Pope Francis Says He Draws Strength From Relationship with Benedict XVI
Speaking aboard the papal flight returning from Romania, Francis said that each time he visits the pope emeritus, he feels more like family.
ROME - Pope Francis said Sunday that his relationship with Benedict XVI gives him strength and reminds him of the living tradition of the Church.
“When I hear him speak, I become strong. I hear this story of the Church,” Pope Francis said of Benedict in an in-flight press conference June 2.
Speaking aboard the papal flight returning from Romania, Francis said that each time he visits the pope emeritus, he feels more like family.
“Every time I go to visit him I feel like that, I take his hand and get him to talk. He speaks little, slowly, but with the same depth, as always -- because Benedict's problem is his knees, not his head,” he said.
“He has a great lucidity, as always,” Francis added.
Pope Francis commented that Benedict XVI reminds him that “the tradition of the Church is always in motion.” He compared tradition to “a tree that grows, flourishes, and bears fruit.”
“Tradition is the guarantee of the future and not the keeper of the ashes. It's not a museum,” he said, paraphrasing a quote from composer Gustav Mahler.
Pope Francis also commented on the future of Europe following the European Parliament elections on May 26.
“Europe must talk … If Europe does not look well at future challenges, Europe will wither, it will be withered,” he said.
“Please do not let Europe be overcome by pessimism and ideologies,” he said. “Because Europe is attacked not with cannons or bombs, but with ideologies. Ideologies that are not European, that come from outside and are born in small groups in Europe.”
“Pray for Europe,” Pope Francis said. “Pray for Europe, for unity, for the Lord give us the grace.”
Pope Francis commented that Romania has not suffered from a demographic winter seen in other countries in Europe, but has had “an impressive level of births.”
During his apostolic visit to Romania May 31 - June 2, Pope Francis traveled to the cities of Bucharest, Sumuleu-Ciuc, Iași, and Blaj. He celebrated Mass at a Marian pilgrimage site in Transylvania, and presided over the beatification of seven martyred Greek-Catholic bishops in a Greek-Catholic Divine Liturgy.
Due to poor weather conditions, Pope Francis had to travel by car rather than by helicopter as scheduled. Francis said that the unexpected storm was “a grace from God” because he was able to see the “beautiful landscape.”
“I have crossed the whole of Transylvania. It is beautiful, and I have never seen anything like it,” he said.
Hannah Brockhaus contributed to this report.
The in-flight transcript is below.
Aboard the papal plane — Please read below for CNA’s full transcript of the Pope’s June 2 in-flight news conference from Sibiu, Romania, to Rome:
Alessandro Gisotti, interim director of the Holy See Press Office: Good evening. Welcome, Holy Father. Welcome. Return flight: Holy Father, the motto of this journey was “We Walk Together,” but we also fly together because I think we have really flown a lot, also the busyness, the fatigue — in your speech to the foreign press a few days ago, you concluded by saying the fatigue is in apostolic journeys in particular. Here, the effort, the passion, the diligence of colleagues who have told of this journey. Today is the day of social communications, obviously, as you know, dedicated to journalists and those who work in communications, with the theme: “We Are Members, One of Another.” And so the Holy Father, before the questions, offers us a brief reflection on this day dedicated to us.
Pope Francis: Good evening. Thank you for your company. As Gisotti said, today, this day, calls … [to mind], calls you to our thoughts. You work in communications; you are workers, as Alessandro said. But first of all, you should also be witnesses of communication. Today communication goes behind, generally; connection goes on, to make connections and not arrive at communication. And you all, for vocation, you are witnesses to communicating. It’s true: You should make connections, but do not stop yourselves there, going there. I wish you to go forward in this vocation, this testimony to communicating. This period needs less connection and more communication. Thank you and now, congratulations for your day, and proceed with the questions.
Gisotti: Okay, Holy Father, per tradition, the first two questions go to media of the country where we went. We begin with Diana Dumitrascu of TVR. Please.
Diana Dumitrascu (TVR): Holy Father, we thank you for your visit to Romania. Holiness, you know that thousands of our countrymen have emigrated in recent years. What would be your message for a family that leaves their children to go to work abroad for the purpose of improving their lives? Thank you.
Pope Francis: First of all, this makes me think of the love of the family, because to separate into two and three [parts] is not a beautiful thing. ... If there is always nostalgia to meet again, then to separate so that the family lacks nothing is an act of love. At Mass, yesterday’s Mass, we heard in the last petition from that lady who was working abroad to help her family. A separation like that is always sad. But why do they leave? It is not for tourism, but for necessity, necessity. So many times it is because in the country you do not find ... so many times it is the results of world politics that affects this. I know the history of your country, that after the fall of communism and after, so, so many foreign companies closed to open abroad and earn more. And this is a worldwide, a global injustice of lack of solidarity — a suffering. How to fight it? Trying to open sources of work ... it is not easy; it is not easy in the global situation of finances and of the economy.
But think, you have an impressive level of births. Here [in Romania] you do not see the “demographic winter” that is seen in Europe. It is an injustice to not be able to see sources of work for so many young people ... for this I wish that it will be resolved, this situation that does not depend only on Romania but on the global financial order, on this consumeristic society, on having more, on earning more. And so many people remain there, alone. My answer is an appeal to global solidarity at this moment that Romania has the presidency of the United Nations [Editor’s note: He meant European Union]: Look at it a little. Thank you.
Gisotti: Now Cristian Micaci from Radio Maria Romania asks the question, and Xavier Le Normand prepares.
Cristian Micaci (Radio Maria Romania): Holy Father, as the director said earlier, you have spoken a lot about walking together. Now, at your departure, I would like to ask: What would you advise us Romanians? What should be the relationship between the confessions, in a particular way between the Catholic Church and Orthodox, between the Catholic minority and the Orthodox majority? The relationship between the various [unclear] and the relationship between the political world and civil society?
Pope Francis: A relationship in general, I would say; the relationship of the outstretched hand when there are conflicts. Today a developing country with a high level of births, as you [are] with this future, cannot be under the illusion of having an incident. ... A process of approach must always be made, different ethnic groups, different religious denominations, especially the two Christian. This is the first: always the outstretched hand listening to the other.
With the Orthodox, you have a great patriarch, a man of great heart and a great scholar. He understands the mysticism of the Desert Fathers, the spiritual mysticism; he studied in Germany. He is also a man of prayer. ... It is easy to be close to [Patriarch] Daniel; it is easy because he feels like a brother, and we spoke like brothers. ... I will not say [what was said] ... but we go forward together.
I always have this idea: Ecumenism is not reaching the end of the game, of the discussion. Ecumenism is walking together, walking together, praying together ... the ecumenism of prayer. In history, we have the ecumenism of blood. When they killed Christians, they did not ask: Are you Catholic? Are you Orthodox? Are you Lutheran? No, [they asked] ‘Are you Christian’! And the blood mixed together. It is the ecumensim of witness. Another ecumenism, of prayer, of blood ... and then the ecumenism of the poor, those that work together. That we must work to help the sick, the infirm, for example, the people who are a little at the margin, below the poverty line, to help. “Matthew 25” is a beautiful ecumenical program; it comes from Jesus. To walk together: This is already Christian unity, but do not wait for theologians to agree to arrive at communion. Communion happens every day with prayer, with the memory of our martyrs, with works of charity and even of loving one another.
In one European city there is a good relationship between the Catholic archbishop and the Lutheran archbishop. [Once] the Catholic archbishop should have come to the Vatican Sunday evening, and he called to say that he would arrive Monday morning. When he arrived, he told me: “Sorry, but yesterday the Lutheran archbishop should have gone to one of their meetings, and he asked me to please go to his cathedral and lead the worship.” This is fraternity, to arrive to this much [fellowship] ... and the Catholic bishop held the service. He did not do the Eucharist, but the service. ...
When I was in Buenos Aires I was invited by the Scottish church to preach a few times, and I went there to hold the service. ... You can walk together ... unity, brotherhood, outstretched hand; be careful not to talk about others. We all have faults, everyone; if we walk together, we leave faults aside, the criticisms of a scapegoater [zitellone].
Gisotti: Now Xavier Le Normand from I.Media France asks the question, and Manuela Tulli prepares.
Xavier Le Normand (I.Media): Holiness, my question follows the previous one. On the first day of this trip, you went to the Orthodox cathedral for this beautiful, but also a little hard, moment of the Our Father prayer. A little hard because if Catholics and Orthodox were together, they did not pray together. You spoke about the ecumenism of prayer. So my question is: Your Holiness, what did you think when he [Editor’s note: Orthodox Patriarch Daniel] remained in silence during the Our Father prayer in Romanian? [Editor’s note: Orthodox do not formally pray with Catholics.] And what are the next concrete steps in this journey together? Thank you, Your Holiness.
Pope Francis: I will tell you something confidential. I did not remain in silence. I prayed the Our Father in Italian — [aside] also you, okay — and I saw during the Our Father service the major part of people were praying, both in Romanian and in Latin. The people go beyond us leaders. We leaders must make diplomatic balances to ensure that we go together; there are habits, diplomatic rules that it is good to keep, so that things do not get ruined. But the people pray together; even us when we are alone, we pray together. This is a witness. I have the experience of prayer with many, many pastors: Lutherans, evangelicals and even Orthodox. The patriarchs are open, and, yes, even us Catholics — we have closed people that do not want, that say that the Orthodox are schismatics. These are old things. The Orthodox are Christians. These Catholic groups are a little bit fundamentalist. We should tolerate them, pray for them, so that the Lord, with the Holy Spirit, softens their hearts. But I prayed during both [Our Fathers]. I did not watch [Patriarch] Daniel, but I believe that he did the same.
Gisotti: Thank you, Holy Father. Now the question will be asked by Manuela Tulli of ANSA.
Manuela Tulli (ANSA): Thank you, Holy Father. We were in Romania, a country that has shown itself to be European. In these [European] elections, some political leaders, like our vice premier Matteo Salvini, have made electoral campaigns with the display of religious symbols. In the rallies we saw rosaries, crosses, consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. I wanted to know what impression this made on you, and if it is true, as is heard in some conversations, that you do not want to meet our vice premier.
Pope Francis: First, I will begin with the second question. I have not heard from anyone in the [Italian] government, except the premier [who] had requested an audience, no one. For an audience you should speak to the secretary of state; you should request an audience. The premier, Conte, has asked; it was done as the protocol indicates. It was a nice audience with the premier, of an hour or maybe more, an intelligent man, a professor who knows how to speak. Second: I have not received a request from the vice premier, nothing, and neither from other ministers. Yes, I have received one from the president of the republic [of Italy].
Second, on these images [Editor’s note: Here the pope seems to be referring to photos of Matteo Salvini at a recent political rally in Milan]: I have confessed many times that I only read two newspapers: the newspaper of the party, that is, L'Osservatore Romano; this I read (it would be nice for you all to read it, because there are very interesting interpretations in it. And also things there that I tell you.) The newspaper of the party and Il Messaggero. I like Il Messaggero because it has large headlines. I browse like that; sometimes I stop there. I have not entered into this news of propaganda, how a party has made election propaganda.
Truly, if I ... there is a third element. I confess I am ignorant of this, and I do not understand Italian politics. And true, I should study it. I do not understand it — to give an opinion on attitudes of an electoral campaign of one of the parties, without information, would be very unwise on my part. I pray for all, so that Italy goes forward, so that Italians unite and are loyal in their compromises, because I am Italian, because I am the son of an Italian immigrant, Italian blood. My brothers all have [Italian] citizenship. I did not want to have it because at the time they granted it I was a bishop and the bishop must be in the native country, and I did not want to get [Italian] citizenship. And that is why I haven’t. ...
There is the sickness of corruption in the politics of many countries, many. Everywhere. Everywhere. (Do not say tomorrow that the Pope said that Italian politics are corrupt. No! I said that one of the political sicknesses everywhere is slipping into corruption. Please do not make me say that which I have not said.) One time that told me how political pacts are: Imagine a meeting of [unclear] businessmen at a table. They discuss making a development agreement for their businesses, and after hours and hours and hours, and coffee and coffee and coffee, they are in agreement. ... They have taken the minutes; they summarize the rules of agreement ... agreed, agreed. While they print it, they take a whiskey to celebrate, and then they start passing around the papers to sign the agreement. The moment the papers go around the table (me and the other one) I make another [agreement] under the table. This is political corruption, which is done a little everywhere. We must help politicians to be honest, not to campaign with dishonest flags, calumny, defamation, scandals ... and often, sowing hatred and fear. This is terrible; a politician must never, ever sow hatred and fear, only hope. Fair, demanding, but hope, because he must lead a country there and not give it fear. I do not know if I answered. But on the details of politicians’ conduct, I do not know.
Gisotti: Holy Father, now a question will be asked by Eva Fernandez, the journalist of COPE and also a little bit the embajadora de Espana [the Spanish ambassador], as you know, since she often brings you gifts from Spain.
Eva Fernandez (COPE): Holy Father, yesterday in the meeting with young people and families, you insisted again on the importance of the relationship between grandparents and young people so that young people have roots to move forward and so that grandparents can dream. Holy Father, you do not have a family nearby, but you have said that Benedict XVI is like having a grandfather at home. Do you continue to see him as a grandfather?
Pope Francis: More. Every time I go to visit him I feel like that. I take his hand and get him to talk. He speaks little, slowly, but with the same depth as always, because Benedict’s problem is his knees, not his head. He has a great lucidity, as always. When I hear him speak, I become strong. I hear this history of the Church, which is not something like a museum — Tradition. No, Tradition is like a root which gives us the juice to grow; and so you would become like roots. No! You flower, you grow, you give fruit, and you are the seeds that are the roots of the other. The Tradition of the Church is always in motion.
In an interview made by Andrea Monda in L’Osservatore Romano a few days ago (do you read L’Osservatore Romano?) there was a situation of the musician Gustav Mahler that I liked so much. Speaking of tradition, he said that tradition is the guarantee of the future and not the keeper of ashes. It is not a museum. Tradition does not preserve ashes; the nostalgia of fundamentalists [is] to return to the ashes. No, tradition is the roots that guarantee the tree grows, flowers and gives fruit. I repeat with that piece by the Argentine poet I like so much: “All that the tree has in bloom comes from that which it has underground.”
I am happy because yesterday I referenced that grandmother. ... It was a gesture of understanding with the eyes. At that moment I was so emotional that I did not react, and then the popemobile went ahead, and I could not tell this grandmother to come, to show this gesture, and I said to the Lord Jesus: “It is a pain, but you have the ability to solve it!” And our good Francesco, when he saw the communication I had with that woman with her eyes, snapped a photo, and it is now public. I saw it this afternoon on Vatican Insider. These are the roots. This will grow; it will not be like me, but I give my [roots]. These encounters are important.
Then there are the teachings, right? When the grandparents feel they have grandchildren who will carry on the story, they begin to dream. Grandparents, when they do not dream, become down, depressed. There is a future, and young people encouraged by that begin to … make history. It is important.
Gisotti: I think we have time for one more question, from Lucas Wiegelmann of Herder Correspondenz, if you can get closer.
Pope Francis: I read this magazine in Buenos Aires.
Lucas Wiegelmann (Herder Correspondenz): Yes, that’s right. Holy Father, in these days, you have spoken a lot about fraternity and about people walking together, as we have already heard, because we see that in Europe the number of those that do not desire fraternity, but egoism and isolation grows, and they prefer to walk alone. Why do you think this is? And what should we do in Europe to change this? Thanks.
Pope Francis: Excuse me if I mention myself, but I do it without vanity, for usefulness. I spoke about this problem in the two speeches in Strasbourg, in the speech I made when I received the Charlemagne Prize and then the speech I gave to all the heads of state and government in the Sistine Chapel — everyone was there — on the anniversary of the foundation of the European pacts. In these speeches I said everything, I think. And there is also a fifth speech, but that I did not give; the mayor of Burgermeister of Aachen did. This man is a gem of yours, a German, a gem. You will read a book and find something.
Europe must talk — Europe must not say we are united; to say “Arrange yourselves in Brussels; go ahead.” We are all responsible for the European Union; and this circulation of the presidency is not a gesture of courtesy, like dancing the Minuet — a turn for you, a turn for you. ... No! It is a symbol of the responsibility that each of the countries has over Europe. If Europe does not look well at future challenges, Europe will shrivel up; it will be withered. I took the liberty of saying in Strasbourg that I feel that Europe is leaving being Mother Europe and is becoming Grandmother Europe. She has aged, lost the illusion of working together. Perhaps someone can ask the question in hiding, but this will not end a 70-year adventure [Editor’s note: He meant 60]. Get back to the mysticism of the founding fathers. Get back to this: Europe needs itself to be itself —its identity, its unity, and overcome with this, with so many things that good politics offer, overcoming divisions and borders. We are seeing borders in Europe. This is not good, at least cultural borders. It is not good. It is true that every country has its own culture and must guard it, but with the mysticism of the prism. There is a globalization where everyone’s cultures are respected, but all united. But, please, do not let Europe be overcome by pessimism and ideologies. Because Europe is attacked not with cannons or bombs at the moment, but, yes, with ideologies; ideologies that are not European, that come from outside and hide in small groups in Europe. They are not big. Think of the divided and belligerent Europe of ‘14 and of ‘22-23 until ‘39, when the war broke out. But let’s not go back to this, please. We learn from history; we do not fall into the same hole. The other time I said that it is said the only animal that falls in the same hole twice is man. The donkey never does. I do not know how to tell you. But read that speech by the mayor from Burgermeister of Aachen, a gem.
Gisotti: Thank you, Holy Father. Thank you for this availability at the end of three very busy days; also for these five trips, one after the other, in this first part of the year. Such rich moments and so diverse, the meetings you had, Holy Father. Thank you.
Pope Francis: Now, two things. For weather reasons, I had to go two hours and 40 minutes by car yesterday. It was a grace from God. I saw a beautiful countryside, as I have never before seen. I have crossed all of Transylvania. It is a beauty. I had never seen a place like that. Today, to go to Blaj, the same. A beautiful, beautiful, beautiful thing, the countryside of this country. I also thank the rain that made me travel like this and not by helicopter, to have more contact with the situation.
The second thing: I know that some of you are believers, others not so much. But I will tell the believers: Pray for Europe. Pray for Europe, pray for unity, for the Lord to give us grace. To the nonbelievers, wish goodwill, wish from the heart, the desire, so that Europe returns to being what was dreamt by the founding fathers. Thank you; thank you very much. And have a good rest of your celebration [of the World Day of Social Communications].