To think it was only a month ago that Francis’s announcement of an August consistory and his need to use a wheelchair due to a knee injury was fueling rumors that Pope Francis was planning to retire very soon. In the last few days, however, we’ve seen the release of two interviews and a podcast with Pope Francis, and in addition to making it quite clear that he’s not planning to call it quits in the foreseeable future, he’s made some newsworthy statements and shared his thoughts and wisdom on various topics that are worth discussing.
Below are the links and some key quotes.
First, he conducted an interview with the Argentine news agency Télam that was published July 1. The long interview touched on a wide range of issues concerning the Church and reflections on his pontificate.
“When I say we never come out of a crisis the same as before, it is because the crisis necessarily changes us. Even more, crises are moments in life in which we take a step forward. There is the adolescence crisis, the coming-of-age crisis, the midlife crisis. A crisis gets you moving, makes you dance. We must learn to take responsibility, because if we don’t, they become a conflict. And conflict is a closed thing, conflict searches the answer within itself, it destroys itself. On the contrary, a crisis is necessarily open, it makes you grow. One of the most serious things in life is knowing how to go through a crisis, not with bitterness.”
On the dialogue between generations
“We need to reinstate the dialogue between the youth and the elderly. Young people need to dialogue with their roots and the elderly need to feel that they are leaving a legacy behind. When young people spend time with their grandparents, they receive sap, they receive things to carry forward. And when the elderly spend time with their grandchildren, they get hope. There is a line in one of Bernárdez’ poems, I forget which one, that says: “What the tree has in bloom is nourished by that which is buried”. He does not say ‘flowers come from the underground’. No, flowers are up there. But the dialogue between them, what we take from our roots and carry forward, that is the true meaning of tradition.”
Tradition vs. Traditionalism
“There is a quote by composer Gustav Mahler that had an impact on me: ‘Tradition is the guarantee of the future’. It is not a museum piece. It is what gives us life, as long as it makes you grow. Going backwards is something different: that is unhealthy conservatism. ‘It has always been done this way, so I won’t take a step forward’, they say. This topic may need further explanation, but I am sticking to the essential: the dialogue between young people and the elderly being the true meaning of tradition. It is not traditionalism. It is tradition that makes you grow, that is the guarantee of the future.”
“I believe it is time to rethink the concept of a ‘just war’. A war may be just, there is the right to defend oneself. But we need to rethink the way that concept is used nowadays. I have said that the use and possession of nuclear weapons is immoral. Resolving conflicts through war is saying no to verbal reasoning, to being constructive. Verbal reasoning is very important. Now I am referring to our daily behavior. When you are talking to some people, they interrupt you before you have finished. We don’t know how to listen to one another. We don’t let people finish what they are saying. We must listen. Receive what they have to say. We declare war in advance, that is, we stop dialoguing. War is essentially a lack of dialogue.”
On his accomplishments as pope
“Everything I have done was neither my invention nor a dream I had after a night of indigestion. I picked up everything that we the Cardinals had said at the pre-Conclave meetings, the things we believed the new Pope should do. Then, we spoke of the things that needed to be changed, the issues to tackle. I carried out the things that were asked then. I do not think there was anything original of mine. I set in motion what we all had requested. For example, the Curia Reform concluded with the new Apostolic Constitution “Praedicate Evangelium”, which “after eight and a half years of work and inquiries” managed to include what the Cardinals had asked, changes that were already in motion. Nowadays, it is a missionary-style experience. ‘Praedicate Evangelium’, that is, ‘be a missionary’. Preach the word of God. It means that the essential thing is going out.”
He had a sit-down interview with Reuters Vatican correspondent Philip Pullella, which is being released in installments, four of which have been released:
- Part 1 (July 4): Pope Francis denies he is planning to resign soon
- Part 2 (July 5): Pope hopes China deal on bishops will be renewed soon
- Part 3 (July 6): Pope to give women a say in appointment of bishops
- Part 4 (July 7): Pope hopes London building last Vatican financial scandal
- Part 4 (July 8): Pope Francis calls steps against clerical abuse irreversible, despite resistance
On his health
Asked how he was, the pope joked: “I’m still alive!”
He gave details of his ailment for the first time in public, saying he had suffered “a small fracture” in the knee when he took a misstep while a ligament was inflamed.
“I am well, I am slowly getting better,” he said, adding that the fracture was knitting, helped by laser and magnet therapy.
Francis also dismissed rumours that a cancer had been found a year ago when he underwent a six-hour operation to remove part of his colon because of diverticulitis, a condition common in the elderly.
“It (the operation) was a great success,” he said, adding with a laugh that “they didn’t tell me anything” about the supposed cancer, which he dismissed as “court gossip”.
But he said he did not want an operation on his knee because the general anaesthetic in last year’s surgery had had negative side-effects.
On Abortion, Dobbs, and Pelosi
Asked about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling establishing a woman’s right to have an abortion, Francis said he respected the decision but did not have enough information to speak about it from a juridical point of view. read more
But he strongly condemned abortion, comparing it to “hiring a hit man”. The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at the moment of conception.
“I ask: Is it legitimate, is it right, to eliminate a human life to resolve a problem?”
Francis was asked about a debate in the United States over whether a Catholic politician who is personally opposed to abortion but supports others’ right to choose should be allowed to receive the sacrament of communion.
House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi, for example, has been barred by the conservative archbishop of her home diocese of San Francisco from receiving it there, but is regularly given communion at a parish in Washington, D.C. Last week, she received the sacrament at a papal Mass in the Vatican. read more
“When the Church loses its pastoral nature, when a bishop loses his pastoral nature, it causes a political problem,” the pope said. “That’s all I can say.”
On the China deal
Comparing the current situation to the pre-1989 era, Francis said his appointment of bishops in China since 2018 “is going slowly, but they are being appointed”.
Only six new bishops have been appointed since the deal, which its opponents say proves it is not producing the desired effects. In addition, the deal regularised the position of seven bishops who had been ordained before 2018 without Vatican approval.
The pope called the slow process “‘the Chinese way,’ because the Chinese have that sense of time that nobody can rush them”.
On Women in the Curia
“Two women will be appointed for the first time in the committee to elect bishops in the Congregation for Bishops,” he said.
The move, which has not been officially announced, is highly significant because women will for the first time have a say in the appointment of the world’s bishops, who are all men.
“This way, things are opening up a bit,” he said.
On the Vatican financial scandal and Cardinal Pell
He blamed “the irresponsibility of the structure” for past financial scandals, saying the administration of money “was not mature”.
In the interview, Francis praised Australian Cardinal George Pell as “the genius” who had insisted that the Vatican needed an overarching economy ministry to control money flows and combat corruption.
Pell was the first head of the Secretariat for the Economy, receiving a mandate from the pope to clean up the Vatican’s murky finances.
Pell, now 81, left the post in 2018 to face sex abuse charges dating back decades in Australia. He spent 13 months in solitary confinement before being cleared of all charges on appeal in 2020.
On the Abuse Crisis
“We have to fight against every single case,” he said. “As a priest, I have to help people grow and save them. If I abuse, I kill them. This is terrible. Zero tolerance,” he said.
The Argentine Podcast
Vatican News reported that Francis participated in a recorded conversation for a podcast called “Marcó tu semana, de la tele a las redes,” produced by Argentinean priest Guillermo Marcó, who ran the Press Office of the Archdiocese of Buenos Aires when Francis was Archbishop. They spoke mostly about personal topics in this 22-minute program.
The two times he tried to slip out of the Vatican unnoticed
“Back in Buenos Aires I was either walking or riding the bus, etcetera. Here, the two times I had to go out, I was caught red-handed. Twice, in winter. Seven o’clock in the evening when nothing happens, everything was dark… When I went to the optician’s, a lady from the balcony (shouted) ‘The Pope’ and that was the end of it. And when I went to the empty record store – I went to bless it because it was a friend’s record store that had been restructured… (…) So unlucky that right there was a cab stand nearby, with a waiting journalist”.
On old age
Finally, reflecting on the cycle of catechesis on the elderly which Pope Francis began on 23 February during the General Audiences, Father Marcó wanted to know how the Pope faces this stage of his life: “At this age, I laugh at myself and move on,” he said.
Editor’s note (July 8): Updated to add link and quote from part 5 of the Reuters interview.