In a June 21 conversation with journalists on the way back from a trip to Geneva, Pope Francis touched on an array of topics, including ecumenism, intercommunion, peace and just war, and refugees.
Please read below for CNA’s full transcript of the Pope’s in-flight news conference:
Thank you, Your Holiness ... we wait a second, here we go ... perfect! Thank you, in the meantime. To journey, to pray, to work together ... we have walked, we have prayed, also, at various times, and now we touch on work a little, even to eat after, so that it is seen that to journey together brings fruit.
Today the welcoming: We have seen, after many speeches, that it is the mutual respect and it is something more — it is also friendship. However, there is still so much work to do and so many challenges, and this interests us normally, the challenges ... so, to you journalists ... but, if you want to say something first [Holy Father]?
Thank you for your work, the day was a little heavy, at least for me ... but I am content; I am content [Editor’s note: or “happy”] because the various things that we have done — that is, the prayers to begin; then the speech during lunch, it was the most beautiful; then the academic meeting; and then the Mass. They are things that have made me happy. ... The tiring but beautiful things! Thank you so much! Now I am available to you.
Good. We begin with the Swiss. (Arnaud Bedat of L’Illustre magazine)
Holy Father, you have been in Geneva, but also in Switzerland. What are the images and what are the strong, important moments that had an impact on you during this day?
Repeat for me.
I believe that it is a common word: “encounter.” It was a day of varied encounters. The right word of the day is “encounter,” and when a person encounters another and feels appreciation for the meeting, this always touches the heart, no? They were positive meetings, good even, beginning with the dialogue with the president at the beginning; it was not a speech of courtesy, as usual ... [it was] a deep speech on the profound world debates and [spoken by him] with an intelligence ... that I remain astonished, beginning from that.
Then the meetings that you all saw, and that which you did not see is the meeting at lunch, that was very profound [or deep] in the way it touched on many debates; maybe the debate we spent the most time on is “the youth.” Because even all of the churches are concerned, in the good sense, for the youth and the pre-synod that occurred in Rome from March 19 and then attracted enough attention, because there were youth of all [different] beliefs, even agnostics and of all the countries. Think, 315 youth there and 15,000 connected [Editor’s note: via Facebook] that they entered and exited, and this perhaps awakened a special interest.
But the word that came to me maybe the whole trip is that it was a voyage of “encounter.” Maybe ... I don’t know ... an experience of encounter ... no rudeness, nothing entirely formal: a human encounter. And this ... between Protestants, Catholics and all [people] it says a lot, eh!
Thanks, Holiness. Now the German group: Roland Juchem of the German Catholic CIC Agency is here.
Thanks, Holy Father. You speak often of concrete steps toward ecumenism. Today, for example, you again referred to that, saying, “Let’s see what is possible to do concretely, rather than getting discouraged for what isn’t.”
The German bishops recently have decided to take a step, and so we ask ourselves why Archbishop Ladaria wrote a letter that seems like an “emergency brake.” After the meeting May 3, it was affirmed that the German bishops would have had to find a possibly unanimous solution. What will be the next steps? Will an intervention from the Vatican be necessary to clarify or will the German bishops have to find an agreement?
Well. This is not a novelty, because in the Code of Canon Law, what the German bishops were talking about is foreseen: Communion in special cases. And they were looking at the problem of mixed marriages, no? If it is possible or it isn’t possible. And the Code [of Canon Law] says that the bishop of the particular Church — this word is important, “particular,” if it is of a diocese — must read that. It’s in his hands. This is in the code. The German bishops, because they had seen that it wasn’t clear ... also some priests did things who weren’t in agreement with the bishop, have wished to study this theme and have made this study that I don’t want to exaggerate, but it was a study of more than a year, and more … it’s more than a year … well done … and the study was restrictive.
What the bishops wanted is to say clearly what is in the code. And I read it and said: This is a restrictive document, no? It wasn’t open to everyone. It’s a well-thought-out thing, with ecclesial spirit. And they wished to do it for the local Church, not the particular. The thing slid along up until there, for the German [bishops’] conference. And there, there is a problem, because the code does not foresee that. It foresees the bishop of the diocese, but not the conference, because a thing approved by an episcopal conference immediately becomes universal.
And this was the difficulty of the discussion: not so much the content, but this. And they sent the document. Then there were two or three meetings of dialogue or of clarification, and Archbishop Ladaria sent that letter, but with my permission. He didn’t do it alone! I told him: “Yes, it’s better to make a step ahead and say that the document isn’t yet mature and that the thing needed to be studied more.” Then there was another meeting, and at the end they will study the thing.
I think that this will be an orientative document so that each of the diocesan bishops can manage what canon law already permits.
It wasn’t a brake … it is reading the thing so that it goes along the right path. When I made a visit to the Lutheran Church of Rome, a question of the kind was posed, and I replied according to the spirit of the Code of Canon Law. It is the spirit that they are seeking now. Maybe it wasn’t the right information in the right moment, a little bit of confusion, but this is the thing: The particular Church, the code permits it; the local Church [episcopal conference] cannot because it would be universal.
But the conference can study and give orientative opinions to help the bishops to manage the particular cases. Thanks.
Now from the Spanish group there is Eva Fernandez of COPE agency and Spanish radio.
They are good, these [journalists] of COPE.
Thank you, Holy Father! We have seen that even the secretary-general of the Ecumenical Council of Churches spoke of help to refugees. Just recently we have seen the incident of the Aquarius ship, also the separation of families in the United States. Do you think that some leaders instrumentalize/use the tragedy of refugees? Do they use them ...?
I have spoken a lot on refugees; the criteria are those that I have said: to welcome, to accompany, to place, to integrate. This is the criteria for all refugees. Then I have said that every country should do this with the virtue of the rule of prudence, because a country should welcome as many refugees as it can and as many as it can integrate, educate, assimilate, give work to. This I would say is the straightforward/easy, serene plan for refugees. Here we are living [with] a wave of refugees that flee from wars and from hunger. The war and hunger of many countries in Africa, wars and persecution in the Middle East. Italy and Greece were very generous in welcoming [refugees], and for the Middle East, Turkey [was also], in respect to Syria, it has received many ... Lebanon many. ... Lebanon has as many Syrians as Lebanese ... and then Jordan ... other countries, also Spain has received [them? some?].
There is a problem of trafficking migrants, and also there is the problem when in some cases they return, because they should return if this — I do not know/understand well the terms in agreement — if they are in the Libyan water, they should return ... and there, I have seen the photographs of the detention centers controlled by the traffickers. Traffickers immediately separate the women from the men ... women and babies go ... God knows where! This is what the traffickers do! There is even a case that I know of where the traffickers were close to a ship that had accepted barges and ... [they were saying]: “Give us the women and the babies, and take the males.”
These traffickers and the detention centers of the traffickers that have returned, they are terrible ... terrible! In the detention camps of the Second World War, they saw these things! And also the mutilizations in the torture of [forced?] labor, and then they threw them to be in the communes of the men. For this the leaders are concerned that they [the people] do not return and fall into the hands of these people [the traffickers]. It is a worldwide concern! I know that the leaders speak on this, and they want to find an agreement, even to modify the Dublin agreement and all of this.
In Spain, you have had the case of this ship that is docked in Valencia, but all of this is a mess. ... The problem of the wars is difficult to resolve. The problem of the persecution also of Christians in the Middle East, also in Nigeria ... but the problem of hunger they can resolve, and many European leaders are thinking of an emergency plan to invest in these countries, to invest intelligently, to give work and education in these two things in the countries from which those people come ... because — [I’ll say] one thing, not to offend, but it is the truth — in the collective subconscious, is a bad motto: Africa is exploited. And Africa is to be preyed on ... this is in the subconscious ... “They are Africans” — always “land of slaves.”
And this should change with this plan of investment, and to increase education, because the African people have many cultural riches, many, and they have a great intelligence. The children are very intelligent, and they, with a good education, can go beyond. ... This will be the road halfway to the goal, but in the moment, leaders should make an agreement between themselves to go forward with these emergency fixes ... this here in Europe! We go to America: In America, there is a great migration problem.
In Latin America, too, there is an internal migration problem. ... In my homeland, there is a migration problem from North to South, and even these people leave the countryside because there is no work, and they go to the big cities and where there are these megacities [or huge cities], the slums and all these things, but it is also an external migration to other countries that have work ... and speaking concretely of the United States, I back that which the bishops of the country say. I side with them. Thank you.
Thanks, Holiness. Now is the English group: Deborah Castellano Lubov of the Zenit Agency.
Deborah Castellano Lubov (Zenit):
Thanks, Holiness! Holiness, in your address today to the ecumenical encounter, you made reference to the enormous strength of the Gospel. We know some of the churches, now the World Council of Churches, the so-called “pacifist churches” who believe that a Christian cannot use violence: We remember that two years ago in the Vatican there was a conference organized. Do you think that it would be the case for the Catholic Church to unite to these so-called “churches of peace” and set aside the doctrine of just war? Thanks.
A clarification: Why do you say that there are “pacifist churches?”
Deborah Castellano Lubov:
They are considered as pacifist because they have this way of reasoning that if a person (intuits) a violence, at that point they can no longer be considered Christians.
Thanks. I understand. Because you put your finger right in the wound, eh? I think that … today at lunch a pastor said that maybe the first human right is the right to hope, and I liked that. And this has to do a bit with this, and we spoke about the crisis of human rights today. I think that I have to begin from this to arrive to your question. The crisis of human rights is clearly seen. They speak a bit about human rights, but so many groups or some countries take a distance, and [say] “yes, human rights,” but there isn’t the strength, the enthusiasm, the conviction. I don’t say 70 years ago, but 20 years ago. And this is grave because we have to see the causes, but what are the causes for which we have arrived to this, that today human rights are relative? Also, the right to peace is relative. It is a crisis of human rights. I think that we must think it through to the end, or with certainty.
Then, churches of peace: I think that all the Churches that have this spirit of peace must reunite and work together, as we said in the speeches today, myself and the other people who spoke. And at lunch, unity for peace was spoken of. Peace is an exigency, because there is risk of a war that we … some have said this: This third world war, if it is done, we know with which arms it will be done … but if there were a fourth, it would be done with sticks, because humanity will be destroyed. The commitment for peace is serious, but when you think of the money that is spent on weapons … for this, the religions of peace … is the mandate of God: peace, fraternity, human unity. All of the conflicts, don’t resolve them like Cain; resolve them with negotiations, with dialogue, with mediations. … For example, we’re in a crisis of mediations. Mediation as a juridical figure (very rich) today is in pure crisis. Hope is in crisis, crisis of human rights, crisis of mediations, crisis of peace.
But then, if you say that there are religions of peace, I ask myself: Where are the religions of war? It’s tough to understand this. It’s tough. But, some groups, I would say in almost all of the small religious groups, I will say [there are] a bit [of] simply fundamentalists, [who] seek wars. … Also we Catholics have some. They always seek destruction, no? And this is very important to have our eyes on it. I don’t know if I replied. Thanks.
They say that the population is asking for lunch, eh, dinner, that there is just enough time to arrive with a full stomach. It’s just to tell you … a word that I want to say clearly: Today was an ecumenical day, really ecumenical! And at lunch we said a beautiful word, a beautiful thing, that I leave with you, so that you think on it and reflect; you make a nice consideration of this: In the ecumenical movement, we have to take from the dictionary a word: “proselytism.” Clear? You cannot have ecumenism with proselytism. You have to choose. Either you have an ecumenical spirit or you are a proselytizer.
Thanks! I would continue speaking because I like it … but now let’s make the substitute [of the Secretariat of State] come, because it is the last trip he’ll make with us, because now he’s going to change color, but not for embarrassment! We want to say goodbye to him. It’s a Sardinian cake to celebrate!
Cardinal-elect Angelo Becciu (Sardinian-born substitute of the Holy See Secretariat of State):
Thanks! It is a double surprise of calling me and thanking me in front of you! And then there’s a Sardinian cake. Well, then, we’ll try it with pleasure! I truly thank the Holy Father for this occasion, but for everything, because he has allowed me this magnificent experience of traveling so much with him. At the beginning, he scared me, saying, “No, I’ve made few trips.” Do you remember? And then, after one, he added another and then another, and we said to ourselves, “Good thing he said there would be few, and there have been many” — a magnificent experience of seeing the Holy Father spread the word of God courageously. My service has been only this: to help him in this. All right? Thanks to all of you and to those who have helped us! Thanks.
Buon appetito; have a good dinner, and thanks so much! And pray for me, please. Thanks.