Full Text of Pope Francis’ In-Flight Press Conference from Poland

The Holy Father discussed this year’s World Youth Day, the recent coup attempt in Turkey, abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell, the Venezuelan crisis, Islam and violence, and the next WYD in Panama.

Pope Francis speaks to reporters aboard the papal flight from Krakow to Rome, July 31, 2016.
Pope Francis speaks to reporters aboard the papal flight from Krakow to Rome, July 31, 2016. (photo: Alan Holdren/CNA)

ABOARD THE PAPAL PLANE — During his flight from Krakow to Rome on Sunday, Pope Francis gave a press conference to the journalists assembled aboard the papal plane. He reflected on the World Youth Day gathering in the Polish city, and the recent attempted coup in Turkey.

He also addressed abuse accusations against Cardinal Pell, the crisis in Venezuela, Islam and violence, and Panama – which will host the next World Youth Day.

Below is the full text of the July 31 press conference, translated by Catholic News Agency:


Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi: Holy Father, thanks a lot for being here with us on the return from this trip. Despite the storm tonight it seems that everything went very well and we are all happy and content and we hope that you are as well in these days. As usual, we will ask you some questions. We are here, if you want to say something for an introduction, we are at your disposal.

Pope Francis: I would like to thank you for your work and your company. I would also like to give you, because you are colleagues, condolences for the death of Anna Maria Jacobini (Editor’s note: Jacobini is an Italian journalist who died unexpectedly in Krakow while covering the trip). Today I met her sister, niece and nephew: they were so saddened by this.

Then, I would like to thank Lombardi and Mauro, because this will be the last trip they take with us. Father Lombardi was at Vatican Radio for more than 25 years and then on the flights 12-13, 10 [years]. Mauro: 37. Thirty-seven years in charge of the bags on the flight. I thank you very much, Mauro and Father Lombardi. And then at the end we’ll thank them with a cake. I am at your disposal; the trip is short, so we’ll do it in a hurry this time.


Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holy Father. The first question we’ll do as usual, from our Polish colleague, Magdalena Wolinska from TVP. Here she is.

Magdalena Wolinska-Riedi, TVP: Holy Father, in your speech at Wawel, in your first speech immediately after arriving, you said that you were happy to begin getting to know Central Eastern Europe. I come from Poland, and in the name of the nation I would like to ask you how was Poland for you in these five days, how did it seem?

Pope Francis: But it’s a special Poland, because it was a Poland invaded once again, this time by youth. But Krakow ... what I have seen, I saw very beautiful. The Polish people ... so much enthusiasm! But look, this evening, with the rain, and long streets ... it wasn’t only the youth! Even the elderly! It’s a goodness, a nobility! I had an experience of knowing the Polish people when I was a child, and where my father worked many Poles came to work after the war. They were good people, and this has stayed in my heart. I rediscovered this goodness of yours. It’s a beauty. Thank you.


Father Lombardi: We give the word to another of our Polish colleagues, Ursula Rzepczak from Polsat.

Ursula Rzepczak, Polsat: Holy Father, our young children were touched by your words, which correspond very well to their reality, to their problems ... but you also used, in your speeches, you used the words, the very expressions, of the language of the youth. How did you prepare? How were you able to give so many examples close to their lives, to their problems, but also with their words?

Pope Francis: I like to speak with the youth, and I like to hear the youth. They always put me in difficulty. They tell me things that I haven’t thought of, or that I’ve partly thought of. The restless youth, the creative youth, I like them! And thence I take that language. Many times I have to ask myself: what does this mean? And they explain what it means! They explain to me what it means ... but I like to speak with them. They are our future, and we must have a dialogue. This dialogue between the past and the future is important. Because of this I underline so much the relationship between the youth and grandparents. They must speak with ... when I say grandparents, I mean those who are old and those who are not so old ... but me, yes! To also give our experience, which they feel as the past, as history and they take it up again and carry it forward with the courage of the present, as I said this evening ... but it’s important, it’s important! I don’t like it when I hear it said: “But these youth say stupid things!” Even we say many of them, eh! The youth say stupid things and they say good things, as we do, as everyone does. But hear them, speak with them, because we must learn from them and they must learn from me, from us. It’s like this. And this is how history is made, this is how it grows, without closure, without closure. I don’t know, it’s like this. This is how I learn these things.


Father Lombardi: Thank you very much. And now we give the word to Marco Ansaldo from La Repubblica, who will ask the question for the Italian group.

Marco Ansaldo, La Repubblica: Holiness, the repression in Turkey, the 15 days that followed the coup, according to almost all international observers were perhaps worse in respect to the coup. There were entire categories affected: the military, magistrates, public administrators, diplomats, journalists. I cite data from the Turkish government: it speaks of more than 13,000 arrests, more than 50,000 people torpedoed. A purge. The day before yesterday, the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced the critics and said: “Mind your own business” — in front of external critics. We would like to ask you: until now you haven’t intervened, you haven’t spoken. Perhaps you fear that there could be repercussions on the Catholic minority in Turkey?

Pope Francis: When I had to say something that I didn’t like to Turkey, but of which I was sure, I said it, with the consequences that you all know (Editor’s note: a reference to his comments on the Armenian Genocide). I said these words … I was sure … I didn’t speak because I am still not sure with the information that I received on what is happening there. And I listen to the information that is arriving in the Secretariat of State and some important political analyst, I am studying the situation even with the councilors of the Secretariat of State and the thing still isn’t clear. It’s true, harm to Catholics must always be avoided, and all of us do this ... but not at the price of the truth! There is the virtue of prudence; this must be said, when, how, but in my case, you are my witnesses that when I’ve had to say something that involves Turkey, I’ve said it.

Father Lombardi: Now we give the word to Frances D’Emilio, who is a colleague from the Associated Press, the large English-language agency

Frances D’Emilio, AP: Good evening. My question is a question that many are asking in these days because it has come to light in Australia that the Australian police would be investigating new accusations against Cardinal Pell, and that this time the accusations involve the abuse of minors that are very different from the previous accusations. So, the question that I ask which many others ask is: according to you, what would be the right thing for Cardinal Pell to do, given his serious situation and in such an important position and the confidence that he enjoys from you?

Pope Francis: Thank you. The first information that arrived was confusing. It was news from 40 years back that not even the police made a case about at first. It was a confusing thing. Then, all the rest of the accusations were sent to justice. Right now, they are in the hands of justice. And one mustn’t judge before justice judges, eh. If I were to say a judgement in favor of or against Cardinal Pell, it wouldn’t be good because I [would] judge before. It’s true that there there is doubt and there’s that clear principal of the law: in dubio pro reo (Editor’s note: the phrase is a Latin expression meaning in favor of the alleged guilty party), no? But, we must wait for justice and not make a first judgement ourselves, a media trial, or ... because this doesn’t help. The judgement of gossip and then, one can...we don’t know what the result will be but be attentive to what justice decides. Once justice speaks, I will speak. Thank you.

Father Lombardi: Now we give the word to Hernan Reyes from TELAM, I ask you to come near. As we know he’s Argentine and represents Latin America in the midst of us.

Hernan Reyes, TELAM: Holiness, how are you after your fall the other day? We hope that you are well...after the fall...

Pope Francis: Ah! The fall.

Reyes: This is the first question ... and the second question, last week the secretary-general of UNASUR, Ernesto Samper, spoke about a mediation from the Vatican in Venezuela. Is this a concrete dialogue? Is this a real possibility, and how do you think that this mission with the mission of the Church can help in the stabilization of the country?

Pope Francis: First, the fall: I was looking at the Madonna and I forgot about the stairs. I was with the thurible in hand. And when I felt that I was falling, I let myself fall and this saved me, because if I had made some resistance, I would have had consequences. Nothing. I am wonderful, I am very well.

The second, the second was? Venezuela. With Venezuela, two years ago I had a very, very positive meeting with president Maduro ... then he asked for an audience last year, it was Sunday, the day after arriving from Sarajevo. But then he cancelled that because he was very sick with an ear infection and couldn’t come. Then after this I let some time go by and I wrote a letter to him. Then, there were contacts ... you mentioned one ... of an eventual meeting. Yes, yes. With the conditions that are made in this case. And if you think, right now ... I am not sure, I can’t guarantee this, eh. Clear? I am not sure! But I think that in the group of the mediation, someone, and I’m not sure if the government also — but I’m not sure — wants a representative from the Holy See. This until the moment that I left Rome. But things are there. In the group there is Zapatero from Spain, Torrijos and another, three ... and a fourth that is said from the Holy See ... but of this I am not sure. Okay.

Father Lombardi: Now we give the word to Antoine Marie Izoard, from France. We know what France is living these days.

Antoine Marie Izoarde, i.Media: Holy Father, before all I make the congratulations to you and Father Lombardi and also to Father Spadaro for the feast of St. Ignatius, if you allow me. The question is a little difficult: Catholics are a bit in shock, and not only in France, after the barbarous assassination of Father Jacques Hamel — as you know well — in his church while celebrating the Holy Mass. Four days ago you here told us that all religions want peace. But this holy, 86-year-old priest was clearly killed in the name of Islam. So Holy Father, I have two brief questions: Why do you, when you speak of these violent events, always speak of terrorists, but never of Islam, never use the word Islam? And then, aside from prayer and dialogue, which are obviously essential, what concrete initiatives can you advise or suggest in order to counteract Islamic violence? Thank you, Holiness.

Pope Francis: I don’t like to speak of Islamic violence, because every day, when I browse the newspapers, I see violence, here in Italy… this one who has murdered his girlfriend, another who has murdered the mother-in-law… and these are baptized Catholics! There are violent Catholics! If I speak of Islamic violence, I must speak of Catholic violence … and no, not all Muslims are violent, not all Catholics are violent. It is like a fruit salad; there’s everything. There are violent persons of this religion … this is true: I believe that in pretty much every religion there is always a small group of fundamentalists. Fundamentalists. We have them. When fundamentalism comes to kill, it can kill with the language — the Apostle James says this, not me — and even with a knife, no? I do not believe it is right to identify Islam with violence. This is not right or true. I had a long conversation with the imam, the Grand Imam of the Al-Azhar University, and I know how they think … They seek peace, encounter … The nuncio to an African country told me that the capital where he is there is a trail of people, always full, at the Jubilee Holy Door. And some approach the confessionals — Catholics — others to the benches to pray, but the majority go forward, to pray at the altar of Our Lady … these are Muslims, who want to make the Jubilee. They are brothers, they live … When I was in Central Africa, I went to them, and even the imam came up on the Popemobile … We can coexist well … But there are fundamentalist groups, and even I ask … there is a question … How many young people, how many young people of our Europe, whom we have left empty of ideals, who do not have work … they take drugs, alcohol, or go there to enlist in fundamentalist groups. One can say that the so-called ISIS, but it is an Islamic State which presents itself as violent … because when they show us their identity cards, they show us how on the Libyan coast how they slit the Egyptians’ throats or other things … But this is a fundamentalist group which is called ISIS … but you cannot say, I do not believe, that it is true or right that Islam is terrorist.

Izoard: Your concrete initiatives to counteract terrorism, violence?

Pope Francis: Terrorism is everywhere. You think of the tribal terrorism of some African countries. It is terrorism and also … But I don’t know if I say it because it is a little dangerous … Terrorism grows when there are no other options, and when the center of the global economy is the god of money and not the person — men and women — this is already the first terrorism! You have cast out the wonder of creation — man and woman — and you have put money in its place. This is a basic terrorism against all of humanity! Think about it!


Father Lombardi: Thank you, Holiness. Seeing as how the announcement was made this morning of Panama as the next World Youth Day, there was a colleague here who wanted to give you a small gift in order to prepare yourself for this event.

Javier Martinez Brocal, Rome Reports: How are you, Holy Father? You told us in the meeting with volunteers that maybe you will not go to Panama, this you cannot do, we are waiting for you in Panama ...

Pope Francis: No no, this one is not going, Peter is going, whichever it is.

Martinez Brocal: We believe that you will go. I give you on behalf of the Panamanians two things: a shirt with the number 17, which is your date of birth, and later the hat that the farmers in Panama wear. They asked me to put it on, but ...

Pope Francis: The tribute to the farmers...

Martinez Brocal: If you would like to greet the Panamanians...

Pope Francis: To those from Panama, thank you very much for this and I hope that you prepare well with the same strength, the same spirituality, the same depth with which the Poles, the Cracovians and the Poles, prepared.


Izoarde: Holiness, in the name of my journalist colleagues — because I feel a little obligated to represent them, I must also say two words if you allow me, Holiness, about Father Lombardi in the Press Office with Pope Benedict, an unprecedented interregnum, and then your election, Holy Father, and the surprises that followed. What one can say, though, is the constant availability, commitment, and dedication of Father Lombardi, your incredible ability to respond or not to our questions, and this is also an art — to our often strange questions. And then also your humor, a little British, in all situations, even the worst. And we have many examples. Obviously we welcome with you your successors, two good journalists, but let’s not forget that you, more than being a journalist, were, and still are, a priest. And also a Jesuit, wow! So we cannot wait until September to celebrate with dignity your departure for other services, but we wish to congratulate you today ... a wish for a happy feast, we said, of St. Ignatius, and then for a long life, of 100 years as they say, of humble service. “Stolat,” they say in Poland, stolat, Father Lombardi.

Pope Francis: Thanks a lot. Did Mauro run away?

Michelangelo, “The Last Judgment,” 1536-1541

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