Pope Francis Explains Why He Gives Interviews
‘For me, interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson,’ the Pope wrote in preface of book of interviews.
VATICAN CITY — In a preface to a new book of interviews, Pope Francis outlined his approach to speaking with journalists, explaining that he thinks interviews should be like a conversation, which is why he doesn’t prepare answers in advance.
“For me, interviews are a dialogue, not a lesson,” the Pope wrote.
“I do not prepare for this,” he said, stating that he usually declines to read the questions when they are sent in advance, instead opting to answer organically, as he would in an actual conversation.
“Yes, I am still afraid of being interpreted badly,” he clarified, while adding that, as a pastor, it’s a risk he’s willing to take.
“Everything that I do has pastoral value, in one way or in another,” he said. “If I did not trust this, I would not allow interviews: For me, it is clear. It’s a manner of communicating my ministry.”
Pope Francis gave his thoughts on interviews, and why and how he gives them, in a preface written for the book Now Ask Your Questions.
The book, a collection of both new and old interviews with Pope Francis, was compiled by Jesuit Father Antonio Spadaro, editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica. It will be presented Oct. 21.
In the preface, Francis explained that, for him, giving an interview is not like ascending “a pulpit” to preach, but is a meeting between him and the journalist. “I need to meet the people and look them in the eyes,” he wrote.
He said he likes to speak with people from both small magazines and popular newspapers, because he feels “even more comfortable.”
“In fact, in those cases, I really listen to the questions and concerns of ordinary people,” trying to answer “spontaneously” and in a “simple, popular language,” he explained.
He takes the same approach in press conferences aboard the papal plane when returning from apostolic visits, he said, though he sometimes imagines beforehand what questions journalists may ask.
He knows he must be prudent, he said, and he always prays to the Holy Spirit before listening to the questions and responding.
Historically however, Francis wasn’t fond of giving interviews. I may be “tough,” the Pope said, also shy, stating that, as archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was a little afraid of journalists, though one eventually persuaded him to grant an interview.
“I’ve always been worried about bad interpretations of what I say,” he wrote. As with interviews in the past, he said he was hesitant to accept Father Spadaro’s request, though eventually he did, giving two long interviews, both of which make up part of the book.
The compilation also includes various conversations with fellow Jesuits, which Francis said are the moments in which he usually feels the most comfortable and free to speak.
“I’m glad they’ve been included in this collection,” he said, since he said with them he feels like he is speaking among family members, and thus doesn’t fear being misunderstood.
Included in the book “are also two conversations with the superior generals of religious groups. I have always requested a real dialogue for them. I never wanted to give speeches and not have to listen to them,” he said.
“To me, to converse always felt the best way for us to really meet each other.”
In his meeting with Polish Jesuits, for example, the Pope said he spoke about discernment, strongly underlining the specific mission of the Society of Jesus today — “that is also a very important mission of the Church for our times.”
“I have a real need of this direct communication with people,” he said.
These conversations, which take place in meetings and interviews, are united in form to how he delivers his daily homilies at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta every morning, what is sort of his “parish,” he pointed out.
“I need this communication with people. There, four days a week, they go to find me, 25 people of a Roman parish, together with others.”
“I want a Church that knows how to get involved in people’s conversations, that knows how to dialogue,” he said.
“It is the Church of Emmaus, in which the Lord ‘interviews’ the disciples who are walking, discouraged. For me, an interview is part of this conversation of the Church with the people of today.”