Pope Francis listens to a question from a journalist on his flight heading back to Rome July 29. The pope answered questions from 21 journalists over a period of 80 minutes on his return from Brazil. (CNS photo/pool via Reuters)
Flying back to Rome after the conclusion of World Youth Day
in Rio de Janeiro, Pope Francis surprised journalists travelling with him by
holding an impromptu, no-holds-barred Q&A for some 80 minutes. Hopefully we
will see a full transcript of the session in English soon (it is in Spanish here; UPDATE: the official Vatican translation can be read here); so far the most
complete reporting that I have seen comes from Catholic News Service’s Cindy
Wooden, here and here.
Pope Francis answered questions about World Youth Day,
about the reforms he envisions for the Roman Curia, and about the
scandal-plagued Vatican Bank, among other things. The remark that will be get
the most media coveragemuch of it already skewed, it seemsis about
homosexuality. The question put to the Holy Father appears to be about the “gay
lobby” allegedly active in curial affairs. From Wooden:
Addressing the issue of the gay lobby, Pope Francis said it
was important to "distinguish between a person who is gay and someone who
makes a gay lobby," he said. "A gay lobby isn't good."
"A gay person who is seeking God, who is of good will --
well, who am I to judge him?" the pope said. "The Catechism of the
Catholic Church explains this very well. It says one must not marginalize these
persons, they must be integrated into society. The problem isn't this
(homosexual) orientation -- we must be like brothers and sisters. The problem
is something else, the problem is lobbying either for this orientation or a
political lobby or a Masonic lobby."
the Holy Father’s affirmation of the Catechism’s teaching on homosexuality isn’t
mentioned in many reports this morning, including John Allen’s otherwise very thorough post
on the Q&A session.
Francis also answered questions about the controversial appointment of Msgr.
Battista Ricca at the beleaguered Vatican Bank:
Soon after his nomination was announced, an Italian magazine
published a story claiming Msgr. Ricca had been sent away from a nunciature in
Latin American when it was learned that he had a male lover.
Francis told reporters, "I did what canon law said must be done, I ordered
an 'investigation brevia,' and this investigation found nothing."
pope continued by talking about how "many times in the church, outside
this case, but also in this one, we go searching for the sins -- of one's
youth, for example -- for publicity. I'm not talking about crimes here -- the
abuse of a minor is a crime -- but of sins."
if a person, whether a layperson, priest or sister, goes to confession and
converts, the Lord forgives. And when the Lord forgives, he forgets. This is
important," he said, because those who want the Lord to forget their sins
should forget those of others.
Peter committed one of the biggest sins ever -- he denied Christ -- and he made
him pope," Pope Francis said.
within the Roman Curiaoften described as Francis’ “mandate” from the College
of Cardinals that elected him popewere also discussed:
The cardinals, he said, expressed "what they wanted of
the new pope -- they wanted a lot of things" -- but a key part of it was
that the Vatican central offices be more efficient and more clearly at the
service of the universal church.
are saints who work in the Curia -- cardinals, bishops, priests, sisters,
laity; I've met them," he said, they include those who work full time,
then do volunteer work, feed the poor, help out in parishes on weekends.
media only writes about the sinners and the scandals, he said, but that's
normal, because "a tree that falls makes more noise than a forest that
The Holy Father spoke on the subject of Communion for divorced
and remarried Catholics; from Wooden’s report:
Asked about any possibility that the Catholic Church would
begin to allow Catholics who have been divorced and remarried only civilly to
receive the sacraments, Pope Francis said he wanted to make it clear that
divorced Catholics can receive the sacraments. The problems begin when they
marry a second time without having their first union annulled.
said the annulment process needs to be reformed and streamlined, but even more
importantly the Catholic Church needs to get serious about developing a
comprehensive pastoral program for the family, and that was one topic he planned
to discuss Oct. 1-3 with the commission of eight cardinals he named to advise
him on the reform of the Roman Curia and other important matters.
late Cardinal Antonio Quarracino, his predecessor as archbishop of Buenos
Aires, used to say that he thought half the Catholic marriages in the world
could be annulled because people marry "without maturity, without
understanding it was for one's entire life or because it seemed socially
necessary," the pope said.
Francis also mentioned the practice of the Orthodox churches that allow a
second marriage -- what he called "a second chance" -- in some cases,
giving the impression that the Catholic practice could undergo modification.
Francis also spoke about his two predecessors, Pope John Paul IIwhom he is
expected to declare a saint sometime in the coming yearand Pope Emeritus
Looking ahead, Pope Francis said he was looking forward to
canonizing Blesseds John XXIII and John Paul II, but choosing a date has become
he said, he thought the Dec. 8 feast of the Immaculate Conception would be
appropriate, but that would make it difficult for poorer Polish pilgrims who
would have to travel winter roads by bus. The late-November feast of Christ the
King -- which also is the end of the Year of Faith -- is a possibility, he
said, but it is probably not enough time to prepare. The best guess, he said,
is Divine Mercy Sunday, April 27, the Sunday after Easter in 2014.
Francis also responded to a question about his relationship with retired Pope
Benedict. Pope Francis smiled warmly and spoke with admiration of the retired
pope's humility, intelligence and prayerfulness.
unusual situation of having a pope and a retired pope both living at the
Vatican is working out very well, although he said he has tried to encourage
Pope Benedict to feel freer to invite people over, to go in and out and to join
him for events.
the retired pope nearby to consult with or ask questions of, he said, "is
like having a grandfather at home -- a very wise grandfather."