Pope’s In-Flight Press Conference on Return From Sweden


dsc0807-740x493During the flight Tuesday from Malmo to Rome at the end of the Apostolic Journey to Sweden, Pope Francis met with journalists on the plane in a press conference that lasted 40 minutes.

Here is a working ZENIT translation of the transcription of the conference:

* * *

Greg Burke:

Thank you, Holy Father. Welcome. You speak a lot of “walking together,” in reference to the different religions. We also walked a bit together, some for the first time: we have a Swedish journalist – I believe some time has passed since the last time that a Swedish journalist was on board. We begin with him. Elin Swedenmark, of the Swedish “TT” agency.

Pope Francis:

First of all I would like to greet you and thank you for the work you have done, for the cold you endured … But we left in time, because they say that this evening [the temperature] will drop by another 5 degrees. We left in time! Thank you so much. Thank you for the company and for your work.

Elin Swedenmark:

Thank you. Hello. Holy Father, yesterday you spoke of the revolution of tenderness. At the same time, we see increasingly individuals from countries, such as Syria and Iraq, seeking refuge in European countries. But some react with fear and there are even some individuals who think that the arrival of these refugees can threaten Europe’s Christian culture. What is your message for people who fear the development of such a situation, and what is your message to Sweden, which after a long tradition of hospitality for refugees, is now beginning to close its borders?

Pope Francis:

First of all, as an Argentine and as a South American, I thank Sweden very much for this hospitality, because so many Argentines, Chileans, Uruguayans in the time of military dictatorships were received in Sweden. Sweden has a long tradition of hospitality. And not just of reception but of integration, finding houses, schools, jobs immediately … so that they are integrated in a people. I was told the statistics – perhaps I am mistaken, I’m not sure – but what I remember – I could be mistaken – how many inhabitants does Sweden have? Nine million? I was told that, of these nine million, 850,000 were “new Swedes,” that is, migrants or refugees and their children. This is the first thing. Second: one must distinguish between a migrant and a refugee, no? The migrant must be treated with certain rules because migration is a right but a very regulated right. Instead, to be a refugee is to come from a situation of war, of anguish, of hunger, from a terrible situation, and the status of refugee is in need of more care, of more work. In this also, Sweden has always given an example in settling them, in having them learn the language, the culture and also integrating them in the culture. We should not be scared about the aspect of integration of cultures, because Europe was formed by a continuous integration of cultures, of so many cultures … I believe that – I don’t say this in an offensive way, no, no, but as a curiosity – the fact that today in Iceland, an Icelander, with today’s Icelandic language can practically read his Classics of a thousand years ago without difficulty, means that it is a country with little immigration, few “waves” as Europe had. Europe was formed with migrations …

Then, what do I think of countries that close their borders: I believe that in theory one cannot close one’s heart to a refugee, but the prudence of those who govern is also necessary: they must be very open to receive them, but also calculate how they can settle them, because a refugee must not only be received, but he must be integrated. And if a country has a capacity for twenty, lets say it this way, to integrate, it must do so up to this <number> — one more is one too much. But one must always have an open heart: it’s not human to close the doors; it’s not human to close one’s heart, and in the long run one pays for this. Here, one pays politically; as one can also pay politically for imprudence in calculations, in receiving more than can be integrated. Because, what is the danger when a refugee or a migrant – and this is true for both – is not integrated, is not integrated? I permit myself the word, perhaps it’s a neologism, he is ghettoized, that is, he enters a ghetto. And a culture that does not develop in relation with another culture – this is dangerous. I believe the worst adviser of countries that tend to close their borders is fear, and the best adviser is prudence.

I spoke with a functionary of the Swedish government these days, and he told me about some difficulties at this moment – this applies to your last question — some difficulties because so many are coming that there is no time to settle them, to find schools, houses, work, to learn the language. Prudence must make this calculation. But Sweden … I don’t think that if Sweden decreases its capacity for hospitality that it does so out of egoism or because it’s lost that capacity; if there is something of the sort it is because of the last thing I mentioned: today many look to Sweden because they know its hospitality, but there is not the time necessary to settle them all. I don’t know if I’ve answered <your question>. Thank you.

Greg Burke:

Thank you, Holy Father. Now a question form Swedish television: Anna Cristina Kappelin, of Sveriges TV.

Anna Cristina Kappelin:

Good morning. Sweden, which has hosted this important ecumenical meeting, has a woman at the head of its Church. What do you think of this? Is it realistic to think of women priests also in the Catholic Church in the forthcoming decades? And if not, why? Are Catholic priests afraid of the competition?

Pope Francis:

Reading a little the history of this area, where we have been, I saw that there was a Queen who became a widow three times; and I said: “This woman was strong!” And I was told: Swedish women are very strong, very good, and because of this some men look for a woman of another nationality.” I don’t know if it’s true! … On the Ordination of women in the Catholic Church: the last clear word was given by Saint John Paul II, and it remains. This remains. On competition, I don’t know …

[Question by the same woman journalist, outside the field]

Pope Francis:

If we read well the Declaration made by Saint John Paul II, it goes in that line. Yes. But women can do so many things better than men. And also in the dogmatic field — there are two dimensions in Catholic ecclesiology: the Petrine dimension, which is that of the Apostles – Peter and the Apostolic College, which is the pastoral of Bishops – and the Marian dimension, which is the feminine dimension of the Church. And I’ve said this more than once. I wonder, who is more important in the theology and the mysticism of the Church: the Apostles or Mary on the day of Pentecost? It’s Mary! What’s more: the Church is woman. The Church is “she” not “he”. The Church is “she.” And the Church is the Bride of Jesus Christ. It is a spousal mystery. And, in the light of this mystery one understands the reason for these two dimensions: the Petrine dimension, namely, episcopal, and the Marian dimension, with all that is the maternity of the Church, but in a more profound sense. The Church doesn’t exist without this feminine dimension, because she herself is feminine.

Greg Burke:

Thank you. Now there is Austen Ivereigh’s question, I don’t know if he speaks in Spanish or in porteno [Buenos Aires accent]and if Eva Fernandez can come closer …

Austin Ivereigh (in Spanish):

Thank you very much, Holy Father. This autumn has been very rich in ecumenical meetings with the traditional Churches: Orthodox, Anglican and now the Lutheran. However, now the majority of Protestants in the world are of Evangelical, Pentecostal tradition … I understand that on the Vigil of Pentecost next year there will be a ceremony in the Circus Maximus to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Charismatic Renewal. You have had many initiatives  — perhaps the first time for a Pope – in 2014 with Evangelical leaders. What has happened with these initiatives and what do you hope to achieve with the gathering, with next year’s meeting? Thank you very much.

Pope Francis (in Spanish)

With those initiatives … I would say I had two types of initiatives. One when I went to Caserta to the Charismatic Church and also in the same line when I went to the Waldensian Church in Turin – an initiative of reparation and to ask for forgiveness because Catholics … a part, a part of the Catholic Church did not behave well, in a Christian way with them.  So there was a need to ask for forgiveness and to heal a wound.

The other initiative was one of dialogue, and this already <happened> in Buenos Aires. In Buenos Aires, for instance, we had three meetings in Luna Park, which has a capacity for 7,000 people. Three meetings of Evangelical and Catholic faithful in the line of the Charismatic Renewal, but also open. And meetings that lasted the whole day: a Pastor, an Evangelical Bishop would preach, and a Catholic priest or a Catholic Bishop would preach, or two and two, they would vary. In two of these meetings, if not in the three, but certainly in two, Father Cantalamessa preached, who is the Papal Household Preacher.

I think this happened already with previous papacies, and when I was in Buenos Aires, this did us good. And we also had two three-day Spiritual Retreats jointly with Pastors and priests, preached also by Pastors and a priest or a Bishop. And this was of great help for dialogue, for understanding, for rapprochement, for work … especially for work with the neediest. Together and with respect, great respect. And that in regard to the initiatives, which had already started in Buenos Aires and this one is going  … Here in Rome I’ve had some meetings with Pastors … two or three already. Some came from the United States and from here, from Europe.

And what you mention is the celebration being organized by the ICCRS [International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services], the celebration of the 50 years of the Charismatic Renewal, which was born ecumenical and therefore will be ecumenical in that sense, and it will be held in the Circus Maximus. I plan – if God gives me life – to give a talk there. I think it will last two days, but it’s not organized yet. I know that it will be on the Vigil of Pentecost, and I’m going to give a talk at some point. In regard to Charismatic Renewal and in regard to the Pentecostals: the word “Pentecostal,” the denomination “Pentecostal” is now ambiguous today, because it mentions many things, many Associations, many Ecclesial Communities that are not the same, they are even opposed. So we must specify more, that is, it has been so universalized that it is an ambiguous term. That is typical in Brazil, where it proliferated quite a lot.

The Charismatic Renewal <Movement> was born – and one of its first opponents in Argentina was the one speaking to you  — because I was the Jesuits’ Provincial at that time when the thing began to a degree in Argentina, and I prohibited the Jesuits from getting involved with it. And I said publicly that when a liturgical celebration was to be held, something liturgical had to be done and not a school of samba. I said that. And today I think the opposite, when things are done well.

More than that, every year in Buenos Aires we had Mass once a year of the Charismatic Renewal Movement in the Cathedral, where everyone came. In other words, I also went through a process of recognizing the good that the Renewal has given the Church. And here we must not forget the figure of Cardinal Suenens, who had that prophetic and ecumenical vision.

Greg Burke:

Thank you, Holy Father. Now Eva Fernandez of the “Cope” Network, for Spanish Radio.

Eva Fernandez (in Spanish):

Holy Father, I would like to ask you this question in Italian, but I still don’t feel able to do so. Not long ago you were with Nicolas Maduro, President of Venezuela. What was your reaction to this meeting and what is your opinion on the start of the conversations. Thank you very much, Holy Father.

Pope Francis:

Yes, the President of Venezuela requested a meeting and an appointment because he was coming from the Middle East, from Qatar, from the other Emirates and was making a technical stopover in Rome. He had requested a meeting before. He came in 2013; then he requested another appointment, but he got sick and was unable to come; and <then> he requested this <one>. When a President makes a request, he is received; moreover, he was in Rome, during a stopover. I listened to him for half an hour during that appointment; I listened to him, I asked him some questions, and I listened to his opinion. It’s always good to hear all opinions. I listened to his opinion. In reference to the second aspect – dialogue: it’s the only way for all conflicts! – for all conflicts. Either one dialogues or one shouts, but there is no other way.

I wholeheartedly support dialogue and I believe one must go that way. I don’t know how it will end, because it is very complex, but people who are committed to dialogue are people of an important political stature. Zapatero, who was twice President of Spain’s government, and Restrepo [and all the parties] asked the Holy See to be present in the dialogue. And the Holy See appointed the Nuncio in Argentina,, Monsignor Tscherrig, whom I believe is there, to the table of the negotiations. But dialogue that fosters negotiations is the only way to come out of conflicts, there is no other … If the Middle East had done this, how many lives would have been saved! (n.d.r. in the first meeting H.E. Monsignor Tscherrig substituted H.E. Monsignor Claudio Maria Celli, who was appointed to accompany the negotiations].

Greg Burke:

Thank you, Holy Father. Now we have Mathilde Imberty of “Radio France.”

Mathilde Imberty: Holiness, we are returning from Sweden, where secularization is very strong; it’s a phenomenon that touches Europe in general. Even in a country such as France, it is estimated that in the coming years a majority of the citizens will be without religion. In your opinion, is secularization a fatality? Who are the ones responsible, the secular governments or the Church, which is too timid? Thank you.

Pope Francis:

Fatality, no, I don’t believe in fatality! Who are the ones responsible? I wouldn’t be able to say … You [that is, each one] is responsible. I don’t know; it’s a process … However, before this I want to say something. Pope Benedict XVI spoke so much about this and clearly. When faith becomes lukewarm it is, as you say, because the Church is weakened … The most secularized times … But let’s think of France, for instance, the times of the worldliness of the Court: the times in which priests were abbots of the Court, <it was> clerical functionalism … But the strength of evangelization was lacking, the strength of the Gospel. When there is secularization we can always say that there is some weakening of evangelization, that’s true … But there is also another process, a cultural process, a process – I believe I spoke about this once – of a second form of “inculturation,” when man received the world from God, to cultivate it, to make it grow, to dominate it, at a certain point man felt himself master of that culture – we think of the myth of the Tower of Babel – he is such a master of that culture that he begins to be the creator of another culture, but his own, and occupies the place of God the Creator. <He is> the self-sufficient man. It’s not a problem of secularity, because a holy secularity is needed, which is the autonomy of things, the healthy autonomy of things, the healthy autonomy of the sciences, of thought, of politics — a holy secularity is necessary. No, something else is a secularity left to us to a degree by the legacy of the Enlightenment.

I believe it is these two things: to a degree the self-sufficiency of man creator of culture but who goes beyond the limits and thinks himself God, and also to a degree weakness in evangelization, which becomes lukewarm and Christians are lukewarm. We are saved here somewhat by taking up again a healthy autonomy in the development of culture and of the sciences, also with a sense of dependence, of being a creature and not God and, in addition, taking up again the strength of evangelization. I believe that today this secularization is very strong in culture, and in certain cultures. It is also very strong in different forms of worldliness, spiritual worldliness, this is a way …, it is the worst thing that can happen to it, worse still than what happened in the time of corrupt Popes. And they mention some forms of Popes’ corruption, I don’t remember well, but so many. Worldliness: this, for me, is dangerous. And at the risk of this sounding like a sermon, a homily, I will say this: When Jesus prayed for us all at the Last Supper, He asked for all one thing of the Father: not to take us out of the world but to defend us from the world, from worldliness. It is extremely dangerous; it is a secularization that is somewhat tricky, somewhat disguised, somewhat ready-to-take away, in the life of the Church. I don’t know if I’ve answered anything …

Greg Burke:

Thank you, Holiness. Now Jurgen Erbacher of “ZDF” German television.

Jurgen Erbacher:

Holiness, a few days ago you met with the Santa Marta Group, which is concerned with the fight against modern slavery and human trafficking, subjects that, according to you, you have very much at heart, not only as Pope, but already at Buenos Aires you were concerned about these subjects. Why? Was it a special experience and perhaps also personal? And then, as a German, at the beginning of the year of the commemoration of the Reformation, I must ask you if you will perhaps go this year to the country where this Reformation began 500 years ago?

Pope Francis:

I begin with the second <question>. The program of trips for the coming year is not made <yet>. Yes, we know only that it’s almost certain that I will go to India and Bangladesh, but it hasn’t been set, it’s a hypothesis.

About the first question: yes, at Buenos Aires, as a priest, for a long time I had this anxiety about the flesh of Christ — the fact that Christ continues to suffer; that Christ is continuously crucified in his weakest brothers, is <something> that always moved me. As a priest I worked, did little things with the poor, but not exclusively. I worked also with University students … Then, as Bishop of Buenos Aires we undertook initiatives, also with non-Catholic and non-believing groups  against slave labor, especially of Latin American immigrants that were arriving, that <continue to> arrive, in Argentina. They take away their passport and make them engage in slave labor in industries, locked inside …. Once one of them caught fire and they had the children there on the terrace, all dead, and some who were unable to flee… They were truly slaves, and this moved me – the trafficking of persons. And I worked also with two Congregations of Sisters who worked with prostitutes, women slaves of prostitution. I don’t like to say prostitutes: slaves of prostitution. Then, once a year, all these slaves of the system had a Mass in Constitution Square, which is one of those where trains arrive – such as Termini, think of Termini – and we had a Mass there with all of them. All the organizations, the Sisters that worked there and also groups of non-believers, but with whom we worked together, all came to this Mass.

And here the same work is done. There are so many groups here in Italy of volunteers that work against every form of slavery, be it of labor or of women. Some months ago I visited one of these organizations, and the people … There is good work done here in Italy by volunteers. I would never have thought it was like this. It’s a good thing that Italy has – the volunteers. And this is due to parish priests. The Oratory and volunteers are two things that were born of the apostolic zeal of Italian parish priests. But I don’t know if I’ve answered or <if there is> something <else>  …

Greg Burke:

Thank you, Holiness. We are told that if we want to eat we must go.

Pope Francis:

I thank you again for the questions, thank you so much, thank you so much! And pray for me. Have a good lunch!

[Original text: Multi-lingual]  [Translation by ZENIT]

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8 Responses to Pope’s In-Flight Press Conference on Return From Sweden

  1. Brother Burrito says:

    A fantastic interview. Pope Francis speaks like a Holy man of God.

  2. mmvc says:

    Good to see the pope’s more nuanced understanding of the refugee question and his affirmation of JPII as the ‘clear last word’ on ‘ordination of women’.

    On another matter, please pray for Cardinal Piero Marini, recently appointed to the revamped CDW, who has reportedly suffered a severe stroke:


  3. Toad says:

    “Pope Francis speaks like a Holy man of God.”
    ..So he should.That’s his job.

    I’m a little sorry about women priests, though. (But not all that much.)
    I know the apostles were all men, but they were all Jews, too.
    And we don’t expect priests to be Jews, do we?
    …Don’t be absurd, Toad. …Not at all the same thing.

  4. GC says:

    Brother Burrito @November 2, 2016 at 22:18
    A fantastic interview. Pope Francis speaks like a Holy man of God.

    Yes, Brother B, the Church is certainly not lacking in holy men (and women!) of God.
    I suggest it would be wise to pay due attention to many of them, not just one.

  5. Toad says:

    “I suggest it would be wise to pay due attention to many of them, not just one.”
    Where does it say Br. Burro only pays attention to the Pope?
    …Because I must have missed it.

  6. GC says:

    Do try harder to keep up, Toad.

  7. Toad says:

    “Stop staring out of the window, and pay attention, Toad.”
    Yes Miss.
    (You aren’t a school teacher, by any chance, GC?)

  8. GC says:

    I actually prefer the term schoolmarm. Now enough of your impudence, young toad.

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