THE FOLLOWING IS A FULL TRANSCRIPT IN ENGLISH OF THE POPE’S PRESS CONFERENCE (The translation is unofficial, and was done by the author and other colleagues aboard the papal flight)
Table of Contents
Holy Father, thank you for being with us, we see you are in splendid form after these days of travel, and we thank you for giving us more work to do today as well, as your conversation will give us work for the duration of the trip. Before we put the question perhaps you would like to say something to us.
POPE: First of all I greet you. Good day, thank you for your work. It was challenging, and as we say in Spanish, “pasada per agua” (it rained on the parade). It is beautiful, and I thank you very much for what you have done.
1. WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM THE FILIPINOS?
Lombardi: The first question will be from Kara David, who is part of the Filipino group.
Kara David (GMA Network): Good day Holy Father. Sorry, I will speak in English. Thank you very much for visiting our country and for giving so much hope to the Filipinos. We would like you to come back to our country. My question is: the Filipinos have learned a lot from listening to your messages. Is there something the Holy Father has learned from the Filipinos, from your encounter with us?
Pope: The gestures! The gestures moved me. They are not protocol gestures, they are good gestures, felt gestures, gestures of the heart. Some almost make one weep. There’s everything there: faith, love, the family, delusion, the future. That gesture of the fathers who think of their children so that the Pope will bless them. Not one gestures, there were fathers, there were many who thought of their children when we passed by on the road, a gesture which in other places one does not see, as if they say this is my treasure, this is my future, this is my love, for this one it’s worth working, for this one it’s worth suffering. A gesture that is original but born from the heart.
A second gesture that struck me very much is an enthusiasm that is not feigned, a joy, a happiness (allegria), a capacity to celebrate. Even under the rain, one of the masters of ceremonies told me that he was edified because who were serving never lost the smile (on their face. It’s the joy, not feigned joy. It wasn’t a painted (false) smile. No, no! It was a smile that just came, and behind that smile there is a normal life, there are pains, problems.
Then there were the gestures of the mothers who brought their sick children. Indeed mothers in general bring them there, but usually mothers do not lift the children up so much, only up to here. The dads do, one sees them. Here dad! Then many disabled children, with disabilities that make some impression; they did not hide the children, they brought them to the Pope so that he would bless them. This is my child, s/he is mine. All mothers know this, they do this. But it’s the way they did this that struck me. The gesture of motherhood, of fatherhood, of enthusiasm, of joy.
There’s a word that’s difficult for us to understand because it has been vulgarized too much, used too badly, too badly understood, but it’s a word that has substance: resignation. A people who knows how to suffer, and is capable of rising up.
Yesterday, I was edified at the talk I had with the father of Kristel, the young woman volunteer who died in Tacloban. He said she died in service, he was seeking words to confirm himself to this situation, to accept it. A people that knows how to suffer, that’s what I saw and how I interpreted the gestures.
2. VISITS TO AFRICA
Jean Louis De La Vaissiere (AFP): Holy Father, you have now gone twice to Asia. The Catholics of Africa have yet to receive a visit from you. You know that from South Africa to Nigeria to Uganda many faithful who suffer from poverty, war, Islamic fundamentalism hope you will visit this year. So I would like to ask you, when and where are you thinking of going?
POPE: I will respond hypothetically. The plan is to go to the Central African Republic and Uganda, these two, this year. I think that this will be towards the end of the year, because of the weather, no? They have to calculate when there won’t be rains, when there won’t be bad weather. This trip is a bit overdue, because there was the Ebola problem. It is a big responsibility to hold big gatherings, contagion, no? But in these countries there is no problem. These two are hypothetical, but it will be this year.
3. STATE TERRORISM AND THE THROWAY CULTURE
Lombardi: Now we give the floor to our friend Izzo Salvatore, from the Italian information agency AGI.
Salvatore Izzo (AGI) :Holy Father, in Manila we were in a very beautiful hotel. Everyone was very nice and we ate very well, but as soon as you left this hotel you were, let’s call it morally accosted, at least, by the poverty. We saw children among the trash, treated possibly I would say as refuse (themselves). Now, I have a son who is six years old and I was ashamed because they were in such poor conditions. I have a son Rocco who has understood very well what you are saying when you say to share with the poor. So on the way to school, he tries to distribute snacks to the beggars in the area. And, for me it’s much more difficult. Also for others it’s very difficult. Just one cardinal 40 years ago left everything to go among the lepers so, I’d like to know why it is so difficult to follow that example also for the cardinals? I also wanted to ask you something else. It’s about Sri Lanka. There we saw all of the “favelas” on the way to the airport, they are shack supported against the tree. They practically live under the trees. Most are Tamils and they are persecuted. After the massacre of Paris, right after possibly A CALDO, you said there is an isolated terrorism and a state-sponsored terrorism. What did you mean by “state-sponsored terrorism”? For me that meant the discrimination and suffering of these people.
POPE: Thank you.
IZZO: One more thing Holy Father, I wanted to tell you that my agency, AGI Italia is turning 65 years old. So, without taking anything away from ANSA, but I wanted to let you know that we are working very hard in Asia, because with the tracks that Enrico Mattei left, AGI, makes collaborative agreements with modest agencies in Palestine, in Pakistan, in Algeria, in a lot of countries. We would also like your encouragement. There are around 20 agencies that are associated with us in developing countries.
POPE: When one of you asked me what message I was bringing to the Philippines, I said the poor. Yes, it’s a message that Church today gives, also the message that you say of Sri Lanka, of the Tamil and discrimination, no? The poor, the victims of this throwaway culture. This is true. Today, they don’t just discard the paper and what’s left over. We throw away people. And discrimination is a way of throwing away, these people are discarded. And it comes to mind a bit the image of the castes, no? This can’t go on. But today, throwing away seems normal. And you spoke of the luxurious hotel and then the shacks . In my diocese of Buenos Aires, there was all of the new area which is called Puerta Madero up to the train station and then the start of the “Villas Miserias,” the poor. One after another. And in this part there are 36 luxurious restaurants. If you eat there, they take off your head. And here there is hunger. One next to the other. And we have the tendency to get used to this, no? To this that… yes, yes, we’re here and there are those thrown away. This is poverty, I think the Church must give an example, a much greater example here, refusing every worldliness. Do we consecrated, bishops, priests, sisters, laity truly believe that the gravest sin and the gravest threat is worldliness. It’s really ugly when you see a consecrated man, a man of the Church, a sister who is worldly. It’s ugly. This is not the way of Jesus. It’s the path of an ONG that is called “church” but this isn’t the Church of Jesus, that “ONG.”
Because the Church is not an ONG but another thing, but when a part of the Church becomes worldly, it becomes an ONG and ceases to be the Church. The Church is Jesus who died and is risen for our salvation and the witness – one is Christian if one follows Christ.
That scandal that you’ve said is true, yes. Scandal, but we Christians often cause scandal. We Christians scandalize. Whether we be priests or laity because the way of Jesus is difficult. It’s true that the Church needs to strip itself. But you’ve made me think about this state terrorism . This throwing away is exactly like terrorism. I hadn’t ever thought about it honestly but it makes me think. I don’t know what to say to you but truly those are not caresses, truly. It’s like saying “No, you no. You cannot.” Or, when … it happened here in Rome that a homeless man had a stomach pain. Poor man. When you have stomach pain you go to the hospital, into the emergency response unit, and they give you an aspirin or something like that and then they give you an appointment for 15 days later. The he went to a priest, and the priest saw (his condition) and was moved and said I’ll take you to the hospital but I want you to do me a favor. When I start explaining what you have, you pretend to faint. That’s what happened. (He was) an artist. He did it well. There was peritonitis! This man was discarded. He went out alone, he was discarded and he was dying. That parish priest was smart, he grasped the situation well. He was far away from worldliness, right? Can one think it was state terrorism? Yes, one can think that.
Thanks, congratulations for the agency.
4. IDEOLOGICAL COLONIZATION, AND PAUL VI’S STANCE ON BIRTH CONTROL
Jan Christoph Kitzler (Bayerischer Rundfunk): I would like to return for a minute to the encounter you had with the families. You have spoken of ideological colonization. Would you explain a bit more the concept? Also Paul VI, speaking of the “particular causes” that are important to in the family… Can you give an example of these particular cases and maybe say also if there is need to open the way, to have a corridor for these particular cases?
POPE: The ideological colonization. I’ll only give you an example of what I saw 20 years ago, in ’95. A Minister of Public Education had asked for a big loan to build schools for the poor, public schools. They gave the loan on condition that in the schools there would be a school book for children of a certain level, no? It was a well prepared book, where the theory of gender was taught. This woman needed the money but that was the condition. She was smart. She said yes, and also made them give another book, of a different orientation. And so she succeeded. This is ideological colonization. They enter with an idea that has nothing to do with the people; but with groups of people yes, but not with the people. It colonizes the people with an idea that wants to change a mentality or a structure.
During the Synod, the African bishops lamented this: certain loans on certain conditions. I only say that which I have seen.. Why do they say ideological colonization? Because they take a real need of the people to have an opportunity to enter and make themselves strong with the children. But this is not new, the dictators of the last century did the same. They came with their own doctrine. Think of the BalilLa (The Fascist Youth under Mussolini), think of the Hitler youth.
They colonized the people, but they wanted to do it. But how much suffering. Peoples must not lose their freedom. A people has its culture, its history. Every people has its own culture.
But when conditions are imposed by the colonizing empires they seek to make peoples forget their own identity and make them (all) equal. This is the globalization of the sphere — all the points are equidistant from the center. But the true globalization – and I like to say this – is not the sphere. It is important to globalize but not like the sphere, but like the polyhedron. Namely that every people, every part, conserves its own identity without being ideologically colonized. These are the ideological colonizations.
There is a book, excuse me but I’ll make commercial, there is a book that maybe is a bit heavy at the beginning because it was written in 1903 in London. It is a book that at that time, the writer had seen this drama of the ideological colonization and wrote in that book, it is called “The Lord of the Earth” or the other title “The Lord of the World.” One of those. The author is Benson, written in 1903. But I advise you to read it, and reading it you will understand what I mean by ‘ideological colonization’.
On Paul VI: It’s true that openness to life is a condition for the sacrament of matrimony. A man cannot give the sacrament to the woman, and the woman cannot give it to him, if they are not in accord on this point of openness to life. If it can be proved that he or she married with the intention of not being Catholic (on this point) then the matrimony is null. (It is) a cause for the annulment of the marriage, no? Openness to life.
Paul VI had studied this with the commission for life, what to do to help many cases, many problems, no? The important problems that make for the love of life; the problems of every day — but many, many.
But there was something more. The refusal of Paul VI was not only about the personal problems, that he then tells the confessors to be merciful, to understand if this is true, and then (he tells them) “you can be merciful, more understanding”. He was looking at the Neo-Malthusianism that was underway worldwide. What do you call this Neo-Malthusianism? Less than one percent of birth rate in Italy. The same in Spain. That Neo-Malthusianism that seeks to control humanity on behalf of the powers (that be).
This does not mean that the Christian must make children in series. I rebuked a woman some months ago in a parish who was pregnant eight times, with seven C-sections (cesareans). “But do you want to leave seven orphans? That is to tempt God! (Paul VI) speaks of responsible parenthood. What I wanted to say was that Paul VI was not antiquated, close minded. No,(he was) a prophet again who with this (encyclical) told us to watch out for the Neo-Malthusianism that is coming. This is what I wanted to say.
5 FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION AND THE NEED FOR PRUDENCE
Lombardi: Thanks Holy Father. I now give the question to Valentina, but I would like to draw your attention to the fact that we are now over China, we seem to have now become accustomed to holding press conferences over China, as we did returning from Korea.
Valentina ALazraki Crastich (Televisa): On the flight from Sri Lanka you used the image of the response that this poor man (Alberto Gasbarri, organizer of papal trips) might have merited if he insulted your mother. Your words were not well understood by everyone in the world and seemed to justify in some way the use of violence in the face of provocation. Could you explain a little better what you meant to say?
Pope: In theory we can say that a violent reaction in the face of an offense or a provocation, in theory yes, it is not a good thing, one shouldn’t do it. In theory we can say what the Gospel says, that we should turn the other cheek. In theory we can say that we have freedom of expression, and that’s important. But in theory we all agree. But we are human and there’s prudence which is a virtue of human coexistence. I cannot constantly insult, provoke a person continuously because I risk making him/her angry, and I risk receiving an unjust reaction, one that is not just. But that’s human. For this reason I say that freedom of expression must take account of the human reality and for this reason one must be prudent. It’s a way of saying that one must be educated, prudent. Prudence is the virtue that regulates our relations. I can go up to here, I can go up to there, and there, beyond that no. What I wanted to say is that in theory we all agree: there is freed of expression, a violent aggression is not good, it’s always bad. We all agree, but in practice let us stop a little because we are human and we risk to provoke others. For this reason freedom must be accompanied by prudence. That’s what I wanted to say.
6. POPE IN THE USA, LATIN AMERICA, THE CANONISATION OF JUNIPERO SERRA AND BEATIFICATION OF ARCHBISHOP ROMERO
Nicole Winfield (AP): Could you tell us about your visit to the USA and which cities you will visit, and whether you will go to California for the canonization of Junipero Serra, or go to the border with Mexico? Also which Latin American countries will you visit, and do you intend to preside over the beatification ceremony of Archbishop Romero?
POPE: I will start with the last part. There will be a war between Cardinal Amato and Monsignor Paglia (laughs) over which of the two will do the beatification. No, personally (speaking), the beatifications are normally done by the Cardinal of the dicastery or someone else.
Let’s go the first (question) about (the visit to)the United States. The three cities are Philadelphia, for the meeting of families; New York, I have the date already but I can’t remember, for the visit the UN,
And Washington. It is these three.
I would like to go to California for the Canonization of Junipero (fr. Junipero Serra), but I think there is the problem of time. It requires two more days.
I think that I will do that canonization at the national Shrine (the national Shrine of the Immaculate Conception) in Washington, It is a national event. In Washington, (I’m not sure where) there is a statue of Junipero at the Capitol where there is the statue of Abraham Lincoln.
Then to enter the USA from the border of Mexico would be a beautiful thing, as a sign of brotherhood and of help to the immigrants. But you know that go to Mexico without going to visit the Madonna (of Guadalupe) would be a drama . A war could break out (laughing)
And then this would mean 3 more days, and this is not clear. So I think there will only be those three cities. Later there will be time to go to Mexico.
Did I forget something?
Latin America countries?
We have foreseen for this year – everything is still in draft (form) — Ecuador, Bolivia and Paraguay. These three.
Next year God willing, but everything is still in draft, I would like to go to Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Peru’ is missing there, but we don’t know where to put it.
Father Lombardi: Thank you. We already have quite a precise program of the (Pope’s) travels. Everything is provisional (this is just a draft schedule) – nothing is decided yet.
7. CORRUPTION IN GOVERNMENTS AND THE CHURCH
Jhemmyrlrut Teng ( TVS Network Inc) What can your holiness do to fight corruption not just in governments but maybe in the Church as well?
Pope: That’s a tough one, eh? Corruption is the order of the day in today’s world, and the corrupt attitude easily and immediately finds a nest in the institutions, because an institution that has many branches here and there, so many chiefs and vice-chiefs, in this way it’s very easy for it to fall or provide a nest for corruption and every institution can fall into this. Corruption is taking from the people. The corrupt person who does corrupt deals or governs corruptly or associates himself with others in order to do corrupt deals robs the people. The victims are those — where is he, the one with the (AGI) anniversary? — they are those who you said were behind the luxury hotel, no? They are the victims of corruption. Corruption is not closed in on itself; it goes out and kills. Do you understand? Today corruption is a worldwide problem. Once, in 2001 more or less, I asked the chief of the cabinet of the president at that time, which was a government that we thought to be not so corrupt – and it was true, it was not so corrupt, the government: “Tell me, the aid that you send into the interior of the country, whether it be in cash or food or clothes, all these things, how much gets to the place.” Immediately this man, who is a true man, clean, (said), “35 percent.” That’s what he told me. That was in 2001 in my homeland. And now, corruption in ecclesial institutions. When I speak of the Church I like to speak of the faithful, the baptized, the whole church, no? In that case, it’s better to speak of sinners. We are all sinners, no? But when we speak of corruption, we speak either of corrupt persons or of institutions in the church that fall into corruption. And there are such cases, yes, there are. I remember once, in the year 1994, when I had been scarcely named bishop of the Flores quarter of Buenos Aires, two employees or functionaries of a ministry came to me to tell me, “You have so much need here with so many poor in the villas miserias (shanty towns).” “Oh yes,” I said, and they told me “We can help you. We have, if you want, a subsidy of 400,000 pesos.” At that time, the exchange rate with the dollar was one to one. $400,000. “You can do that?” “Yes, yes.” I listened because, when the offer is so big, even the saint is challenged. And they went on: “To do this, we make the deposit and then you give us half for ourselves.” In that moment I thought about what I would do: either I insult them and give them a kick where the sun never shines or I play the fool. I played the fool and said, in truth, we at the vicariate don’t have an account; you have to make the deposit at the archdiocese’s office (chancery) with the receipt. And that was it. “Oh, we didn’t know.” And they left. But later I thought, if these two landed without even asking for a runway — it’s a bad thought — it’s because someone else said yes. But it’s a bad thought, no?
Does corruption happen easily? Let’s remember this: sinners yes, corrupt no, never corrupt. We must ask pardon for those Catholics, those Christians who scandalize with their corruption. It’s a wound in the church. But there are so many saints, so many saints. And sinner saints, but not corrupt. Let’s look at the other side, too, the church is holy. There are some here and there. Thank you for having the courage to ask this question.
8. CHINA QUESTION
Anais Feuga (Radio France): We’ve flying over China. Coming back from Korea, you said you’re ready to go to China tomorrow. In the light of this declaration, can you explain why you didn’t receive the Dalai Lama when he was at Rome a little while ago, and where do relations with China stand?
Pope: Thanks for asking me this question. It’s a habit in the protocol of the Secretariat of State not to receive heads of state and people at that level when they’re taking part in an international meeting here in Rome. For example, for FAO (the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations) I didn’t receive anyone. That’s the reason he wasn’t received. I saw that some newspapers said I didn’t receive him out of fear of China. That’s not true. At that time, this [protocol] was the reason. He asked for an audience, and it was said … but a date, a certain point, he had this before but not for this moment, we are in contact. The motive was not a refusal of a person, or fear of China. Yes, we’re open, we want peace with everyone …
How do the relations with China stand? The government of China is respectful (educated), we’re respectful (educated), let’s take things one step at a time. That’s how things are done in history, no? We don’t yet know, but they know that I’m available either to receive [someone] or to go [to China].
9. RESPONSE FROM MODERATE MUSLIMS TO POPE’S APPEAL
Marco Ansaldo (La Repubblica): When you were in Turkey you asked the leaders in the Muslim world – political, religious and accademics – to take a stance against terrorism when acts of terrorism happen. It seems your appeal has not been heard by the top levels of moderate Islam. .
Pope: There’s also the appeal that I repeated the very day that I left for Sri Lanka, (the appeal) that I made in my speech to the diplomatic corps that morning. In the speech to the diplomatic corps I said – I don’t remember the exact words – that the religious, political, academic and intellectual leaders express themselves. Also the people, the moderate Islamic world, asks this from its leaders. Some of them have done something. I believe we have to give them a little more time,because for them the situation is not easy. And I have the hope, because there are many good people among them,. I am sure that it will arrive. I wanted to say the same that I repeated on the date of the departure.
10.CHURCH’S RESPONSE TO CRITICISM OF ITS STANCE ON BIRTH CONTROL
Christoph Schmidt (CIC): How does the Church respond to the criticisms about its position on birth control given that the world population is growing so much. And to the criticism that the poverty in the Philippines is due to the fact that Filipino women have an average of 3 children each?
POPE: I think the number of 3 (children) per family that you mentioned, it is the one experts say is important to keep the population going,. three per couple. When it goes below this, the other extreme happens, like what is happing in Italy. I have heard, I do not know if it is true, that in 2024 there will be no money to pay pensioners (because of) the fall in population.
Therefore, to give you an answer, they key word is the one the Church always uses all the time and even I use it: it is responsible parenthood. how do we do this? With dialogue. Each person with his pastor seeks how to do that responsible parenthood .
That example i mentioned shortly before about that woman who was expecting her eighth (child) and already had seven who were born with caesareans. That is an irresponsibility (That woman might say) ‘no but I trust in god’ But God gives you methods to be responsible. Some think that, excuse me if i use that word, that in order to be good Catholics we have to be like rabbits. No. Responsible parenthood! This is clear and that is why in the church there are marriage groups, there are experts in this matter, there are pastors, one can seek and i know so many, many ways out that are licit and that have helped this. you did well to ask me this
Another thing in relation to this is that for the most poor people, a child is a treasure. It is true that you have to be prudent here too but for them a child is a treasure. (Some would say) ‘God knows how to help me’ and perhaps some of them are not prudent, this is true. Responsible paternity but let us also look at the generosity of that father and mother that see a treasure in every child.
11. MOST MOVING MOMENTS IN THE PHILIPPINES-
Elisabetta Pique (La Nacion): Representing the Spanish language group, I have two questions. This was a moving voyage for everyone. We saw people crying the entire time in Tacloban, even we journalists cried. Yesterday you said, the world needs to cry. We would like to ask you, what was – and it was all very moving – what was for you the most moving moment, because the mass in Tacloban was such a moment and also yesterday when the little girl started to cry. That is the first question, what was for you the moment. The second, yesterday you made history, you surpassed the record set by John Paul II, in the same place, there were 6 or 7 million people. How does it feel to have seen – Cardinal Tagle was telling us that during the mass in front of the altar you asked him, but how many people are here? How does it feel to have surpassed this record, to have entered into history as the Pope with the mass with the highest attendance in history? Thank you.
Pope: The most moving moment…For me the mass in Tacloban was very moving. Very moving. To see all of God’s people standing still, praying, after this catastrophe, thinking of my sins and those people, it was moving, a very moving moment. In the moment of the mass there, I felt as though I was annihilated (“wiped out”), I almost couldn’t speak. I felt very little I don’t know what happened to me, maybe it was the emotion, I don’t know. But I didn’t feel another thing, it was quite something. And then the gestures were moving. Every gesture. When I passed and a father would make this (gesture) and I blessed him, he would say thank you but…for them, a blessing was enough. I thought, but I who have so many expectations, I want this and I want that. This was good for me, no? Moving moments. After I found out that in Tacloban we landed with winds at 70 miles per hour, I took seriously the warning that we needed to leave no later than one o’clock because there was a danger. But I wasn’t afraid.
As for the great turnout, I felt annihilated. These were God’s people, and God was present, and the joy of the presence of God which tells us – think on it well -that you are servants of these people, they are the protagonists. Something like this.
The other thing is the weeping. One of the things that is lost when there is too much wealth or when values are misunderstood or we have become accustomed to injustice, to this culture of waste, is the capacity to cry. This is a grace we must ask for. There is a beautiful prayer in the ancient missal, for crying. It went more or less like this: Lord, you who have made it so that Moses with his cane could make water flow from a stone, make it so that from the rock that is my heart, the water of tears may flow. It’s a beautiful prayer. We Christians must ask for the grace to cry, especially well-to-do Christians. And cry about injustice and cry about sins. Because crying opens you to understand new realities, or new dimensions to realities. This is what the girl said, what I said to her. She was the only one to ask that question to which there is no answer, why do children suffer?. The great Dostoyevsky asked himself this, and he could not answer. Why do children suffer? She, with her weeping, a woman who was weeping. When I say it is important that women be held in higher consideration in the church, it’s not just to give them a function as the secretary of a disaster, though this could be ok too. No, it’s so that they may tell us how they feel and view reality. Because women view things from a different richness, a larger one. Another thing I would like to underscore is what I said to the last young man (at the meeting with young people), who truly works well, he gives and gives and gives, he organizes to help the poor. But don’t forget that we too need to be beggars, from them, from the poor. Because the poor evangelize us. If we take the poor away from the Gospel, we cannot understand Jesus’ message. The poor evangelize us. I go to evangelize the poor, yes, but let you be evangelized by them. Because they have values that you do not.
POPE FRANCIS THANKS THE MEDIA
I thank you very much for work, I have esteem for it. Thanks very much. I know it is a sacrifice for you. Thanks very much. I would like make these thanks concrete towards our deaconess, whose birthday it is today. We can’t say how old you are but you’ve worked here since you were a child, as a child, as a child. Best wishes.