Saturday, September 21, 2013

In His Interview, Pope Francis Gives a New Direction for the Catholic Church

Pope Francis

Pope Francis in an exclusive 12,000-word interview with Father Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor-in-chief of the La Civilta Cattolica (The Catholic Civilization) – the Italian Jesuit bi-weekly magazine from Rome – spells out a new direction to the Catholic Church’s emphasis. Besides this magazine, the interview has been published in 15 other Jesuit publications worldwide, including that of the America, the national Jesuit magazine in the USA. The editorial teams of these Jesuit publications prepared questions for the Pope and submitted them to Father Spadaro for conducting the interview. 

This pope’s interview, given to non-papal media, broke the past tradition of being first published in the official Vatican news sources, and took the world, especially the Catholic Church officials and members worldwide, by surprise. 

 The long interview, given at the papal apartments in Casa Santa Maria in Rome, took three days to complete and it deals with the following topics: 

--Pope Francis as a person
--His life as a Jesuit and Jesuit Provincial in Argentina
--What it means to be a Jesuit pope
--Serving the Church in the light of the Ignatian (of St. Ignatius of Loyola) spirituality
--Service of the Jesuits to the Church of today and facing new challenges
--“Thinking with the Church”
--Reforms in the Catholic Church
--Christian living in difficult situations (divorced and remarried, same-sex couples, abortion, gay marriage and use of contraceptives, etc.)
--Specific place of Religious men and women in the Church today,
--Dicasteries (various departments) of the Roman Curia in the Vatican,
--Petrine (of St. Peter) primacy and collegiality,
--The role of women in the Church
--Accomplishments of the Second Vatican Council
--Seeking and finding God in all things and making mistakes in doing so
--Signs of hope in today’s world
--Pope’s preference for today’s artists, writers, musicians, movies etc.
--Teaching literature to his secondary schools students in Argentina
--A need for creativity in life
--Priorities of Jesuit publications (magazines and journals)
--Enormous changes in society and their reinterpretation by people, and
--Pope Francis’ preferred way of prayer.

About himself, Pope Francis in his interview says: “I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

About the Catholic Church he says: “I see clearly that the thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the Church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds…. And you have to start from the ground up.”

“The Church sometimes has locked itself up in small things, in small-minded rules. The most important thing is ministers must be merciful, take responsibility for the people and accompany them like the Good Samaritan, who washes, cleanses and raises up his neighbor. This is the pure Gospel. God is greater than sin. The structural and organizational reforms are secondary – that is, they come afterword. The first reform must be the attitude….The people of God want pastors, not clergy acting like bureaucrats or government officials. The bishops, particularly, must be able to support the movements of God among their people with patience, so that no one is left behind. But they must also be able to accompany the flock that has a flair for finding new paths.”

On homosexuality, he says: “A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality. I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay [homosexual] person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person. Here we enter into the mystery of the human being. In life, God accompanies persons, and we must accompany them, starting from their situation. It is necessary to accompany them with mercy. When that happens, the Holy Spirit inspires the priest to say the right thing.”

On abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptives, he says: “We cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods. This is not possible…. But when we speak about these issues, we have to talk about them in context. The teaching of the Church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the Church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time.”

On finding a balance between the dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church, he says: “The dogmatic and moral teachings of the Church are not all equivalent. The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently. Procalamation in a missionary style focuses on the essentials, on the necessary things: this is also what fascinates and attracts more, what makes the heart burn, as it did for the disciples at Emmaus. We have to find a new balance; otherwise even moral edifice of the Church is likely to fall like a house of cards, losing the freshness and fragrance of the Gospel. The proposal of the Gospel must be more simple, radiant. It is from this proposition that the moral consequences then flow.”

On Petrine primacy and collegiality [cooperative relationship of colleagues], Pope Francis says: “We must walk together: the people, the bishops and the Pope. Synodality [being in the ecclesiastical council of the

Bishops] should be lived at various levels. May be it is time to change the methods of the Synod of Bishops, because it seems to me that the current method is not dynamic. This will also have ecumenical value, especially with our Orthodox brethren. From them we can learn more about the meaning of Episcopal collegiality and the tradition of synodality.”

On the role of women in the Church, he says: “…Women are asking deep questions that must be addressed. The Church cannot be herself without the woman and her role. The woman is essential for the Church. Mary, a woman, is more important than the bishops. I say this because we must not confuse the function with the dignity. We must therefore investigate further the role of women in the Church. We have to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman. Only by making this step will it be possible to better reflect on their function within the Church. The feminine genius is needed wherever we make important decisions. The challenge today is this: to think about the specific place of women also in those places where the authority of the Church is exercised for various areas of the Church.”

About being restorationalist and legalist, he says: “If the Christian is a restorationalist, a legalist, if he wants everything clear and safe, then he will find nothing. Tradition and memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open us new areas to God. Those who today always look for disciplinarian solutions, those who long for an exaggerated doctrinal ‘security,’ those who stubbornly try to recover a past that no longer exists – they have a static and inward-directed view of things. In this way, faith becomes an ideology among other ideologies. I have a dogmatic certainty: God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else – God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

Many other gems like the above are in the interview that want us to change our attitude towards others. They clearly tell us to replace our self-righteousness, authoritarian way of doing things, and judgmental and condemning attitude with the attitude of mercy, service, forgiveness, cooperation, and the like. Only then will the Catholic Church be the true Church of Christ, the Church of the Gospel.

To read the detailed interview of Pope Francis and related comments on it by others, please click on the following: 

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