10 Highlights from Pope Francis' Inflight Press Conference from Africa

(photo: YouTube)

On the plane back from the Central African Republic this afternoon, Pope Francis gave his customary inflight press conference.

Rome Reports has a full translation here, but below are 10 of some of the most interesting excerpts from the Pope's comments on a variety of subjects in chronological order (original Italian text here): 

1. On social injustice and poverty in Africa:

What did I feel in Kangemi [Nairobi shantytown]? I felt pain, great pain! Yesterday I went to a children’s hospital, the only one in Bangui and in the whole country. In the intensive care unit there’s no oxygen, there were children that were malnourished... The bottom line is this; if humanity does not change, poverty, tragedies, wars and injustice will continue. Children will go on dying of hunger. What does that percentage of people that holds 80% of the world’s wealth in their hands think of this? This is not communism, it is the truth. And seeing the truth is not easy.

2. Highlights of the visit:

The most memorable part of this trip were the crowds, all that joy, that celebratory spirit, the will to celebrate even on an empty stomach. For me, Africa was a surprise. God always surprises us, but Africa surprises us too.

3. On the controversy over the Vatican currently trying journalists:

The important thing is for [journalism] to be professional and for news not to be manipulated. For me it is important because condemning injustice, corruption is a great job. Professional press needs to say it all but without succumbing to the most common sins: misinformation, in other words only telling half of the story and leaving the other half out; slander, when the unprofessional press dishonors people; defamation, which involves ruining a person’s reputation.

4. On religious fundamentalism:

We need to live peacefully alongside one another, develop friendships. Fundamentalism is a disease that exists in all religions. In the Catholic Church we have some – many – who believe they possess the absolute truth and they go on sullying others through slander and defamation and this is wrong. I say this because it is my Church. Religious fundamentalism must be combatted. It is not religious, God is lacking, it is idolatrous.

5. On Vatileaks:

The judges will tell us what her real intentions were, how they did it. It did not come as a surprise to me, I didn’t lose any sleep over it because they showed everyone the work begun with the commission of nine cardinals, to root out corruption and the things that are wrong.

6. On condoms and the spread of AIDS

This is not the problem. There is a greater problem than this: this question makes me think of the question they once asked Jesus: tell me Master, is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Healing is obligatory! Malnutrition, exploitation, slave labor, the lack of drinking water, these are the problems. We’re not talking about which plaster we should use for which wound. The great injustice is social injustice, the great injustice is malnutrition. I don’t like making such casuistic reflections when there are people dying because of a lack of  water and hunger. Think about arms trafficking. When these problems cease to exist, then I think we can ask ourselves the question: is it acceptable to heal on a Saturday? Why are arms still being manufactured? Wars are the leading cause of death. Forget about whether it is acceptable or not to heal on a Saturday. Make justice and when everyone is healed, when there is no injustice in this world, then we can talk about Saturday.

7. On crisis in relations between Russia and Turkey:

War is a business. Terrorists, do they manufacture weapons? Who gives them weapons? There is a whole network of interests, behind which you find money and power. We have been going through a world war fought piecemeal and each time the pieces are less like pieces, they are geeing bigger and bigger.

8. On COP21 (UN climate change conference currently taking place in Paris):

We are on the verge of suicide, to use a strong word, and I am certain that people in Paris are aware of this and want to do something about it. The other day I read that in Greenland, glaciers are losing mass at a rate of billions of tons. In the Pacific, there is a country that is buying another country to move to because in 20 years it will cease to exist. I trust these people will do something. I hope this will be the case and I pray it will.

9. On Catholic-Muslim relations:

Today I went to the mosque, the Imam wanted to come with me. A Pope and an Imam both got into the Popemobile. Think of all the wars we Christians have waged. It wasn’t the Muslims who were responsible for the Sack of Rome.

10. On Africa:

Africa is a martyr of exploitation. Those who claim that all adversities and wars come out of Africa have no idea of the harm certain forms of development are doing to humanity. That is why I love Africa, because it has been a victim of other powers.