Pope Francis has given a 4,500-word interview to the atheist founder of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Eugenio Scalfari.
The interview took place at the Pope's request last Tuesday, Sept. 24, in the Domus Sanctae Marthae residence, where the Holy Father is living. The Pope recently wrote a letter to Scalfari, answering three questions he put to him on the faith.
Francis also gave a longer interview to the Jesuit publication La Civilta Cattolica at the end of August.
Together with Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI's frank letter to Italian atheist Piergiorgio Odifreddi, each is an attempt to open the Church up to dialogue with the world and nonbelievers, in accordance with the teachings of the Second Vatican Council.
The latest exchange, published in this morning’s edition of the newspaper, is worth reading in full, but here are some of the most interesting passages:
"The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don't even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: Can you live crushed under the weight of the present, without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing."
"Proselytism is solemn nonsense; it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born, and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the good. … Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good."
“The real trouble is that those most affected by this [narcissism], which is actually a kind of mental disorder, are people who have a lot of power. Often, bosses are narcissists. … Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy."
“[The Curia] has one defect: It is Vatican-centric. It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view, and I'll do everything I can to change it. The Church is, or should go back to being, a community of God's people, and priests, pastors and bishops who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God.”
“It also happens to me that, when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity. St. Paul, who was the first to speak to the Gentiles, the pagans, to believers in other religions, was the first to teach us that."
“I'd like to remind you that [Cardinal] Carlo Maria Martini also came from that order [the Jesuits], someone who is very dear to me and also to you. Jesuits were and still are the leavening -- not the only one, but perhaps the most effective -- of Catholicism: culture, teaching, missionary work, loyalty to the Pope.”
On whether their exchange might result in Scalfari's conversion: "We cannot know that, but I don't have any such intention."
"Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace. Vatican II, inspired by Popes Paul VI and John, decided to look to the future with a modern spirit and to be open to modern culture. The Council Fathers knew that being open to modern culture meant religious ecumenism and dialogue with nonbelievers. But, afterwards, very little was done in that direction. I have the humility and ambition to want to do something."
"I'm not Francis of Assisi, and I do not have his strength and his holiness. But I am the Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic world. The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers. Not courtiers, but wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down, but also horizontal. When Cardinal Martini talked about focusing on the councils and synods, he knew how long and difficult it would be to go in that direction. Gently, but firmly and tenaciously."
“I believe in God, not in a Catholic God. There is no Catholic God; there is God, and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my being.”
“Unrestrained liberalism only makes the strong stronger and the weak weaker and excludes the most excluded. We need great freedom, no discrimination, no demagoguery and a lot of love. We need rules of conduct and also, if necessary, direct intervention from the state to correct the more intolerable inequalities."