Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of “The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family”, published by Ignatius Press. Follow him on Twitter @edwardpentin
Eugenio Scalfari’s latest “interview” with Pope Francis in the left-leaning Italian daily La Repubblica was, like all his previous ones, not recorded but written from memory, it has been reported.
According to Luis Badilla Morales, director of the semi-official Vatican news aggregator, Il Sismografo, the Pope met Scalfari for 40 minutes on Nov. 7. The interview was published on two full pages of the newspaper on Nov. 11, as well as in L’Osservatore Romano.
But as in the case of other such meetings (Sept. 24, 2013, July 13, 2014, and Nov. 1, 2015), “it was not recorded,” Badilla confirmed. “It wasn’t even a conventional interview, with questions and answers. The reporter did not formally request an interview. He asked for a personal meeting.”
In the latest exchange, Francis was supposed to have told the Italian atheist and communist Scalfari that “it is the communists who think like Christians”, and that the battle against inequality “is the greatest evil that exists in the world.” When asked about Donald Trump, the Pope allegedly replied: “I do not pass judgment on people and politicians, I simply want to understand the suffering that their approach causes the poor and excluded”.
Badilla said Scalfari, who co-founded La Repubblica, had “again constructed ‘the interview’,” basing it on “his memory and his knowledge and, of course, not on recorded content.”
He added that it is “very clear” that the quotes of the Pope “don’t belong to the language he uses and of course to his theological training, especially when referring to the words of Jesus.”
In light of this, Badilla said “some were surprised to find this ‘interview’ also on the pages of L'Osservatore Romano, which the public interpret as the anointing of officialdom.”
The semi-official Vatican newspaper published the full text of 92 year-old Scalfari’s recollection in today’s Italian edition. In 2013 it also published the first highly controversial ‘interview’ the Pope gave Scalfari, then removed it from the website, republished it, and then removed it again.
Badilla said the issue of publishing Scalfari’s unrecorded and unnoted meetings with the Pope is a “sensitive” one because “words and thoughts attributed to the Holy Father” in which he “takes positions or makes arbitrary statements” are “without foundation”.
Writing in La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, Riccardo Cascioli went further, saying it is “hard not to feel discomfort, even bitterness” in reading these ‘interviews’. He observed that Scalfari’s “crime” in reporting this and other meetings with the Pope without recording them has been repeated, as well as relaying telephone calls the Pope has made to him “to explain this or that”.
“Now, after three years, we have to admit — though the misconduct remains with Scalfari — that this is a modus operandi of Pope Francis. As he has shown in recent weeks, first with the meeting with the Lutherans in Lund and then now with the popular movements in the Vatican, he has made it a habit to call or meet Scalfari on occasions of important meetings of his pontificate to explain the meaning of the event and its global scope, well aware that the founder of La Repubblica will report it in his newspaper.”
Before the Oct. 31 Lund meeting commemorating the Reformation, Francis called Scalfari to allegedly say that the brotherhood of all religions and the unity of all Christian churches is the goal as all believe in one God.
Cascioli stressed that the discomfort “is not in the familiarity that the Pope has established with one of the Italian champions of secularism. On the contrary, it is beautiful this ability to establish human relationships with those who are far away. But it is at least curious, if not annoying, that the faithful should read about what the Pope thinks about the Church and his vision of Christianity from Scalfari.”
But what is more disconcerting, Cascioli continued, “is the fact that the multiplication of [papal] interviews, statements, press conferences” are creating a magisterium that is “affirmed” through the reporting of the “mainstream press.”
“This becomes a cause of scandal in the literal sense of the term,” he said. “It disorientates and confuses many Catholics, also because these sentences are then used and abused” by those whose purpose is “the destruction of the Church.”
“Just think what Scalfari deduces from the words of the Pope, and how the same La Repubblica treats ecclesial events,” Cascioli said.
This article originally contained a mistranslation of the Italian word "supporto". It has now been corrected. My apologies for the error.