandal.

Pope Francis met with La Croix reporters Guillaume Goubert
and Sébastien Maillard at the Casa Santa Marta on May 9, 2016
Concerning migration, Pope Francis believes that it is possible for Christians and Muslims to live together in peace.


We must find ways to integrate migrants

La Croix
In your speeches about Europe, you speak of the roots of the continent, without ever specifying the fact that these roots were Christian.  Instead, you define the European identity as dynamic and multi-cultural.  In your opinion, is the expression Christian roots appropriate for Europe?

Pope Francis
We must speak of roots in the plural because there are so many.  In this sense, when I hear talk of Europe's Christian roots, I sometimes doubt the tone, which can be triumphal or revengeful.  This betrays a sentiment of colonialism.  John-Paul II spoke of it in tranquil tones.  Yes, Europe has Christian roots.  Christianity needs to water them, but in a spirit of service such as the washing of feet.  The greatest need facing Christianity in Europe is service.  Erich Przywara, the great teacher of Romano Guardini and of Hans Urs von Balthasar teaches us: what Christianity brings to a culture is what Christ brought with the washing of feet; that is to say, service and the gift of life.  It should not be done through a colonizing approach.

La Croix
You accomplished something significant by bringing refugees back from Lesbos to Rome on April 16 of this year.  Can Europe welcome so many migrants?

Pope Francis
This is a good and responsible question because we cannot open the doors wide in an irrational way, but the underlying question which needs to be asked is why there are so many migrants today.  When I went to Lampedusa, three years ago, this phenomenon was already beginning.

The initial problem relates to all the wars in the Middle East and in Africa and the under-development of the African continent, which evokes hunger.  If there are wars, it is because there are those who create weapons - which can be justified out of a need for defence - and of course there are those involved in the trafficking of arms.  If there is so much homelessness, it is because  of a lack of investments in the creation of gainful employment, something that Africa sorely needs.

This raises the even larger question of a world economic system which has fallen into the idolatry of money.  More than 80% of humanity's wealth is in the hands of about 16% of the population.  A truly free market does not work.  The market, in and of itself, is a good thing but from the very outset, it needs a third - the State - to control and equalize it.  This is what we refer to as the social economy of the market.

Let us come back to the subject of migrants.  The worst kind of welcome is to create ghettos for them; instead, we should integrate them.  In Brussels - the terrorists came from Belgium - children of migrants, but they came from ghettos.  In London, the new mayor (Sadiq Khan, the son of Pakistanis, a muslim) was sworn in in a Cathedral and will undoubtedly be received by the Queen.  This shows Europe the importance of integration.  I think of Gregory the Great (Pope from 590 to 604), who negotiated with those we call barbarians, and they eventually integrated.

This integration is even more important today, when Europe is experiencing a grave problem of declining birth rates, due to an egoistic search for well-being.  A demographic emptiness is being created.  In France, this tendencies have been weakened due to family policies.

La Croix
The fear of welcoming migrants is fed in part by a fear of Isalm.  In your opinion, is the fear brought about by some proponents of this religion justified?

Pope Francis
I do not believe that there is a fear of Isalm today, so to speak, but of Daech and of its war of conquest, which is drawn in part from Islam.  The idea of conquest is inherent in the Islamic soul, that is true.  But we can interpret the end of Saint Mathew's gospel with this same idea of conquest: when Jesus sends his disciples to all nations.

Faced with current Islamic terrorism, it would be good to question ourselves about the manner in which a model of democracy which is too westernized has been exported to countries where there once was an overbearing power, such as Iraq.  Or in Libya, in the court system.  We cannot advance without taking account of this culture.  As a Libyan once said: We once had Kadafi; now we have 50 of him!

 All in all, it is possible for Christians and Muslims can coexist.  I come from a country where they live together and good rapport.  Muslims venerate the Virgin Mary and Saint George.  In one of the African countries, someone told me that for the Jubilee of Mercy, Muslims are lining up in long lines at the Cathedral in order to pass through the Holy Door and to pray to the Virgin Mary.  In Central Africa, before the war, Christians and Muslims lived together and should live together today.  In Lebanon also, we see that it is possible.


States should be secularly led

La Croix  
The importance of Isalm today in France, like the historic place of Christianity in this country, is born out of recurring questions about the place of religion in the public square.  In your opinion, how can we define good secularism?

Pope Francis
A State should be secular.  Faith-based States end up badly.  This goes against history.  I believe that secularism accompanied by a solid law guaranteeing religious freedom offers a gift that promotes development.  We are all egoistic, as children of God or with our personal dignity.  But each of us must have the freedom to externalize our own faith.  If a Muslim woman wants to wear a veil, she should be able to do so.  The same should be true if a Catholic wants to wear a cross.  We should be able to profess our own faith, not in hiding but at the heart of our culture.

The only criticism that I might offer about France in this regard is the exaggeration of secularism.  This comes from a manner of considering religions as sub-cultures and not as cultures entirely apart from others.  I fear that this approach, which is understood through the inheritance of Light, is no longer in existence.

France should take a step forward in this regard and accept the fact that openness to transcendence is a right for all people.

La Croix
In this secular framework, how should Catholics defend their preoccupations about the secularism, euthanasia and same-sex marriage?

Pope Francis
It's up to Parliament to discuss, argue, explain and reason.  This is how a society grows.  Once the law is voted upon, the State should respect consciences.  In each juridical structure, conscientious objection should be present since it is a human right, including for a government employee, who is a human person.  In this way, the State should respect its critics.

This is true secularism.  Catholic arguments cannot be characterized by saying: You speak like a priest.  No, they rely on Catholic thought, which is remarkably developed in France.


The Church in France is creative

La Croix
What does France represent for you?

Pope Francis (speaking in French)
The eldest daughter of the Church ... but not the most faithful! (laugh)  During the 1950s, we also used to say: France, mission country.  In this sense, she is a periphery to be evangelized.  But we must be fair to France.  The Church possesses a creative capacity.  France is also a land of great saints, of great thinkers: Jean Guitton, Maurice Blondel, Emmanuel Levinas - who were not Catholics -, Jacques Maritain.  I also think of the depth of France's literature.

I also appreciate how the French culture permeated Jesuit spirituality, enhancing its Spanish roots, it is now more ascetic.  The French influence, which began with Pierre Favre, while always insisting on the discernment of spirits, adds another flavour.  With great French spiritual masters: Louis Lallemant, Jean-Pierre de Caussade.  And with the great French theologians, who provided such great assistance to the Society of Jesus: Henri de Lubac and Michel de Ceteau.  I like these two a lot: two Jesuits who are creative.  In summary, this is what fascinates me about France.  On one hand, exaggerated secularism, the legacy of the French Revolution; and on the other, so many great saints.

La Croix
Which saint is your favorite?

Pope Francis
Saint Thérèse of Lisieux.

La Croix
You promised to come to France.  When can we expect such a trip?

Pope Francis
I recently received a letter of invitation from President François Hollande.  The Episcopal Conference has also invited me.  I do not know when this voyage will happen because next year is an election year in France and, in general, the practice of the Holy See is to not undertake such a trip during such periods.  Last year, some possibilities were begun in hopes of planning such a trip, including a stop in Paris and in her outskirts, in London and to a city which has never been visited by a Pope: Marseille for example, which represents an open door to the world.

La Croix
The Church in France is experiencing a serious crisis of priestly vocations.  How can we go on with so few priests?

Pope Francis
Korea offers an historic example.  That country was evangelized by missionaries from China who left afterward.  Then, for two centuries, Korea was evanglized by lay people.  Today it is a land of saints and martyrs and a strong Church.  It is not necessary that evangelization should be done by priests.  Baptism gives us the strength to evangelize, and the Holy Spirit, received at baptism, pushes us to go out, to proclaim the Christian message with courage and patience.

The Holy Spirit is the hero of all that the Church is doing, its motivating force.  To many Christians ignore the Holy Spirit.  On the other hand, clericalism is also a danger for the Church.  It is a sin that is committed by two, like the tango!  Priests want to clericalize lay people and lay people seek to be clericalized, for the sake of ease.  In Buenos Aires, I knew many good priests who, seeing a capable lay person, would say right away: Let's make him a deacon!  No, we have to allow him to be a layperson.  Laity is especially important in Latin America.  If popular piety is strong, it is especially because it is the only initiative put forward by lay people that is not clerical.  It remains uncompromised by the clergy.

La Croix
The Church in France, especially in Lyon, is currently affected by pedophilia scandals that took place in the past.  What should she do about this situation?

Pope Francis
It is true that it is not easy to judge the facts after decades have passed, in another context.  The reality is not always clear.

But for the Church, in this domain, there can be no prescribed action.  Through these abuses, a priest who has a vocation to lead children to God, destroys them.  He spreads evil, resentment and pain.  As Benedict XVI said, tolerance for such situations should be zero.

Based on the information I have, I believe that in Lyon, Cardinal Barbarin has taken the necessary steps, that he has the matter well in control.  He is courageous, creative and missionary.  Now we need to wait for the results of the proceedings before the civil courts.

La Croix
So Cardinal Barbarin should not resign?

Pope Francis
No, that would be a contradiction, imprudent.  We will see once the proceedings have been completed.  But now, it's a matter of proving his guilt.


We came out of the Syond as different people

La Croix
On April 1 of this year, you received Monsignor Bernard Fellay, Superior General of the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Pius X.  Is the reintegration of the Lefebvrists into the Church being re-examined?

Pope Francis
In Buenos Aires, I always spoke with them.  They greeted me, knelt and asked for my blessing.  They call themselves Catholic.  They love the Church.  Monsignor Fellay is a man with whom we can enter into dialogue.  It is not a case of other elements that are a bit strange, like Monsignor Williamson, or others who have been radicalized.  I think, as I used to think in Argentina, that they are Catholics on a journey toward full communion.  During the Year of Mercy, it seemed to me that I should authorize their confessors to forgive the sin of abortion.  They thanked me for this gesture.  Before, Benedict XVI, who they respect greatly, granted freedom to celebrate the Mass according to the Tridentine rite.  The dialogue is going well, we are doing good work.

La Croix
Would you be willing to grant them the stature of a personal Prelature?

Pope Francis
That is one possible solution but before that, we must establish a fundamental agreement with them.  The Second Vatican Council has its place.  We are advancing slowly, patiently.

La Croix
You called two Synods on the family.  In your opinion, did this long process change the Church?

Pope Francis
It is a process that began with the consistory (of February 2014) introduced by Cardinal Kasper, before the Extra-ordinary Synod which was held in October of that same year, followed by a year of reflection and an Ordinary Synod.  I believe that we all came out of the process different from the people we were when we entered.  Me included.

In the post-Synodal Exhortation (Amoris Laetitia, April 2016), I tried to respect the Synod.  You will not find canonical prescriptions on what we can or should do or not do.  IT is a serene reflection, passive, on the beauty of love, how to teach children, prepare for marriage ... It values the responsibilities that could be accompanied by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, in the form of guidelines.

In addition to this procedure, we should think about the true meaning of synodality, at least about what Catholic synodality means.  Bishops are cum Pietro, sub Pietro (with the successor of Peter and under the successor of Peter).  This differs from Orthodox synodality and from that of the Greek-Catholic Churches, where the Patriarch has only one voice.

The Second Vatican Council gives an ideal of synodal and episcopal communion.  We should still continue working on it, including at the parish level as far as what is prescribed.  There are parishes that do not have either parish councils or finance committees even though the Code of Canon Law obliges all parishes to have them.  Synodality is at play there too.


The theme of the next Synod of Bishops is being studied

Synodality - which means walking together - is a practice that consists in listening to the baptized, under the presidency of a pastor (the Pope, a Bishop or a priest), in order to put communion in the Church into action.

By inviting all people in his interview to think about what Catholic synodality means, in the light of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Francis echoes the important speech he gave on the subject on October 17, for the 50th anniversary of the institution of the Synod of Bishops.  He explained his vision of a Synodal Church, and then he asked the Council of Nine Cardinals who would assist him in reforming the leadership of the Church to reflect on this vision.

This theme also plays a part in the propositions on the table for future Synods of Bishops.  The time is not yet right for a Synod on synodality, the Pope told us when he was asked about it.  La Croix has also learned that two other topics were suggested for the next Synod Assembly: one focused on youth; the other on priests.
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