Pope Francis’s travels receive a great deal of media coverage. From his public celebrations of Holy Mass to his audiences with world leaders; to his visits with the local sick or imprisoned; to his comments aboard the airplane and his famous and free-wheeling in-flight press conferences, nearly every aspect of his voyage is covered and analyzed in great detail.

One of the most interesting yet underappreciated parts of Pope Francis’s apostolic pilgrimages, however, are the conversations that he often has with local the Jesuit communities. Typically, the transcripts of these question-and-answer sessions are released some time later, after the media buzz from the papal visit has died down.

Yesterday, the transcript from his visit with 24 Jesuits in Mozambique on Thursday, September 5, 2019 was released.

While I encourage you to read the entire thing, I want to bring your attention to one response by the Holy Father. When A young Jesuit scholastic inquired, “if and how his experience of God has changed since he was elected pope,” Pope Francis remarked that it was a question that no one had ever asked him before. His response provides an interesting window into how he understands his relationship with God and his experience of the papacy (emphasis mine):

Fr. Leonardo Alexandria Simao, a scholastic in formation in Beira, speaks next and tells about his work with young people. The pope tells him that it is an important work and that “his ask is to communicate the Gospel and to ensure that young people are internally free.” Then the Jesuit asks him if and how his experience of God has changed since he was elected pope. Francis takes a short time to reflect and then responds…

I can’t tell you, actually. I mean, I guess my experience of God hasn’t fundamentally changed. I remain the same as before. Yes, I feel a sense of greater responsibility, no doubt. My prayer of intercession has become much wider than before. But even beforehand I lived the prayer of intercession and felt pastoral responsibility. I keep walking, but there’s not really been any radical change. I speak to the Lord as before. I feel God gives me the grace I need for the present time. But the Lord gave it to me before. And I commit the same sins as before. My election as pope did not convert me suddenly, so as to make me less sinful than before. I am and I remain a sinner. That’s why I confess every two weeks.

I have never been asked this question before, and I thank you for asking me because it makes me think about my spiritual life. I understand, as I told you, that my relationship with the Lord has not changed, apart from a greater sense of responsibility and a prayer of intercession that has spread to the world and to the whole Church. But the temptations are the same and so are the sins. The mere fact that I now dress all in white has not made me any less sinful or holier than before.

It comforts me a lot to know that Peter, the last time he appears in the Gospels, is still as insecure as he was before. At the Sea of Galilee, Jesus asked him if he loved him more than others and asked him to tend to his sheep, and then confirmed him. But Peter remains the same person he was: stubborn, impetuous. Paul will have to confront and fight with his stubbornness about the Christians who came from paganism and not from Judaism. At the beginning Peter in Antioch lived the freedom that God gave him and sat at table with the pagans and ate with them quietly, putting aside the Jewish food rules. But then some came there from Jerusalem, and Peter, out of fear, withdrew from the table of the pagans and ate only with the circumcised. In short: from freedom he passed again to the slavery of fear. There he is, Peter the hypocrite, the man of compromise! Reading about Peter’s hypocrisy comforts me so much and warns me. Above all, this helps me to understand that there is no magic in being elected pope. The conclave doesn’t work by magic.

Read the entire interview.


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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.

Pope Francis: “I have never been asked this question before”

10 Responses

  1. Jason O says:

    Thanks for posting this, Mike. I don’t understand why he is so despised.

    • Ralph says:

      I think it has a lot to do with the media people consume. If someone consumes a lot of anti-Francis media they will come away with a negative opinion of the pope. WPI is an invaluable resource for this reason. It also helps to read what Pope Francis himself says since I have found that many media outlets, and not just ones that are papal critics, often don’t understand Pope Francis. This includes many mainstream media outlets that, for example, constantly insist on stating that his papacy is a major break from his predecessors which I think is incorrect.

  2. Pete Vickery says:

    Very interesting piece again Mike. Pope Francis really gives all of us an example to follow. By the way I commented a couple of days ago about how Francis should ignore Burke. I don’t want you or anyone else who writes for this blog to think that they should ignore Burke or anyone else who threatens the unity of the Church. The dissidents seek uniformity rather than unity. And like all who seek to impose uniformity they see themselves as the definers of what the truth entails. All of you at WPI are doing the Church a service by warning us of the fires that burn. But for Pope Francis to give special attention to Burke, Schneider, etc… would be like almost elevating them to some special status among their admirers. I think while Pope Paul VI meant well, he may have been better served by paying less attention to Bishop LeFebvre. Maybe I’m wrong but it just seems that a dissenter craves attention and power to impose. Therefore giving him attention places him on the world’s stage as some kind of equal to the pope. I hope Pope Francis keeps the lid on the charcoal grill. He would expose the smoldering coals to the life giving oxygen that he breathes into the lungs of the Church. I do not exaggerate since it is the pope who is breathed on by the Spirit in a way that no other person on this earth is. So to all of you who write here for WPI I say thank you for your service to God and the Church as well as your defense of our Holy Father. May you continue the good fight. I feel guilty for learning so much while you guys do all the work. God has given all of you a special talent but like all His gifts it comes at a cost. Don’t feel like you have to respond to every angry response. As the grandfather that I am now, I regret not having spent enough time with my wife and kids due to work. Don’t lose time with your wife and kids.

    • Yaya says:

      I thank you Mr. Vickery for your commentary gives me hope too.

      Papa Francis’s words will stand the test of time of that I am sure.

      I enjoyed reading the article because I too benefit from it in my bumpy walk of faith.

      Be assured of my prayers for everyone herein.

  3. Trinity says:

    Such a breath of fresh air here at WPI. Both the articles and (a lot of) the comments give me hope! My family has been ostracized by “traditional” relatives and friends for standing with the Holy Father. I never thought I’d see what I’ve been seeing among the Catholics. Thanks for being a bastion of faithfulness.

    • Mike Lewis says:

      I think many of this have seen division within our families and communities. Don’t they know that the Pope is the source of unity in the Church?

  4. Christopher Lake says:


    Thanks so much for bringing these words of the Pope to our attention. His very frank and open honesty about his sinfulness, and, with it, his abiding need for God’s grace, deeply move me. If he goes to confession every two weeks, then how much more often I surely need to go!! I remember reading about Pope, and now-canonized Saint, John Paul II, making similar statements about the frequency with which he also went to confession.

    I know, only too well, with a painful sadness, that at present, some very vocal, professing Catholics, especially in my fellow home country of the U.S., distrust and dislike Pope Francis. Their hearts and minds seem to have been poisoned against him by the constant and inaccurate attacks from certain Catholic media sources. This is a tragedy for many reasons.

    Personally, I have been challenged, deeply, to grow and learn and live, as a Catholic, from Pope Francis’s witness and teachings. This ongoing process of being challenged by the Pope hasn’t always been easy for me, and it still isn’t, but true, deep growth in Christ is often not easy. I strongly believe that our current Vicar of Christ will, eventually, like John Paul II, be a canonized Saint. I am learning as much from him about being a follower of Christ as I have learned from many of the Church’s beloved Saints. Thanks, once again, for the continued, very helpful, witness of WPI in respect for, and defense of, Pope Francis.

  5. jong says:

    Dear Mike,
    I do hope all the Rad Trads and Traditionalist who are aware of your zeal & vocations to defend the Pope’s Magisterium demands the Rad Trads channels like Dr.Marshall and John Westen to invite you for an interview either live or thru web. This will be an interesting event as I deeply believe you like Stephen Walford can very well represent and defend our faith on Pope Francis.
    I am calling all the Trads who are viewing the WPI to post a comment on John Westen & Dr.Marshall to challenge them to invite Mike Lewis for a friendly and christian interview. Although, I know Dr.Marshall wont do it based on my experience before as I challenged him to invite Fr.James Martin on his TnT Discussiping Show for him to present to his audience fairness in reporting and this goes also to Raymond Arroyo whose loyal guest had been the same Dr.Royal and Fr.Murray. Same old song from the usual critics.
    Mike, I think Matt Fradd Show is neutral and I will pray that one day you will be invited. so that your relevant views on the Church Crisis will be spread to more viewers in the web and since Matt do a long interview I think you can cover all the relevant issues of sorrounding the church today.
    So, for all the Rad Trads and the good Trads let’s all make an effort to post comment on Matt Fradd channel for them invite WPI writers for a long interview in particular Mike Lewis.
    Mike are you open for Matt Fradd interview?
    I hope & pray that this will happen before the year ends. God bless. My Jesus mercy. S&IHMMP4us.Amen

  6. jong says:

    Mike Lewis;
    I do hope WPI figured out already the evil strategy of the Rad Trads behind the 40 Days Prayer Crusade with the chaos in the German Synod as supporting event to encourage others to join their “revolt rehearsal.
    It just came to me upon reflecting on the destiny of the Church written on the CCC675. Cardinal Burke & Bishop Schneider along with Cardinal Brandmuller and Cardinal Muller plus other bishops & priest who are well known to express continuous criticism & contradiction to Pope Francis Magisterium,.. have you thought about why they keep on openly doing their schismatic behavior?
    CCC675 three recipe is schism, apostasy and revolt. Pope Francis already exposes them that there is already a “real schism”, while their opposition to the AL & CCC2267 is an apostasy on the beating heart of the Gospel which is Divine Mercy. (Misericordiae Vultus paragraph#12)
    Schism & apostasy already committed, the only missing recipe is “revolt”. Cardinal Burke et,al keep on baiting Pope Francis to sentence an excommunication on their behavior, what is the reason? They want Pope Francis to imposed an excommunication on them to justify their plan “revolt”, that Ab.Vigano is just waiting for him to come out in the open.
    The 40 Days Prayer Crusade is a test-run to know the number of their supporters. Schism, apostasy and the “grand revolt” is what their have in mind and Ab.Vigano will come out in the open..and they will raise him to papacy.

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