UPDATE 6/3/19

CNA has published an English translation of the entire press conference.

Here are Francis’s comments in fuller context.

On ecumenism:

I always have this idea: Ecumenism is not reaching the end of the game, of the discussion. Ecumenism is walking together, walking together, praying together… The ecumenism of prayer. In history, we have the ecumenism of blood. When they killed Christians they did not ask: Are you Catholic? Are you Orthodox? Are you Lutheran? No, [they asked] are you Christian! And the blood mixed together. It is the ecumensim of witness. Another ecumenism, of prayer, of blood… and then the ecumenism of the poor, those that work together. That we must work to help the sick, the infirm, for example, the people that are a little at the margin, below the poverty line, to help. “Matthew 25” is a beautiful ecumenical program, it comes from Jesus. To walk together: this is already Christian unity, but do not wait for theologians to agree to arrive at communion. Communion happens every day with prayer, with the memory of our martyrs, with works of charity and even of loving one another.

In one European city there is a good relationship between the Catholic archbishop and the Lutheran archbishop. [Once] the Catholic archbishop should have come to the Vatican Sunday evening and he called to say that he would arrive monday morning. When he arrived he told me: “Sorry, but yesterday the Lutheran archbishop should have gone to one of their meetings and he asked me to please go to his cathedral and lead the worship.” This is fraternity, to arrive to this much… and the Catholic bishop held the service. He did not do the Eucharist, but the service.

Regarding those who are resistant to ecumenism and praying with those of other Christian groups:

I have the experience of prayer with many, many pastors: Lutherans, Evangelicals, and even Orthodox. The patriarchs are open and yes, even us Catholics we have closed people that do not want, that say that the Orthodox are schismatics. These are old things. The Orthodox are Christians. These Catholic groups are a little bit fundamentalist. We should tolerate them, pray for them, so that the Lord with the Holy Spirit softens their hearts.

On Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Tradition:

Eva Fernandez (COPE): Holy Father, you do not have a family nearby, but you have said that Benedict XVI is like having a grandfather at home. Do you continue to see him as a grandfather?

Pope Francis: More. Every time I go to visit him I feel like that, I take his hand and get him to talk. He speaks little, slowly, but with the same depth as always, because Benedict’s problem is his knees, not his head. He has a great lucidity, as always. When I hear him speak, I become strong. I hear this history of the Church, which is not something like a museum, tradition. No, tradition is like a root which gives us the juice to grow and so you would become like roots, no! You flower, you grow, you give fruit, and you are the seeds that are the roots of the other. The tradition of the Church is always in motion.

In an interview made by Andrea Monda in L’Osservatore Romano a few days ago (do you read L’Osservatore Romano?) there was a situation of the musician Gustav Mahler that I liked so much. Speaking of tradition, he said that tradition is the guarantee of the future and not the keeper of ashes. It is not a museum. Tradition does not preserve ashes; the nostalgia of fundamentalists [is] to return to the ashes. No, tradition is the roots that guarantee the tree grows, flowers and gives fruit. I repeat with that piece by the Argentine poet I like so much: “All that the tree has in bloom comes from that which it has underground.”

I am happy because yesterday I referenced that grandmother… it was a gesture of understanding with the eyes. At that moment I was so emotional, that I did not react and then the popemobile went ahead and I could not tell this grandmother to come, to show this gesture, and I said to the Lord Jesus: “It is a pain, but you have the ability to solve it!” And our good Francesco, when he saw the communication I had with that woman with her eyes, snapped a photo and it is now public, I saw it this afternoon on Vatican Insider. These are the roots. This will grow, it will not be like me, but I give my [roots]. These encounters are important.

Then there are the teachings, right? When the grandparents feel they have grandchildren who will carry on the story, they begin to dream. Grandparents, when they do not dream, become down, depressed. There is a future, and young people encouraged by that begin to prophesy and make history. It is important.

It is interesting to note some threads he weaves through his responses, including two references to fundamentalist Catholics and their resistance to both ecumenism and the development of doctrine. Regarding ecumenism, he mentions their skepticism regarding relations with our Eastern Orthodox brethren, saying: “Even us Catholics we have closed people that do not want, that say that the Orthodox are schismatics. These are old things. The Orthodox are Christians. These Catholic groups are a little bit fundamentalist. We should tolerate them, pray for them, so that the Lord with the Holy Spirit softens their hearts.” This ties into what he said in the recent Mexican TV interview, where he said of the signatories of the Aidan Nichols letter that he prays for them, and “you have to take care of them too.” But, as he also made clear about them in the TV interview, they are wrong about the faith, saying, “The nostalgia of fundamentalists [is] to return to the ashes.”


Returning today from Romania, Pope Francis held a 35-minute in-flight press conference. So far, I have been unable to locate a full transcript in English (please post one in the comments if you find one), but the reports I’ve been able to track down feature quotes of great interest to our readers.

First, Joshua J. McElwee reports in the National Catholic Reporter, that Francis addressed the subject of Tradition in the Church. He writes:

[Pope Francis] singled out Catholic “fundamentalists,” who he said have a nostalgia for “returning to the ashes.”

“Tradition is the guarantee of the future and not the container of the ashes,” said Francis.

“Tradition is like roots [of a tree], which give us nutrition to grow,” he explained. “You will not become like the roots. You will flower, grow, give fruit. And the seeds become roots for other people.”

“The tradition of the church is always in movement,” he said. “The tradition does not safeguard the ashes.”

McElwee continued:

Francis did not specify in his remarks whom he had in mind while speaking of Catholic traditionalists. But the pontiff has come under criticism during his six-year papacy from a vocal minority of Catholics, including some cardinals, who have expressed concern that he has not been clear in enunciating some of the church’s teachings.

The reports from CNA and CNS gave additional focus to Francis’s response to a question about Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Junno Arocho Esteves of CNS quoted him at length, in which he ties his relationship with his predecessor to his understanding of Catholic Tradition:

“I take his hand and let him speak. He speaks little, at his own pace, but with the same profoundness as always. Benedict’s problem are his knees, not his mind. He has a great lucidity,” the pope told journalists June 2 on his return flight from Romania. The pope spent about 35 minutes with reporters on the short flight, answering five questions.

When asked about his relationship with this predecessor, the pope said his conversations with Pope Benedict make him stronger and he compared the knowledge he receives from his predecessor as the sap “from the roots that help me to go forward.

“When I hear him speak, I become strong,” he explained. “I feel this tradition of the church. The tradition of the church is not a museum. No, tradition is like the roots that give you the sap in order to grow. You won’t become the root; you will grow and bear fruit and the seed will be root for others.”

CNS also reported his words on ecumenism, in reference to his interactions and prayers with the Romanian Orthodox Christians he met on his trip:

“We must go forward together,” he said, “always keeping in mind that ecumenism isn’t about arriving at the end of the game. Ecumenism means walking together, praying together, an ecumenism of prayer.”

Amen to that.



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Mike Lewis is a writer and graphic designer from Maryland, having worked for many years in Catholic publishing. He's a husband, father of four, and a lifelong Catholic. He's active in his parish and community. He is the founding managing editor for Where Peter Is.

In-Flight presser from Romania: Francis on Tradition and Benedict

28 Responses

  1. jong says:

    Thank you Pope Francis for your great wisdom.
    The way Pope Francis addressed the Dissenters and the rebellious Trads are so profound, I dont think a prideful and disobedient soul can grasp its meaning.
    The blind cannot see the Truth,but those who embraced the lies voluntarily, their blindness appear incurable as God resist the proud and give more graces to the humble.
    Even the demons confessed “OBEDIENCE in heaven is written in CAPITAL LETTERS.”

  2. carn says:

    Out of curiosity, why do you seem to treat

    “the National Catholic Reporter”

    as a respectable news site?

    I ask, cause if i remember correctly you are in principle against all deviation from what the Church teaches and what Peter teaches. And NCR is one of those “progressive” news outlets who since decades promote their own magisterium different from what the Church teaches (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Catholic_Reporter#Bishops%27_criticisms).

    Evidence from just taking a short look at NCR today:


    “Nowhere is the zero-sum approach more evident than with the issue of abortion. It is framed as a categorical choice, and democracy wrestles awkwardly with categorical choices. Pro-life groups argue that the unborn child, from the earliest stages, is a person deserving of full legal protection. Pro-choice groups argue government has no business placing any restriction on a woman’s choice.

    One of NCR’s principal objections to much pro-life rhetoric and policy has been its historic indifference to the traumatic circumstances, to say nothing of the financial precariousness women in such a situation often face. On the other hand, the libertarian stance adopted by pro-choice extremists is equally distasteful. Libertarianism is almost always an abdication of moral seriousness.”

    So NCR in an editorial describes the stance that “the unborn child, from the earliest stages, is a person deserving of full legal protection” as one of the extremist stances which they reject as National Catholic Reporter, so as the entire paper itself.

    That “stance” is of course – as worded by NCR – Church teaching:


    “From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person”

    And considering what Pope Francis says about abortion, this does not seem like a paragraph of the Catechism which is soon to be changed; also, there were reports about the abortion vote last year in Argentinia which indicated that Rome had encouraged Argentinian Bishops to help keeping the nearly absolute abortion ban in place.

    Accordingly, NCR trashed Church teaching and what is presumably Pope Francis teaching on the issue and what is with some likelihood actual policy encouraged by Rome as a sort of extremism to be shunned.

    If you shun LSN for alleged trashing of Church teaching, why do you seem to act as if NCR is a respectable catholic news source?

    I would even consider it bordering on a deliberate falsehood for a supposedly Catholic news source not to mention to its readers that the position branded as one problematic extreme is nearly copy-and-paste from the catechism.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      I don’t agree with many of the opinion pieces in NCR, although I respect Michael Sean Winters a great deal.

      That said, much of the work that they do is journalism and reporting. They have a Rome-based reporter who covers the Vatican and is part of the entourage of reporters.

      Why should there be any problem using his report, considering that it is consistent with the other stories?

      • carn says:

        Much of the reporting of LSN also seems to be within the usual boundaries of “correct”.

        Yet, i would be surprised to see you linking LSN as source for some statement.

        (Note: it’s not that i consider LSN to be reliable; i consider them to be about as reliable as NCR, America, New York Times and most others out there; in other words i consider them to be unreliable; if there are any “neutral” journalists/reporters, i missed them among the usual “semi-neutral” journalists/reporters)

      • Mike Lewis says:

        There are no truly neutral reporters, but in this instance, I excerpted transcribed quotes. To my knowledge, LSN doesn’t do much “straight reporting.” NCR established a strong reputation for Vatican journalism, even among conservatives, when John Allen was their correspondant. That largely continues.

    • Ashpenaz says:

      National Catholic Reporter is my primary source of Catholic news and opinion. I frequently refer to myself as a “Reporter” Catholic to distinguish myself from a “Register” Catholic as a quick shorthand so people know where I am coming from. I think the Reporter is truer to Vatican II than other sources. I love Michael Sean Winters and see him a spokesman for my approach politics and Church teaching. Since I post on this website every now and then, the best way to know where I get my ideas from is to read the Reporter–I’m pretty sure I’ll be in agreement! 🙂

      • carn says:

        “I frequently refer to myself as a “Reporter” Catholic to distinguish myself from a “Register” Catholic as a quick shorthand so people know where I am coming from.”

        Wouldn’t you agree that as such a labelling is probably understandable for many people at first glance – and that not only sine this papacy but probably since decades – that this is a serious symptom of some underlying problem?

        Especially as Jesus last prayer suggest, that his followers “being one” is something desirable:

        “And now I will no longer be in the world, but they are in the world, while I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one just as we are.”

        “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me.”

        Whatever my take on any issue is, that that labelling makes sense is a serious symptom of a serious underlying problem.

        “I love Michael Sean Winters”

        Sometimes when i read Winters i get quite a number of ideas how to write about matters in a charitable and loving way, especially how to write in a charitable and loving way about people i strongly disagree with; the first of these ideas is usually, that i should not write as Winters does.

  3. jong says:

    Hi Mike,

    Ive just watched Dr.Marshall recent video promoting his book Church Infiltration and implying Pope Francis was part of the Freemason and pointing that he might become the Antipope.

    Hope wherepeteris review this book and write the obvious false claimed of the author.

    The book I think circles around Alta Venditta and La Salette revelation plus quotation from numerous Popes starting from Pope Gregory XVI and includes vision of Pope Leo XIII.

    My personal reflections is the Antipope will come from the counterfeit catholic church. The clan of Rad Trads will unite in the future to overthrow Pope Francis forcefully to drive him away from Rome And then this Rad Trads clan belonging to the counterfeit catholic church will politically appount their own pope that will become the Anti-Pope.
    And we know that the Eucharistic Prayers is offered united with the Pope.
    Therefore, the Latin Masses in the future mentioning the name of the anti pope in the Eucharistic Prayers will become the Black Mass offering to satan himself.

    One more thing, lots of Trads channel are saying Ab.Vigano was vindicated by the recent testimony of Cardinal McCarrick secretary. But, on the contrary it further expose Ab
    Vigano’s lies in his original testimony accusing Pope Francis of lifting an imposed canonical sanctions that never existed.
    The testimony of Cardinal McCarrick secretary affirmed Cardinal Oulette statement saying there was no canonical sanctions only a private request to avoid further scandal.

    Thanks and praying that anyone among wherepeteris writers will be inspired and bless by Our Lady with wisdom and graces to defend our Beloved Luminous Pope Francis.

  4. Jude says:

    Fascinating that the pope considers the patrimony of the church, the wisdom of the past to be ashes. Before the charges of fake news or bad translations are made, such soundbites don’t help his image.

    I wonder though whether his commitment to enforce the new church comes from a belief that it is working, (to contend that it isn’t would not be unreasonable) or from a belief that it is what God wants.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      That’s not what he was saying at all. The concept of doctrinal development through a living magisterium is nothing new, but it’s amazing how so many fundamentalist descendants of Lefebvre utterly reject the popes’ (and councils’) role in reading the signs of the times and re-presenting the Gospel to the Church in every age.

      • carn says:

        The problematic/positive side of Pope Francis comment is: “Francis did not specify in his remarks whom he had in mind while speaking of Catholic traditionalists.”

        Problematic cause nobody can be really certain who those “fundamentalists” “returning to the ashes” are and thereby nobody – not even these people themselve – can know that the Pope teaches that it is wrong what they do, but one can only guess who might be meant.

        That causes the problem that one cannot counteract this for the Church potentially problematic “to the ashes” movement, cause nobody can call out anybody or any action in any meaningful as this problematic “to the ashes” movement and suggest what should be done different. Especially, as the ones potentially being this “to the ashes” movement can plausible deny that they are meant by the words of the Pope.

        And also, that Pope Francis words might be understood as above by Jude.

        Positive cause nobody can be really certain who those “fundamentalists” “returning to the ashes” are and thereby nobody – not even these people themselve – can know that the Pope teaches that it is wrong what they do, but one can only guess who might be meant.

        Cause i guess the tone of the inner catholic debate would be considered retrospectively as nice, full of love and charitable compared to what might break loose, if either no evidence is brought forth for the serious allegations by the Pope or if the quality of evidence for teh allegations is as subpar as i think it might be.

        And even that would be a pretty joyful discussion compared to what things would be, if more clarified comments in this regard would enforce the impression of people like Jude that Pope Francis is meaning with “ashes” what others think is the tradition and teaching of the Church.

        Maybe it is better for the Church that Pope Francis words lack clarity in this regard.

      • Marie says:

        Can- I think the point is ‘if the shoe fits’. I find it odd that those who have difficulty submitting to papal authority, and seem to put greater emphasis on personal discernment rather than in conjunction with Church teachings, would find the concept of discernment in this instance difficult.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        Carn, I think it’s fairly clear who he means. I’ve written about fundamentalist Catholics before: http://wherepeteris.com/fundamentalist-catholics-and-ecclesial-catholics/

        It only takes a little bit of extrapolation and some common sense to understand who he’s referring to, and why.

        I don’t think that anyone who develops a sense of where Pope Francis is coming from, and becomes accustomed to his style and manner of speech, finds him unclear. I connected his words from the in-flight press conference to the interview he did last week, there are common threads. He touches on maybe 12-15 important themes in his interviews and homilies and speeches. If you take a step back, and understand his message as parts of a whole, rather than resorting to pedantism and peppering everything he says with doubts, his message is much more coherent. Unfortunately many Catholics (indeed, those he describes as fundamentalists) either refuse or are incapable of doing this.

  5. ONG says:


    … //Born in Bohemia (then part of the Austrian Empire) to Jewish parents of humble circumstances, the German-speaking Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper).

    During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York’s Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. //

    //He overcame the bar that existed against the appointment of a Jew to this post by what may have been a pragmatic conversion to Roman Catholicism in February 1897.[50] Despite this event, Mahler has been described as a lifelong agnostic.// …
    [source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gustav_Mahler#cite_note-52%5D

    • ONG says:

      Here’s the FULL original press conference LIVE.
      Choose CC for subtitles, activate Google auto-translate with the *gear* symbol and (although not perfect), choose your language.

      I doubt any English-speaking sites could/would dare to manipulate what was said there — with its proper tone and gestures.


  6. Chris dorf says:

    From what I see today regarding peoples narratives about the secular and political and religious; I see a lot of people in all these areas pushing concepts of a sort of racketeering of organized corruption instead of people who individually are weak and sinful. In one sense that is why Evangelical Christians can be so involved in politics very overtly even up to the White House because they talk of individualism where we Catholics and our faith are dismissed from discussion of policy in a matter not equally enforced to Evangelical Protestants. Where’s told to talk about religion while evangelicals can take over the government .

  7. Manuel Dauvin says:

    “To the ashes”, should not be understood without the pope’s references to tradition being the roots. Also his quote about “tradition being the guarantee of the future”. In the context of his numerous references to tradition as a positive his “fundamentalists…to the ashes” comment likely refers to the effort to pull the root of tradition out of the ground upend it into a vase and pretend that it is sufficient in itself.
    Tradition is part of a living plant pope Francis does it no harm by leaving it in the ground to nourishes what is growing above.

  8. James Richard Doeffinger says:

    So the Orthodox arent schismatic? are they in communion with Rome? These are old things? What a pathetic indifferentistic. Leo XIII would disagree. Hard to reconcile modern contradictions.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      No, we are not in full communion, but we are working towards restoration of unity between East and West. This sort of language is not new. If you are waiting for condemnations of the Eastern Orthodox from a pope, you’ll be sorely disappointed.

      • James Richard Doeffinger says:

        Uh Satis cognitum, all the pre-Vatican II Popes. He is simply wrong, they are schismatics, there is a schism, and no traditionalist Catholic i.e. the “fundamentalists” has said they arent Christians, at least no serious ones, you can be a Christian and be in schism, that kinda what it means. he can get over himself that everyone isnt a happy clappy indifferentist who just prays together and ignores doctrine and dogma and history, those who care about Catholic theology and truth which he clearly doesnt. What will bring us together is honestly discussing our differences and theology.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        So this is where your study had brought you?

      • James Richard Doeffinger says:

        No its not. If you have an actual refutation instead of a dodge I am more than willing to hear it. What papal writings prior , during, and post Vatican II support what Pope Francis said? Magisterial level statements, not off the cuff remarks on a plane. In other words ones that matter and have actual weight in regards to authority and binding upon the faithful.

      • Mike Lewis says:

        James, I can’t comment directly on your most recent comment because it’s too many replies, but to address your point: we obviously recognize that there was a schism in 1054 (although pinning it on one particular year is dicey), but the best approach to dialogue probably doesn’t include calling people “Schismatics.” And it’s a little odd to accuse people of schism when they were baptized and confirmed into a specific Church as infants.

        Canon Law was altered in 1983 to allow Orthodox to licitly receive some sacraments from Catholic ministers, but in most cases the Orthodox have not reciprocated.

        So we are working toward collaboration and hopefully full communion, and mutual respect is a big part of that. If you find that wishy-washy, I don’t know what to tell you. But Leo XIII’s strategy obviously didn’t heal the rift, so why not try this approach?

    • carn says:

      You over interpret in my view what Pope Francis says.

      “even us Catholics we have closed people that do not want, that say that the Orthodox are schismatics. These are old things.”

      That in my view is far more likely to mean, that the Pope considers the question whether the Orthodox are schismatics or not to be irrelevant.

      So he doen’t say that they are schismatics or aren’t schismatics, but that it is irrelevant which of the two they are.

      If you want to tie strings with that for somebody, you could try WPI.

      After all, if the Pope teaches that it is not that relevant whether some people are schismatics, WPI should not worry about people disagreeing with this or that teaching of Pope Francis, cause whether one is or isn’t a schismatic is not that relevant according to Pope Francis.

  9. carn says:

    I just realize that someone should inform Pope Francis, that there is already an example where this:

    “That we must work to help the sick, the infirm, for example, the people that are a little at the margin, below the poverty line, to help. “Matthew 25” is a beautiful ecumenical program, it comes from Jesus. To walk together: this is already Christian unity, but do not wait for theologians to agree to arrive at communion. Communion happens every day with prayer, with the memory of our martyrs, with works of charity and even of loving one another.”

    really does take place on a large scale:

    The US pro-life movement seems to be a place where Christians of all denominations and even non-Christians work together without regard for any theological fine points to help those at the very margin, the unborn, who are so far at the margin that many powerful politicians are even unwilling to just admit that they are living members of the species human.

    I guess nearly the only criteria they have is that you must be in favor of legal restrictions of abortion and must consider unborn human beings – overall a pretty low bar for Christians.

    So that should be ecumenism to the Pope’s liking.

    (Though the political successes are in my view not satisfying, as they also included accepting some problematic things/people, foremost the current US president; but ecumenism i think is measured by the Pope not in results, but in walking together, which Christians of various denominations do in considerable numbers each year at the March for Life)

  10. Hans Georg Lundahl says:

    Did he say “traditionalists” or did he say “fundamentalists”?

    I felt targetted over being Young Earth Creationist. (And Geocentric, for good measure!)

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