Pope Francis addresses journalists on his flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome July 29. The pope spent 80 minutes answering questions from 21 journalists on the plane. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service

Pope Francis addresses journalists on his flight from Rio de Janeiro to Rome July 29. The pope spent 80 minutes answering questions from 21 journalists on the plane. Photo by Paul Haring/Catholic News Service


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(RNS) Pope Francis has done it again: Just two weeks after the publication of a lengthy, detailed interview in which he expounded on his new vision for the church he has given another interview, this time with the atheist editor of an Italian daily.

Francis had recently written an open letter to Eugenio Scalfari of La Repubblica, and then called the editor up out of the blue — as is his habit. The exchange, Scalfari wrote, went like this:

“Hello, this is Pope Francis.”

“Hello Your Holiness,” I say and then: “I am shocked. I did not expect you to call me.”

“Why so surprised? You wrote me a letter asking to meet me in person. I had the same wish, so I’m calling to fix an appointment. Let me look at my diary: I can’t do Wednesday, nor Monday, would Tuesday suit you?”

“That’s fine,” I answer.

“The time is a little awkward, three in the afternoon, is that OK? Otherwise it’ll have to be another day.”

“Your Holiness, the time is fine.”

“So we agree: Tuesday 24 at 3 o’clock. At Santa Marta. You have to come into the door at the Sant’Uffizio.”

Here are some highlights of their conversation:

On the church and politics:

“I believe that Catholics involved in politics carry the values of their religion within them, but have the mature awareness and expertise to implement them. The Church will never go beyond its task of expressing and disseminating its values, at least as long as I’m here.”

On his plans to reform the church: 

“I’m not Francis of Assisi and I do not have his strength and his holiness. But I am the Bishop of Rome and Pope of the Catholic world. The first thing I decided was to appoint a group of eight cardinals to be my advisers. Not courtiers but wise people who share my own feelings. This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”

On the Roman Curia, the Vatican bureaucracy:

“It sees and looks after the interests of the Vatican, which are still, for the most part, temporal interests. This Vatican-centric view neglects the world around us. I do not share this view and I’ll do everything I can to change it. The Church is or should go back to being a community of God’s people, and priests, pastors and bishops, who have the care of souls, are at the service of the people of God.”

On the obstacles he faces:

“The real trouble is that those most affected by (narcissism) — which is actually a kind of mental disorder — are people who have a lot of power. Often bosses are narcissists. … Heads of the Church have often been narcissists, flattered and thrilled by their courtiers. The court is the leprosy of the papacy.”

On careerist priests:

“It also happens to me that when I meet a clericalist, I suddenly become anti-clerical. Clericalism should not have anything to do with Christianity.”

On the greatest challenges for the church:

“The most serious of the evils that afflict the world these days are youth unemployment and the loneliness of the old. The old need care and companionship; the young need work and hope but have neither one nor the other, and the problem is they don’t even look for them any more. They have been crushed by the present. You tell me: Can you live crushed under the weight of the present? Without a memory of the past and without the desire to look ahead to the future by building something, a future, a family? Can you go on like this? This, to me, is the most urgent problem that the Church is facing.”

On converting others:

“Proselytism is solemn nonsense, it makes no sense. We need to get to know each other, listen to each other and improve our knowledge of the world around us. Sometimes after a meeting I want to arrange another one because new ideas are born and I discover new needs. This is important: to get to know people, listen, expand the circle of ideas. The world is crisscrossed by roads that come closer together and move apart, but the important thing is that they lead towards the Good.”

“I believe … that our goal is not to proselytize but to listen to needs, desires and disappointments, despair, hope. We must restore hope to young people, help the old, be open to the future, spread love. Be poor among the poor. We need to include the excluded and preach peace. … I have the humility and ambition to want to do something.”

On the essence of his belief:

“I believe in God, not in a Catholic God; there is no Catholic God. There is God and I believe in Jesus Christ, his incarnation. Jesus is my teacher and my pastor, but God, the Father, Abba, is the light and the Creator. This is my Being.”

“Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is Good. … Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.”

On attaining salvation:

“Agape, the love of each one of us for the other, from the closest to the furthest, is in fact the only way that Jesus has given us to find the way of salvation and of the Beatitudes.”

On his favorite saints:

“You’re asking me for a ranking, but classifications are for sports or things like that. I could tell you the name of the best footballers in Argentina. But the saints … I’m not trying to avoid your question, because you didn’t ask me for ranking of their cultural and religious importance but who is closest to my soul. So I’d say: Augustine and Francis.”

On the moment of his election as pope:

“Before I accepted I asked if I could spend a few minutes in the room next to the one with the balcony overlooking the square. My head was completely empty and I was seized by a great anxiety. To make it go away and relax I closed my eyes and made every thought disappear, even the thought of refusing to accept the position, as the liturgical procedure allows. I closed my eyes and I no longer had any anxiety or emotion. At a certain point I was filled with a great light. It lasted a moment, but to me it seemed very long. Then the light faded, I got up suddenly and walked into the room where the cardinals were waiting and the table on which was the act of acceptance. I signed it, the Cardinal Camerlengo countersigned it and then on the balcony there was the ‘Habemus Papam.’”

As the interview ends and Francis escorts Scalfari out, they agree to meet again and the pope adds:

“We will also discuss the role of women in the Church. Remember that the Church is feminine.”

29 Comments

  1. John McGrath

    What he has to say about women will make or break his credibility. I hope he doesn’t say that the church requires a male priesthood because the church is female. Bu he just might.

    • Samantha Flood

      I’m confused. If Christ established the Catholic Church doesn’t that make Him Catholic. Pope Francis do not allow your church to be filled with scandal! Have mercy on our beloved Catholic Church! Do not allow people to leave our beloved Church because of your contradictory statements. I believe you are the pope but, don’t fall into heresy. Let us all pray for the well being of our Supreme Pontiff.
      Have mercy on us and the whole world!!!

  2. This pope will not make it. He is the flavor of the day because his (true) humility is admirable and does touch the human condition. That plays great in the world and media today, but what will sink him is his beliefs. There should be great concern over his view of salvation (love is not enough – only faith in Christ will save), his ideas of good and evil (we don’t get to decide what these are for ourselves, God has), and his answer for the greatest challenges for the church being unemployment and lonliness are honorable and real, yet do not come close to addressing the need for the world to know and respond to the love and truth of God. We can all admire his heart for the poor and disconnected, but his message is not truly based in the saving work of Jesus Christ alone, and that will leave his followers short when it counts the most.

    • This pope is not a pope of Christianity. He preaches against the truth of the bible. Just listen to his words they are shocking. He talked Jesus Christ down to being beneith God. He states Jesus is his teacher but God the Father is his very being? Did that statement seperate the the Father and the Son as if they were not equal or one in the same??????? then the Pope shows his concern for unemployment? how about the concern for the conversion of souls for Christ? Not one word of salvation was mentioned…NOT ONE. This pope is not representing Christ so ppl please wake up.

    • I totally agree with you Philip. The work of Jesus on the cross cannot be ignored. Jesus is the only way for the salvation of man… I think this is were the whole catholic belief is in total remiss.

  3. Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh

    Pope Francis said: “This is the beginning of a Church with an organization that is not just top-down but also horizontal.”

    It is very hopeful that Pope Francis seems open to listening and to dialogue. At the Second Vatican Council dialogue was recognized as important. Under the past 2 popes, dialogue was forbidden. Even bishops were talked to, rather than listened to, by those in the Vatican. In order to have dialogue, it is necessary for the church to be horizontal in organization as well as vertical top-down.

  4. Philip
    When our separated brethren took the part of the New Testament that teaches that faith without works is dead, they also removed the notion that while faith in Christ alone is enough to be saved, love and good works are the expression of that faith. Francis has said that Christ saved even the atheist. He really is love.

    • Rupe – no one argues with the theology of faith and works and how they work together in the life of the believer. The problem is the theological statements of this pope which are contrary to basic christian beliefs. Do not assume they are there as a foundation and that he is just speaking of works of compassion and generosity. With each interview his true beliefs are being revealed and they will lead to increasing difficulties for him. His views of salvation by just loving others seems noble and no one is dismissing that notion, but it ain’t the gospel. I am not saying that love is not important or in conflict with works or unnecessary for the believer. But he seems to be saying that love saves us, and that is not biblically true. His views on determining good and evil according to your own conscious is also biblically flawed and should be obvious to all. It is hard to know everything he believes based on a few statements, but time may reveal more, dare I say heretical, beliefs which will bring conflict and controversy to the catholic church at a time when they do not need any more “issues.”

  5. Men’s led Rosary Wednesday Oct 2 Faith Study 7:30 Crisis:

    So let me play ‘Devil’s Advocate’ for a moment;

    Does anyone else get an uneasy, queasy feeling about the sudden and rushed canonization of John XXIII and John Paul II? Maybe it’s just me. As much as I adored JP II as a personality, by the classic Catholic Church standards, neither of these important men can be considered ‘saints’ in the sense of being vented properly. Here is where knowing your faith pays dividends.

    Good John XXIII, jovial and disobedient, disobeying the Virgin Mothers instructions to reveal the 3rd secret in 1960 (never been fully revealed), and then calling an unnecessary council that has brought the faith to its knees in less than 50 years.

    John Paul II, the media charismatic promoter of the heresy of universal salvation…everyone is saved, no matter what you believe or what God you worship. Unfortunately, heresy in its most blatant sense. He kissed the Koran, was blessed with the sign of Shiva the demon, and called Buddhism a religion of salvation, just to name a few mistakes, if not failures. (This is where the catholic lite’s will be tempted to drop off, check yourself) (btw, Catholic ‘lite’ means ‘lightly informed’ about the Faith)

    I propose to you that what is being canonized in these two, instead of Catholic heroic virtue, is the just the opposite, the Heresy of Modernism. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m playing devil’s advocate. To understand this Heresy please read St. Puis X the syllabus of errors ‘LAMENTABILI SANE’ wherein the heresy is condemned http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Pius10/p10lamen.htm. Unbelievable isn’t it.

    Have you ever notice that the modern Church never speaks of Catholicism, except after Vatican II? What happened to the other 2000 years of revelation? Isn’t it like they erased 2000 years of history and Faith? And, isn’t that the synopsis of the “spirit” of Vatican II… ‘The old, traditional and stogy, out! New, improved and innovative, in?

    Now get this, like a modernist would, John Paul II changed the traditional Canonization process!! He had to, otherwise no ‘modernist’ would ever meet the Churches traditional criteria for confirming a heavenly position. (remember Modernism is a heresy and practitioners are heretics, they don’t get to go to heaven) John Paul II abolished the key position in canonization process, the advocatus diaboli , “devil’s advocate”. No one can explain why he did that. But the Dev.Avoc. would examine and honestly critique the evidence of sainthood, deeply examine the life of the person nominated for the process. Benedict XVI did away with the “minimum 5 year waiting period” before a canonical commission could be formed. And, they did away with the minimum requirement for Two (2) “instantaneous, complete, and lasting” miracles to prove holiness. Rush, rush!

    Did you know that at least one of two miracles used for JP II cause was of a nun who was never diagnosed with a disease, yet declared cured of it?? And the alleged disease, Parkinson’s, should never have been used as a proof since the nun is still alive, meaning the “lasting” part of the test is still unknown. (and there have been reports she is suffering again).

    And get this, Jolly Pope John XXIII only has one miracle attributable to his intercession, in the 50 years since he died! Just one??

    Canonization has become a rubber stamp process for the modernists in the Church. The only logical reason for changing the rules that I can come up with is to try and legitimatize the continuing heresy. The authentic traditional Church process had to be circumvented to get this job done. Is this another sign of ‘modernism’ infiltrating and controlling the hierarchy of the Church? The loss of souls and belief in the authority of the Church is on the line.
    Being Catholic is not easy! Christ 40 days of temptation is for us to reflect on…

    Seak the truth! It is not easy…first disprove you hypothisis then prove it! Christ be with you! Gordon Kurz , DE

  6. Joshy Paliakkara Lona

    Dear Pope Francis,

    I know My God Christ’s love is abundant in you. For me Popes and lives will come and go. I live and Trust in Jesus Chriist my God. With him i have everything and everybody.Without him I do not want anybody or anything. For me you are led by Christ’s spirit and Love. I may loose trust in any body but never in Jesus My God. Even amidst the nature crush me I will trust in my Lord and praise him. +919447125021, joshy_trop@rediffmail.com

  7. rejoice for ouselves.for we will be the living witness to the greatest religeous revolutionary since the first First coming of Christ.History will be before us in our lifetime for us to serve the Lord in his greatest triumph in history.the scientific theological process is underway for the ultimate salvation of humanity.and it will be start soon till his third coming when we will be with him again

  8. Anita and all others.
    What is wrong with all you people? Pope accepts jesus christ as his teacher and pastor. Well, christ also teaches us to call heavenly God and how to pray to him. He never instruct us to worship anyone except father. He stated that he was a servant of God and all worship must goes to father only.

  9. Georgia Posvar

    My comment confirms what Betty Anton said about Jesus telling Peter that he will build His Church upon that Rock. That being the Christian Church and not using the word Catholic. but still using the word Church. To me that does mean “Believer”. And yet when Pope Francis spoke of even the atheist going to Heaven, I feel sure that God has a special manner to handle even that situation.
    I have heard it said many times that a person never dies as an Atheist, because the sight of Hell will change their mind. My take on the remarks of Pope Francis, because I think I am a “good Catholic” is that he over simplified everything.
    There will probably be a great uproar about all of that, but I hope everyone remembers that, even HE doesn’t know what will really happen when each individual person dies. Each case will definitely be different. What I truly don’t understand is why he is opening himself out there for so much criticism.
    Some of his remarks I understand but others I don’t.

  10. Pope Francis Are you saying there is no Catholic God and when Jesus said “I shall build my Church upon this Rock’, meaning Peter, that was nonsense. That the Methodist Church who believes in abortion, is OK, That the 10 commandments, which God said ” is the way to get into Heaven, not just the beatitudes’, is unbelievable to me. The poor and elderly are certainly important, but you are putting abortion, that is Murdering Gods children, on the back burner. Dear heavenly Father, please say you ;made a mistake. I am a old widow and I am the least of the least,considering the murder of Christ babies. Please answer somehow. Bettie Anton 319-550=4649

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