Pope Francis’ interview with Paris Match

1016-ff0e4fc88c3aFrom Zenit:

The Argentine Pope is on this week’s cover of the famous magazine “Paris Match,” generally reserved for sports and stage celebrities. The magazine published a long interview with the Pope by Vatican expert Caroline Pigozzi, where such topics appear as poverty, human dignity, criticisms of capitalism and the environment. In sum, there is nothing new (there was thought of some revelation on an eventual trip to France, greatly desired by the country’s Catholics), or “scandalous,” (not even a reference to the question of the gay ambassador Laurent Stefanini or to Monsignor Charamsa’s outing), but only the topics dearest to him.

Striking, however, are the colorful personal details that the Argentine Pope reveals in every direct conversation with the press. For instance, his gratitude for his Jesuit formation which gave him “the discernment dear to Saint Ignatius, the daily search to know the Lord better and to follow him ever more closely.”

Or his devotion to Saint Therese of Lisieux, “one of the Saints that speaks to us most of the grace of God and how God takes care of us,” to whom he entrusts himself again today in moments of difficulty, or to her parents, Louis and Zelie, whom he will canonize next October 18 (today-Ed), “a couple of evangelizers that witnessed the beauty of faith in Jesus, within the domestic walls and outside.”

Striking also are statements such as: “I have always been a priest of the street” and “now also I would like to walk through the streets of Rome, a very beautiful city.” Perhaps dressed “simply as a priest?”, he asks the journalist. “I haven’t abandoned altogether the clergyman’s black under the white cassock!” says Bergoglio, confirming once again his desire “to eat a good pizza with friends.”

“I know it’s not easy, in fact almost impossible. What is never wonting to me is contact with the people. I meet so many, many more than when I was in Buenos Aires, and this gives me much joy! When I embrace the persons I meet, I know that it is Jesus who holds me in his arms.”

Pope Francis also speaks of his choice of name, explaining, as he has in the past, that the moment of the election in the Sistine Chapel “the message of Saint Francis on Creation did not motivate me so much as did his way of living evangelical poverty.”

In connection with poverty, his criticisms of the present economic system are very harsh. An “unjust” system, he says, where capitalism and profit prevail, which in themselves aren’t diabolic if they are not transformed into idols. “They are not if they remain instruments,” he specifies. On the contrary, “if the common good and the dignity of human beings pass to the second, not to say to the third place, if money and profit become fetishes to adore, then our societies are going to ruin.”

Therefore, the Holy Father’s appeal is that “humanity and the whole of creation must cease to be at the service of money,” and instead, must put back at the center “the human person, his dignity, the common good, the future generations that will populate the earth after us,” who otherwise will end up living in a “cumulus of rubble and filth.”

“The Christian is inclined to realism, not to catastrophism,” he adds. Also, precisely for this reason, we cannot hide from the evidence: “the present system is unsustainable.”

As unsustainable also is the progressive degradation of the environment, lamented in the recent encyclical Laudato Si’. In this regard, the Pontiff states: ”Our common home is polluted, it does not cease deteriorating, there is need for everyone’s commitment, man must be protected from self-destruction.” He then looks to December, when the UN conference on climate will be held at Paris, the so-called Cop21, expressing the hope that the summit “will be able to contribute concrete, shared choices with objectives that point, long term, to the common good.”

Not lacking in the conversation is a reference to the conflicts that plague the territories of the Middle East, Syria and Iraq in particular. In this regard, Francis reminds of the “human duty to act in face of an emergency,” without neglecting the causes of what has happened. Because “we cannot be resigned in face of the fact that these communities, today minorities in the Middle East, are constrained to abandon their homes and their lands.” Moreover, “we don’t forget the hypocrisy of all the powerful of the earth who speak so much of peace but who, under the table, sell arms,” adds the Pope.

And he stressed that, at the level of the Vatican “through dialogue we try to encourage the solution of the conflicts and the building of peace. We seek tirelessly peaceful and negotiating voices to resolve the crises and conflicts.” “The Holy See  — he asserts — doesn’t have its own interests to defend on the international scene, but tries through all possible channels to encourage meetings, dialogues and peace processes, and respect of human rights.” Also because “on the more delicate questions the action of the Pope and of the Holy See remains independent of the degree of liking or enthusiasm that some personalities arouse at one moment or another,” specifies Bergoglio.

Then he recalls his trip to countries such as Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, where “I tried to show examples of coexistence and collaboration between men and women that belong to different religions, so that they surmount the wounds still opened, caused by recent tragedies.” On the other hand, this is what the Gospel requests: “that we be builders of bridges and not of walls,” evidences the Pope.

“I don’t make plans, I don’t concern myself with strategies or international politics,” he clarifies. “I am conscious that in many circumstances the voice of the Church is a ‘vox clamantis’ in the desert.’” And, when a ‘big attempt’ succeeds, such as the US-Cuba thaw, “it is not necessary to exaggerate the role of the Pope and of the Holy See. We only tried to foster the dialogue of the countries’ leaders and, above all, we prayed.”

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15 Responses to Pope Francis’ interview with Paris Match

  1. Tom Fisher says:

    The Argentine Pope is on this week’s cover of the famous magazine… … At this point we realise that things may not go well..

  2. Michael says:

    “I don’t make plans, I don’t concern myself with strategies or international politics,” he clarifies.

    Eh?! What I find most difficult to deal with in this pontificate is that the Holy Father not only provides ambiguous statements, but flat-out contradicts himself quite a lot as well. Most recently of course, he gave a speech promoting the idea of the ‘synodal Church’, heavy on decentralisation, which veers dangerously close to advocating devolution of key decision-making procedures to local and national episcopal conferences and downplays the role of the papacy in guaranteeing unity; whereas if we look back to his concluding speech at last year’s Synod, his role as Supreme Pontiff was very much emphasised.

    Whilst it remains to be seen how effective the whole ‘hagan lio’ approach is/will be, I get what he is trying to do there. What I don’t understand is his personally shifting from one point of view to another view that runs contrary to it, and the denial of (as above) his engagement with things that he has very publicly engaged with, nay, criticised. It is utterly baffling.

  3. Tom Fisher says:

    What I find most difficult to deal with in this pontificate is that the Holy Father not only provides ambiguous statements, but flat-out contradicts himself quite a lot as well

    You’re right Michael — He does. It’s with good reason that politicians spend half their working lives working out the ramifications of every public utterance. Ordinary discourse tends to include a great deal of contradiction and ambiguity, and that’s true of saints and scholars. This Pope seems to simply say what he thinks when asked a question — and in some ways that is irresponsible. But it’s also rather endearing. It certainly doesn’t mean he has no clarity of vision

  4. Tom, I would like to know what he thinks and I have absolutely no idea. I couldn’t live with this level of contradiction and uncertainty if he were an older relative who lived in my home. This is the POPE we are talking about. The man who is required to defend and extend the true Church of God. He isn’t doing his job.

  5. Michael says:

    This Pope seems to simply say what he thinks when asked a question — and in some ways that is irresponsible. But it’s also rather endearing. It certainly doesn’t mean he has no clarity of vision

    Yes, saying whatever pops into his head when asked a question is irresponsible – this would be the case if he were a prelate of any public standing, but as the Pope, he has a sure and solemn responsibility to clearly defend and teach the Faith, leading the faithful into ever increasing unity. Contradictory and ambiguous statements do not achieve any of these things.

    As for his having or not having clarity of vision, apart from the whole ‘hagan lio’ thing (which as I said, I do kind of see what he’s trying to do there), who knows? Depends what interview you’re reading I suppose.

  6. Tom Fisher says:

    he has a sure and solemn responsibility to clearly defend and teach the Faith, leading the faithful into ever increasing unity. Contradictory and ambiguous statements do not achieve any of these things

    I have to agree there. The very fact that people are raising these issues shows that he has a problem with that (central) aspect of his role.

    Although I would note, people always say they want plain spoken leaders who don’t indulge in spin — but one of the lessons of this papacy is that spin exists for a reason, it is very very hard for one man to hold public office and put forward a coherent narrative in today’s 24 hour news cycle, without accepting the help and advice of media experts.

    — I might say that I respect Pope Francis for trying to just be himself, but he underestimates just how hard a task he has set himself.

  7. Michael says:

    one of the lessons of this papacy is that spin exists for a reason, it is very very hard for one man to hold public office and put forward a coherent narrative in today’s 24 hour news cycle, without accepting the help and advice of media experts.

    Absolutely agree. One way of getting around this for a pope though, would be to not accept quite as many invitations to discourse or put forth his views on things, but I think this goes against the Jesuit spirit (as I understand it). In fact, a good argument could be made for popes to speak publicly less in general, sticking to the main engagements incumbent upon the office and cutting against the grain of media saturation.

    I might say that I respect Pope Francis for trying to just be himself, but he underestimates just how hard a task he has set himself.

    But how do we know that the affable, off-the-cuff, ‘just being myself’ persona is not just another bit of spin?🙂

  8. Tom Fisher says:

    But how do we know that the affable, off-the-cuff, ‘just being myself’ persona is not just another bit of spin?

    Well, that’s a good point. — JFK, Ronald Reagan, and G.W. Bush all did exactly that. They cultivated a casual and disarming persona, while being thoroughly calculating in the messages they conveyed. (JFK did it best, and Bush was less successful, but the point stands). — If your playful suggestion is correct, I suppose that Francis sees his papacy as being about ensuring support for the Church in the wider world, even at the cost of some internal consternation. — Which could be seen as an exactly opposite, but possibly complementary, approach to that taken by Benedict XVI?

  9. Michael says:

    If your playful suggestion is correct, I suppose that Francis sees his papacy as being about ensuring support for the Church in the wider world, even at the cost of some internal consternation. — Which could be seen as an exactly opposite, but possibly complementary, approach to that taken by Benedict XVI?

    Hmm – interesting idea! The idea that Francis is essentially doing something consonant to Benedict’s plan for the Church, but with a completely different methodology, is something that has been put forward from the start of the former’s pontificate (notably by Fr. Zuhlsdorf), and is certainly a plausible one. The problem for me is that it is getting harder to sustain that belief, in the face of speeches like the recent one about the ‘synodal Church’ – something that in many respects flies in the face of Benedict XVI’s vision for the Church.

    But I don’t know really – I still find a lot about Francis’ methods frustrating (which, on one interpretation, is exactly what he wants, insofar as it forces us to reassess things and ‘dig deep’ for the essentials) and I still don’t really know where he’s coming from. I suspect we’ll only really know the answers to these things a lot further down the line, but as it stands, his approach seems like an enormous gamble for a pope to take (given his responsibilities) on several fronts.

  10. Michael says:

    P.S. I don’t know how much press he gets in New Zealand, but I’d add our own Boris Johnson to that list of casual but calculated politicians🙂

  11. Tom Fisher says:

    as it stands, his approach seems like an enormous gamble for a pope to take (given his responsibilities) on several fronts

    I agree

    and I still don’t really know where he’s coming from. I suspect we’ll only really know the answers to these things a lot further down the line

    I don’t know either, but I can share my impressions, and maybe they will gel or jar with yours. I have no research to back up the following, they are simply impressions. — He seems to me like a man who is more likely to read Luke than the other three gospels, and more likely to read the gospels than the epistles of St Paul, and more likely to read the New Testament than Catholic Theology. I have personally come to think that attempts by conservatives or liberals to claim him will always fail — I think of him as a “Lucan Christian” (that may or may not be a real phrase). He is a man who is intensely aware of the spiritual dangers that come with power and status, and that determines a great deal of his approach. – I think that Luke is his guiding text, I might be utterly wrong, but that’s might thought. Does that make any sense to you?

  12. Michael says:

    I think that Luke is his guiding text, I might be utterly wrong, but that’s might thought. Does that make any sense to you?

    Yes, I certainly see what you’re getting at here, in the sense that Pope Francis emphasises a ‘preferential option for the poor’ (which is a common theme for Luke) and seems to aim for direct engagement with people’s desires and situations rather than through expounding theological principles. Personally though, I think this comes from his parish work in Argentina, where he seems to have gained a great love for people and popular means of devotion, rather than his reading of one particular text or texts. As for being more rooted in Scripture than theology, I don’t know – it’s possible, but it seems hard to imagine a Jesuit narrowing his range of available data in that way.

    For me I think the difficulty arises in that he is clearly fairly conservative in most respects, despite the many attempts to claim him in support for changes in the Church’s teaching on marriage, sexuality, etc; but on the other hand his way of doing things leads him to take a rather messy route, prizing ‘encounter’ over clarity in practice, and engaging with all sorts of people that he presumably sees as the modern equivalent of publicans and prostitutes. This leads to a tension between what he sees as foundational to Catholic belief and what he sees as the priority in actually engaging with people – truth and charity are not always held together in a creative unity, but one is prioritised depending on the occasion.

    This doesn’t account for everything (there are some speeches/interviews, like the recent ‘synodal Church’ one, which can’t be explained this way and really do leave me wondering what his priorities are and what he is doing) but I think it explains most of the confusion. Again, whether the approach works is something we’ll have to wait to find out. There’s an interesting article on this topic I read a while back actually, which, whilst it deals principally with his US visit, does cover a lot of general ‘issues’:

    http://godlights.me/2015/10/04/figuring-out-pope-francis-three-points-to-keep-in-mind/

  13. Tom Fisher says:

    Michael, that’s a great article you linked to. (CP&S might consider getting permission to repost?)

    As for being more rooted in Scripture than theology, I don’t know – it’s possible, but it seems hard to imagine a Jesuit narrowing his range of available data in that way.

    Well I’m the first to admit that I’m speculating, but however thorough his theological education is, I very much doubt that he turns to St Augustine or Aquinas for spiritual sustenance, as Benedict XVI does. — I very much think that the riddle of Francis can be partially solved by seeing him as a Pope of the synoptic gospels, I might be way off, but I do believe it.

    I don’t know how much press he gets in New Zealand, but I’d add our own Boris Johnson to that list of casual but calculated politicians

    Ha! Let’s just say he gets far more press here than he deserves🙂

  14. Michael says:

    …however thorough his theological education is, I very much doubt that he turns to St Augustine or Aquinas for spiritual sustenance, as Benedict XVI does. — I very much think that the riddle of Francis can be partially solved by seeing him as a Pope of the synoptic gospels, I might be way off, but I do believe it.

    Well, I’m not personally convinced, but it is an interesting (and certainly plausible theory). I guess I’m just wary of characterising any one person’s theology as having that sort of imbalance. For instance, if we were to do the same with Benedict XVI and suggest that we doubt he turns to the Gospels for spiritual sustenance, but would instead be more likely to turn to Augustine, we would be doing him a disservice, as we know (from his writings) that his theology is deeply scriptural. I suppose I’m just wary of any suggestion that Francis (or anyone else) leans in one direction more than another, when it comes to the sources of their theology at least.

    As for Boris Johnson, I presume you’ve seen this then?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-34537841

  15. Michael says:

    And for another take on Francis’ pontificate, here’s Damian Thompson again:

    http://blogs.new.spectator.co.uk/2015/10/pope-francis-is-now-effectively-at-war-with-the-vatican-if-he-wins-the-catholic-church-could-fall-apart/

    Key quote at the end of the article:

    My final thought is that, if the Pope wants to make far-reaching changes to pastoral practice, even to doctrine, then there are smarter ways of achieving this than by hosting a catastrophically divided synod and then hinting that he intends to do his own thing anyway.

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